The M Word: Coping With Miscarriage

Before my wife had two miscarriages on our first two pregnancies, whenever I heard the word “miscarriage” I thought about an old baby carriage, and a young couple living in the 1920’s who lose a child, and how it must be pretty terrible for them to have to put the carriage back into a closet. For some reason it was always the wrapping paper closet in my mind, and they would forget it was there, and then over and over, while they were trying to rush out the door and having to wrap a present really quickly, out falls the baby carriage and they just start crying… and they probably miss their party… and I always finished this whole thought process by thinking, “Just throw out the damn baby carriage!”

The thing is, when it happens to you (and then it happens again), the reality of losing two babies really sucks. The truth is there were times when seeing a Huggies commercial or eating a baby shrimp would put us over the edge. We were the wrapping paper people, leaving parties early because someone brought their cute kid and going to Red Lobster for the Admiral’s feast and beers on the days after both our miscarriages (making the best of being able to drink and eat shellfish for the first time in months).

Backing up, it started as something like… Dating, engagement, wedding, honeymoon, apartment, house, dog, vacations, “the itch,” pregnancy!

Well what’s so hard about making a baby? Only took us about 6 days, if that. Everything is filled with newness… reading the books about trimesters and cravings and circumcision, arguing about names and joking about whether we would let him dance if he really wanted to. I’m not sure if as a couple we grew closer in that time of wonderment, but looking back, it just fit into the plan. For me there was more ego and less of a sense of awe, which sounds really bad, but the truth is that there hadn’t been much to disrupt our neat little plan of action thus far. I was king of my castle! Add making babies to the list of my successes. Believe me, I don’t think like this now… not even close. I consider brushing my teeth twice a day a major accomplishment.

So, December 28th, 2007, we went in for a routine checkup, and BAM! Our baby no longer had a heartbeat. What follows is torture. There isn’t much worse than sympathy from strangers, especially when they do the same voice they would use for a 4 year old who dropped their ice cream cone in the sand. Stuff like, “aww, it must be hard,” as they rub your back. The next 24 hours were terrible. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone to have to flush a 1 inch fetus down your toilet, and I think I loved my wife more on that day than any day since.

I’ll pause here for a second to try to explain what I’ve learned as a husband trying to support my wife through a miscarriage:

  • It is not like a failed 4th down or a strikeout. There are deep, lasting emotional scars for a woman that center on the question, “Am I broken?”
  • Do not tell her it’s OK. It’s not OK.
  • She needs you as her rock during this time — not to give her puppy dog eyes and rub her back, but to hold her as she cries and make her feel safe.

Ok, fast-forward a few months, and she’s pregnant again! You can read more of my feelings about this whole process in a different article, but about two and a half months later, another miscarriage, this one with her ending up in the hospital for an emergency surgery after passing out at home. Talk about kicking a girl when she’s down…

Exactly 365 days after that 2nd miscarriage, my rock star wife gave birth to twins. Brett & Ella are an answer to many earnest and repeated prayers. They’ve softened my heart, given me a vision for our family, and have cut my free time by about 95%.

But your story may not go like mine. So I’m not going to give you an atta-boy speech about the little engine that could. The truth is, the 3rd time might not be the charm for you. Your genetic testing might come back with some problems. You might turn to some scientific help, adoption, or give up.  You’ll find most people are afraid to talk about fear and loss and defeat. Any stranger will tell you not to worry, that God has a healthy baby for you two someday. And that’s BS, because there might not be a healthy baby in your future. You might face years of tests and expensive procedures that leave you with nothing.

You’ll find statistics saying anywhere from 15-40% of pregnancies end in a miscarriage. So if multiple children are in your plans, the odds are against you, I’m afraid. As a guy, we’re not sure how to handle a loss like this. But believe me, your wife has attached herself so much more than you have to this unborn child. There is some serious ongoing grieving that she experiences, much more than we understand. There are some practical things you can do to really be what she needs.  Some of these I’ve learned from my own experience; the rest are from psychologist Erik Fisher, Ph.D:

  • Remember the day of the miscarriage, and the original due date that the baby would have been born. Leave her a note that acknowledges the day, and plan an outing to get out of the house, like going to the movies.
  • Understand how your wife deals with grief. Sometimes people need time to process and then talk, and sometimes they process while they
    talk. Check in with your wife to see what would help her to talk it through.
  • I’ve said it before, but don’t tell your wife that everything will be OK and expect to move on.
  • Expect for both of you to cry, and be ready to hold her when she does… not matter how often or how long.
  • Make time to talk or spend time together everyday for at least a few weeks.
  • Recognize that the pain from this does not go away in a few weeks; it can last months and years, especially depending on the efforts that were taken to get pregnant in the first place.
  • Don’t expect her to be ready for sex for enjoyment or procreation anytime soon. Everyone is different, but a conversation can save a lot of frustration. She will connect sex with the miscarriage, and there is a lot of pain there.
  • This is important: don’t feel afraid to get counseling to work this through. It can really help to build a marriage, especially if it is worked through successfully.

