I knew we weren’t going to get good news, so I turned away. Technically, we hadn’t received any news at all—the ultrasound technician had said perhaps ten words the whole time—but that was its own evidence.

When previous scans had been normal, it had been apparent fairly quickly. Because of liability issues, technicians aren’t supposed to say much, but body language and demeanor say enough. When the technician cheerily points out the baby’s head, its chin, its heartbeat, fears are quickly alleviated.

Our technician didn’t speak and hardly looked at us. She stared straight ahead at the monitor. One hand operated the machine’s controls, and with her other arm, she somehow manipulated the ultrasound’s transducer without looking, almost as if she were an extension of the machine.

Other than the whirring of the equipment, the only sound in the room was a repetitive series of beeps—still frames for the radiologist to review. As this was our second pregnancy and something like our sixth ultrasound, we knew what we were seeing: Right ovary. Left ovary. The fetus, but no heartbeat.


A picture of a baby.

That was the first thing my wife and I saw after learning that we had suffered our second miscarriage. We were in the ultrasound examination room, and I’d just turned away from the black-and-white screen, and there it was, a picture of a baby—probably six or seven months old—staring straight at me. It was on a poster advertising for Philips or GE ultrasound machines, I can’t remember which, and it showed the week-by-week development of the fetus in utero.


Like all sudden loss, our grief was seismic: there was the great initial shock, then a myriad of lesser tremors:  Diapers commercials. A friend who wasn’t supposed to be able to bear any more children announcing a pregnancy. The entire stage full of teen moms on Maury Povich. These things are always happening, but after a miscarriage, you take every successful pregnancy personally.


In our first pregnancy, we made the mistake of getting excited. We bought baby clothes, started designing a space-themed nursery. As we were more familiar with the mechanics of conceiving a child than the intricacies of embryonic and fetal development, we read What’s to Expect.

Early in the pregnancy, we referred to the fetus so much that it almost became a character in our everyday lives. At first, we called it “the B” as in “the baby,” but that wasn’t catchy enough; I’d read about the blastocyst stage in What’s to Expect, so I suggested we come up with an alliterative name for it. Even though we were technically past this stage of development, I suggested “Bill the Blastocyst” (B the B, for short). The wife agreed.

The eventual plan was to vary the name during different stages of development: Eduardo the Embryo, Frank the Fetus, but for whatever reason, the name Bill stuck.

Bill became a regular feature of our daily life. Before I left for work in the mornings, I’d address Bill by putting my head next to my wife’s belly and yelling, “Good morning, Bill! Have a wiggly day!”

On my lunch break at work, I’d use my phone’s rudimentary drawing program to create family pictures of sorts. They’d feature stick-figure versions of my wife, me, our dogs, our cats, and Bill, a wiggling—and always smiling—cluster of cells.

As the pregnancy progressed, I’d change the images to reflect Bill’s development. If you follow along in What to Expect, a lot of attention is given to the size of the fetus as it develops and most of the comparisons in the book refer to fruits or vegetables. In week five, your baby’s the size of an orange seed. By week eight, it’s a raspberry. By the ninth week, an olive. (To this day, every time I’m in the produce section, I think of babies.)

My drawings reflected the produce item of the week. For instance, when Bill was the size of an olive, my drawing showed our happy family and Bill, a smiling anthropomorphic olive floating in a martini.[1]


In ancient Rome, when armies underperformed or were deemed mutinous or cowardly, the incensed generals sometimes resorted to decimation.

The practice is simple. Soldiers were divided into groups of ten. They drew lots, and one solider out of the ten would be beaten or clubbed to death by his comrades. A barbaric practice, today the word “decimate” is rightfully synonymous with outright destruction.

But decimation is outright merciful compared to miscarriage.  According to most estimates, one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. If you would like to learn more about the different kinds of pregnancy tests, schedule an appointment with a Pregnancy Resource Center for More Bonuses.


You already probably know a woman who has had at least one miscarriage, but you may not realize it. Miscarriage is one of the most common types of loss, but one of the least discussed.

In some ways, this makes sense. After we experienced our first one, my wife and I didn’t want to talk about it to each other, let alone to anyone else. There was simply nothing new to talk about: the pregnancy had failed, the lifeless fetus was still inside her, and our primary concern was removing the remnants before they could turn toxic.

It was something we simply had to endure.

This didn’t stop the questions from well-intentioned friends and coworkers. Right after it happened, my wife and I bristled about any questions pertaining to the miscarriage. Even seemingly innocuous ones such as “How are you doing?” were aggravating because it was pretty clear that the questioner didn’t want a truthful response.

In private, my wife and I would commiserate about these endless inquiries and share our imagined responses. Mine would usually go like this: How the hell do you think I’m doing? Let’s see, our future child is dead, its decaying remnants are still in my wife; if the pharmaceuticals don’t remove the remnants of the fetus, my wife will have to be anesthetized and undergo a potentially dangerous surgery, one that might make it even more difficult for us to have children, as if we needed any help there.

