how do you tell a secret like this one?
June 20, 2009 8:36 AM   Subscribe

We broke up. Then, I had a miscarriage. It's been several months, but I'm beginning to feel really guilty. Should I tell him? If so, how? (maybe a little NSFW, better safe than sorry)

We dated for around six months and are both in our mid-twenties. Overall, I felt like our relationship was a very good one while it lasted. We rarely fought and when we did, we always compromised. We were playful and affectionate in and out of the bedroom. We enjoyed the time we spent together. We got along very well with each others families and friends. We had a deep emotional connection. We loved each other and said so often and openly. I felt like it was the ideal relationship and I was beginning to relax into it completely.

Then, he broke up with me very abruptly via an e-mail. In his e-mail, he explained that he would be moving in a few months time for work-related reasons and that he did not want to put the effort into a long distance relationship with me at this time. Although he would not be moving for several months, he said he did not want either of us to grow more attached to one another when he knew an LDR would simply not work out between us. I replied to his e-mail, explaining that I felt this sort of preemptive breakup was pointless, but that if that was what he wanted, then okay. I chose to believe what he was telling me and accept it instead of fighting it. He wanted to be friends, but I told him I wanted a period of absolutely no contact (no e-mails, no phone calls, no texts, don’t poke me on Facebook, and certainly no face-to-face meetings).

I tried to take the breakup as well as I could. I went out with friends and threw myself into work and creative projects. At first, I made myself as busy as I possibly could, so I didn't really have time to think or see straight, much less deal with my feelings and emotions. Then, I was hit with what I thought was a combination of massive stomach flu and breakup depression. I spent a lot of time in bed and eating saltine crackers.

One day, I started spotting brown. This was very not normal for me and alarmed me considerably, so I called my gynecologist. She explained to me that there were all kinds of different ranges of normal and that I shouldn’t be alarmed, but if I wanted to see her, she was fine with that. When I went to see her, she started by asking me a few questions and in the course of her questioning, I realized that I was very late for my period. In fact, I had skipped a couple of periods by that point (I am relatively irregular, so I hadn’t thought much about it at the time. I was kind of wrapped up in all the stress from the breakup anyway). She explained that I might be pregnant and this brown spotting might be implantation bleeding and suggested that I take a pregnancy test while I was there. The test came out positive.

I was shocked by the news of the pregnancy. When we were together, my ex and I always practiced safe sex. Our birth control method of choice had been condoms. Whenever we had penetrative sex, he wore a condom. We never had an incident where a condom broke. However, sometimes before we had sex, he would tease the opening of my vagina with his penis when he wasn’t wearing a condom. Sometimes this would happen after he had just ejaculated from oral sex. Because of this, my gynecologist thinks that this pregnancy MIGHT have been the result of precome. I had always believed that the whole you-can-get-pregnant-from-precome thing was the kind of myth they told you in what passes for sex-ed classes here in the South, but apparently I was very, very wrong about this.

When added to the very recent breakup, it just seemed sort of emotionally unbearable. I did not know what to do or really how to handle it, but I decided that I wanted to minimize the potential for drama as much as I possibly could. In those first few days after I found out, I only told my mother and two very close, trusted friends about the pregnancy. I was thinking of ways to break the news to my ex when the brown spotting returned. Except this time, the spotting turned from brown to bright red and was accompanied by the most horrendous cramps I have ever had in my life. Alarmed, I visited my gynecologist again. She confirmed that I was miscarrying at 8w3d.

This was literally the worst thing that has ever happened to me and was extremely emotionally difficult. I decided to have a D&C because I didn't want to go through the waiting game of a natural miscarriage. I wanted more than ever to tell my ex what was going on. I desperately wanted his emotional support. I asked for advice from the two close friends that I had previously told about the pregnancy. They suggested that telling him about the miscarriage was probably not a good idea. Admittedly, they’re not big fans of him now because of the way he chose to break up with me. They explained that they felt that his e-mail break up spoke to a pronounced lack of maturity and respect for me. They worried that he would do something to further hurt me at a time that was already very traumatic for me. They predicted he would react to the news in one of two ways, either (a) he would be upset and do something dramatic, or (b) he would not care. Either way, these were not the reactions that I would want from him, so they advised that I definitely not tell him. After all, what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him and the jerk had broken up with me, thus conceding any right to my feelings. At the time, they convinced me. I was very worried that he might react dramatically and tell a lot of people about what had happened. I wanted to minimize this sort of thing. So, I did not tell him about the miscarriage.

