What Do To If She Miscarries

Just a quick add on to my recent pregnancy post – mostly because I didn’t want to drag it down with this stuff.
Sometimes she loses the baby and miscarries.
As soon as you get that news, no matter what you are doing, or where you are, or how important it is… you make an absolute beeline for her and push the limits of social nicety to do so. This really is an emergency situation as she is in a deeply disturbed state of mind and anything trivial can be blown up into major drama over years. You really do NOT want to “finish off your shift” and get to her four hours later when you could have been there in 30 minutes, not unless you want to risk having “he wasn’t there for me when I needed him” burned into her psyche forever.
When you get there, all you need to do is (1) be physically present, (2) hold her and (3) run interference and block anything other than other than people that genuinely care for her too and want to also be doing (1) and (2).
You don’t really need to say anything. There’s no words that can fix it in that moment, and only words that can make it worse. If you tell her anything, tell her the (1) (2) (3) plan.
It’s going to be a little while until she recovers from this. Her needs for comfort are going to be extreme, so dial up the Beta and ride out the wave of grief.
If she asks why you aren’t crying, tell her, “Someone had to be strong for the both if us.”
Jennifer’s first pregnancy was easy as pie. She miscarried her second pregnancy about a month after she knew she was pregnant. I can’t remember how long she cried, but she pretty much broke down and sobbed in my arms every night for a good 5-6 nights in a row. Even after that she was still drifting along unhappy. In all seriousness I just decided the only thing I could really do was get her pregnant again as quickly as possible and that pretty much played out to plan as she fell pregnant again on her next cycle. I am the Baby Sniper after all. (One Cumshot, One Medical Bill.)
If I have any words of advice and comfort for couples that miscarry it’s this…
It’s less traumatic to say you had a miscarriage and leave it at that, than to do the whole naming your baby, building a shrine and treating the expected delivery date like an actual birthday thing. Doing that can make it all far more vividly real and more painful for you and much harder to let go.
Your body has it’s own wisdom and counsel. You will likely never know the reason the miscarriage happened, but you can have some small faith that your body knew what it was doing. Between Jennifer and myself we now have about 37 or 38 years of experience in the developmental disabilities field. Please take our assurances that while there really are quite fun and happy disabled people with rich lives that defy your expectation of what a limit is, there are also disabled people that live quite tragic existences too. Plus to be quite blunt, it is a rare couple that has a seriously developmentally delayed child that does not ultimately divorce.
But like I said earlier, if she miscarries…  it’s probably best to just shut your mouth and hold her.


  1. That parents of disabled children are likely to divorce is a myth.

  2. another anonymous wife says:

    Advice here from a woman who has lost three babies – two to miscarriage and one to stillbirth – and who has talked with many other women about pregnancy loss. I didn't have miscarriages growing inside me. I had babies who died, and I miscarried them. So any phrase along the lines of "just a miscarriage" hurt like hell- I am thankful I never heard that from my husband.

    Not all miscarriage or stillbirth occurs because of a fetal defect. So "it's probably for the best" and "nature's way" don't help either. It's certainly not for the best that nature produces a lot of babies who can't make it because of defects.

    Seeing other babies and pregnant women is likely to be very painful for a while.

    Naming the babies was something I needed to do. They already had names while they lived, anyway. Shrines: not really, not public – ultrasounds, a poem, pressed flowers in a drawer. Pictures of the baby who was stillborn. I might not look at any of it for months – years, now. Christmas ornaments for them on the tree – that's our yearly remembering of those babies – the other children look for them. It's a reassurance for all of us, not a burden.

    The point is, everyone has their own way to grieve, their own needs in it. Honor that. I never expected my husband to grieve the same way I did.

    Remember that your wife may blame herself and feel tremendous guilt for not being able to carry and protect her baby, for not being able to do what a mother is supposed to do. It's not rational, but it's normal. It dissipates over time. Just keep saying that she didn't do anything wrong, it's not her fault.

    As far as getting her pregnant immediately – better to wait about three months – the ovum matures over several cycles and is more likely to be healthy and divide well if it has that time. Advice from my MFM specialist, backed up by research articles I read and my own experience.

    If there are fertility problems, the trauma is even worse.

    Sex may be inextricably tied up in your wife's mind with fertility and infertility and childbearing. It may bring back the loss and grief. I couldn't for a year, after my last baby was stillborn.

    There's a river of grief in me, running deep underground, and sometimes it surfaces – it takes my husband by surprise – sometimes he's the one who causes it to rise up. It's not something I blame him for. It will run in me until I die. I can still be happy, love him and my other children, live in this world.