That sounds bitter and angry—and I was—but the anger was directed at the situation, not the friend or family member. It’s impossible not to be angry after a miscarriage, and in retrospect, this may be one reason that miscarriage isn’t discussed: friends and family are often rebuffed right away, so they don’t bring up the issue later, when the mother and father are more capable of reflecting on it.

My advice is simple: When someone you know undergoes a miscarriage, treat it like any other sort of loss. Be there, buy them a drink—or five—and let the would-be parents talk when they are ready, but don’t force the issue.


As much as I came to dread visiting the ultrasound exam room, the images themselves were beautiful. The strange shapes warp from one to the next, something like a living Rorschach test.


As an expectant father, you quickly get used to being a bystander.  You stand by when you announce the pregnancy to her family, and even when you announce it to yours. You stand by when friends and family rub her stomach and when strangers at the supermarket strike up conversations about—and sometimes with—your wife’s belly. If all goes well, you stand by in the hospital room encouraging her to keep going, to push harder.

All of this attention is well deserved. After all, you’re not the one wracked by hormones, nausea, and back pain, and who wakes up one morning to discover your nipples are suddenly the size of a small nation.

But you’re never more of a bystander than when you don’t see a heartbeat on the ultrasound monitor. That was the worst part for me, the utter helplessness, knowing that there was no way to stop my wife’s suffering, or my own.


My wife and I were vehemently pro-choice before the miscarriages. You might think that experiencing a miscarriage changed our views, but it didn’t. On the contrary, it galvanized them because it laid bare a basic truth: mourning what might have been is not the same as mourning what actually was.

I unfortunately had the opportunity to compare these types of losses. My grandfather, whom I was close to, died just before we went through one of the miscarriages. I didn’t mourn our miscarried child in the same way as I mourned my grandfather. I couldn’t. I wasn’t mourning the same type of loss.

Even my first faith, Catholicism, seems to implicitly concede that a fetus is metaphysically different than a living, breathing child. Original sin doesn’t affect a child until it has entered the world. Until then, a fetus is something else—a category unto its own. An unbaptized fetus is not subject to perdition; an unbaptized newborn is.


Our first miscarriage was a “missed-miscarriage”; the pregnancy failed in the fifth or sixth week; we found out in the twelfth. For half the pregnancy, the fetus was alive. For half, we just thought it was.

During our second pregnancy, we saw the fetus at seven weeks; its heartbeat was fine, but the gestational sac was small. We went back at nine weeks, and the heartbeat was slower than it should have been. At week ten, there was no heartbeat.


After your second miscarriage, you’re essentially treated as high risk. This entails additional doctor’s visits, early ultrasounds and no small amount of stress: the threat of another miscarriage might as well be sitting in the exam room with you.

During our third pregnancy, everything was hypothetical. My wife and I both conditioned ourselves to expect another miscarriage and we only spoke of our future plans in general terms. I remember saying, If we get out of the first trimester, we can start designing the nursery again. That might seem fatalistic, but it was the only way for us to operate.


As I’m writing this, my six-month-old is right next to me. It can get better.


[1] During the second pregnancy, we attempted to avoid getting our hopes up—but we did stick to the B the B format. The codename for the second pregnancy was Bertha. In our third pregnancy, the codename was Bernard.

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BRETT ORTLER is a writer and an editor from the Twin Cities. His first book of poetry, The Lessons of the Dead, is forthcoming from Fomite Press.

15 responses to “Miscarriage from a Husband’s Point 
of View”

  1. Kari says:

    Beautifully written, heartbreaking and insightful. Thank you for sharing this Brett.

  2. Ruth Deming says:

    Beautiful writing, Brett, and so visual I thought I was with you every step of the way. So glad you finally have a healthy baby. And you’re right. We all know someone who’s had a miscarriage. For me, it was the man who ran the produce shop and it was 20 years ago but I’ve never forgotten it.

  3. Laura Bogart says:

    What a gorgeous, heartrending piece.

  4. Art Nello says:

    This is a heartbreaking essay. Loss is such a difficult part of life, and it is viewed by everybody differently. I took my losses and turned it towards a novel. Sometimes, things turn out okay.

  5. Thanks for sharing your story. A fantastic piece. Both heartbreaking and uplifting.

  6. I appreciate your courage in writing and posting this. It’s worth a lot to read this perspective and reach the end of your story to find your six-month-old there with you. Beautiful.

  7. L. says:

    First and foremost, thanks for sharing this story, and of course I especially liked the happy ending.

    One other point of view I want to just add —
    “When someone you know undergoes a miscarriage, treat it like any other sort of loss. ” –> I just want to say that for some couples, it’s not a loss.
    Sometimes a miscarriage is the outcome that one (or both) of the partners is wishing for, and to treat it like a loss is suggesting (or explicitly saying) that the person who is happy and relieved does not feel as he/she should feel — when in reality, there is no single correct way to feel. No two pregnancies are alike, nor are their circumstances.
    One couple’s blessing is another’s curse.

