When my partner and I found out we were pregnant with twins, I assumed the pregnancy and eventual birth of our two babies would bring us closer together. I envisioned the kiss my partner and I would share as we held our twin sons in our arms; the hilarious mishaps two scared-to-death parents of twins would share, the same ones that would end up keeping us laughing for decades upon decades. I imagined that even labor scares and long-lasting doctor's visits would fortify our relationship in ways that only 40+ weeks of pregnancy worries can. But what I couldn't have possibly imaged was how the loss of one of our babies would make our relationship stronger, too.
After our doctor sat us down in her incredibly pristine office, and told us that one of our baby's hearts was no longer beating, she proceeded to warn us of the ramifications the loss of a baby can have on a partnership. And she wasn't lying: A reported 22% of couples who have miscarriages are likely to break up, and 40% of couples who experience a stillbirth are likely to end their relationship. The unfathomable amount of pain an individual experiences after they lose a child can put a unique amount of stress on any relationship. It can be difficult to care for someone else while you're also in desperate need of care yourself. Everyone mourns differently, and while love is a powerful unifier, it cannot align two people's grieving processes so that all goes smoothly.
Thankfully, and I'm typing this from experience, losing a child can also make a relationship stronger. While my partner and I were devastated, we were also acutely aware that we had one another. We bonded in a way I couldn't have imagined but am profoundly thankful for, and while I wish we didn't have to grow closer at the hands of such a painful loss, I do know that even the worst possible situation can create beautiful, uplifting results.
So, with that in mind, here are 10 ways surviving the loss of a baby makes your relationship stronger. There's nothing that hurts like the hurt of losing a child, but there's nothing as strong as a partnership that has made it to the other side of grief.
Small Annoyances No Longer Matter
After you've lost a baby, the small annoyances that seemed to matter, no longer do. Nothing gives you perspective like a loss, and while you're devastated and mourning and searching for an answer to an answerless question, you're also acutely aware that the majority of the things you spend time worrying about and/or being mad about, really don't matter. Not in the big scheme of things. And so, as a couple, after you weather a loss like that together, you're quick to forgive and focus on the big stuff, instead of the fact that she doesn't put the dishes away and he doesn't adjust the driver's seat after using the car.
You Learn To Lean On One Another
Even the most independent, self-sufficient individual needs help after they've lost a baby. Pride, ego, or any other factor that could keep someone from reaching out and asking for assistance, seems insignificant when you're in the immense amount of pain only the loss of a baby can bring. You need someone (you really do) and that need trumps any predetermined "give and take" scenarios you and your partner might have previously established. Your partner unapologetically needs you, and visa versa, so the two of you learn to ask for what you need without hesitation, in order to both make it through a horribly difficult time. For many people, the loss of a child and the subsequent healing period is the first time they've truly relied on someone else, and while that can be terrifying, it can also be incredibly comforting.
Your Communication Is Reinforced
In order to make it through the loss of a child, a couple must communicate. It doesn't necessarily mean talking, either. Everyone handles trauma and loss differently, so while one partner might need to talk about the feelings and emotions he or she is going through, another partner might want to communicate via writing, or use subtle actions to convey their feelings. Couples who grow stronger after the loss of a baby, do so because they've re-learned how to communicate in ways that benefit both of them.
You've Seen One Another At Your Worst
The loss of a child brings out the raw, real, and sometimes worst of people. Whether it's ugly crying or refusing to eat or lashing out irrationally because there's an overload of anger and frustration with absolutely nowhere to go, grieving isn't pretty. When couples go through the grieving process together, they're sitting in the front row of their partner's sadness and pain. While some may think that openness and honesty could be detrimental to a relationship, I argue the exact opposite. Seeing your partner at their most desolate can connect you in a way you didn't think possible. You're seeing another layer of your partner's personality, their being, and who they are as an individual. You're gaining access to a part of them they probably haven't shared with very many people (if any at all) and that can provide another level of closeness that can carry you through even the most painful of times.
Your Acutely Aware Of One Another's Strengths
Grieving the loss of a baby together helps you realize one another's strengths. One partner might be worrying about the future, like how you're going to announce the loss to family and friends, while the other will simply be worrying about dinner, like which restaurant to order out from. One partner might be great at looking for any possible silver lining, while the other might be good at sinking into the sadness so that you both can grieve in a relatively healthy way. As both partners lean on another for comfort and understanding, they also get to see who is good at what, and who isn't. This can strengthen any relationship, as the pain becomes a part of every day life and time starts to move everyone forward.
You Both Have The Same Focus
Mourning realigns priorities, for better or for worse. After you lose a baby, simply being OK becomes your most important focus, and remains such until you are, somewhat, actually OK. That means, for however long it takes, you and your partner have the same focus. You are both aligned in your goals, and are on the same page, with the same goal in mind: to simply be OK. From time to time, couples can feel disconnected and adrift in a sea of juxtaposing views and potential future plans, but a loss realigns you and your partner. It connects you in an unfathomable way and, for better or for worse, you're on the same painful page.
You Gain Perspective
When you lose a baby, the trivial nuances we tend to overanalyze, no longer matter. You and your partner aren't going to focus on the situations or worries that usually stressed you two out. You're not going to emphatically wish you two had something other couples seem to have, because now there's one all-encompassing, looming loss that has replaced everything. And while that sounds horrible (because it is) it can also give you a unique ability to appreciate everything you do have. You're not going to worry about not being able to buy a house, take a month-long vacation, etc. You're simply going to look around and realize that while your loss is palpable, so are the things you still have.
You Learn To Respect Your Differences
Because everyone grieves differently, grieving together requires both partners to unequivocally respect one another. For example, I needed to emotionally purge after I lost one of my twin sons. I wanted to cry and watch depressing movies and read depressing books and cry some more. My way of dealing with an insurmountable loss was to feel every single ounce of sadness until I was ready not to. My partner, on the other hand, wanted to focus on the future. He gave himself a few days of mourning, and then needed to keep himself busy in order to move forward. Neither type of grieving is right or wrong; for us, we both needed different things, and we were both able to respect our differences, instead of force one another to adhere to the other's personal brand of mourning.
That ability has carried on, years later, and learning to respect one another's differences is a pivotal part of a healthy relationship's foundation. We all experience things differently, and respecting those differences is vital.
You're Forced To Look Back On The Good Stuff
When you lose a baby, time seems to stop. The future seems non-existent, the present seems never-ending, and the past can seem like a figment of your imagination. In order to reconnect yourself with reality, it helps to look back on moments when you laughed, when you were happy, when sadness and anger weren't the only emotions you experienced. This need to reminisce can benefit your relationship immensely, as you and your partner look back on the good times you shared with one another: the wonderful moments that fortified your love, and the moments that made you realize you wanted to have a baby with them. Can the crashing waves of nostalgia be painful? You bet. But they can also be beneficial, as it helps both partners gain perspective. You weren't always hurting together. In fact, the majority of the time, you two were (and are) happy.
You No Longer Fear The Unknown
There really isn't a pain like the pain of losing a baby. Once a couple has been through that heartache, I would venture to guess there's not a whole lot they can't handle. And while couples are at a greater risk of breaking up after they lose a baby, the ones that do stay together have a greater chance of staying together for the rest of their lives. When you know the pain of losing a baby, there isn't another possible, conceivable pain you and your partner could possibly fear. You've been at the lowest of the low, you've scraped your knees and elbows on the rocks, and you've become a stronger couple because of it.