I suspect my wife's "miscarriage" was not spontaneous

I wanted the child and she did not.

Published July 18, 2006 11:00AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I strongly suspect that my wife's miscarriage last year was intentional, i.e., she had an induced abortion. At the time we were both 31 years old with a combined income of just over 100K. We were married for about a year. My wife was on medication for depression and anxiety (Paxil with the occasional Xanax). The pregnancy was unplanned and she expressed a desire to terminate the pregnancy a few days after we found out, saying she wasn't ready to have kids yet, maybe in another year. I really wanted to have a baby and was very upset that she felt this way. We made an appointment for counseling about two weeks out. However, prior to that she claims she had a miscarriage.

Without going into all the details, the circumstantial evidence strongly suggests she's lying to me. Also, I've had the opportunity to speak with several doctors who have pointed out numerous problems with her timeline, medicine and explanations to me that wouldn't pass the smell test with a first-year med student. Her story initially fooled me because I'm a guy and didn't know a thing about pregnancy other than how to start one.

About two weeks later, when I confronted her with my concerns (as nicely as possible considering the gravity of the situation) she became extremely upset and flat-out denied everything. Her attitude was basically, "How dare you suggest I would do something so awful," and she refused to answer any specific questions. I backed down, considering that, regardless of which was true, both scenarios would be emotionally burdensome to any woman.

I spent the next several weeks avoiding the situation and being as supportive as one could expect, hoping that once there was some distance we could talk in more detail. When I brought it up again about two and a half months later, she reacted the same way. I suggested she get a copy of her medical records, which according to my doctor friends would absolutely state "spontaneous abortion" or "SAB," if true, and settle the matter conclusively. Same reaction.

Almost a year has passed now and I don't know how to proceed. When I hear someone giving her sympathy about the "miscarriage" or hear her talking about it to her friends, I have to leave the room. If she would have then or would just tell me the truth now, I would forgive her, but I can't go on like this. In my heart I want to believe she's telling the truth, but my head says she intentionally aborted my baby and is continuing to lie about it. In further discussions about children, she always wants to put it off for a few months, leading me to suspect she not want children at all. (We did discuss this before we got married and agreed that we would have children in a year or two.)

My problem: If I insist she get a copy of her medical records and they show it was a legitimate miscarriage, I win Asshole of the Year and do serious harm to the marriage. If I do nothing, this will eat away at me for some time, also not good for the marriage. If the records show that it was an induced abortion, it will be difficult but I will forgive her. The one sure thing is that the status quo cannot be maintained. Thoughts?

Wanting a Child

Dear Wanting a Child,

Regardless of the cause, you and she have had a major loss. Each of you is trying to deal with the loss the best you can.

And in addition to this loss, you and she already have a deep conflict. She is not ready to have children. You are.

Thirdly, regardless of whether she induced an abortion, she has been having trouble with depression and anxiety.

So that is your situation. You have experienced a troubling loss, you have conflict over whether to have kids yet or not, and your wife suffers from depression and anxiety. This is the status quo. Since you say it cannot be maintained, it must be changed. The way to change it is to work together with her on these issues. You may need help to do that. I suggest you meet with the counselor with whom you made the original appointment, and commit to a period of some time over which you can tell your stories and attempt to improve your relationship.

These are problems of emotion and hope and living, human problems, rather than a problem of whether she did something wrong or not. And this work may require you to think of the connections between your life up till now and your relationship with your wife; things that you consider unrelated may come up unexpectedly. You will need to make a good-faith effort to see how these things are related.

I do not mean to minimize the gravity of the possibility that she may have intentionally aborted your child and then lied to you about it. But if she did these things, it is likely she did them not because she is evil and wanted to cause you harm but because she was desperate and bereft of problem-solving skills and communication skills, because she saw no way out; she most likely acted out of fear. If she did these things they are part and parcel of the depression and anxiety that she is already being treated for.

And if she did these things, you must face it. One thing that might help is forgiveness.

I note that you say you could forgive her if you knew the truth. So consider this: Why not try to forgive her without yet knowing the truth? That is, forgive her not only for what she might or might not have done but for her shortcomings, her inability to deal with it, for whatever limitations and troubles prevent her from being the woman you thought you married? And, if you consider that you have made a mistake, forgive yourself as well. And consider the possibility that indeed, for whatever reason, what happened may have been for the best: If she is not well emotionally, she is probably wise not to have children yet. Consider the possibility that you are not going to come to a full and clear understanding of all this, that it is simply something that has happened in your world that for the time being you will have to live with.

You may not have realized how trying it might be to marry and raise children with a woman who is struggling with depression and anxiety. Her problems may be deeper; these are not easy things to solve; they do not always just go away with the right medication. It is also possible that she may simply not want to have kids at all -- when she made her promises, she may have been hoping her heart would change, but it may not.

Love does not always triumph over deep, intractable conflict. As you clarify your situation, it may turn out that you and she are better off separating. Good luck. Try to find some peace with this.

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