I felt scared, depressed, angry, heartbroken and utterly confused. Not that anyone ever asked.
Such is the case for many men like myself, whose partners suffer multiple miscarriages while hoping to start, or expand, their families. Perhaps it’s because miscarriage is still a taboo topic people are uncomfortable addressing publicly, and even when it is discussed the conversation almost never includes men and their feelings. That’s understandable to a point, since this loss is, and always will be, harder for women who have to physically and mentally endure the anguish of losing a very wanted baby.
But I’m here to personally tell you men hurt, too. And it’s time we start talking about it.
My wife miscarried four times in as many years. My initial response to seeing my wife in so much pain was to default to “Protector Mode,” spending all of my time and energy tending to her needs and making sure she was okay. Because that’s what real men do, right? Harness as much Irish stoicism as possible, turn off all emotion, be the rock your significant other needs and carry on.
Truth be told, I was faring pretty well for the first couple of losses because they happened early on at the 6 to 7 week mark. I told myself these were “chemical losses” and just a collection of cells. Sure I had gotten my hopes up and started wondering if it was a boy or a girl, but I just tried not to think about it too much.
But then came Alexandra.
After struggling to get and stay pregnant, we finally got one that stuck. And when we hit the all-important 12-week mark and the doctors initially told us everything was okay, we were elated. I finally felt like I could breathe again and my wife and I announced the good news to all of our family and friends. We even picked out a name: Alexandra. She’d be Alex for short. Since we already had a boy, this was going be the girl that completed our family. We were unbelievably excited.
Then came the call from the radiologist telling us they thought something was wrong with her legs. The specialists in Boston confirmed it was Sirenomelia, a 1-in-100,000 fetal abnormality in which the legs are fused together and essential body parts such as kidneys and a bladder are missing. Long story short, it’s a condition that is incompatible with life, giving us a zero percent chance of a live birth.
I completely lost it.
Not on the outside, mind you. To the untrained eye I was a supportive husband taking care of my wife and doing what a husband is supposed to do. But inside I was a complete mess. I’ll never forget staying strong for my wife and comforting her, telling her everything would be okay and we’d get through it. I dropped her off at her mother’s house because I had to pick up our son. As soon as I got her safely inside I drove out of sight, pulled the car over and just lost it. I bawled hysterically, sobbing so hard I threw up.
I was sad, angry and confused. Do I have any right to be this upset? Should I mourn this as the loss of a person? Am I even ALLOWED to mourn? I had no idea what to do but I wasn’t about to ask or complain, especially to a wife who just literally had the life sucked out of her. And even though my wife was lucky enough to have a great support network checking in on her, my instinct to repress everything was confirmed by the fact that no one asked how I was doing.
I felt alone and scared. I broached the subject with my wife but she was going through her own hell and I felt terribly guilty for burdening her with my feelings. The whole thing was further complicated by the fact that my wife and I were coping very differently.