One woman’s story of how non-sexual physical touch helped her discover a path to healing and a deeper connection with her partner after their miscarriage.
It’s a plus! We’re pregnant!
I ecstatically shared the proof from three tests with my sweetheart at the beginning of this year. I even took snapshots of three pink pluses, my evidence. Yet, truth be told, even within that happiness, I had this awful, gnawing knowing that I tried to push down — the pregnancy wouldn’t last. Perhaps it was just nerves so, I did all the things I was supposed to do anyway: took the prenatal vitamins, made the doctor’s appointments, ate healthy food choices and exercised. All the things.
Then the day came, and the blood started to flow — just a little at first. Maybe everything would still be OK. Keep it together, Marla, I tried to tell myself, as if I had some control over the process. As if I could stop the bleeding and hold this baby safely in my womb. Two days later at my OBGYN’s office it was official, I was in the process of a miscarriage.
Even the word ‘miscarriage’ implies I did something wrong — I hadn’t properly carried this precious package.
As a former doula supporting women through labor, delivery and postpartum, a former bodyworker, and now a relationship expert for couples, I thought I knew how to ask for what I needed in order to heal and have some sense of closure with my partner. But I didn’t and I didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of grief and the waves of emotional, physical, and spiritual fragments that needed to find a place to rearticulate inside of me in order to heal. I had to discover how to fully let go and bond with my partner through the experience of miscarriage.
Current advice for physical recovery after a miscarriage cautions women about infections, and encourages rest and self-care. Emotional recovery advises women to feel the cycles of grief and move through any thoughts that it might somehow be your fault, If only I had done… I’d still be pregnant. However, that kind of emotional torture only further eats away at our heart and leaves us feeling even more broken, empty, and wounded.
What you won’t find online is how to garner the power of Non-Sexual Physical Touch (NSPT) as a healing modality to recover from the trauma of miscarriage, to love yourself and reconnect with your partner without the pressure of sexual vibes flowing between you two. In fact, sexual activity is prohibited for 2-6 weeks following a miscarriage due to the possibility of infection. Most women just want to crawl into bed and fall asleep until we awaken free from the emotional pain of losing a pregnancy and all the hopes and visions that accompany the loss.
Celebrity Spiritual Advisor, Shellie Nelson, reminds us that “Physical touch is an opportunity to once again reconnect us to the Primal Pulse of life. It can help to soothe and heal us from the trauma of grief, pain, and loss.” Nelson goes on to say that, “If we don’t intentionally reconnect we can begin a pattern of going through the motions and begin a disconnect that continues long after the miscarriage.
Non-Sexual Physical Touch can connect us with our own worthiness, to be alive, to love, to live in awe.”
Receiving NSPT from a family member or friend can be equally healing, especially if your partner is not available to be physically or emotionally present. The human connection is what is most important.
One woman, now a mother of four, shared her experience of NSPT after a miscarriage with me:
I felt alone. I didn’t want to pull on my husband, mostly because I didn’t have the energy to even know how, plus he had his attention on the kids who were also experiencing grief. My younger brother, whom I never turned toward for comfort, reached out and asked if I wanted him to support me, knowing how much we had going on at home. I said yes. When he arrived, he just got into bed with me with no words at all…and held me. The little girl inside of me relaxed and was allowed to make sense of the experience through physical touch. Having my brother lying next to me — something I would never have known to ask for — was one of the most loving, connected experiences of my life.
After a miscarriage, the tendency is to want to acknowledge it happened, deal with the sadness and emotions, and move forward as quickly as possible because we want to get back to our normal, busy lives. But grief and loss are not so neat and orderly — and have their own healing timetable.
Coltrane Lord, Ayurvedic Educator understands NSPT deeply, “In an Ayurveda (the science of life) lifestyle, we practice ‘Abyanga’ on a daily basis. It is non-sexual intentional touch meant to bring the body’s energy and hormones back to homeostasis.” Lord goes on to say that, “After a miscarriage, non-sexual, intentional touch from a partner offers the traumatized feminine body a coherent field she can reference to self-heal. The experience is similar to a child needing a hug or soothing touch from a parent after she skinned her knee. When the physical body experiences trauma, it is a natural reflex to reach for comfort. Non-sexual, intentional touch allows the energetic body to ‘drink’ from the coherent field her partner or loved one is holding.”