    But hold, protect as you said. That's wise, and listen, and be patient, and reassure.

  3. Athol,
    I've experienced miscarriage and loss of a child. Your 1, 2, 3 plan is right on. However, I'm with "another anonymous wife" in thinking that the rest is more complicated than you conveyed.

    I think a husband needs to remember that, for her, the recovery going to last longer than he wants. One of the most painful parts of the long term recovery for me was that, after the first week, my husband acted like nothing was wrong and he wouldn't talk about it. I know he was behaving that way because he didn't know what to do, but it made me feel like I was going through it alone.

    I think it also matters when in the pregnancy the child is lost. If it's very early, the woman may not take as long to recover (although some may). For a woman who loses a child in mid- or late pregnancy, trying to "get her pregnant again as quickly as possible" is usually going to be the wrong thing to do.

  4. This is a set of initial triage instructions for men. As a woman who has miscarried, this is spot on for the first few days. What you do from there varies wildly on the situation. Please put this in context. It's the core, the baseline.

    If men don't do this, then nothing else matters. My marriage was doomed before my miscarriage, but his failure to drop everything and be by my side ice-picked any chance at recovery.

    And please don't be so literal with "as soon as possible" with the next pregnancy reference. His example was the next cycle. He even clarified his baby sniper status. Always follow your doctor's orders. Point is that moving on is more helpful than not.

  5. Dude, I needed this like a quarter century ago. Keep soldiering on, here.

  6. Of the clients I have directly cared for, I know of only 3 couples that are still together. To be sure I'm at the rougher end of the scale, but that's been my experience.

  7. Many good points. I forgot to mention the seeing other pregnant women triggering another round of grief thing. That's an excellent point.

    Agree there is no perfect way to grieve.

    In terms of getting her pregnant again, I wasn't aware of the three month thing. Will look into that more.

    For myself I was 27 when it happened and I don't believe anyone gave me any advice at the time. After a week+ of Jennifer just crying in my arms each night, getting her pregnant again was the only thing I could think of.

  8. God bless you

  9. Agree on the length of recovery usually taking longer than the husband wants to. It's quite disempowering for him, there's nothing he can do to fix the situation and guys tend to want to do something to fix things.

    Also quite often he has his own grief to work through as well.

    Agree that mid to late term pregnancy it may not be the best idea to seek an immediate new pregnancy, I would talk to the doctors about that. As limited as my story is, I'm just being honest about what my 27 year old self did at the time. I really didn't know what else to do and I just wanted her pain to go away.

  10. Thanks, you get it.

    The "ice-picking any chance at recovery" is what I'm trying to avoid here. Showing up is 90% of the battle.

  11. Ian Ironwood says:

    Athol, this is one reason I have such high respect for you and what you are doing. You don't see this kind of thing . . . anywhere.

    Mrs. Ironwood and I miscarried after our first child (note I said "we", not "she" — we were both going to be parents, we both experienced a loss). It was a nightmarish time, for her far more than for me, and it was essentially my job to keep the trains running on time and catering to her every need for the next 8 weeks. But the first moments are crucial, as you say. After that, no active Alpha for a while, and double down on the Beta. She let me know when she was ready to try again.

    Instead of a shrine, according to Pagan tradition my wife and I planted a tree someplace where we will always see it. That's as much commemoration as we need. But we did discover during that horrific process that there are few resources available for parents who suffer a miscarriage. Even a local prestigious medical center had nothing to help us deal with the aftermath. To be honest, it was probably one of the top three stress-points in our 20 year long relationship.

    We're at peace about it now, because we've had two kids since. But the memory of that time will always be a sensitive spot for us both. And I can certainly see how mishandling it on either side could doom a relationship.

  12. "You don't really need to say anything. There's no words that can fix it in that moment, and only words that can make it worse. If you tell her anything, tell her the (1) (2) (3) plan.

    It's going to be a little while until she recovers from this. Her needs for comfort are going to be extreme, so dial up the Beta and ride out the wave of grief."

    Pretty much spot on in my experience. Once she gets past the shock and starts moving forward, you have to adapt more. I also didn't show as much grief as she would have liked, so try to show a little that you are grieving once she is past it.

  13. This is very good advice.

    When I miscarried the first time my husband was right there with me. I was weepy for many weeks and really upset when I saw pregnant women or women with newborns. It's just a very weird thing to be pregnant one moment, and then not pregnant the next. I think it takes time for a woman's body and mind to reconcile with one another.