Because of all the emotional turmoil going on in my personal life, I went a little crazy. I began to do things that were very uncharacteristic of me before the break up and the miscarriage. I started very heavily partying, drinking and smoking all night long and stumbling back to my apartment in the wee hours of the morning alone to cry until I fell asleep. One weekend, about a month and a half after my D&C, I ran into my ex at one of these parties. We began talking and soon enough, we were meeting up for “friendly lunches”. Pretty soon, the physical part of my relationship with the ex began again and suddenly, I was sleeping over most nights out of the week. We gradually and very slowly worked our way back up to sexual intercourse. Except...when we tried to have sex, I burst into tears. I ended up crying and hyperventilating in the fetal position at the foot of his bed. He was justifiably freaked out by my sudden outburst and he asked me what was wrong. I just couldn't explain to him what was wrong, at least not without revealing the secret. I wanted to leave his apartment and go home to be alone, but he insisted that I stay with him. He just held me for the rest of the night in silence and then we went to sleep together. A week or so later, he moved away. Besides seeing him very briefly at his going away party, I have not really spent time with him in person since the night of my crying fit.

Since he moved, we have cultivated a very close long-distance friendship. He lives about 500 miles away. We speak daily and are very friendly with one another. It looks like in six months to a year I may be sharing a zip code again with my ex. He has alluded to us reexamining our relationship when/if that happens. Because of this, I want to be as open and honest with my ex as I can possibly be. Also, I am beginning to feel really guilty about not telling him. It's actually eating me up inside.

1. Lately, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the person that our potential child could have been, and I am beginning to feel like I owe it to our shared history and that lost potential child to tell him. I feel like my ex has the right to know and to grieve the child. Should I be feeling guilty? Is this something that my ex is better off not knowing at all?

2. The truth is, I don’t know how to approach this sort of conversation with him. I am ashamed of my miscarriage. I feel incompetent and unworthy, like the type of person who loses all the things in life that are supposed to be the most important to her. I lost my ex, a person whom I love very deeply. I do not want to admit to him that I also lost our child. How do I tell him? What do I say? How do I explain waiting so long to tell him? Was hiding it from him selfish of me? I was only trying to protect my own emotions on the advice of my friends. This is the sort of thing that I feel should only be done in person, should I wait longer to tell him or should I insist on visiting him soon to give him this news? Please help me.

Thank you so much for reading this long thing. I will take any advice you guys give me to heart.

Throwaway e-mail at
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (41 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My initial reaction is: What do you hope to accomplish by telling him? There is no child, and he's no longer your partner.

A miscarriage can be a traumatizing and profoundly sad event. I suggest that you see a therapist to help you work through some of the issues surrounding it. Once you're in a more stable state of mind, you'll be better able to make the decision of whether to contact him or not.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:46 AM on June 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

You've told us. You don't have to tell him now.

And, hey, this is ask.mefi, so you're going to be told to get psychotherapy. But you probably knew that.
posted by zadcat at 8:46 AM on June 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

I also do not think there is any reason to tell him. He is your ex and it will probably be harder for you to get over the break up if you tell him about it. I think you would be better off relying on your friends and family for emotional support.
posted by Lobster Garden at 8:50 AM on June 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

I don't know what to tell you to do about your relationship, but I'm so sorry for your pain. Two important points:

1. The miscarriage is NOT your fault. Write this on a card, repeat it to yourself every time you start feeling guilty or ashamed. Miscarriages are horrible and oftentimes we do not grieve them as we would the death of an older baby. Give yourself space to grieve and remember it wasn't anything you did or did not do.

2. If you're not seeing a counselor, please consider it.

I hope others can give you more helpful advice.
posted by chihiro at 8:52 AM on June 20, 2009 [13 favorites]

I fear you may have to make a calculation about whether you think telling him would frustrate re-starting your relationship or not. If it would, and if you really, really want to get back with him, then I would stay silent. Not everything has to be told.
posted by A189Nut at 8:54 AM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

He has alluded to us reexamining our relationship when/if that happens.

Okay, but is this what you want? You don't have to be involved with him again if you don't want to. It sounds like your friends care a lot about you, I'd talk to them about some of your worries here.

I also think your friends are correct that he's probably not going to "grieve" the way you want/need. He'll probably feel terrible for you that you went through this, but he didn't experience it at all as you have.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:57 AM on June 20, 2009

The most important thing is for you to understand that you are not in any way to blame for him leaving or for the miscarriage.
posted by orme at 8:57 AM on June 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

My heart breaks at your story. I am sorry for your loss.

You will not be able to continue for long with him with your secret. You may or may not lose him, but if you are building up to this, you will have to tell him. But you have to also tell him something else.

You have to tell him he really hurt you before. Hard to do, but you can't go around carrying that. I'd avoid being accusatory, just be matter-of-fact.

Now to telling him about the miscarrige. First, it should be reserved for a face to face meeting. Next, put it in a non-threatening way--I'd say something like "I never told you this but we had a miscarrige and it really was traumatic." Explain that you and your doctor thought that it was likely from some of that play you guys did sans protection.

Best of luck
posted by Ironmouth at 8:59 AM on June 20, 2009 [13 favorites]

I'm so sorry you're going through this.

I think your instincts for not telling him when you started sleeping with him again that one time were pretty sound; your relationship sounds like it is still in a HUGE state of flux, and it's really, really hard to know how he'd take it, or even what you'd want to accomplish by telling him.

