What Could Have Been

It can hit you at the weirdest times. It just does. And when it does… it gives you an emotional chill like a shadow from your past.

I was driving my wife to work today as we often do in the morning and it hit me just then. She was going through Facebook scrolling by a picture of some old friends with their kids. I asked her, “Don’t they have four kids now?” They do.

And it hit me. We could, too. Or could have. But don’t.

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We’ve come such a long way… many years and thousands of miles from a phone call to my work one night. Something was wrong. My wife knew it. Through her tears she asked me to come get her. I left work right away. I found her in a stall in the women’s room at Boston University where she worked… crying.. her clothes soaked through with blood. I took her to the doctor but by then she knew… we knew… how could you not know… she had suffered a miscarriage.. what would have been our first baby as a newly married couple. Of course, my wife was physically OK and that was most important. We were assured we could try again at some point when the time was right. That was important too. In the meantime, we went home for a couple of days and hid ourselves in takeout and movies and self-pity. We told the few family members who already knew she was pregnant. But let’s face it.. There’s not a whole lot someone can say or do to make you feel any better. And all the good will can’t replace the fact that you were already secretly picking baby names and nursery colors and getting excited to be new parents. You compartmentalize that chapter of your life like an old photo in an album that you tuck away on a shelf and only glance at once in a long while.

Time passed. We went on to have a beautiful daughter Alicia.

We’d go on to have another miscarriage, too. By that time we felt like old pros at it. This time my wife was right in the doctor’s office at her pregnancy exam when the doctor informed her she was miscarrying. It didn’t make it any easier. We went home. We hardly told anyone. This time, we poured ourselves into caring for our young girl at home that we already had. And again we compartmentalized that chapter of our life like an old photo in an album that we tucked away on a shelf and only glance at once in a long while.

Time passed again. We went on to have another beautiful daughter Andreya.

We chose not to try for more children. Out of four pregnancies, two ended in miscarriage. I feel blessed to have two healthy kids. Why test the percentages again? Sure once in a while the thought of another baby creeps in… the idea of raising a new baby and having that excitement back in the family. For us, the time has passed. But yes I still think about it… sometimes… at the weirdest times… that our family might have been bigger… could have been bigger… but isn’t. And I know there are so many other couples just like us. This is my subtle nod to them.. we’ve been there too. I’m not going to tell you how to feel. I just want you to know you’re not alone. You’re not. Today I flipped through that old photo album in my mind and was taken right back there.

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I dropped my wife off at work and returned home to make breakfast with the kids as one danced around with her panda stuffed animal… And the other drew one of her fantastic drawings. They really are the most incredible kids. Yes I still think about it… sometimes… at the weirdest times… that our family might have been bigger… could have been bigger… but isn’t.

It’s always going to be a page in that old photo album of our lives together. But my family is perfect the way it is and that’s just fine with me.

Related post: The Invisible Moms’ Club

About the writer

Pete Wilgoren is out-numbered by a wife, two little girls and a dog named Cupcake.  He doesn't stand a chance.  When he's not scraping crayons and crusty food remnants from the seats of the car, he's Managing Editor at KCBS KCAL in Los Angeles.  You can find him on Facebook at Dadmissions The Book.


Shadelle 2 years ago

I had a miscarriage at 13 weeks. Took me 6 months to finally stop crying every time I saw a pregnant woman. Just the other day I finally decided to clean out a closet that I just throw stuff in that I don’t want to deal with right away. Came across the first ultra sound pictures from that pregnancy. Its strange how you can miss someone that you never met and yet loved with all your heart.

jennlw 2 years ago

We had a daughter, then an ectopic pregnancy, then an early miscarriage, then another daughter, then our son. They are 14, 10, and 9 now. Our 10 year old recently figured out that if I had not lost the pregnancies before her, she would not exist. When she was an infant, I remember holding her, whispering to her that she was SOOOO worth waiting for. While the losses were difficult, I think it made me love the next two children a tiny bit more because I KNEW I was lucky they were here. I don’t think of my family as being smaller than it would have been, because we never intended to have 5 children. But I do wonder sometimes who my children would be if the losses weren’t losses and the next 2 kids never existed.

    jennlw 2 years ago

    As for my husband, after the ectopic pregnancy, he was VERY hesitant to try again because he was afraid of something happening to me. Before our modern medical advances, women died from ectopic pregnancies. He was very supportive, and felt that ultimately it was my decision because I was the one that would be pregnant, give birth, etc.

