I had it wired. I read the books. I attended the seminars. I had t-shirts, even a lapel pin, that touted my proud claim to be a "Promise Keeper." The second line of my personal Life Purpose Statement was a bold pronouncement that I would support and encourage my wife in all ways and love her "as Christ loved the church." We'd already ridden the emotional roller coaster of pregnancy together three times and had three wonderful boys to show for it. So when the happy-go-lucky lady I'd always known dissolved into a sobbing mess one day, I didn't even flinch. I was ready to take care of things.
Her shoulders hitched as she tried to force out words that blindsided me. "I … I was pregnant … but I lost the baby."
She'd found out she was pregnant four weeks into her first term, but wanted to surprise me with the news during a weekend getaway we'd planned to take in another two weeks.
As many as 50 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, most unnoticed by the mother. But for the 15 to 20 percent who miscarry and are aware that they were pregnant, the ordeal can be traumatic. It's a tragedy for which a husband rarely prepares. I never considered it until it happened—and then it became clear that I didn't have a clue how to help her deal with it. It was months before I realized that, despite my prideful notions about my capacity to love and empathize with my wife, miscarriage was an emotional experience I could only try to understand.
There are many circumstances that may significantly affect the physical and emotional facets of this trauma. Was it a planned or unplanned pregnancy; a repeated or one-time occurrence; spontaneous or a medical necessity following the death of the baby; an early-or late-term event? The impact of each will vary. But for husbands there are three considerations that may soften the pain for you both, no matter the specifics.
You can't understand it
This may be by far the most difficult realization. Mental health professionals acknowledge what many women have always known instinctively: the emotional attachment a woman feels toward a newly conceived child is instantaneous. This may result from the physical changes her body undergoes or even the spiritual presence of the new creation within her. Whatever the reason, it isn't something a husband can share or even fully understand.
My wife's miscarriage occurred less than six weeks into the pregnancy, yet she had narrowed down possible names for the baby. She'd decorated the nursery in her mind. She'd already welcomed the new addition to our family. I, on the other hand, felt a detached loss for someone I never knew. Not having felt the depth of her joy in anticipating the new arrival, it was difficult to instantly share her despair.