On the other hand, though, you are becoming closer, and it does seem like the reason you want to tell him is more because "he's someone I lean on, and I need the support". Which is indeed a fine and valid reason.

I'd think a bit about whether that is in fact the reason you want to tell him, and whether you think that might affect your potential future relationship.

If you honestly think you really want to re-build a relationship with him, I also think you should tell him, if only because of the potential "you had a WHAT and you didn't tell me???" backlash if he ever found out much later. But again, I'd think a bit about whether this is why you'd want to tell him.

The reason why I'm suggesting thinking about what kind of relationship you want and why you'd want to tell him is becasue it will affect HOW you tell him. If you're just looking for the emotional support, then that will color your reactions and responses one way ("I'm sorry I didn't tell you before, I just didn't want you to feel obligated to stay -- and I don't blame you for anything -- I'm only telling you now because I'm still borken up over it and I need a shoulder sometimes"); and if you decide that you want to work towards a potential future with him, then that will color your telling the tale another way.

Things definitely could stand with your sorting out who you want him to be in your life a little more, though. Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:01 AM on June 20, 2009

Don't feel guilty. Don't feel ashamed - it was not your fault in any way. I don't think you need therapy, these kinds of things happen and you didn't do anything to cause it. If you guys are close long-distance friends, I would've told him by now without thinking about it too much, but that's just me. If all this time you haven't told him and you're being cautious about telling him, then you wanting to tell him now might mean that you're still relying on him being your emotional support, that you still want his emotional support in order to feel better about it all. That's the wrong reason to tell him.

Also, him saying he wants to re-examine your relationship and see what happens might mean that he's keeping you around on the side so he can later decide if he should go back to you because it's the easiest thing to do, or if he has any other 'better' choices at the time. I'd be careful about the long distance friendship and how much trust and emotion you put into it. If and when you do share a zip code again, see what he's like, but don't hold out hope hoping he comes back and does want a relationship with you. If he really does want YOU and it's not because he hasn't met anyone else, but because he wants YOU, then I would think about figuring out a way to trust him again, and then telling him about the miscarriage. Although it would be very hard to trust someone who was able to ABRUPTLY break up with you IN AN EMAIL, after 6 months of dating, but that's a whole other issue.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 9:02 AM on June 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Very sorry for the pain you have gone through.

I do not think you have any obligation to tell him like there would be if there was a child and you certainly were not selfish to not tell him.

It sounds to me like your desire to tell him is due at least partially to a need for companionship in your grief. As zadcat said, you've told us and as best as we can we're all grieving with you.
posted by XMLicious at 9:07 AM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I actually think that if you want to tell him, you should. It does involve him; at the very least it affects how you act around him (the fetal-position-crying incident, for example), and if the two of you are growing close again I think being honest about what you've been through and where you're coming from is reasonable.

However, two caveats: one, make sure that you're getting lots of support from other people in your life--friends, family, therapist, whatever. You don't want to tell him and then be in a position where you are relying entirely on him to help you get through this trauma. And secondly, try not to be attached to the idea of his responding in a particular way to the news. You don't know how he's going to react, which is fine, of course; so that also means you'll be setting yourself up to be even more upset if you need for him to react in a particular way.

I'm very sorry this happened to you. It sounds very difficult. Please remember that the miscarriage was not your fault.
posted by aka burlap at 9:08 AM on June 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

To be honest, it doesn't sound like a strong relationship. Dangling 'maybe we'll get together next year' type stuff in front of you is unfair -- if he wants to be with you, he should be with you. If he's not doing that, it's probably reasonable to question that pretty closely. He broke up with you via email. That's totally bush league.

I think you need to work through your feelings about the miscarriage entirely separately from what to do about the relationship, in counseling.

I've had miscarriages, two I had D and Cs for before having a baby many years later. They're devastating, and I'm really sorry. I can tell you you'll feel better eventually, but I know that's not much help. I will suggest you stop telling yourself things like 'I lost our child'. You're making yourself feel much, much worse, and you're mixing up your feelings about the miscarriage with your hurt about the break up.

Most miscarriages are not preventable and happen because the pregnancy isn't a viable one. It isn't your fault. Don't torment yourself like that.

As for telling him, I would not. The relationship does not sound strong, and subconsciously, you may be using it to add a level of intensity to it. He has no need to know, and it will make him feel bad, and most likely, fail to make you feel better.

I hope you feel better soon.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:29 AM on June 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Here's why you tell him: he should know the real consequences of any sexual contact without a condom.
posted by thejoshu at 9:37 AM on June 20, 2009 [18 favorites]

What I take away from your post is that you feel the need to share this with him, especially because you are still maintaining friendly contact with him long-distance, and may move back into the same zip code within the next six months, at which point a continued romantic relationship may be in the cards. But you're unsure about a number of items, including why you feel guilty about not having told him, what you should tell him about it, whether you should tell him about it, when it might be appropriate to tell him about it, and what the consequences of telling him about it might be.