Nikki O’Connor 2 years ago

I have 3 Angels in Heaven. We went through years of infertility and endured so many procedures. But after all that darkness, we were Blessed with 2 boys. We say a prayer each year on the days that we lost our babies. It still hurts because you feel like you will Never know who that little person would’ve been.

Amy Whaley 2 years ago

My aunt told me about how the thoughts will come at random times—-so very true.

Kyle 2 years ago

I very much appreciate the subtle nod. Beautiful. Thank you!

Trisha 2 years ago

Yes, the memories never truly leave. We had 3 losses before our daughter and one after. I didn’t think I could stand another, but thankfully we tried again and it brought us our sweet boy. For me it’s often a song on the radio or something I read or just a smell and I’m right back there at one of those moments. I like to think that each time we had a loss the soul went back to Heaven and kept coming until it finally ended up with us.

Tawnya Thomas 2 years ago

My husband and I have been pregnant 5 times. Two living sons, ages 7 and almost 2, 2 early 1st trimester miscarriages, and one late term stillborn daughter, she’d be almost 3 1/2, now. You’re constanly haunted by the “what ifs”, the “coulda woulda shouldas”…

You never get “better”, or back to who you were, the pain never goes away, but you learn tools to help you manage who you are, NOW.

Laura Craven 2 years ago

Reading this post and every single comment has filled my heart and eyes with tears. My husband and I spent 3 1/2 years trying before we had our first child. I have never lost a child, and there is no similarity of not knowing if you can have one to actually losing one. I can not even imagine the hurt all of you have gone through! My heart and prayers go out to every single one of you!

Ashley Evans 2 years ago

It doesn’t matter how early or late you lose a baby/pregnancy. You still grieve. Sometimes it’s harder on someone, sometimes it’s easier, but it’s sad all the same. I lost my second pregnancy/baby when I was 13 weeks. I still picked out a name and buried the tiny body in a special place. We tried again, and I’ll be 13 weeks Monday. It’s bittersweet. I’m excited, scared, and still mad that I’m headed towards the 13th week instead of the 32nd week. The pain gets duller with time, but it’s always a loss.

Laurie Nunez 2 years ago


Fawn D. Preuss 2 years ago

Beautifully written and so true.

Mom of Two Celiacs 2 years ago

Anyone with fertility issues should be checked for Celiac- Research suggests an association between untreated celiac disease and reproductive problems, including menstrual disorders, unexplained infertility, recurrent spontaneous abortion, intrauterine growth retardation, and low birth-weight babies.
Several studies report miscarriage rates to be substantially higher among women with untreated celiac disease than among healthy women, with one study finding the rate of spontaneous abortion to be nearly nine times higher. The incidence of low birth-weight babies is reportedly almost six times higher in women with untreated celiac disease. The risk of intrauterine growth retardation may be increased three-fold.
Women aren’t the only ones to suffer reproductive ills. A study of men with celiac disease found nearly half of them to have hypogonadism, sexual dysfunction, or poor semen quality, resulting in increased infertility. For more information:


Lauren Butts 2 years ago

I wish mine would talk about it. He was good at first and now idk what’s wrong with us..

Michelle 2 years ago

Thank you so much for writing this. After having suffered our own miscarriage recently I felt every word you wrote. And it’s also so easy to forget how miscarriage affects a husband. Mine has been so wonderfully strong and supportive. It makes it easy to forget the pain he also feels. This is a much needed reminder.

