When you were growing up, dreaming of someday getting married and starting a family, it all seemed so easy in your head. You would find the girl of your dreams, get married, have lots of great sex, and therefore, end up having as many kids as you wanted, whenever you decided to have them. Simple. Easy. Right? Sadly, not at all.
About a week ago, my wife noticed her period was a few days late. Not being too concerned because her cycle isn’t always “exact”, we waited a few days. Still nothing. I brought home a pregnancy test, and we found out we had our own little “Christmas present” – unexpectedly on the way. While it was definitely a surprise, we both soon took to the idea, and were looking forward to having another “little Harris” to love, guide, be part of our little family.
Two days later, she started spotting. The next day there was more bleeding, and after going to the doctor to see what was going on, we found out what we feared the most – we had miscarried again.
I shared our first miscarriage story a in a post called “Miscarriage: The subject that never get’s brought up”. Being newly married at the time, we had no idea how to deal with the emotions we both felt, and felt in different ways. Being married a little longer now, and now having our third miscarriage a few days ago, we understand a little better how each other is going to react, and what we both need from each other for comfort/healing.
I think we fail to understand how many couples struggle with having kids. How many times couples have heard the words from their doctors like “it looks like it was a pregnancy that just didn’t develop”, and finding themselves staring at the exam room wall, lost in thoughts like “how could this happen again?” Or “I don’t understand, it was going so well” or “we wanted this so badly, how could God let this happen?”. The pain in these situations is deep, and for the most part suffered in silence. The couple being too afraid to say anything, because they don’t want people to think there is “something wrong with them”. After all, nobody else has problems like this, right? Why can’t we just be “normal” like everybody else, and have kids whenever we want? But what we don’t realize, is for the most part, it’s not “easy” for any couple.
I don’t know how many friends/coworkers, who after hearing our story, have come up to me and said things like “we have lost 3 also”, or “we tried for 3 years before we got pregnant”. What I think we miss is how COMMON this really is, and how desperate couples are to find support, and understanding from other couples, but it’s the subject nobody brings up. Too many misconceptions, to much of a “downer”, people don’t know what to say, it’s awkward, etc – all reasons we have for NOT talking about it. And every one of them bad reasons. If we would get over ourselves for long enough to admit we needed support, maybe we would be able to heal faster, grow stronger, and recover better, but no – our “go to” answer is usually “I’m fine” – when in reality “fine” is not at all how we feel.
Him vs. Her: The healing process – Husbands, when this happens, we need to be keenly aware, that how YOU will want to deal with the loss, and process it emotionally, is going to be totally different from what you wife is going to need/want. The faster you realize this, and come to grips with it, the better off you are in being able to support your wife during this time, without becoming totally frustrated at her instead.
If you’re like most guys, you are going to be sad for a few days from the loss, and then you’re going to start to get this “ok, we lost this one, but let’s fix this thing and just try it again” attitude. For us, we feel out of control by the whole situation, and as a guy – who usually has a “I can fix anything” outlook, it scares us that we can’t do anything, or control the circumstances. This means after we get through the sad phase, we tend to start looking at how we can make it right again, or “fix” what we lost. We tend to look at it almost like we would if we wrecked out car – yeah, it sucks we lost our car, and have to go through the whole process of getting a new one, but sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves, isn’t going to make it any easier. Let’s get to looking at new cars, and replace the one we wrecked! Come on, let’s FIX it!
But to your dear wife, this is the last thing she wants to hear is “we can always try again”. As a woman, she needs time to grieve the loss of this child. To her it’s not just something that didn’t work out, it was a child – HER CHILD – that was LOST.
You can talk to her until you’re blue in the face about how she “just needs to move on and let it go”, and she will not only respond badly, but start to resent you for not being able to grieve this loss with her. She will begin to feel like she is totally alone in her grief/sadness, and even become angry that you’re not showing any emotion about it.
What she needs from you is total LOVE and SUPPORT. She needs you to hold her while she cries, and reassure her (without attempting to fix) that it’s all going to be ok. She needs to hear you talk about your sadness (and yes guys, this is a HARD one for us) in losing your child – what you were planning to do with him/her, thoughts you had about it, etc. This helps her not feel alone in “missing” or grieving the loss of the child. She needs you to ASK her if she’s doing ok, and not getting mad, or rolling your eyes when she brings it up 6 months later, and tells you she’s been thinking about it quite a bit today.
I know it’s not the same for us, and we sometimes don’t understand the time is takes for our wives to heal, but so what? As if this is the first thing we don’t completely understand about how God created our wives. What matters is that we ARE there for them, and regardless of how long it may take, we make sure they know we are ALWAYS there for them if they need to talk about it, or even just cry while we hold them.
Also, make sure she’s not the only one that ever brings it up. Mention to her on a random day, that you were thinking about it today, or how you can’t wait to meet your other children in heaven some day. The smile you’ll get from your wife will be priceless.
Talk it out with your wife also. Help her understand you’re not trying to “bury it”, or pretend it didn’t happen, you just deal with it differently than she does. That way she isn’t expecting you to grieve in the same way she does. If it’s the first time you’ve been though this loss, she’s not going to know what you do, any more than you know how she’s going to handle it.
Remember, the WORST thing you could do it both shut down and build a wall between you. Talk, talk, talk – I don’t care how hard it is for you, you MUST keep those lines of communication open during times like this. Your marriage depends on it. You have to be willing to roll up your sleeves, and do whatever it takes to help see your marriage through it. Don’t settle for “oh well, she’ll get over it at some point, I don’t even know what to say to her anymore” – even if you don’t know what to say, tell her that! At least you’re not just giving up.
While the loss of an unborn child is a deeply sad, and horrible thing, there is a closeness and a trust that is built and made stronger between the husband and wife, IF the two sides are allowed to grieve in the way they need, and there is a willingness to ACCEPT the other person’s way as “ok”, not criticized, or downplayed, or made to feel bad that they either haven’t or have “gotten over it” yet, or so fast.
Neither side is “the right way” or the “only way” to get through it, and the sooner the both of you accept that, the better you’ll be at healing together, growing your relationship because of it, and gaining a deeper understanding of the mate God has given you. It will get better. The pain will begin to lessen. You will be able to move on. Just understand it is a process. One that you BOTH need.