"When my wife miscarried, I was alone in my mourning"
By Charles Feng| July 22, 2020
"Three years ago, my wife, daughter and I took a photo shivering on a beach amid the howling autumnal wind. Last year, for 11 glorious, anticipatory weeks, while my wife was pregnant, I planned to update the picture at the same location with a new baby in tow.
But that plan was abruptly upended when we had a miscarriage. Now that picture that sits on our mantel would still be just the three of us, squinting into the camera, buttressing one another against the cold.
The miscarriage itself lasted only a few hours. But the self-recrimination lingered long afterward because I wasn’t sure how to grieve when my wife’s emotional response seemed more important. When I searched online, women’s perspectives abounded on websites, in YouTube videos and in news articles, but men’s perspectives were scarce. Academic research was little better. A pattern emerged: Although there is a spotlight on Mom’s emotions and well-being during a miscarriage, Dad’s experiences are rarely discussed.
The pregnancy for our first daughter went smoothly. So, when my wife found out about our second pregnancy, we told family members and friends immediately after finding out, around the two-month mark. This meant that when the miscarriage occurred, we had to backtrack and explain to everyone what had happened, in painful conversations.
My wife’s friends, mostly women, showered her with messages and flowers. On the other hand, for the few friends, all men, I contacted, the comments ranged from the trite (“Sorry, that sucks”) to the callous (“Gotta try again!”) to, well, silence. My best friend, with the best of intentions, emailed my wife his condolences but excluded me.
Eventually, another friend who had recently experienced two miscarriages carved out some time to chat over dinner.
“How are you feeling, buddy?” he asked.
“Okay,” I said.
“Tough as it seems right now, it does get better with time.”
“Good to know.” I felt like a sullen teenager.
“You know, while discussing miscarriages is in general taboo, for men it seems especially so,” he said.
The entire arc of the miscarriage, from conception to loss, occurs within the female body. Aside from contributing sperm, I felt like a bystander. I was traveling when my wife watched the double pink lines appear on the pregnancy test. She occasionally saw the obstetrician on her own and started organizing the baby’s room without my input. I had an ancillary role in the pregnancy, so I wasn’t sure I even had a right to feel devastated.
The event itself is permanently etched in my psyche. Throughout the night, my wife had unremitting abdominal pain. I was asleep when she barged through the door from the bathroom.
“The baby’s gone,” she said through tears.
“I’m so sorry,” I said. I got up and hugged her. “What should we do now?”
“I don’t know.”
My wife went to the obstetrician, while I stayed home with our 2-year-old daughter.
After a sushi lunch — no longer pregnant, my wife could eat raw fish again — we dropped our daughter off at my parents’ house. To distract ourselves, we caught an animated movie. That evening, we drove to a deserted parking lot at the local elementary school. I shut off the car ignition and let the jazz radio buzz in the background. I held my wife’s hand as we stared into the darkness. We talked about the movie but little else.
The next day I was back at work.
The best thing I could do was to just be with her. I felt like I didn’t have a right to express my despair, so I actively suppressed my emotions. My wife needed to lean on me, so I became a stoic, unperturbable oak tree for her. According to a study published this year, after a miscarriage, men have described themselves, in supporting their wives, as “rocks, guards and repair men.” We adhere to traditional notions of masculinity, of being steady and capable, and never, ever succumbing to emotions."