Julie De Klerk 2 years ago

I also lost two babies, and now have two living children. I remember that black hole of despair I lived in during those first two losses. It was sad and scary on so many levels. But a friend told me her theory, which I love: she thinks my son, and now my daughter, were always meant to come to me – their souls were meant to be mine. And so even though it took three tries for a pregnancy to take, somehow it was always my James trying to get through to me. None of us knows how it works, and I have wondered about and missed those babes I never knew. But I like thinking that in some way those two are here with us now in the hearts and souls of my living children. So much love to all who have lost. We carry it forever. xx

Jennifer Osso 2 years ago

Prayers for all of you mamas with angel babies. My heart goes out to you!

Jen Smentowski 2 years ago


Wendy 2 years ago

My first pregnancy with my first husband ended at 8 weeks. I had been spotting for three days, and very nervous about it. When the heavy cramping began, my husband was two hours away at a conference, and was pissed that I had someone page him! He thought I was being a “baby” about it. I learned years later that he hadn’t really even wanted a child yet, and was relieved that I miscarried! We did go on to have two beautiful children, but, needless to say, the marriage did not survive. Wish I had had someone supportive to lean on!

Shaylyn Loertscher 2 years ago

twins, 3 years ago. My husband is just now starting to be able to talk about them. It is horrible. We were 18 weeks 6 days, ultrasound to check things out, watched as their hearts stopped. Family ignored us, told us to stop being selfish for missing a family members wedding, and to get our priorities straight. It was basically horrible on top of horrible.

JD Katsonis 2 years ago

I think my husband handled my two miscarriages better than the loss of our first son. I went into early labor at 27 weeks (placental abruption), had an emergency Csection, but my son lived for only minutes. Not long enough for my husband to get to the hospital – he was home with our 2 girls, waiting for his brother to watch them so he could be with me. Worst day of our lives. He took it so hard. When I got pregnant again a year & a half later, he was a mess until the day our 2nd son was born – perfectly healthy. A few months later, pregnant again & I delivered another healthy baby boy. We are blessed but feel the pain of losing pregnancies & babies. It truly sucks ass big time. Peace to all you mamas & dads coping with loss. oxo

Kay 2 years ago

Thank you, Pete!


BTW -We need more of this. More insight, the father’s perspective on everything.

Rachel Trucks 2 years ago

Such heart break to be sure…I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in March after three miscarriages throughout he previous three years. We are so in love with our little man, but I too think of the siblings he could have had. Hard to think about trying for more if it means going through that again.

DW 2 years ago

I also have 2 living children and 2 miscarriages. Both of my miscarriages were before my first child. While I don’t like thinking about them at length, I don’t dwell too much about what might have been- because I got pregnant with my son during the time period when I would have been pregnant with one of those two (all of these pregnancies occurred within a 8 month time frame). If these pregnancies had continued, I would not have my son. That is a might have been I never want to consider.

Marie 2 years ago

I have 3 beautiful daughters and had 2 miscarriages. One miscarriage before daughter #1 and another before daughter #3. I can say with absolute conviction that my husband doesn’t think the way you do about the “what could have been” and I’m a little jealous. As a matter of fact, he couldn’t really hide the fact he was relieved when miscarriage #2 happened because he was quite satisfied with 2 children (it was a surprise pregnancy). Which is why we wound up having daughter #3 … immense guilt over behavior = I get my third child (whom he adores, by the way). But either way … you have the family you were meant to have, but thinking about what could have been is perfectly OK!

