This Guest Post was written by Al, who is running The Dad Network (www.thedadnetwork.co.uk). You’ll find his bio and more info at the end of his post.
I have written an earlier post about my experience of miscarriage but I left out more of the details. I figured that it would be helpful for dads to read about another dads experience of miscarriage. There are a lot of mums sharing their stories, so why not me.
We had planned to get pregnant and when we did, we were over the moon. Excitement doesn’t do it justice. We had decided not to tell anyone that we were pregnant, for no reason, other than we enjoyed it being our special news that no one else knew. (We did tell my sister in law…) This proved to be the best decision!
It was around week 6 when Jen found a small amount of blood. We quickly googled and found out about spotting. Perfectly normal bleeding during early pregnancy and very common. We put it down to this, but still booked for a scan just to be on the safe side. We went to the emergency scan department of the hospital and sat in the waiting room. This was a weird place! You’re sitting in a corridor, opposite the sonographer’s room. Women, (some with partners, some without), go into the room with an anxious look on their face and come out either crying or gleefully holding a baby scan picture. We sat there and wondered how we would be coming out. Overjoyed or distraught! Bizarrely, we felt neither… The sonographer examined, and came to the conclusion that it was too early to tell and booked us in for another emergency scan in 2 weeks’ time. That way the heartbeat would definitely be seen. (Or not).
So, we went away with no questions answered, still anxious, still hoping it was just spotting. The bleeding continued, slowly and irregularly. It was a long 2 weeks. We tried not to get excited, but tried not to think the worst too.
This time, it was a very brash lady coming out the sonographer before us. She came out with a string of scan photos, a loud voice and huge smile. We went in. Still no heartbeat, but the embryo had grown… How can it grow without a heartbeat? This meant that the sonographer, again, couldn’t tell us for sure if the baby was viable or not. They made us another appointment for 2 weeks’ time. The questions we had were unexplainable. Google had nothing to say on the matter, so it was just another long, anxious wait.
All the while this was happening we were planning our wedding for the end of the summer. What should have been an exciting time of preparations, was overcast by a huge cloud of uncertainty and potential devastation. We had planned our honeymoon 2 weeks before our wedding day. (Unconventional I know, but worked for us.) We were due to fly to Rhodes at 3am of the Friday morning. The Thursday morning was the 3rd scan… Still no heartbeat but more growth! The doctor spoke to us this time and said it was rare and she had never seen it before. Because of the growth, they couldn’t definitively say to us that we will lose the baby. They gave it 95% of miscarriage at any point, but unable to offer us the SMM, surgical management of miscarriage. So what should we do? Fly to Rhodes just to arrive and have a miscarriage? Start the miscarriage 10,000 feet in the air? What happens if it does happen on honeymoon? Should we stay home and loose the money, or go and risk it?
We decided to go. Considering the looming, imminent happenings, we had a lovely time. We didn’t move from a sunbed and just read, not leaving each other’s side. It was hard to try and think about anything else. Our plans to have a baby were out of our control and falling apart at the very time when we are supposed to be having the best time of our lives. Sometimes you just have to make the best of the situation you’re in, no matter how hard it is.
On our return, we had 1 week remaining before our wedding day. General wedding stress levels were non-existent for us. The Tuesday before saw us, yet again, in the emergency scan waiting room. This time we were hiding ourselves from the others, knowing that it’s more than likely our news will be bad. This time, there was still no heartbeat and it hadn’t grown. They told us that it is just a matter of time before the body rejects the unviable foetus and the miscarriage starts. We hard 2 options:
1) Let the miscarriage happen naturally over the wedding? Or
2) Opt for the SMM on the Friday and cancel the wedding on Saturday?
Ever been between a rock and a hard place?
We decided that we would crack on with our wedding and if the miscarriage started, we’d cross that bridge as and when. It put everything in perspective. It helped us focus on us, and ironically, in among all the sadness, we had never been so close. We got married with such an intimacy between us. In a way, perfect.