Recovering from miscarriage is never easy — for either of you.  But together, you can rebuild your lives and begin to move on.

Special thanks to “Dr. E,” aka Erik Fisher, Ph.D, for his contributions to this article.

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21 Responses to “The M Word: Coping With Miscarriage”

  1. Ken in Tucson
    February 4, 2010 at 5:01 pm #

    wow. that brought back memories, and nearly brought back tears. it’s been over 9 years for us. we had a boy before that, and a girl after. didn’t realize I was still that good at walling off parts of my memory. it can be an extraordinarily rough time, but it can be used (as suggested in the article) to forge a closer bond between the two of you. take advantage of that time, sad as it might be, as you will need that strength when your beautiful little kids become …teenagers… >8}

  2. A reader
    February 5, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your experience Joe. For those of us that have never experienced a miscarriage, it really helps us to not take the birth of our children for granted. And it will help me to understand how to support my wife if we were to ever experience that. Thank you for not sugar-coating your experience. I know it can’t be easy to experience those moments all over again and see them in writing. But I think it is important for others to understand how horrible an experience that having a miscarriage can be, especially since we rarely have heard about those experiences from our parents.

  3. T.B.
    February 9, 2010 at 6:28 pm #

    My husband and I have had two miscarraiges. For both he’s been a total basket case, but not in that sensitive-man-in-glasses kind of way. His is the more manly way: drown your sorrows, suppress your sadness, and occasionally lash out with icy comments laced with blame and bitterness.

    I know what you’re thinking by now about him, but don’t. By thinking that way you are dissmissing and undermining the intensity of what he feels and goes through. He wants to be a father more deeply than even I, the mother of his unborn children, can understand. To me, the miscarraige was a matter of primarily physical pain with some lurking grief that can surprise you on any old Tuesday afternoon. I buried my lima bean alone in the garden, and that was that.

    For him it’s more. It’s not a practical physical process to be endured, it’s an entire emotional fantasy being crushed. It’s a darkness sucking away the meaning and joy in his whole life, past, present and future. His is the kind of grief that likes to masquerade as callousness and anger. I can’t comfort him or support him because it’s too hard for him to even think about it. It’s crazy for me to dream of him comforting and supporting me like I hear about some men doing for their wives.

    I do have to disagree with the statement of “don’t tell her it’s ok”. Maybe it’s not a good line to default to and hollowly repeat over and over, but as someone who hasn’t heard it once, I must say, those two words would mean everything to me. It’s ok that your body killed my baby. It’s ok I forgive you. It’s ok I don’t blame you. It’s ok I still love you. It’s ok we can keep trying.

    I’m pregnant now for the third time, and accidentally, ie not-mentally-ready. When I told him we’d reached 9 weeks one morning he responded with a level of dryness bordering on sarcasm, “So, you think this one is going to stick”. I answered that I couldn’t make him any promises but that it’s farther than we’d made it before so I was hopeful, and so he just sneered, “well it’s about time.” in a tone that clearly said, he just expects me to let him down. Again.

    I’m nearly at 14 weeks now. Early on, I’d been sure that the cramping would arrive any day. I didn’t want to go to the doctor and see a heart beating and then dig another pea-sized hole in the garden. So that’s how I will end up getting my very first ultrasound at 15 weeks, which is crazy and torturous, to be so “far along” but have no idea if your baby is a waterhead mutant or if it even exists at all.

    I asked and he will not go with me to the appointment. In a very frank moment he told me that he wouldn’t be able to handle it [if the results are bad]. I don’t know how I will handle it if they are, knowing I have to go home to a man and absolutely break his heart. I’d rather crawl into a hole and die than have to tell him bad news again. I don’t know why I have to “be the strong one” but for some reason that’s just the way it is for us. All you can do is hope, and then feel something more appropriate when it’s time.

    He will be the best, most devoted, loving father in the world and he deserves to have a child of his own, and I desperately want to give that to him. The first time I found out I was pregnant, before we ever had had any miscarraiges, he was so excited. He bought cigars and gave them all to his friends and bragged and joked about when kind of father he would be, and he treated me like a queen. Not this time.