    Kylie 2 years ago

    My husband was the same. We had a surprise and admittedly bad timing first pregnancy and while I couldn’t stop crying he told me he was relieved. Words he can never take back and that have put stress on our marriage sadly. 3 months later we had another surprise pregnancy and mc. This time it finally hit him that something could be wrong and he was sad this time too, still not at the same level though. After that we decided to just let whatever happen since protection didn’t seem to work anyway for us. 3 months later I got pregnant with our loving daughter who he adores. But I don’t think I can get over that comment he made the first time. It still hurts almost 3 years later.

Erin Zielenski 2 years ago

All of this is so sadly familiar. :(

Rebecca 2 years ago

We also lost 2 before we had our 2 beautiful boys. If our first had made it, he (I always think of him as a “him”) would be 9. It took us 5 years to have our first living child. So we have a 4 yo and a 6 mo. But it creeps into my mind often that we should have 4 children.

Melanie Brassard 2 years ago

i had 5 miscarriages (4 early but one at 17 weeks and two the doc had to go get out with a surgery) before I was bless with
3 beautifull angels within 4 years. Thanks to one great and caring doctor who foundnwhat was wrong. It was hard but we consider ourselfs extremely lucky and we are trying for no. 4. :0). miracles do happen.

Nicole Makepeace 2 years ago

so true

R 2 years ago

Thank you. I also lost 2 and have 2.

Caroline Davey 2 years ago

We lost our first at about 7 wks so really early but we were devastated, my partner had been desperate to be a dad for years and I finally agreed, I came round to the idea thinking about the gender and names etc then lost it a week after I found out I was pregnant, it hit him really hard but we fell pregnant pretty much straight after with our son (now 3)

Stephanie Bradley 2 years ago

Love this. Really hits home. Great to see from his perspective.

Katy Wallace 2 years ago

Beautifully written

Kelly Castelli Hite 2 years ago

L no ki v nn

Michelle Hamlin 2 years ago

I have had four miscarriages and two live babies. It is hard for both of us, especially since our last one if survived would be here next week if things went as planned.

Anastasia Bodnar 2 years ago

For me it’s one stillborn daughter, one living daughter. I’ve always wanted two children… but I already have two. Dare I test the odds again? I don’t know if I (or my husband) can handle the anxiety of another pregnancy.
Thank you for sharing this story. It’s so good to see a community speak about pregnancy loss in such a healthy way.

Flaire Turner 2 years ago

Beautifully written! Makes me wonder if my husband feels the same; from time to time he will speak of our loss

Kelley 2 years ago

I found out I was pregnant and had the same due date as a friend at work. Three days later I started cramping and then the bleeding started. I lost the baby and was crushed, but I compartmentalized it and put my energy into my two year old. My friend went on to have a healthy little girl who is delightful. I love seeing her, but my heart always aches a little for the baby I lost who would be the same age if they’d survived.

Michelle Chappell 2 years ago

I’ve had four miscarriages and one amazing, funny, smart little girl. The hurt does creep up at the strangest times.

Maritza Orozco-Ramos 2 years ago

❤️Thank you for sharing this. It’s nice to know we’re not the only ones because that is exactly how it feels, like it’s just us.

    Pete 2 years ago

    thank you maritza

Larissa Meier Bennett 2 years ago

Beautiful. This brought tears to my eyes as I thought about my own angel baby.

Gayathri Sadhu 2 years ago

Very true, I had one miscarriage and have one perfectly healthy son now.but yes when the thought”might have been ” hits I still blame myself for the first one..I still do and feel guilty and cry and move on

Emily Cronin 2 years ago

Beautifully written. We have 3 angel babies and 3 babies here with us. We have special angel ornaments that go on the Christmas tree every year. They will never be forgotten, the pain of losing them was horrible. :'( <3

Victoria Barger Silfies 2 years ago

I have 3 wonderful kids. I had 2 miscarriages. My 1st and 4th pregnancies are my angel babies.