  8. DD says:

    I had a miscarriage last week – under 6 weeks, but we were already attached. My mother in law is dying, so it was a wonderful gift to have a new life in the midst of death. Since we lost the pregnancy, I’ve been trying to get inside my husband’s head and figure out what he’s feeling. Your beautiful words have helped me understand a lot more of a man’s perspective on miscarriage.

  9. hk says:

    Great point of view from the mans side…we also just lost our baby and i am struggling with all the anger i have inside of me. It helped just to know that my husband was angry also and mad for me and everything we went through as far as fertility treatments to get to where we were and then to loose the hope you had and the dreams and all the planning its hard not to be angry and not to hurt and i know not everyone feels the same but these words helped me possibly feel what my own husband is going through that he just cant express.

  10. Theo A Nunez says:

    My wife and I had a miscarriage 2 weeks ago. it is more devastating and more painful that I would ever imagine. I would describe it like an intangible loss, but already without being here has change our lives. we were extra happy, extra healthy, lots of hopes, lots of love. everything seems perfect. our baby didn’t make it to the sac. we lost it at 6 weeks. the most beautiful weeks of my life. I did and I do everything for my wife. I woke up early every morning to cook a healthy breakfast for my wife and my future baby and also to prepare them a healthy lunch to take to work. every night I gave my wife her vitamins. all that is gone 🙁 she had a painful miscarriage on a toilet, I didn’t know what to do. now my wife hates the world, and I am included there. nothing I do is right. she hates me. she is going through her brief in a very angry way. I am the silent partner. I am briefing too but at the same time I have to keep going and to take care of both of us. I am scare to get pregnant again. I don’t want to. I don’t want to see my wife suffering again and to go through this again. is exhausting.

  11. T says:

    Thank you for writing this.
    I stumbled across your site as I sit here alone in the dark listening to my husband snoring.
    By being strong and not breaking down into an emotional heap, my husband assumed I am keeping it together and has long moved on.
    It has been 3 weeks now since we found out that our first pregnancy is a missed miscarriage. 2 years and 3 failed attempts at IVF has now left me cramping and bleeding all day long.
    To the unknowing world, I pretend that all is fine, secretly waiting for my dead baby to pass out of me.
    New pregnancy announcements, baby showers and baptisms constantly surround me.
    When I couldn’t take it any more, I told me husband I won’t be attending any more events as it’s painful to be there and pretend to be happy for everyone when deep down, I am angry and resentful at their joy.
    Instead of seeing the pain in my eyes, he uttered, ‘what your saying is horrible, these are our friends and family, we should celebrate with them’. To add insult to injury, he added ‘I like going to these events, and I want you to come with me’.
    In one conversation he dismissed me, called my thoughts horrible and put his needs before mine.
    Despite desperately wanting a family, I’m not sure if I can keep trying. To keep explaining to the one I love over and over again, how it feels to go through infertility and miscarriage has now left me emotionally exhausted. Most of all, I am no longer strong enough to let him know that his words (which reflect his mind) hurt me. Everytime he dismisses me by not acknowledging my thoughts and feelings, I take another step away.

  12. Phaedra says:

    3 years of trying. 18 months of those with IVF. Two failed attempts and finally, third time lucky. But our first pregnancy ended 4 days ago. 9 weeks old.

    Hubby and I are gutted. It feels like I am being slowly eviscerated. I am taking it worse than him, but we have wept together more than once.

    Everything feels dead to me. Why should anything matter to me now? How the f*ck do I keep getting in the ring when, for every IVF attempt, there’s 80% chance of failure? And if there is a pregnancy there is a 25% chance of miscarriage…how do we keep going?

    If you had to cross the street and there was 80% chance of being hit by a truck, would you still cross? And if you dodged the trucks, there’s still a 25% chance of tripping over and breaking all your bones…would you do it?

    For me, for now….the answer is yes, because I know what’s on the other side. Percentages can be damned.

    I say good bye to my baby tomorrow. Just going through the motions. It will never leave me. This baby existed. It had a heartbeat. It will always be important. It will always be loved.

    PS. In reply to T above, your husband needs a reality check. Stand your ground. Keep telling him how you really feel. For instance, I feel like slapping him in the face because you deserve so much more support than you are getting. Your husband should be your greatest supporter.

  13. Sara Huddleston says:

    Thank you for sharing this. My husband and I experienced the loss of our baby at 9 weeks just yesterday. I’ve never seen him cry so much. Twenty four hours of emptiness and guilt and unknowns moving forward. I’m hoping we will be successful in getting pregnant again. I lost my mother three years ago, and this seems comparable to that. We have a D&C scheduled for later this week, but I feel like I’m walking around with a giant hole in me.

  14. suba suba says:

    Right now it seems like Movable Type is the best blogging platform available right now. (from what I ave read) Is that what you are using on your blog?

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