Given all of that, I'd echo what chrisamiller said: It might be a good idea at this point to see someone to work through your feelings about all of this. It sounds to me like you feel guilty or unsure in this instance not necessarily about having the miscarriage (though that may be part of it, too), but about not having told him about the pregnancy or the miscarriage, and now being at a point where you're starting to rebuild a relationship with him, but worrying 1. that perhaps he should know about what happened, since he was party to the pregnancy part of it and 2. that you don't want this to be a barrier to moving the relationship forward (potentially) in the future. You don't want to get hurt now—but you also don't want to get hurt even more later. So there's a lot there, including a number of conflicting impulses, to work through.

Speaking as someone who's waited to tell romantic partners important, potentially relationship-changing things before and for the most part ended up regretting it, I'd say that if you think you might want to try being with him again in the future, you should tell him eventually, if only for the sake of any future the relationship might have. You don't want to have this (and the accompanying guilty feeling, regardless of where that feeling originates) in the back of your mind for the next however-many years. Something you feel this strongly about, that makes you cry when you consider being physical with him, is something that, kept secret, may well be poisonous to the relationship.

That said, I'd suggest carefully picking your time, and at very least telling him when you're both physically in the same location.

It's a very tough thing to navigate. I mean, tell him too soon or at a less-than-ideal time (when he's stressed about something else, when he's busy with a work project) and you may not get the understanding response you'd like—even if under more ideal circumstances he might respond in a caring manner. There's no guarantee that you'll get an understanding response from him under any circumstances, of course, but telling him at an inopportune moment, regardless of whether things are going well between the two of you otherwise, may insure that you don't.

But tell him too late and he may feel hurt that you didn't tell him sooner, or that you held it back from him for so long while interacting as though nothing was wrong. (Whether he's in fact justified in feeling that way about an experience that's so intensely yours is another matter entirely—but unfortunately, people's emotions don't always follow officially sanctioned, justified paths.) As others have said, this was your body, and your experience, one that he wasn't there for because he chose to walk out of your life. But as you've intuited, it's something that he may well have an interest in knowing about—and something that may bring you closer together by its telling.

How to broach it? When the time seems right, tell him you'd like to explain why you reacted the way you did the last time you attempted to be physical with him. It's every bit as simple—and as utterly complicated—as that.

By telling him, you open yourself up to potentially being hurt again. But everything you're doing currently to forward any sort of relationship with him does that as well. If you're going to go, I'd say, go all the way and be as open as possible—but do with your eyes wide open, as well.
posted by limeonaire at 9:38 AM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

First of all, therapy. Before you do anything else or make any kinds of decisions, see a therapist.

When I was reading this, I couldn't really didn't understand the need to tell him, especially since your relationship was over and the pregnancy ended (which was not your fault in any way, shape or form).

Why do you feel the need to tell him? This is going to sound really harsh, and I don't mean it to be, but if you really examine your feelings, it is possible that, deep down, your desire to tell him stems from wanting to deepen his connection to you? Create more of an emotional bond than what presently exists between you? That motivation wouldn't be abnormal, but I don't think the results will pacify the desire.

At his age, and considering his life is in flux somewhat (I'm assuming the frequent moves are related to building his career?), the main thing he might feel is relief. He might not see it as the potential child that never was, he might not grieve in the least. If you tell him and he's incredibly freaked out and incredibly relieved that things turned out the way they did, never even considering the other possible outcome, a child, how are you going to feel? Relief is as valid a reaction as grief, as different people will approach it from different perspectives.

I don't think this is the sort of thing that you are morally bound to tell him. He broke up with you, a little while later you found out you were pregnant, and a few days after that, you miscarried. All being horrible, stressful and tragic for you, but there was no reason to tell him and no reason to feel guilty about it. If you two were still together, and you went through all of this in secret, hiding it from him, then you could feel guilty, but only for not being open and trusting your partner. If you didn't miscarry, and you elected not to tell him since he was out of your life, and you had the baby and then reconciled, then you could feel guilty. If you put the baby up for adoption, and the reconciled, you could feel obligated to tell him and guilty for hiding it. There is no reason for feeling guilty about not telling him about the events as they happened in your specific situation.

Now, if you two get back together in a monogamous relationship (because if you two just get back together for sex now and again or even a casual LDR till he moves back, you'll be more cautious about protection, not just for birth control but possible disease control too, right?), I think you should tell him. Not because of emotional or guilt issues, not because of shared history (and your miscarriage is NOT shared history, he LEFT you - not to mention - he dumped you in an awful way, you went through it WITHOUT him, this is YOUR experience, not HIS and not SHARED), but because you two need to change your routine to prevent this from happening again. Sure, you could say it happened to a friend, but that probably won't make him take it seriously enough to remember -in the heat of passion - to avoid the situation. If the situation arises, tell him in a matter of fact way and what needs to happen for prevention. That's all. You should not feel guilty, you have nothing to feel guilty about, so there's no need to apologize for not telling him. It's just about facts and prevention.