Blanca Batres-Delgado 2 years ago

I was 6 1/2 months when I lost my Angel. I went for a routine check and the heartbeat was gone. I asked and blamed myself for not noticing when movement had stopped. I have 3 other kids who at the time where 8,6 and 4 all day I was busy with them and by night I was so tired I didn’t notice the baby was dead. I went thru all labor pain without epidural. I was able to feel all the pain of giving birth just like I did with the other 3. I guess it was part of a healing process. My husband is a truck driver and was thousands of miles away and came just in time to give our baby the last blessing. We cremated our son and have his ashes at home with us. Every morning we say good morning to him and good night when we go to bed. He is part of our family even if he is not here physically. I guess we all cope with pain differently.

Chelsea Hopson 2 years ago

Love this! My husband didn’t want to try again but we did go on to have a 3rd child almost exactly a year later. Mine was early, around 6 weeks. We hadn’t even been to the dr to see a heartbeat yet, but it was still hard. I remembering crying that whole weekend. When I got pregnant again, I didn’t even tell my husband until I’d been to the dr and seen a heartbeat. We didn’t tell any family members until the second trimester.

Brenna 2 years ago

This hit home for us too, thanks for sharing! Brought tears to my eyes.

Santiago Rivas 2 years ago

I’ve been there, nearly one year before Xander was born. It didn’t help that the final stages took place in an Emergency Room at 2am

Emily Chambers 2 years ago

Damn that’s a side I’ve never heard :(
I have never had the misfortune of losing a child, could never imagine what the parents go thru. But I know it would be so horrible and indescribable pain :'(

Kerry Redding 2 years ago

It’s hard…I still think of the 3 we lost. Almost every day. Something will happen and it just brings it up. I guess you never think of the dads hurting as well since it wasn’t their body that failed them.

Jennifer Spittle Reinhardt 2 years ago

Thank you for sharing… more of us should! I thought I was alone the first time until about 1/2 a dozen nurses told me they went through the same thing… It actually eased my mind a little. I didn’t feel so alone!

Marta Rogowski Furman 2 years ago

This hit home with me… Same as my situation. I just suffered a horrible second miscarriage that could have taken my life. I’m living for the two kids that I have rather than the ones I don’t. It sucks, but I have closed the reproduction chapter of my life and I’m moving on to the chapter of being happy with the kids that I have been blessed with. In heaven one day, I will have all my children.

Angie Dean 2 years ago

Twas the same for us. 2 perfect babies, 2 miscarriages. The 1st was done pretty fast. . wasnt even 7 wks. . but my heart broke for ages. the 2nd- i was a fanatic about hcg levels. . finally saw a heart beat. . just about the time i relaxed and ppl were saying hey! u are starting to show a bit! 4 pregnancies. . only 1 ob appt i went alone. . the one where our baby had been dead nearly 2 wks. . and the blasted dr let me go on carrying thru Thanksgiving week. Tears & turkey dinner. My husband faithfully picks out & plants butterfly and hummingbird plants each yr for our memorial garden.

    Adrianne Ward Burney 2 years ago

    You married a good man! Sorry for your losses.

Allyson Tolboe 2 years ago

People often don’t realize how hard it is on the daddy’s too.

Kathryn 2 years ago

We hear about the “other side” of miscarriage (the partner’s) too rarely. My husband thought he couldn’t be sad in front of me, that if he expressed his feelings about it, it would make me too upset. As a result I saw that he was being supportive but ultimately felt he didn’t really care or feel loss.
It’s wonderful to hear a husband expressing his feeling of grief (and how they never really go away). More men should feel ok with showing this side of loss. Thank you.

    John 2 years ago

    It’s so very hard and painful. We feel we have to be supportive, be strong, the bedrock for her when we ourselves are a mess internally about this. After all, we didn’t just feel that life pass from us, we feel guilty trying to express our pain, thinking it cannot compare to her pain. We internalize, and it may come across as not caring as much, but we know we have to be strong at that time for her and the rest of the family.