    I am also a special needs parent and many of the families that I know with disabled kids have divorced, they cannot handle the stress. It's terrible because most of the time both the parents' lives become more stressful and awful as single parents. Given your experience around families of special needs kids, I would be interested in your thoughts regarding regularity of sex, and quality of sex between couples who have disabled children. The physical exhaustion and mental stress are just different than "regular" couples-like what are 'realistic' expectations given that added layer of stress or does that just have to be hammered out between the couple.

  14. another anonymous wife says:

    It's important to remember that attachment has its own pace, partly physical, partly psychological, not controllable, even when fought because of earlier losses or high risk. Because of the physical bond, the hormones, the mother will generally feel this much earlier than the father. That's "generally", not "inevitably." The father grieves too, and both husband and wife need to remember that, but not expect it to be the same.

    Some women know they're pregnant and form an intense bond before the pregnancy test comes back positive. For others the bond grows more slowly. The degree of attachment is not a moral issue. It's natural human variation and I think this plays a large part in the intensity of the grief. There's a great range between indifference and obsession, and nearly all that range is normal and healthy. Just be very careful about making accusations of "obsessed" (that's for you husbands) or "indifferent" (that's for you wives.) Be kind to each other.

  15. The stats about families with disabled children have always terrified me.. one of our two daughters has profound disabilities, of the life-long full care variety. The strain on a marriage is incredible. I pray daily that my DH and I will stay together, even if the absolute worst happens. So far off topic, I'm sorry, but this post and its comments touched a nerve (in a good way) and I felt I had to comment.. I too would be interested in a word of advice for families in this situation, especially when privacy is compromised nightly by the presence of a nurse for our daughter, the only way either of us can get any sleep..

  16. I know of 3 couples that are close to me and my wife that have had miscarriages in the past 4 months and one couple that essentially had a still born – her baby lived for 1 hour. And these are the ones we know of.

    I think Athol's advice is spot on, the worst thing a man can do is act like nothing happened and to not be there for her, and really what can he do other than just be there for her anyway?

    My wife and I are fortunate that it never happened to us, but my wife always said that for her it wouldn't just be the loss of the pregnancy that would hurt but the feeling that her body is supposed to be made for building and birthing children, losing a baby would make her feel guilty and inadequate as a woman.

    And has men, we have no idea what it would be like to have a baby growing inside of us only to have it lost.

    That's why this advice is best, because of it's simplicity, I can't comment on getting her pregnant again quickly because I think that will vary from couple to couple. I know some couples who have wanted to jump right back in, so they can move past it. Others who have needed time to process and grieve before they were ready to try again.

  17. Stargate Girl says:

    We have a "medically complex" child. We strive to make sex/couple time a priority with each other. Generally we are everyday, some sort of sexual interaction. Yes, there is exhaustion and stress, but you need to find a way to give time to yourself, and each other. Sleepy sex can be quite satisfying, and I seem to be able to deliver amazing hj's whilst half asleep. It's all good :P

  18. Stargate Girl says:

    My brother and his wife have had 4 miscarriages and 1 ectopic in the past 2.5 years. He only told me about them recently when they found out she was pregnant. She miscarried a week later :( About the only thing I could do was tell them I was sorry for their loss and they are in my heart and prayers(long distance sux!). :(

  19. @Anonymous at 7:43

    Yes, we also have a nurse in the picture-and other children as well. It is definitely inhibiting.

    And Athol-I don't find this post or the comments a downer at all. Actually, I find it very reaffirming and reassuring. As you clearly understand, women's emotional/hormonal states of mind are related to sexual behaviours. I think both men and women get more (emotionally and sexually) out of a marriage when the seemingly obvious is discussed and hopefully understood.

  20. Advice is spot on. I was there for my wife, 98% that's what she needed. She cried a lot. Only alpha things I did…made her call her mom (cry/vent, she is uber supportive) and I decided she would get the procedure rather than wait on nature. Took her to operation and did a lot of betA stuff. Looking back, I'm glad we mourned, got everything over with, and have no permanent reminders. Getting prcedure done helped a lot rather than having it happen a week later while she was at work or something. We will try again this summer.

  21. I had to speak up because your key point here is THAT important.

    Thank you for making that clear to men.