Please do seek out therapy and try to work through your feelings of guilt about the miscarriage, it wasn't your fault, you did not fail. Also, please try to use therapy as an opportunity to work through your feelings and expectations about your ex. The way he broke up with you was cruel, so unkind. It displayed an incredible lack of concern for your feelings, and he wasn't even honest enough about his feelings to discuss it with you while he was working out what he wanted to do. It was almost like he didn't want to warn you ahead of time about what he was feeling, so you wouldn't preemptively break-up with him before he decided whether or not he wanted the relationship to end. That's not fair, it's not honest and it's not caring. If you reenter a relationship with him, will you ever be able to trust that what's going on on the surface also mirrors the thoughts and feelings in his head? Now, I know your question isn't about whether or not you should take him back, so I'll leave it at that.

Good luck and take care of yourself.
posted by necessitas at 9:47 AM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would tell him if things get deeper/you get closer and look into not just therapy but grief and loss specialty. You've suffered a loss, and an ambiguous one at that.

Also, get tested for Factor V Liden, a clotting disorder. A simple blood test is all it takes. Miscarriages happen for all kinds of reasons, but all the women in my family had many of them. We only found out we are positive for Factor V later on and there is positive correlation between the disorder and miscarriages. It's relatively rare but it can't hurt to check. Even if you don't plan on having kids again it can make your blood clotting wonky. Good luck and be well.
posted by ShadePlant at 10:26 AM on June 20, 2009

I will second necessitas that IF you get back together officially, tell him then. Right now he's just keeping you dangling on the line and I wouldn't make any romantic decision based off that, especially with Mr. No LDR's.

I really think why you want to tell him is that you want him to say, "Oh sweetie honey lovey-dovey honeybunch, I'm so sorry!," scoop you up in his arms and snuggle...and then you get back together. Okay, typing that just made me vomit, but what I mean is, you want him to grieve with you, to be your partner, to be your support.

But. He is your ex-boyfriend. He does not want to BE your support. He probably won't feel oh-so-sad that you won't have a baby together. Heck, he probably would be relieved not to have that tie. Even if he's more tactful than I am thinking he is from your post, I think you definitely want a certain emotional reaction out of him and I do NOT think he is going to give it to you if you tell him. Your friends are right. You are only going to get hurt MORE if you tell him. I am 95% sure you will only feel shittier about this if you tell him now. He can't give you what you want. Period. didn't choose to lose him or the baby. That is not your fault in any way.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:27 AM on June 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

there are some extremely thoughtful answers in this thread. i just want to add one little thought: you cannot share pain like a cookie. it doubles when you do, not half. consider what you are going through: you could feasibly cause him similar anguish. is that what you want? i think not.

also: having had a miscarriage does not make you any less of a person.
posted by krautland at 10:39 AM on June 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Working purely pragmatically here, there is a legitimate question about whether to tell him now, while you're doing your long-distance friends thing. However, if you do get back together, you must tell him. Your relationship will not flourish if you're carting around a great big secret that concerns both of you. And that's a pretty clear cut "right to know" inside a relationship thing, at least in my book.

When and if you do tell him, be prepared for all kinds of reactions that are all about him and not about you. If you get the tea and sympathy you deserve, that's great, but you are more likely to get a whole bunch of knee-jerk, angry questions like "Why didn't you tell me? Were you going to ever tell me I had a kid?" Also expect him to be (understandably) freaked out about sex and birth control for a while, which may make you feel blamed even if he isn't blaming you. (This is a very common dynamic with unplanned pregnancies.)

You should know that what you're feeling now after your miscarriage is also very common. If it helps, about 20% of recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage - and a vastly higher percentage occur so early that the woman doesn't even know she was pregnant. You are not responsible and you are not to blame. There are support groups both online and in the real world; you might get a lot from that kind of support and feel less alone and less to blame.

Good luck; take care of yourself.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:55 AM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am so sorry that you are going through this.

While I have not been in the exact same situation, I have lost a daughter and a son due to problems during my pregnancies. In the aftermath of each loss, I’ve had to decide who to tell about it, and what to tell each person. Overall, people have been incredibly supportive. However, I’ve also had some hurtful experiences with thoughtless people. As a result, I’ve given myself some rules about talking about what happened. They may be helpful to you in making your decision.
• Tell the people you want to tell. You are not obligated to tell anyone you don’t want to tell. You get to control how to handle this. You are the most important person in this scenario.
• Don’t expect the person you tell to understand or to be agreeable to hearing about what happened.
• Sharing details that are meaningful to you when it is obvious that the listener is uncomfortable will not bring you comfort.
• More people than you might think have had experiences with pregnancies or pregnancy-related dogma, and those experiences may affect the way they respond to what you tell them about what happened to you.

I love my children, and I often wonder what our lives would be like if things had turned out differently. However, I do not believe that my decisions to discuss them or not discuss them now have any bearing on their existence. Your decision to tell the father or not to tell him is all about you and what you need right now. If you need him to know, tell him, but realize that you cannot expect him to respond in a specific way.