Anita Awuor Babu 2 years ago

I can not thank you Enough for this. I lost 3 pregnancies and I don’t have any kids yet. I would love to have kids of my own, I dream all the time about how it will be when I get my own (if I ever do) but that dark cloud, the fear of it happening again is always there. And all the three times it got just harder after the other

    Melanie Brassard 2 years ago

    i had 5 miscarriages (4 early but one at 17 weeks and two the doc had to go get out with a surgery) before I was bless with
    3 beautifull angels within 4 years. Thanks to one great and caring doctor who foundnwhat was wrong. It was hard but we consider ourselfs extremely lucky and we are trying for no. 4. :0). miracles do happen but sometimes we need medical help, dont hesitate to ask asap.

    DS 2 years ago

    I wish you all the best. I also had 3 pregnancy losses before finally becoming a mom of 3 daughters. Keep hope in your heart!

Marta 2 years ago

That is beautiful… We also wanted four kids, 2 healthy kids later and 2 very rough miscarriages and 1 early miscarriage, I don’t want another one in the album to think about. It’s hard enough with the ones I had. Another miscarriage is not something I would ever want to go through again. I’m happy, we r happy. Time to close that chapter of my life.

Emily Combs Benson 2 years ago

It’s hard sometimes when the “might have been” thoughts hit. I’m blessed with two amazing daughters, and my youngest wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t miscarried before becoming pregnant with her, but I still wonder about the baby we lost. Was it a son or a daughter? What would s/he have been like? I love my family as it is, but I would have also loved how it could have been.

Linda Pikulin 2 years ago

Thank you for writing about your losses. Not only from the perspective of a father, but from one who has gone on to have a child, too.

Lyndsey Winters Carlton 2 years ago

Thanks for sharing, it’s so easy to get caught up in your own grief and then, eventually, it all gets shoved so far back because you concentrate on the ones your lucky to have.

Sarah Sessions 2 years ago

We would have had four also, overwhelmingly blessed to have our two. It does hit at the weirdest times.

Ashley Isra 2 years ago

This brought tears to my eyes

Pam Hanson 2 years ago

This hit home! Thanks for posting. Pulls at my heart strings even after all this time.

Julie Katz 2 years ago

beautiful thank you for sharing

Sarah Fritz-Maldonado 2 years ago

My husband took it harder than me initially the first time around… So much we opted to try one more time and never again… The memories no matter how many successful births after still haunt us both… They suck

Rachel Cicioni 2 years ago

Thank you for sharing this.

Kathea 2 years ago

Beautifully stated. Out of five pregnancies, four were miscarriages. It took going to a fertility doc to get #5 to work and he will be our only son. But each miscarriage created a photo album of what might have been. I don’t look at it often but it sits heavy on the shelf.

    Katy 2 years ago

    I had 3 miscarriages out of 4 pregnancies. I was finally blessed with my twins after 7 years of infertility treatments (10 rounds). It’s something that stays with you forever.

Kate 2 years ago

We had a miscarriage before having our daughter and I have had all of these feelings. Once in a while I think about having another, but to be honest I’m frightened by the thought of another loss and how painful that is and how we just wouldn’t have the time to grieve like we did the first time.

    Kylie 2 years ago

    Me too. I lost two before my daughter was born. My doctor even confirmed that I am very mc prone. I’m so afraid of getting pregnant again. But I know I’m going to have to because we really want her to have a sibling. I don’t know if I can take another loss:(

Erin McMurray 2 years ago

Thank you, Pete. Thank you.

    Pete 2 years ago

    Thank you for reading it Erin.. and thanks to Jill at Scary Mommy for posting :)

Melissa Love 2 years ago

Ugh. Yeah. *those* memories. They suck. I like them better when they are on the shelf. :-(

    pete 2 years ago

    yep… true… but they creep in every now and then

Jamie Bruner Gardner 2 years ago

Yeah, Our Mothers seem to talk about our miscarriages more than we do! Just too sad to think about. We just hope for more!


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