    We are so afraid. The fear doesn’t go away as the risk of miscarraige decreases… in fact it just seems to get worse. I’m so tired now from crying while I wrote all this out and I’m starving as usual. I feel like I’ll just fall asleep right on my key boaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

    • Ben Martin
      February 9, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

      T.B. – I must admit, I’ve never heard that perspective. It breaks my heart to read your story. I can understand how your husband (any husband, really) can grieve the loss of a child, but it sounds to me like he could really use someone safe to talk to – a counselor or pastor or even a brick wall! It’s not easy for most men (myself included) to admit they need to talk to someone, though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he balked at the idea. The fact that you’ve put up with that anger and stuck with him speaks volumes about who you are as a woman. I hope this pregnancy does “stick” and he returns to treating you like a queen – you deserve at least that much, regardless of the outcome. And yes, I will say it to you: it’s ok. The miscarriages you experienced are not your fault. You are not a broken woman. You are no less a woman and no less human than any other. Regardless of the outcome of this pregnancy, you are valuable and worthy of being loved. I hope your husband can come to grips with this truth and express it to you soon himself… for your sake and your baby’s.

  4. Jonathan C-
    February 12, 2010 at 7:34 am #

    I would just like to thank you for this article. It is very well written, and a great help. My wonderful wife and me just learned that the embryo (week 8) is far too small and chances are dim that the pregnancy will proceed as it should. We have one little daugher – who is a bundle of joy, and that in itself is a reason for gratitude – how very grateful you can become when you understand that things are not to be taken for granted. A bitter lesson it is nonetheless.
    What I will never forget is: When I saw the tears in the eyes of my wife when the doctor informed us. It nearly broke my heart. It hurts, it really hurts like little else. Now we are in a waiting position, which, in a way, seems to me worse than knowing: What will be? Will she be alright, physically and mentally?
    It is like a shadow falling over your life. Not that everything breaks down – life goes on and ours is an especially nice one, we have little to worry about in general; we live under very blessed circumstances – but it is like a sad background music which accompanies even the nicer things we do. What I find remarkable is my wife’s warmth and beauty in all of this. It is hard to tell how to feel – sometimes we forget it, and then the thoughts come back and it hurts … and so on. I liked your article. In the end, all one can do is relishing how oneself, the loved ones, and others are coming to terms, are coping (or not). Life is indeed a mystery, and there is no way around that insight. It can give you so much pleasure, and it can give you pain. I know this sounds trivial, but once you are in there, it isn’t so trivial anymore.
    To others who are reading this – you are not alone. All who’ve been there know how much it hurts.

  5. Jonathan C-
    February 12, 2010 at 7:35 am #

    that should not have been a smiley, but week 8, and then brackets. Stupid computers!

  6. colleen
    February 12, 2010 at 11:41 pm #

    i just wanted to thank you for writing this. nobody talks about miscarriage, and that fact alone makes it difficult for women (and men) to get through it. it seems that people shy away from the subject, and if they do talk to you about it, they end up saying something insensitive, like “it’s ok, you can try again” or “well, maybe it was God’s will. maybe there was something wrong with the baby.” thank you for saying that a husband should just be a rock. my husband just being there, saying nothing, was exactly what i needed. he still remembers the day it happened, and he is sensitive to how i’m feeling at that time of year – that is incredibly important to me.

    it’s been just over 4 yrs since i miscarried my first baby at 7 weeks, and even though i got pregnant again right away, and my husband i have 2 wonderful kids now, the pain just doesn’t go away. and i’m ok with that. it means that my baby is remembered.

    again – thank you for taking a step in making miscarriage a little more out in the open so that women can feel that they don’t have to hide their pain.

  7. Deana
    March 13, 2010 at 12:04 am #

    Thank you for writing this. My Husband is not the biological father of my first 2 daughters and when we decided to try for a baby together we experienced 3 miscarriages together before we carried to term and added another beautiful girl to our family. The journey was terrible. Pregnancy, which in the past had been a wonderful time for me was a nine month anxiety attack. Glad for our baby, but definately the end of the baby road for us. I am so grateful that we have her. Still sad for the 3 that we lost.

    I think you addressed this beautifully. Thanks for the perspective and the advice. Congratulations on your babies.

