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Men and Miscarriage

My wife started feeling strange during our vacation. That is to say, she didn't feel anything. Those annoying quirks of the first trimester had disappeared.

A quick visit to the doctor suggested nothing was wrong, but just to be sure, she went to the ultrasound technician. It was a Friday morning, my brother's birthday, when she called and told me the news.

I knew something was wrong before she spoke. She never calls.

We had thought she was at 11 weeks, but the technician told her (quite coldly) that the fetus had stopped growing at week six. We had no child.

I didn't feel anything.

Truthfully, I didn't know how to feel.

A failed pregnancy is surely a shared hurt, but with one key distinction: men are more spectators than participants. That dissonance results in confusion about what to do, say, or feel, which for some, I'm sure, comes off as callousness or distance.

I can only speak from observation, but women who have been through the terrible loss of miscarriage experience at least some physical pain. In contrast, a man's suffering is mostly theoretical—I had no tangible reference for what had happened.

And all of this was exacerbated by the overwhelming sense that the pain was not "ours" but "hers." People wouldn't ask how I was doing, but rather, how my wife was feeling. And why not? The miscarriage happened to her—not me. Why should they be worried about me?

It's not fair to say I felt ignored. My parents and friends were all concerned with my welfare, but certainly more people asked after Mallory. I don't feel bad about it or resent them; in my state I actually preferred that the attention be deflected. But it does highlight both ...

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Men and Miscarriage
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February 2014

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