By Alex Temblador
The “M” word — miscarriage. It’s a scary ordeal for any prospective parent to face, especially since 10 to 20 pregnancies end in miscarriage.
Often, articles and blogs focus on how women deal with miscarriages — whether it be the emotional or physical toll it takes on them and their bodies. However, as a society we don’t really talk about how prospective dads feel about miscarriages. Granted, they don’t carry the child and therefore, they aren’t physically impacted by the loss, but that’s not to say that they don’t feel the pain of a miscarriage, because they do.
In 2014, the University College of London and the Miscarriage Association did a study on the partners of women who had a miscarriage. The study found that 85% of partners responded with sadness to the miscarriage, while a harrowing 46% didn’t share their feelings with their wife or girlfriend about how they really felt about the miscarriage in fear that they would cause her further distress.
Ruth Bender Atik, National Director of the Miscarriage Association said, “Many keep their real feelings hidden from their wife or girlfriend for fear of saying the wrong thing or causing more distress. Friends and family often ask how the woman who has miscarried is coping, but never think to ask her partner.”
Which is a shame, since almost half of the partners reported that they lost sleep after the miscarriage, and over half reported that the loss affected their work and ability to concentration.
One male respondent of the study said, “There is certainly a pressure – either perceived or real – that as a male it is important to be strong and supportive for the other person, which can be hard.”
Dr Petra Boynton of UCL Medical School said of the study, “We discovered, contrary to the limited existing research, that partners do want to talk about miscarriage. While some described having to fill a role of being ‘strong’ for the woman who miscarried, most really want to talk about their experiences but struggle to find a way to do this.”
She added: “The miscarriage often affected their friendships, work and physical and mental wellbeing. Although they wanted to have someone to talk to, or care for them, they said they did not feel able to ask for help from friends, family or their employers. And those people didn’t seem aware that partners might be upset or in need of support.”
So, yes, dads feel the pain of a miscarriage. As families or friends of these men, it’s our duty to offer them support and be there for them to talk. But as a father who has had a miscarriage, there are also some ways in which you can cope with the loss:
- Know that it’s okay for you to grieve openly. Your feelings about this loss it just as important.
- Though others might not offer their sympathies or ask if you want to talk about your loss, be proactive and find someone to speak to — whether it be a close friend, family member, or community support group. Someone will listen if you ask them to.
- Seek counseling if need be. The process of getting pregnant and losing a child can be very stressful and painful, so know that’s it’s okay if you seek out counseling. Counselors or therapists can offer positive ways to cope and get through the process.
- Find something to let out the pain. Whether it be crying, working out, writing out your feelings, or starting a new project of some sort, do it if you think it will help you work through the pain and grief. Each person grieves in their own way, so discover the best way for you.
Better yet, as a prospective father, know that you are not alone. There are other men out in the world who have been where you are, felt the pain that you have, and have come out on the other side in a better place.
Take this dad below. He dreamed of having a son. However, his dreams changed after his wife had a miscarriage.
“When you think about miscarriages, we never hear about what the dad feels,” he says. “My job was to be supportive to my wife, make sure she was okay. We got to be strong, the supportive ones. But inside, I was dying. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t know what I could do. I couldn’t grieve.”
“I didn’t feel like I had permission to grieve. I think a lot of dads, or would-be dads, feel that pain, and my advice to them, is to just grieve. It’s okay.”
After the miscarriage, he feared that he would never have a chance to ever be a father. From this, he realized that it didn’t matter what gender his child was — he just wanted to be a father. In a happy turn-out, he became a dad of two girls.
But his story and his message is powerful and clear: Men are affected by miscarriages too. And it’s okay for them to grieve. But even more so, we as a society should remember that they, too, are in pain, and offer them our condolences and support through such a loss on their parenting journey.