We have wedding photos now of both of us holding the ‘bump’ subconsciously. These are sad photo’s but in a way a nice to have. No-one knew at the wedding, except the bridesmaids who had emergency “women things” just in case. That was brilliant though, it meant that no-one was upset for us or preoccupied. Everyone was able to just celebrate our love and our future.
Following the wedding day, we went away for 2 nights to a hotel. It was in the middle of no-where and just what we needed. Still no bleeding. We returned on the Tuesday night and the following morning the miscarriage started. It started off as a pain in the stomach. She knew it was happening, so we called for our 5th emergency appointment. They invited us in the following day. The bleeding was pretty constant and she had a permanent pain. What could I do to make it better? I tried! But, there isn’t anything. The helpless feeling of inadequacy was fraught and very real. Something no man should have to feel. But equally, something that makes you stronger. I draw on that feeling to help me in new situations now, and I’m sure it will benefit me when it comes to labour.
Although it was happening, it was a touch relieving to know that 7 weeks of uncertainty hope and despair had come to an end. Having the question of a viable or non-viable baby looming over you for that long is a big deal. At the scan we were booked in for an emergency SMM the following day. We didn’t know much about it, and despite the good reviews, google sometimes makes things worse. It didn’t sound like a nice procedure and it varied how long the recovery time was. Some said they came straight home and others said they spent the night. It was unknown territory and we were worried. We arrived at the hospital and got prepped for the procedure. It was really scary and as they wheeled Jen out the room it felt like my heart was being pulled out on a trolley too. I couldn’t go with her when she was scared, I wanted to comfort her, hold her hand and be there for her. Instead, I was in a cold room with just my thoughts as company. The slowest 2 hours and the loneliest 2 hours went by. When Jen came back into the room, I felt my eyes fill with water. I was relieved and elated to be able to see her. Frightful experiences really do bring you together. I think that in that moment my love multiplied to numbers unknown.
The next few hours were tough. Jen was woozy from the anaesthetic and needed help getting around. She was sore and uncomfortable. I just wanted to make it better for her. After lunch we felt it was OK to go home and get into our own bed. She would be more comfortable there and I could look after her better. We got home and it really was awful seeing Jen in such discomfort. She tucked up in bed and tried to rest. (McDonalds saved us from the hunger which had accumulated through the emotion!)
It was so hard to know how to be. Obviously I was vastly upset, but I didn’t want to be in front of Jen. I wanted to be strong and look after her. I knew that she already felt terrible, like she had done something wrong, so me crying would just add to that pain for her. In actual fact I thought I had done something wrong. Truth is though, no one had, and it’s just part of life. It seemed to go that when I was upset, Jen was fine and when she was upset, I was fine. It worked well for a while and we were able to comfort each other, but the moment that we both hugged and felt upset was something quite extraordinary. I think it was that moment that a new, unspoken connection/bond between us grew. I suppose that it is in these difficult, overcast situations that relationships can really develop. For that I am thankful, although I wouldn’t choose to reach it through this way.
Jen went back to work on the following Monday, hindsight says she probably shouldn’t have gone back so quickly. She was still in a lot of pain and not particularly mobile.
The whole thing was awful and something that will stay with me forever. It was a time of new, hard emotions and incredibly difficult decisions. The only comforting thing is that particular baby was obviously not well enough to survive, and this is a better way for us to understand than the awful traumas others go through.
Once we started to share what had happened with people, it is amazing to see how many people have been through miscarriage, including dads! I really believe that we shouldn’t hide these things that occur in our lives, but share them in safe environments. I hope that this will be an encouragement to any dad reading.
The last thing I want to say is that through all of this, my wife and I have drawn closer and closer together and are now appreciating, nurturing and experiencing a very special pregnancy.
Al is 26 and lives in Kent. He has baby boy on the way and a beautiful wife to share him with. Al runs The Dad Network, showing a dad’s perspective on parenting and becoming a father. He hopes it will promote fathers and encourage them to take active roles in family life.