  8. Mel
    August 26, 2010 at 4:23 am #

    Thank you for writng such a beautiful article. Truly the gift of life is an an awesome gift! My spouse and I have two beautiful children (11 and 13). We suffered two misscarriages (2002 and 2004). Both rocked my world. I am still haunted by them and feel alot of emotional pain to this day. When I started bleeding we (my husband and I and two childern) were to to go on a trip to visit his mother and rent a car to take his mother on a trip to the south for a week). The doctor told us the baby was dead (I was 13 weeks) and that I would need a D and C. Against my wishes my spouse continued on the planned vacation with our children and left me with my twin sister who me took to the hospital for the D and C and post care. I have never recovered from this – I know for him the baby didn’t really exist – but for me it was real and my abandonment pain still hurts. WE have discussed this and has apoligized but my pain still haunts me. I applaud you for your sensitivity to the miscarriages.

  9. J
    April 4, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    Thank you for writing this. I sent it to my hubby a couple of days after our miscarriage and it helped him to understand and he stopped asking me why I was crying (thank goodness). Thankfully somehow I had the wisdom to know that when he kept asking me those questions it came from a good place of him not wanting to see my cry and being frustrated that he couldn’t fix me. I felt so alone when it happened to us because so many people don’t talk about their experiences with pregnancy loss and this article was really helpful. Now if you could write an article for a friend who consistently refers to her daugther as a “pill” for such atrocities as teething and acting whiny about it and waking up at 5 that would be great!

  10. Jen
    September 16, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    Thank you for your article. It is the most honest and helpful one I could find this morning. I had a miscarriage yesterday and the pain is still very fresh and awful. My husband is an incredible man who I know is hurting more than he is showing. He is being strong for me and holding me -just as you advise! I am so very lucky. I have never written a blog post anywhere, ever before- I guess I just feel compelled to say thank you for your words. They help.

  11. Sarah
    December 11, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Thank you for this amazing article! I just had my second miscarriage over the weekend. My first was Dec.16 2011 and this one was on Dec. 8 2012. My husband was there with me for both of them and he has been so great. I have to say the second one hurt alot more! My first I had a D and C but with this one I miscarried naturally at home. It does really hurt to flush what would have been our baby down the toilet I couldnt bring myself to do it, my husband brought me out and laid me on the couch then went to do it by himself. I can just imagine him standing there and the thoughts rushing through his head as he did it. He come out eyes filled with tears. Next thing he did was turn on a Gary Allen song “Every Storm Runs Out of Rain” and picked me up and danced with me it was the most comforting thing he could have done and I will always admire him for that! I love him so much and just cannot even begin to imagine having a third miscarriage with him. Thanks again for the article it was just what I needed this morning!

  12. Jenny
    February 10, 2013 at 1:42 am #

    Not sure anyone will see this since the original article was written 3 years ago, but I feel I have to reply. My husband and I also have experienced 2 miscarriages. One right after the other. Got pregnant the first time.. without even really trying. Went to the 10 week ultrasound and there was no heartbeat. They found out it was trisomy 9. We were devastated. November 2011 I had a D and C and was told to wait 3 months before trying again. We waited the 3 months and then it took 6 months after that to get pregnant again… That was beyond frustrating. We did get to see the babies heartbeat with this pregnancy. Then a week later it was gone. This time it was due to a blood clot. I had to get a D and C again because of the clot. Now almost 3 months later.. it is almost time to try again and I am beyond terrified. I know my husband is too. He actually had a panic attack when we went for the first appt for the second pregnancy. For some reason tonight I was looking at miscarriage blogs and found yours. You sound so much like my husband. It’s nice to see the man’s perspective in this situation. It’s hard to talk about it sometimes with my husband and I know he grieves and processes things differently. I really think we should have gotten counseling. We have talked about it, just haven’t actually done anything about it. I just hope our third pregnancy is as successful as yours. I have had tests and talked to specialist and appear to be perfectly healthy… so why does this keep happening? We’ve had 2 miscarriages for completely different reasons. It will just make me appreciate my children even more when I do get them.Thank you, Joe for writing this article. Congrats on the twins! 🙂

  13. peter
    February 26, 2013 at 3:03 am #

    My partner miscarried our first child yesterday we are both devastated,reading these comments is really helping us.thank you

  14. Jim
    March 5, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    My partner miscarried yesterday and it has made me question my right to be a father, my willingness to carry on with my own life and the shock that this has put me through. This pregnancy was a surprise and I was just getting over the initial shock of becoming an unexpected father. I was getting excited to start my family and start my life. I was ready for that joy and exaltation and now we are left shattered and she doesn’t want me around. She feels ruined and wrecked “broken” as it were. I don’t know how to console her and she won’t let me close. I have always been there for her, I have been that rock when she needed it and now she doesn’t want me around. My heart is broken, my body subdued, I am simply a shell of myself. I want more than anything for this pain to go away but I fear it will be with me forever and that will have to be okay. It’s all too fresh and I’m not sure how to make it better. I’m glad people have found this article helpful but it doesn’t change that this is the hardest thing I have ever gone through.