Finally, please do not be ashamed of your miscarriage. The terminology of the entire horrible mess—“miscarriage,” “loss”—seems to lay the blame at the mother’s feet, but there is nothing you could have done. Instead, be proud of yourself for living through this. Ugh. Even as I write this last paragraph, I know how difficult it is to take these words to heart. But they are true. Honest.

Good luck.
posted by TEA at 11:46 AM on June 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yes, what TEA said. "Losing" a baby is not like "losing" your keys or "losing" a baseball game or "losing" a beauty contest, with all the implications of inattention or incompetence or inadequacy that tend to go with that word.

This is absolutely not your fault, and this guy is an ass for breaking up with you in a really callous and cowardly way.

If it were me, I would tell him. Otherwise you might very easily fall back into a relationship again, and sooner or later it's going to come up, or else it will just eat at you all the time.
Tell him, and the way he handles it will tell you a lot about what kind of person this is, and whether you want to be with him. Just be prepared that his response may be hurtful, but I think that's better than always wondering about it.

I know it's really tempting to want to get back together, but please make sure you are doing it with your eyes open.
posted by exceptinsects at 12:14 PM on June 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

I am ashamed of my miscarriage. I feel incompetent and unworthy, like the type of person who loses all the things in life that are supposed to be the most important to her. I lost my ex, a person whom I love very deeply. I do not want to admit to him that I also lost our child.

This is a warning sign for me. You didn't "lose" the fetus. Your body recognized that it was not going to be a viable pregnancy and quite wisely initiated a miscarriage. I heard that as many as 25% of preganancies are miscarry in the first three months, some so early that woman may just think that it is a late, heavy period. This is just how nature works.

I had a miscarriage with my first pregnancy. The grief was more about the lost future that I had begun to plan for, rather than the loss of the fetus itself. Grief is normal, guilt is not.

Second, the breakup with your boyfriend was his choice. It hurts tremondously to lose something that you thought was going to be a special relationship with a future. Again, grief is normal - even if you should decide that he is being a jerk, there is still the loss of the future that you were hoping for. However, I don't see anything in the story that you should feel guilty about. Anyone, who says that a boyfriend is "supposed to be the most important to her"

I suggest that you read Who Cares What You Are Supposed to Do: Breaking the rules to get what you want in love, life and work. This book will help you get perspective on all the things you are "supposed to do" and choose which to respect, which to ignore and which to change so it works better for you and the life you want.
posted by metahawk at 12:25 PM on June 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

I am very sorry for all that has happened, and while what I might say as advice may sound like I don't think it's a big deal, I absolutely understand how it is...


If you are close friends with him again, and considering a relationship, but still feeling this broken, I say tell him.

I mean, it (I feel) can only help to show you that you have done absolutely nothing wrong. As people have pointed out the miscarriage is a purely biological thing that will have happened for good reasons and been for the best. But the fact that it's left you feeling like this, means that something needs addressing. If you feel a need to tell him about it in the hopes of being close to him again, go ahead. If he can't take it, he's not worth it. If he can, then surely it can only bring you closer again.

But again, none of what has happened, including it seems the breakup, is anything remotely like your fault, so getting over this feeling of guilt is the most important thing. If talking to him about it seems like too big a hurdle, or if you feel it might not help, some sort of therapy would be my other recommendation.
All the best!
posted by opsin at 12:33 PM on June 20, 2009

I feel like you're thinking about the "lost child" as a baby because you wanted to be in love and have a kid with someone you're in love with but who rejected you. You want to daydream and fantasize, but, in reality, it wasn't even a real baby. What you're unhappy about is being lonely and having lost a relationship with someone you loved. The idea of having had a kid just adds the weight and seriousness to the situation that makes it seem more than what it is to him. It was a very short relationship. You know better than to try to hold on to him.

You should see a counselor.
posted by anniecat at 12:49 PM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sorry for what you're going through. I'm not a big fan of your boyfriend (the email break-up is selfish and immature) and think that cutting off contact with him was a healthy choice. The question of wether or not you should tell him about the miscarriage is really, "should I continue to pursue this relationship?". The trauma, grief and guilt you suffered has left you vulnerable and reaching for support. He sounds like he'd be a rubber crutch, so I'd vote not to tell him and move on to other, more healthy methods of coping.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:55 PM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I actually don't think telling him and pursing the relationship have ANYTHING to do with one another. It's possible to not be in a relationship with him, but get some much needed support over the grief you're feeling about the miscarriage. If it were me, I would want to know that my partner had suffered like that, so I could offer my support.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:03 PM on June 20, 2009

My chief worry for you, if you tell him, is that his reaction will be hurtful to you. This may seem completely unreal to him, and he may primarily feel that an inconvenience was averted. If I were you, it would hurt terribly to hear that kind of reaction from the person I'd hoped would value the lost baby equally with me.

