Miscarriage is one of the most traumatic experiences any woman can go through. Knowing that a baby has passed away inside of you is something most men just can’t comprehend. I can only imagine the agony that must come with it, the guilt that can arise from your body, for whatever reason, being unable to carry a pregnancy to term. Any woman that has endured this trauma deserves every bit of sympathy she gets and more.
Unfortunately, and perhaps inevitably, the would-be fathers’ feelings often get forgotten about during the aftermath of miscarriage.
It isn’t anybody’s fault; it’s natural to focus sympathy on the woman at such a time. After all, they are the person who has suffered both emotionally and physically. The male himself will, primarily, be focussing their energies on supporting their partner through the period after miscarriage. However, in doing so, many people forget that the man has lost something too.
I was 18 when my then-partner got pregnant. It was at the 12-week scan that we discovered our child had no heartbeat. Sadly, this isn’t unusual – it is estimated 80% of miscarriages occur in the first trimester. It didn’t stop it hurting like hell though.
It was very traumatic for my girlfriend. She had to undergo an induced abortion, as although the child had no heartbeat, it was still inside her. She needed support, and I tried my best to be there for her. Unfortunately, at 18 I didn’t have anywhere near the maturity needed to handle the situation, and, inevitably, I made mistakes. However, I tried my best, and that’s all I could do.
What I forgot to do was grieve myself. In my desire to ensure my partner received the support she needed, I neglected to seek any of my own. If anyone asked me how I was, I gave answers designed to divert the attention to the person who I felt needed the support more. “I’m fine; it wasn’t really real for me to be honest. It’s (my then-partner) who’s struggling, not me” was what I told people. After saying it for so long, I almost started to believe it myself.
I hold no blame to anyone for the situation; I wanted my girlfriend to receive the support. She genuinely needed it, and, as a man, I felt I had no right to focus on my feelings, given what she had been through. I shunned the support, because I felt it would have been selfish, and wrong, to accept it.
In the near-decade that has passed, I have realised how foolish that was. When I reflect on that period in my life, the support was there for me. It wouldn’t have diminished my partners’ support; indeed, talking about it openly may have brought us closer together. With the benefit of hindsight, I would have accepted the support, and I urge any man going through something similar to do so.
I have never really talked about how miscarriage affected me. The truth is it broke my heart. Ten years on, it still hurts now. I don’t think about it a lot, but every now and then, something will happen that brings home just how different my life could be.
Sometimes, I’ll be playing with my niece, Daisy, when I’m reminded of what could have been. I might be watching the television, and a particular storyline might bring the subject to the forefront of my mind. Occasionally, it just strikes me out of the blue. The only constant is the pain, when the realisation hits me about how different my life could be.
I’ve always believed my child would have been a boy. My partner wanted Connor for a boy, but I would have talked her out of it before he was born. I’ve always liked the name Huey, but there was no chance she would have gone for that! I don’t know what his name would have been, but he would have been a boy, I’m sure of that.
He would have had jet black hair, and probably have been cursed with the same widows’ peak that I’ve always had. I think he would have had blue eyes, dimples, and a sprinkling of freckles. He would have enjoyed sports, like his father, and we would have gone to the match together. I would have given him a guitar at a young age, and by now he’d be able to play in a way I’ve never been able to.
I can imagine him being selective with his friends; he’d talk to anyone, but only hold a few people close to his heart. Certainly, he’d be doting over Daisy, and teaching her all sorts of mischievous tricks. He’d be getting excited about his ninth birthday, and the party I’d have thrown for him. I’d be spending far too much money on his presents, and as I watched him open them, I’d forget all about the cost, and I’d bask in his joy and happiness.
Except none of that will ever happen, because my son died during the first trimester, and I was never lucky enough to meet him.
When I look back at the situation rationally, I can see that becoming a father at 18 wouldn’t have been ideal. At the time, I was hopelessly immature, I didn’t have a steady income, and I was afflicted with personal problems. Every day would have been a struggle, and there was no way I would have been able to provide the kind of life that I would have wanted to give him. Yet I’d have made it work, somehow.
In the past, I’ve had it put to me that it was a blessing in disguise. In my desire to divert attention off the subject, I’ve even suggested it myself. The truth is, when a pregnancy ends, there is no blessing. However rationally you look at it, love isn’t rational. It hurts, even now.
I should have talked openly about my emotions years ago. I can only speculate what impact it had on the depression I would later endure, but there’s no doubt that blanking out my pain contributed to it.
To any man that finds himself in a similar situation, I say this: Talk. Don’t bottle it up. Share your grief. Support your partner, because, trust me, she’ll need it. But don’t neglect yourself, whatever you do. What you need to realise is talking to your partner, exposing your most private thoughts, will bring you both closer together. It will make the grieving process slightly more bearable, for both of you.
I wish I’d had the chance to meet my son. I would have been a good dad. One day, hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to be blessed with a child, and if that day comes, I’ll cherish every moment, and I’ll be the best father I can possibly be, showering my child with love and affection.
But I’ll always remember the son I was never lucky enough to meet.
Originally published October 12, 2012