I had been married about three years when I had my first miscarriage. I was only seven weeks pregnant, but I was devastated. Deeply devastated to the point that some people wondered if I needed professional help or medication.
I didn’t. I just needed to grieve deeply and for a long time. Since I was just a little girl, I wanted a baby more than anything, and I had lost my first chance at realizing that dream. I needed to work through it.
My husband was a rock. I can’t even begin to tell you the things he did for me, not only while my body was physically recovering, but afterward when my grief was so intense that I wasn’t myself for months on end. He took the day off when I was going through the worst of it, but then he went back to life as usual.
He was clearly sad, but he never expressed it the way I did. His ability to power through it made me assume he wasn’t feeling the heaviness of the loss like I was. Sometimes it even bothered me to see him doing so well. I felt like my world was falling apart. Didn’t he know our baby had died before we ever got to know who they were?
But I didn’t dare to question his emotions. I let him grieve the way I thought he needed to grieve.
Eventually, I came around, and started living my life again. The miscarriage was in July, and by the time Mother’s Day rolled around the next year, I was able to make it with just a few tears.
I was completely taken aback when, on Father’s Day morning, my husband woke up, and before he even got out of bed, tears began to flow down his cheeks. He just looked at me and whispered, “It’s Father’s Day and she’s not here.”
He went to take a shower, leaving me stunned in our bedroom.
How did I not know that my husband was still mourning the loss so deeply almost a year later?
He didn’t want to talk about it any further, so we didn’t. But I never forgot.
Time marched on, and eventually we had two babies and found ourselves unexpectedly pregnant with baby number three. Three was “our number.” We were ecstatic. Our family was going to be complete.
The eight-week ultrasound showed us that the baby’s heart had stopped beating weeks earlier. I held it together long enough to get to the bathroom, then fell apart. My husband sat silently with the ultrasound tech, then listened carefully to all the instructions my OB gave me. We walked out hand in hand, silent. I couldn’t even cry. How could we be back here again, losing another baby we desperately wanted to love?
I wanted to fall apart the moment I sat in the car, but this time, I knew I needed to take care of my husband. So, instead of closing my eyes to weep, I took a deep breath and opened the conversation.
“How are you?”
“I’m sorry. I know this is happening to you, and I need to hold it together, but I’m so sad. I was so excited, and now…” His voice cracked. He didn’t have to finish. I knew.
And now, we had to say goodbye before we ever got to say hello. Again.
And now, more sadness, this time while raising two little boys who had no idea what we were going through.
Now, I’d need surgery six days before Christmas because my body wasn’t letting go.
And yet, he still thought he needed to hold it together because he felt that the miscarriage something that was happening to me.
I’m so grateful that the second time, I knew him better. I knew I had to allow him the space to fully mourn—something he never had the first time. I was devastated, and I still fell apart. But I didn’t fall apart quite as often or for quite as long as I did when we lost our first baby. More often, we fell apart together, and we held each other up, too. A few weeks after our loss, our genetic testing results came back. Our lost baby was a girl. She would have been our first and only daughter. We laid in bed together for hours after our sons went to bed, pretending to sleep, each of us silently reaching over to comfort the other when a whimper escaped our lips in the darkness.
We forget the dads sometimes.
When a woman loses a pregnancy, we expect her to mourn. We understand if she grieves deeply. We create slogans, like “I am the 1 in 4.”
But dads lose their babies, too. And it’s so important for us to remember their pain when we talk about pregnancy loss. A lot of those lost babies would have had dads, too.
My husband is not an outlier. When I was thinking about writing this, I spoke to handful of men whose partners have lost a pregnancy. Every last one of them felt just like he did—that women have more of a right to deep sadness since we physically lose the pregnancy, despite the fact that the resulting child would have belonged to both parents in equal measure.
If dads can love their babies from the moment they see them, they can love the idea of them much sooner right along with us.
When I was a kid, my mom had a pregnancy loss early in the second trimester. I wasn’t privy to my parents’ private moments of grief, but I asked my dad about that miscarriage, and he said something that made me so sad.
“Lots of people asked me how your mom was going. Nobody asked me how I was feeling. I was caught off-guard by how much it actually did affect me. My whole life, I had seen miscarriage as ‘a woman’s sadness.’ I didn’t realize that my heart had already made room for this child, and there was a deep sadness I wasn’t at all prepared for. People offered their condolences, but nobody ever asked me how I was taking it. I felt like nobody really saw it as my loss.”
When a desired pregnancy ends abruptly far too soon, a million dreams end with it. The kind of loss is not “a woman’s sadness.” If there’s a father involved, he is likely to feel loss, sadness and pain.
When we choose to discuss pregnancy loss openly to foster a sense of community and understanding, it’s important that we don’t forget that miscarriage also happens to dads. Let’s make sure we check on them. Men’s hearts break, too.