For this reason, I actually wouldn't tell him in person, and I certainly wouldn't show up on his doorstep with the news. If I felt I had to tell him, I'd send a letter, giving him time to have his own reaction, and then to realize that you've had a completely different one.

As everyone else has said, you're not at all to blame. It's really so common, and that early in a pregnancy, it's almost certainly due to some abnormality incompatible with life. What would you say to a friend who lost a pregnancy? Say that to yourself.
posted by palliser at 1:23 PM on June 20, 2009

I don't think there's a right or wrong answer here. I think this is a matter of what you want and what you're able to take. If keeping this as a secret is eating away inside you, then you should tell him, because otherwise, you'll never find any peace. But be prepared for a bad reaction. Also, secrets like this do tend to come out eventually, so if there's any chance you're going to remain in any kind of relationship with him, from what you say, you're either going to be anxious thinking about telling him, or fearful of him finding out somewhere else.

Or, if you think the bad reaction would hurt you more than the pain of keeping a secret, then don't tell him.

In any case, you did nothing bad by "losing him" or "losing your potential child".
posted by CrazyLemonade at 1:39 PM on June 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think that if it's burdening you, and if you feel like you want to tell him, then you should tell him. But you should not feel at all ashamed or guilty about the miscarriage. It doesn't speak to any deep, personal flaw on your part. It was simply a toss of the coin, as painful as horrible as it was for you. Many, many pregnancies never make it to full term for many, many reasons. It has nothing to do with who you are.

Based on how you wrote this question, I think you sound like a wonderful person. I hope he realizes that.
posted by peggynature at 1:49 PM on June 20, 2009

You've been through a lot and you definitely have some healing ahead. It's perfectly normal to be grieving the loss of your baby, who by 8 weeks had a heartbeat and brain waves and shared a connection with both you and your SO. Even though you didn't have time to fully embrace the pregnancy, you still suffered a significant loss. You shouldn't take the blame for the loss of your baby, as it doesn't appear you did anything to cause the miscarriage.

That said, I think your ex (?) has a right to know that he fathered a child. Regardless of how you or anyone else thinks he will react to the news, it was 50% his DNA and and he deserves to know that he created a life and that the baby died. It's wrong for you to make the choice for him that he does not need to know about the baby.
posted by caroljean63 at 2:12 PM on June 20, 2009

As a guy who has made the same kind of assumption about safe sex (pregnancy from pre-come? No way...) I think you ought to tell him to make sure he's safer in future. I definitely will be.
posted by twirlypen at 2:19 PM on June 20, 2009

it wasn't even a real baby.

Quoted for WTF. Anonymous, don't feel guilty or shamed about grieving. This isn't a political choice about when life begins. You can love that bundle of cells long before it comes to term as a breathing, crying baby. Maybe you weren't planning to be a parent yet (or ever). Still it's okay to feel sadness for the end of your relationship and for the miscarriage. It's part of the process of letting go.

Like palliser, I'm a bit worried that your ex may respond to the news in a way that is hurtful to you. Miscarriage can bring out some truly bizarre responses. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't tell your ex, but you should be prepared that his response may not be grief and loss. Don't expect him to provide emotional support to you. He may simply breathe a sigh of relief.

You didn't fail your pregnancy. Give your GYN a call and ask what counseling she suggests for women after a miscarriage. She may be able to suggest a support group or short-term counseling to help you come to terms with your loss.
posted by 26.2 at 4:02 PM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry for you loss and for all you've been going through. I think that you should tell him because you want to, but it might not be the right time for you. We can't predict how he's going to react, so I think it's important to think about possible reactions (and there might be several - in quick succession) and think about whether you could handle them at this time. He might not ever grieve a child - he might take this as a dodged bullet, he might be happy and relieved, he might be neutral on the loss of "products of conception", he might be shocked to learn that you would have had the child if you could, he might deny that it could have been his, he might be angry at you for telling him, he could be angry that you didn't tell him sooner, he might feel foolish for thinking that your tears on your last night together were because it was your last night together. He could think or say any or all of those things. If he did, would that send you back into bed with the saltines or start you drinking again? If you think it might, or you aren't sure, then it's not the time.

I know you want to get back together with this guy - and maybe you will, and maybe that's a good thing... I don't know so I'm not going to tell you to cut things off. But it is a very bad idea indeed to be talking to him everyday if only because that means you're relying on him for emotional support far more than is wise or emotionally safe. You should really make an effort to look more to your friends (who sound wonderful) and less to this guy who may be amazing and who I'm sure does love you... but he has affirmatively let you know that he's not your boyfriend, that he's not committed to you, and that he wanted to be free to see other people in his new town. If you aren't happy with that, and clearly you are not, then it's dangerous to make him your primary confidante at a time when you need real friends more than ever.
posted by moxiedoll at 5:13 PM on June 20, 2009

It's actually eating me up inside.

