This is a Thanksgiving story that I have told before. It is worth repeating because it changed my life and helped me to better understand my wife. Because of that, I hope it made me a better, more sensitive husband.
On Thanksgiving Day of 1978 my wife had a miscarriage, giving birth to a tiny infant in the bathroom of our bedroom. Although it was less than half the length of my pinkie, I knew immediately that it was our unborn child. While all my attention was directed toward my wife, she wept bitterly for the child she would never hold.
At the time we were living in a country home outside of Gallatin, Tenn., where I was editor of the tri-weekly newspaper. Because she had been feeling a bit ill and had some minor “spotting,” I drove my wife to her gynecologist on the Wednesday before that Thanksgiving to make sure that there was no serious problem with the pregnancy. The doctor did an ultrasound and assured us that the baby was fine.
“Go home and relax and have a happy holiday,” he said cheerfully. “Have a great Thanksgiving.”
We later learned that the doctor was not being honest with us. After losing the baby on Thursday night, we visited the doctor with the tiny fetus in a jar on Friday morning.
That’s when he told us that he was not being completely honest with us on Wednesday. He said the ultrasound had revealed that the “fetus” — he refused to call it a baby or our child — was “in distress.” However, he said the “fetus” still had a strong heartbeat.
The doctor said he could have told us Wednesday that the “fetus” was “in distress” and that my wife could have a miscarriage. However, since there was nothing either of us could do to help the “fetus,” he decided not to ruin our Thanksgiving by causing us undue stress and alarm that could cause more harm to a “fetus” that was fighting for his or her life.
It was what happened after my wife and I returned home on Friday afternoon that taught me so much about my wife and about the differences between men and women. However, I was a bit dense in those days, and it took several weeks for the message to sink in.
After losing the baby, my life pretty much went on as normal. I was saddened by the loss because I was so looking forward to becoming a father again. But I never grieved for the baby that was not to be. That’s because to me the baby was more of a concept than an actual living creature. At that point, my role in the child’s creation had ended at conception.
My wife, however, went into a period of deep grief that went on for many days. I would walk into a room and find her sitting in a chair weeping.
“What’s wrong?” I would ask. Her only response was to silently shake her head knowing I wouldn’t understand. Or, worse yet, that I would think she was just being silly and overly emotional.
While the fetus was just a concept to me, to my wife he or she was a living human being growing inside of her and she alone was responsible for its health. So when she lost the baby, she naturally blamed herself. Thus, while I was getting on with my life and putting thoughts of the fetus behind me, my wife grieved and wondered what she had done wrong that cost this unborn human being its life. To her, the miscarriage was not some “act of God” or just one of those things that happen for some inexplicable reason. It was her fault. She was the mother and she had failed to protect the infant in her womb.
We all know that when it comes to creating life, women play a much, much bigger role than we daddies. In fact, in today’s society, the only thing too many daddies do in the lives or their children is contribute the sperm. That’s shameful, irresponsible and sinful, in my book.
That miscarriage indirectly played another major role on the lives of my wife and me. Three months later, I was offered a job in Ashland. I would had never taken it if my wife was pregnant and I am convinced I would have never moved to Ashland.
But much more than just changing my address, the events that began on that Thanksgiving night forever changed the lives of both my wife and I. As so often happens, it was an example of a horrible event teaching us something positive, I am a better person today because of it.
JOHN CANNON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (606) 326-2649.