“The last time I can remember us being intimate was when she was conceived . . . and I just realized that was our very last time . . . ever,” I swallowed the lump that rose in my throat as I said those words. I ran my hand over my belly, swollen with our third child. A friend had me over for coffee, but it wasn’t a chit-chatty kind of get-together, it was a temporary escape from my reality at home. At home awaited endless chores, and twin toddlers who begged for every second of my attention, but so did sleep. The toddlers won every time.

At home, the bed that held the most passionate of nights, where our babies were conceived became strange, uncharted territory; it had become the bed my husband was slowly dying in. Sex, by that point, was a far and distant memory for the both of us. And now that he has been dead for over four years, I sometimes go to bed, my heart aching as I remembered all the chances I missed to be intimate with my husband.

“They say that the sex stops once you get married, but I can tell you that’s not the case, it gets better,” my husband’s friend gave us that little gem on our wedding day. But he didn’t tell us that maybe it gets better, but it gets harder to make time for. He didn’t tell us because he didn’t know—and we didn’t know—that we were walking into the most difficult, stressful season in both our lives. He didn’t know that a twin pregnancy with bed rest, gaining 100 pounds, twin babies and postpartum depression would take over every corner of my mind and body. And the night of our wedding, when my husband was taking the pins out of my hair, I would have never thought that only a couple of years later I’d scoot to the farthest edge of our bed when he would try to kiss me to sleep because I was “so touched out” by nursing and holding babies all day.

When that stage ended, and even when babies started sleeping through the night, we were just too tired. He was tired, providing for his family while fighting a brutal cancer diagnosis. I was tired from fighting for him and our family. I was trying to get used to my new body after babies and it felt like something I couldn’t let him be a part of. It was too different from what I looked like when I married him. Spending time alone reading or watching Netflix seemed easier and take less energy than intimacy. But now . . . now I spend all my time alone and what I wouldn’t give for him to be by my side again.

I try to remember his touch, but it is fading more every day. Before I found out I was pregnant with our third (so obviously we found some time for intimacy), I pulled myself back up and started to work out and eat right and give myself self-care every day. I began to love myself again and, in turn, allow my husband to love me as well. We found balance, we found that passion again, but it was too late. The cancer was spreading, he was getting sicker. Then, I found out I was pregnant, and once again my body wasn’t my own. The night our daughter was conceived was our last night together.

So, maybe all you wives could take a little advice from a newlywed-turned-widow: don’t wait.

Don’t push him away. Don’t punish him or yourself and withhold intimacy because he did something stupid. You’ll do stupid things, he’ll do stupid things throughout your whole marriage. After babies, try to see yourself the way he sees you, not the other way around, stretch marks and all.

The “all touched out” feeling is absolutely real and valid, but try to find other ways to connect with your husband—and remember, it doesn’t always have to lead to sex. Leave the dishes and the laundry for another day if the “moment” strikes. You don’t have to go all “50 Shades,” but enjoy the gift that was given to you, the one and only gift you can share with your spouse and only your spouse.

Intimacy truly is glue that keeps a marriage strong and vibrant. It’s so easy to let life and stress get in the way, but please believe me when I say, life and stress will be there even if, God forbid, one of you is gone. And, please, never let him leave the house without a hug and a kiss good-bye. Don’t go to bed on the edge—meet him in the middle.

Nicole Hastings

Nicole is a is a widowed mom to three children. With a background in journalism and a sudden need to “figure out what to do,” she turned to writing about her experience with a husband with cancer, caregiving and widowed parenting and overcoming the aloneness of all of the above. She believes the art of storytelling brings people out of the dark into the light together to share in joy, humor, suffering and pain in life. She hopes that by sharing her story with transparency and heart will bring others hope and empower them to share their own stories.
Facebook: @JustAMomNicoleHastings