Then tell him. You two have still have a relationship, even thought you're no longer a couple and despite what has occurred you two obviously still care for each other. Tell him, but try to do it with no preconceptions of how he'll react and realize that his reactions may run a gamut of emotions from anger (why didn't you tell him and/or why did you wait so long) to guilt and sorrow similar to yours to cutting off contact via email. Remember he's done this before. These emotions may occur over time, so be prepared for that. Realize that you've been living with it for a while, yet he's being hit with an emotional hammer. He'll need time to process it.

Do seek out some counseling. You've a rough time lately and a bit of professional help would be good. Take care of yourself, lay down your burden and remember this is not your fault.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:54 PM on June 20, 2009

I was going to say "don't tell him, no good will come of it", but then I read about your ongoing and perhaps growing relationship... in that case, I think you should tell him.
posted by glider at 6:23 PM on June 20, 2009

If it were me, I would tell him. You should not feel obligated to tell him, because he did break up with you in this shitty way. But you should also not feel like you need to protect him from this news - he was part of the sex that caused you to get pregnant.

But I think, contrary to what many are saying in this thread, that it might help you feel better to tell him. I think that having him hear and acknowledge the pain you went through, which was partly a result of his actions, might help you get to a place where you don't feel like you are to blame for the miscarriage.

I also think that if you are really going to try to be his friend, then there should be honesty between you, even if it is difficult.

In terms of how you tell him, I don't think it matters as long as you are honest and tell the whole story, just like you did here.

In terms of your future relationship with him, I think the way he broke up with you was terrible and needs to be reckoned with before he is worthy of your love again. I also think the way he reacts to the news of your miscarriage will tell you whether he is able to truly be supportive of you.
posted by mai at 6:55 PM on June 20, 2009

I heard that as many as 25% of preganancies are miscarry in the first three months, some so early that woman may just think that it is a late, heavy period. This is just how nature works.

Some recent studies suggest that the percentage is even higher, with the highest estimate being that 50% of all fertilized eggs fail to result in a full-term pregnancy.

So clearly, there's no way that this could be your "fault" and it's nothing to feel guilty about. Almost every woman I know has had at least one miscarriage.

I do think you should tell your ex about the miscarriage, for the following reasons: a) he needs to know that what he thinks is "safe sex" may not be so safe, and b) it will make you feel better.

Also, you know, therapy. Blaming yourself for having a miscarriage and for being broken up with sound like thoughts coming from a place of low self-esteem and perhaps codependence. If you can't deal with therapy right now, perhaps taking a look at the book Facing Codependence by Pia Mellody et al. would help.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:38 PM on June 20, 2009

Miscarriage is emotionally difficult, especially since you still get to experience a hormone dump. Fwiw, postpartum depression/emotional issues aren't all limited to full term pregnancies. Added to other stresses they can definitely make you... not your usual self. I turned my life upside down after the last one I nearly went batshit after the last one. It can take a while for your system to balance back out and I hope you to find the support you need within your current framework of close friends and good health providers.

I feel like my ex has the right to know and to grieve the child.
I want to (don't really want to) share that four early miscarriages have been a non-event to everyone but me. This includes my husband, who viewed them as intense periods and -like everyone else- assumed I forgot about them as soon as the bleeding was done. My husband didn't grieve at all, though he would have been thrilled if any had been successful. I'm really afraid this guy won't react in any way you're hoping for.

I hope you'll listen to your two close friends (and your mother) who love you- I imagine they'd like to lock you in a castle for a while. I hope you'll listen to them and let them be there for you while you heal.
posted by auntbunny at 11:15 PM on June 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

You have been through so much!! It sounds like you were doing very well, until the spotting and the miscarriage:(

I think you really really have to confront those feelings about losing thing - the breakup, and the miscarriage WERE NOT YOUR FAULT.

There are things you did, to take care of yourself (asking for 0 contact, keeping busy, etc) and there other things that you had absolutely NO control over - like him breaking up with you, the miscarriage, bumping into him later, etc.

Also, you want to tell him because ... you want him to make you feel better.

But you're not in a relationship with him anymore, he left your relationship. You need to get over this on your own.

Tell him when you no longer care how he responds. Tell him when you are healed and don't feel the compulsion to try to share with him.

Also, if at all possible, now that he's moved and you're on good terms, don't be in touch with him for now.

You need to get over all of this - and he needs to miss you and think things over. In a few months, you both will have a better idea of what to share with each other.
posted by Locochona at 5:55 PM on June 21, 2009

In response to this -

However, sometimes before we had sex, he would tease the opening of my vagina with his penis when he wasn’t wearing a condom. Sometimes this would happen after he had just ejaculated from oral sex. Because of this, my gynecologist thinks that this pregnancy MIGHT have been the result of precome. I had always believed that the whole you-can-get-pregnant-from-precome thing was the kind of myth they told you in what passes for sex-ed classes here in the South, but apparently I was very, very wrong about this.

- that's not precome, that's leftover semen from the previous ejaculation, and it is just as good at getting you pregnant as any other.
posted by Caviar at 1:35 PM on June 22, 2009

« Older How do you deal with infatuation?   |   Caught a grand slam, what to do with it? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.