When I think about the topic of miscarriage, two memories are burned into my mind. The first is me doing a silly but joyful dance right after learning that my partner was pregnant after having problems conceiving. There have been few moments in my life when I felt so straightforwardly happy. The other memory has a very different quality: a few months later, I sat alone feeling frightened and sad as she went through the awful experience of going through a miscarriage and losing the child. This experience fundamentally changed the relationship, and neither of us could see the way through for a while. I wanted to be a support, but she didn’t want to talk about it. No one told me that I was going through my own grief process, and it wasn’t clear to me that the ways we were both avoiding the painful reality drove us apart. I learned later in couples therapy that she felt guilty and wanted to protect me, while I was trying to show up as stoic and optimistic when I felt neither of those things.
Fertility issues and miscarriages are such a common experience for couples, yet they still carry something of a stigma despite efforts by women in the public sphere, like Michelle Obama, who have shared their own vulnerable stories. While women bear the brunt of the physical and psychic toll, if the other half wants to be “the rock” for their spouse, they should avoid neglecting their own feelings. This can be complicated: some men don’t want to feel emotionally exposed and some women may feel burdened if they sense they have to take care of their partner. This might mean finding support with a friend, mentor, or therapist. When she is ready, find a way to talk about what you’ve been through together, while respecting her level of tolerance for this conversation. Learning to lean on each other during tough times can strengthen the partner bond and form the foundation of a relationship that bends, but doesn’t break, under pressure. Therapy is one way to work through painful shared experiences.
If this is something you’re going through, here’s a great article about the rollercoaster ride of fertility treatment and miscarriage from a male perspective. And if you, or your partner, are still struggling with the emotions of infertility or miscarriage, please call us. With our own personal stories dealing with this issue, we offer a unique perspective and can help you start to work through the struggle.