  15. Jenn
    March 21, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    I am in the middle of my 2nd miscarriage at this moment! It sucks!!!!! I was with my ex-husband when I had the first at 8wks but we already had a healthy daughter. I have since divorced and with a wonderful man that doesn’t have any children and we have wanted to have a baby together for a while now. Well after about a year and a half of trying we came up pregnant! I was so shocked because I wasn’t expecting it, I actually did my test at work, out of wanting to be able to tell my doctor I wasn’t pregnant when I called to schedule an appt. for crazy symptoms I was experiencing….LOL. Well turned out if was pregnancy that was causing all my crazy feelings. Thinking we was 8wks they schedule an ultrasound, go for the ultrasound and nothing is seen!!!! Nothing!!!! They check my hcg and its well over 6000! Wow, thats good right? Nope, not good. My boyfriend is devastated! We cried last night laying in bed. Then today he gets up barely says a word to me, only spoke because I did. Then he doesn’t even ask me later how I am doing????? I know he is hurting and wanted this more than anything he has ever wanted. I do understand that. He is experiencing some depression as he does have issues with that area. But what about me? I mean I am also going through this. I am hurting and will be bleeding heavily soon and he didn’t even offer to walk our dog this morning for me!!! I just don’t understand how he can be so insensitive to me. I know its not going to change throughout this weekend. I am going to be doing all the housework and walking the dog without any help from him. I wish all men would read this blog and understand how hard it is on their woman when they miscarry. Not only do we carry it emotionally but we get the physical part also. Its rough on our bodies and minds! I am not underestimating his pain. I know he is in pain but just wanting a little more help to get through!!!!!!!

  16. Elizabeth
    March 22, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

    This is an amazing article. My husband and I had a miscarriage (our first pregnancy) about 6 weeks ago. He was amazing through it all. Letting me cry it out, even when I started crying in the middle of a completely unrelated conversation. I asked him what he needed from me to better help him, but he said he was handling it his own way. I know he was devastated. We both still are. I’m not sure how we will survive a future pregnancy without stressing ourselves out too much to enjoy it. I’ve lost loved ones in the past, of course, and this was so much different than that. The pain can only be understood by those that have endured it.

  17. Jason
    April 10, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    My wife & I have a daughter together. Then we wanted more children, during my wife’s pregnancy she had our daughter through a c-section, then a week later the c-section became infected we have no idea how it became infected but it just happened.. When our daughter turned two we decided to have another one.. Our first child was conceived after we had our first huge fight within our marriage.. & I was to blame for the fight because I told a customer that I could have his 3000sq ft home painted over the 4th of July weekend… Stupid me:). Anyway we tried to get pregnant for about five years & come to find out I had a pituitary brain tumor that was making me create prolactin instead of testosterone.. Which in turn my testosterone level was as much as a 6yr old boy! Since we knew what the problem was we were able to after the tumor though pills & hcg shots & fsh shots cause my pituitary gland no longer makes those two chemicals for me to create testosterone.

    Fast forward a very hard year & a half of dealing with financial, employees & health.. She became pregnant & I was so excited because of everything that we went through together from this storm called life, we had done it! Fruit of our hard plowing season of our life! & we were very excited! She was pregnant for 9 weeks & poof just like that we are in the clinic for an ultra sound & no heartbeat… Instant crush… Then a schedule C-n-G a few days later…

    Your article is very encouraging to me. My wife is coping by wanting to buy a new home & to get our home ready to sell.. I’m in hopes that this is just a freak thing & soon this storm will subside not too soon but to the point to where she will be able to heal & able to help someone else through their despair as well… I myself am encouring her as well… She will tell me that their is a house to look at & we go look at houses.. Whatever it takes to help her get through this.. I know that we are both disappointed but this too shall pass! Then when we heal from this… I’m sure that we will be able to help some other couple to heal with their loss as well.

    Jason.

  18. Greg
    April 21, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    Thank you so much for your article. It is very encouraging seeing that my girl and I jut had a miscarriage of our first child this morning. The pain I feel is indescibable and I am thankful that I found your article to hep is through and ease the hurt. Thanks again so much.

  19. khan
    June 10, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    Thank you for writing this blog, even though you wrote it a few years ago, it really helps. I don’t know what else to say but thank you and may God bless your twins.

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