Many couples will talk it out and attempt to mend their hearts through words. When talking is not enough to calm and heal, there is another path.
Loving, Non-Sexual Physical Touch is the healing balm to help couples move beyond the sadness into deep intimacy that does not include any sexual energy.
Just to be held is the wish of so many women. And their partners, male or female, also need that physical touch. Words are so limited in these situations, they seem to cause more trauma sometimes when they are meant to be loving.
According to Relationship Expert, Alexandra Stockwell, M.D., “One of the keys to healing together is for both to understand and accept that each person is having their own experience.” She goes on to say, “Men look to their partners for clues for what they are expected to do and how they can be helpful. After a miscarriage, women are not in a position to give that kind of information to allow men to be supportive, so that can be very destabilizing.”
A woman needs to know that she is loved, not a failure in any way, and that her emotions are valid and worthy of expression.
Her partner needs guidance on what to do with their own emotions and how to best support her. Miscarriage is a loss for both partners, thick with emotional charge — and within this source of deep personal pain, they must find their way back to each other.
Dr. Stockwell reminds us that NSPT will, “Bring communion into an otherwise internally isolating experience.”
And Isa Herrera, Women’s Pelvic Health Expert recommends, “After a miscarriage, sexual intimacy can be hard to resume. Everyone feels so hurt and is looking for the ‘why.’ I recommend all women start with ‘Outercourse’ and connect by touching, hugging, slow dancing and being intimate without the sex. Outercourse helps women connect deeply with her partner and to express love in a way that allows her to feel safe.”
Discomfort is more than just physical after a miscarriage. The emotional pain of miscarriage can make both partners feel as if they are going through it alone — especially as they attempt to muscle their way back to ‘normal’, life as it was, and to all the other responsibilities that demand their attention. Isolation post-miscarriage can be deafening.
“Try a firm hand on her shoulder, a gentle embrace and a moment to breathe together. With this touch, the pain of the unspoken, and the loss is able to unfurl more readily, and give way to the seed of healing,” says Postpartum Doula, Devon Tracy.
Here are just a few of the physical benefits of NSPT:
- Lowered blood pressure
- Decreased cortisol, the stress hormone in your system
- Increased oxytocin and other chemicals in the brain that lead to a feeling of wellbeing.
When you practice NSPT with intention, you co-create experiences with your partner where you are bonding during chemical release which means your memory will include the experience of being held, being together, and bonding through a challenging time.
Even months or years later, the practice of NSPT has the power to bond and heal those places that can’t be touched by talk therapy.
While writing this article, my partner and I revisited the practices we utilized earlier this year, and even more emotion was released. For more on the actual practices of NSPT I invite you to download our complimentary guide which includes:
- The 6 Hugging Positions
- Massage After Miscarriage Practice
- The Ultimate Spoon
- The Love Blanket
During the process of composing this article, I was revisited by my own loss and rode waves of emotion as I interviewed women and couples who experienced miscarriage, as well as the experts who contributed here. My partner and I practiced all of these NSPT techniques ten months after our miscarriage — and the unspoken, unhealed, unloved parts of myself were able to quietly step forward and feel the comfort, space, and permission to receive a new level of healing and integration from the experience. I was able to have closure on the miscarriage in a whole new way.
So please consider this an invitation if you have experienced a miscarriage at any time in your life (or any other emotional trauma), to ask for your partner to practice NSPT together for mutual healing.
Experiencing loss is a part of the human condition and how we choose to respond can be the difference between suffering and healing.
There is no true closure without healing, and Non-Sexual Physical Touch (NSPT) is an opportunity to reconnect with the essence and truth of who we are, what we care about, and to love ourselves while allowing our partner to love us through loss.
You may also enjoy reading Miscarriage & Misgivings: The Power, and Gifts, of Shame, by Laura Milligan