  22. Best wishes to you. I know for me, having a child after my miscarriage helped. Do what's best for you two.

  23. Great advice, Athol. It is amazing how much we have in common. My wife's personality is much like Jennifer and we also lost our second child due to a miscarriage. It happened in the middle of the night so I was with her all of the way. We rushed to the hospital, but the baby could not be saved. Our first was born with no problems and our second and third were easy (the last one was 90 minutes total labor and delivery…during a blizzard!! We almost did not make it!) Anyway, it is tough and there is no way a man can experience the depth of emotion that a woman feels when this happens.

  24. Hey Athol, how about a post on how to deal with her infertility? My ex and I went through that anguish for 2 years before determining (with much medical help) that it wasn't ever going to happen for us. I'm sure I did most everything wrong and it was a major factor (if not the major factor) in our divorce a couple years later.

  25. another anonymous wife says:

    Anonymous 8:45, if my husband had tried to decide that I have a D&C rather than miscarry naturally, that would have been very bad news for us. I say this not for you, but for anyone reading your post and deciding that's the way to handle it.

    Some women need to miscarry naturally, let the baby come out whole and give it burial. Others need to be done with the physical ordeal and the presence of the dead body within them as soon as possible. A D&C is the better option for testing, although it can still be possible to test the placenta in the first case.

    Doctors and nurses can be both judgmental and ill-informed about these matters, and tell you that you don't need testing with a first loss (you may certainly choose to), that it's impossible to test a natural miscarriage (not so) or imply that it's pathological to wish to bury your baby.

    The only reason to decide for her is if she can't decide herself, if she wants you to decide. The doctor should not decide either but inform the two of you of the options. If her health is at stake, that carries the decision.

    I wish the two of you well when you try again.

  26. Excellent post once again Athol. Except maybe it wasn't the body, but God who knew what was best. I know you are an atheiest, but you are the smartest athiest I know. (Joke) Anyway keep up the good work. Your book and blog has done great things for several people I know that I reccommended it to. I will continue to spread the word.

  27. As you can see I can't even spell the word atheist right…..

  28. Best to never bring it up again, either. That just leads to many tears.

  29. To another anonymous wife… I had a stillbirth last year, it was at 36 weeks, and they found no chromosomal abnormalities whatsoever, nor was there anything wrong with me, and the medical conclusion was that there was no clear cause for the stillbirth. I also had a miscarriage several months after the stillbirth. It has been very difficult, but my husband and I have stuck through it together well.

  30. Another bit of advice for husbands. My ex and I suffered three miscarriages (first, third, fourth pregnancies), but managed to have two daughters (2nd & 5th tries), despite our problems. When I miscarried the first time, he quizzed me to death on what had I been doing. Had I carried heavy laundry? Had I lifted groceries? What had I done? It made me feel as if he thought I had brought on the miscarriage instead of nature doing what nature does. That was the last thing I needed to hear at that time. When it happend two more times, I just didn't talk to him about any of it and internalized my anguish and anger. Not good for the relationship, which was otherwise friendly and supportive.

    What helped me get through the first miscarriage was to ask that the lost soul/essence of my miscarried child be sent back to us with the next pregnancy, if I were ever so lucky. Sounds silly and may not appeal to everyone, but it comforted me.

  31. My wife and I have dealt with both a miscarriage and a few months ago a stillbirth.
    Nothing challenges you as a man and husband more than this. Being the support for my wife, dealing with the extreme lows that she experiences while maintaining the rift balance of beta/alpha and making sure that I am also dealing with things on my own end.
    Each couple with weather these tragedies differently, but Athol I think your advice was pretty spot on.

  32. I know my wife well enough. We both work demanding jobs, and both would rather do what needs done. We weren't going to do any burial/memorial, we both wanted to mourn and move on. She was unsure about a lot (mostly just emotional confusion) so it was obvious to go with the procedure. I wouldn't make her do that if it was against her beliefs. It was quick and easy on a Friday with the weekend for me to take care of her and we could mourn. Monday/normalcy returned with minor bumps after. I really didn't want to wait for it to happen while she was at work or something, plus waiting adds a ton of tension, my wife is a worrier and it could have been extremely hard on her anticipating something like that. For us it was the obvious decision. My wife was unsure though…by me deciding, it alleviated some pressure off her also. I agree, it is far from the right choice always, for us it was.

  33. another anonymous wife says:

    Hope, I am truly sorry. I wish and pray much better for you in the future.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Atol – could you possibly do a post on the flip of this. How to help your husband after he finds out he's infertile? it comes as a side effect of treating another medical condition and may or may not be reversible. He is deeply upset about this as he very much wants childeren. At this point I'm confident that we will have them in time, but I don't know how to be supportive through this???

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