I thought I knew my partner inside and out, before we found out we were pregnant. I felt close to him, I knew everything I thought I could have possibly known, and was certain that there wasn't a part of him I hadn't discovered. Of course, I couldn't have imagined all the new, important, sometimes hilarious, often heartbreaking and even surprising things I'd uncover about him, not because we eventually had a son together, but because at 19 weeks pregnant, we would lose a son, too.
There isn't a pain in the world like the one that hits you after you hear that you've lost a child, but along with that pain comes a set of lessons that not only make you a better mother, but teach you about your partner. Grief, while experienced differently by absolutely everybody, is also a great unifier. It's why countries are unified by despair, and the entire world can come together after a horrific tragedy. Simply put, surviving the loss of a baby can make your relationship stronger, mostly because you learn about your partner in ways you wish you didn't have to, but that are undoubtably beneficial.
I'm not saying losing a baby is the only way to learn about and, in turn, get close to your partner, but I am saying that losing a baby will force you, for better or worse, to learn things about your partner that you couldn't have possibly known prior. I am not thankful that I lost one of my twin sons, but I am thankful that — in the middle of that loss — I realized certain things about my partner, and our partnership, that only made our relationship stronger. So, with that in mind, here are 10 things you learn about your partner when you lose a baby.
How They Grieve
Everyone grieves differently, and until you've faced an insurmountable loss with your partner, you won't know how they need to mourn. Especially because, while many people (myself included) have an idea of how they would handle a death, that idea can shift, change, or be replaced altogether. In fact, some people don't grieve at all (at least, not in a way that is easily defined or detectable) and while that may be perplexing, it definitely doesn't mean that they aren't dealing with a loss in their own unique way. You simply can't know how your partner will deal with a loss as painful as losing a child until you're both dealing with it together.
How They Communicate
Communication is easy to understand, navigate, and facilitate when things are seemingly perfect and altogether happy. Communication is much more difficult when it's strained by grief, pain, and anger. When you're knee-deep in the mourning period with your partner, you'll learn how they really communicate. Whether it's via talking, touch, a specific gesture or absolute silence, you'll realize how they express their emotions, their needs, and their feelings with you, which will better equip you to communicate with them, too.
Their Unique Strengths
Some people are great under pressure, and even better during a crisis. It's impossible to know until you're in a difficult situation, but your partner could actually flourish in a moment of heartbreak. This won't mean that they won't struggle, or feel the same pain and heartache you're experiencing; it just means that they have a set of unique skills that can come alive in the most strenuous of circumstances. Maybe they're really good at talking to people about the loss. Maybe they're great at thinking about the future. Maybe they can find a positive in an overwhelming sea of negative.
Their Hidden Weaknesses
And of course, the flip-side of finding out their strengths, is uncovering their weaknesses. We all like to put our best foot forward — sometimes especially in a relationship — but a loss tends to bring to the surface all of our ugly, hidden parts. Losing a baby can make your relationship stronger, usually because you're experiencing another, deeper, more complex layer of your partner's personality (one they may not have completely explored themselves).
What Their Subtle Actions Mean
It's a pretty well known (and regularly regurgitated) fact that 93% of all communication is non-verbal. What you may not know is out of that 93%, 55% of communication is made through non-verbal elements. Anything from a subtle gesture to a facial expression can convey what words simply cannot. Often, after a loss, a person doesn't want to talk about the barrage of feelings they're subjected to, so you'll be presented with a unique opportunity to learn what your partner is saying, when they're not saying anything at all.
What You Can't Do For Them
No matter how much you want to, nor how hard you try, there are some things you simply cannot do for your partner. One of those things is taking away all of the pain they'll experience after you lose a baby. While you can help in some ways, there are (usually many more) things that your partner can only do for themselves. And honestly (and this is coming from experience) trying to do for your partner what they have to do instead is more hurtful than helpful. We can't — and shouldn't expect to be — everything our partner needs, because at the end of the day, a person will always also need themselves.
What Their Individual Needs Are
Because everyone grieves differently, everyone will need different things during their grief. Just because you may need to talk about your feelings doesn't mean that your partner does. Some people need space while others need physical affection; some people need to cry until their eyes puff shut while others need to hit the gym and take out their frustrations on an unknowing treadmill. Your partner's needs may not be yours, and that is not only normal, it's to be expected.
What Will Always Make Them Smile
While you can't take away their pain, and you'll probably experience countless moments of frustrated hopelessness because there's so much you simply cannot do for them, you will find out that there are a few things you can do that will most definitely make them smile. Whether it's something small, like a silly joke you two have laughed at for years, or it's a favorite movie that can transport you two far away from the reality you're too exhausted to face, you'll learn that even in the midst of horrendous pain and grief, you can make your partner smile. Even if it's just for a moment.
Their Breaking Point
Eventually, you're going to find your partner's breaking point. I'm not saying that you need to experience a the loss of a child to pinpoint it, but I am saying that a loss that severe will most certainly push you to find it more quickly. There will come a point when the pain and anger are simply too much, and — whether it's as soon as you realize you've lost a child, or months down the road, when the reality of the situation finally hits — you'll be there when your partner breaks down and feels every unforgiving edge of grief.
When you find that breaking point, you'll know not to push them towards it again. You'll be able to assist them in steering clear of it, managing their stress, and looking for healthy alternative outlets for their feelings.
How Much They Love You
Regardless of the pain, the arguments, the frustration, and the anger, you two will realize how much you love one another. Now, that might not necessarily mean that you two will stay together. A large percentage of couples who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss end up separating, but that doesn't mean the love isn't there. Sometimes, loving someone means knowing that it's best to go your separate ways. Other times, loving someone means realizing that there isn't anyone you'd possibly be willing to deal with, in both the good times and the horrific ones.