Husband wants to opt out of first trimester

Carolyn Hax
Columnist June 21, 2012

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I had a miscarriage at 11 weeks last year and my husband took it very hard. He told me he didn’t want to know if I got pregnant again until the second trimester.

I have found out that I am expecting again, but now I am not sure if I should tell him. I want to respect his feelings but I also don’t want him to regret not seeing those first milestones . . . heartbeat, etc. There is also the selfish part of me who wants a hand to hold in case something goes wrong again.

To Tell or Not to Tell


Way to “parent up,” Dad.

The better time to talk to him about this, in depth, was before you got pregnant again. I realize how unhelpful this sounds, but I mention it because you might want to open your conversation with your husband by noting that you shouldn’t have let his request to remain ignorant for the first trimester go unchallenged.

It’s not “the selfish part of you” that’s telling you you’re in this together. You ARE in this together, co-parents, a team in biological, emotional, financial and logistical senses. It’s not right, fair or mature of him to delegate unilaterally a huge chunk of the emotional hard work to you.

While a miscarriage is a painful loss, it’s not as if carrying a pregnancy into the second trimester will magically erase all possibility of any other pain. I mean, duh — as a parent, he’s going to have to deal with all kinds of fear, pain and suspense. And since he’ll have to suck it up at some point, he might as well start now.

You can have this whole conversation before telling him you’re pregnant, but unless he’s willing himself into cluelessness he’s probably going to guess. For what it’s worth — while it will (rightly) feel false to withhold your news, opening with it introduces the risk that your husband will be too focused on the bean-spilling to listen carefully to the why. So, consider leading with the why and getting quickly to the what.

And if he fights you on the idea of emotional accountability and/or gets angry at you for telling, then it’s time for a professional referee — either marriage counseling or a marital workshop. You really, really don’t want to go into parenthood with someone who thinks it’s okay to use the emotional coping tactics of a 7-year-old.

Re: Tell or Not:

Aren’t there some very practical concerns regarding not telling her husband? What if they were in an accident or something, and medics had to know? And if she does miscarry, and has to go for an extraction, is she supposed to schedule that, drive herself there and back, and deal with the emotional and physical ramifications of that alone because he’s a delicate flower?

What a punk. Didn’t he take “in sickness and in health” vows?

Anonymous

No, he skipped them because they’re upsetting.

An accident is a low-percentage possibility, but her wanting to express her emotions about a pregnancy — lost or successful — is about 100 percent. That he would prioritize his feelings and deny her the freedom to show hers is a problem they can’t responsibly ignore.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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