Warning: The following post delves into distressing topics, including grief and miscarriage. If these subjects might trigger emotional distress, please consider not reading further. This article aims to shed light on the often-overlooked grief of fathers during such challenging times.
I never imagined I’d be writing about miscarriages. Hell, I never thought I’d be circling a hospital parking lot trying to find a space, excited about becoming a dad. But life has a funny way of playing out.
For twelve weeks, my wife and I were on cloud nine. We were going to be parents. I’d never before thought about having kids. Me, have kids? I could barely take care of myself, let alone become a responsible parent. But it felt right now. I was with the right person, it felt like the right time. It all felt right.
Then, the universe, God, life, (choose your flavor) decided to deal us a cruel hand.
We wandered around and backtracked some corridors in the maze of the hospital until we found the prenatal ward. The receptionist took my wife’s name, only acknowledging her.
In the waiting area, we shared seats with mothers in all the different stages of pregnancy. One lady looked so pregnant that she looked like she was hugging an inflatable exercise ball. There was a comforting feeling in that room, a shared anticipation of new beginnings. The idea of becoming a parent started to sink in.
After a short wait, we were ushered into a small room. My wife was propped up on a fixed gurney bed, and I was seated by her on a classroom plastic chair. The nurse squeezed a large blob of jelly on my wife’s belly and we both nervously laughed when I said; “Jelly belly.”
The ultrasound screen came to life and the nurse started to slide the sensor over my wife’s abdomen. A little cashew-shaped body formed on the screen. “Oh my God, is that our baby?” I asked, not just to the nurse but partly to myself.
I don’t know if it was the hesitation, or that the nurse was blinking so quickly, or that she wouldn’t turn toward us, but something felt off.
She continued to scan and click on the keyboard. I squeezed my wife’s hand a little tighter and continued to watch the screen hoping that what I felt was just nerves.
The nurse slowly turned to us and repeatedly apologized, she said some things, but I only heard two words.
No heartbeat. Two words that felt like a punch in the gut.
Things shifted pretty quickly, a second nurse was called in for a second opinion. I felt like a spectator in a tragic play watching the nurses looking at the screen.
The nurses left the room to give us a moment, and it was the quietest the world has ever felt to me.
The weight of the situation left me with a single word, “Sorry.” and I held my wife in my arms.
And in that moment I wanted to make my wife feel okay, Like many men in difficult situations, I wanted so much to fix the unfixable, to shield my wife from this pain. So I just held her tight and hoped that was enough. In those moments I wanted to make my wife as comfortable as possible, I wanted her to start grieving fully and start the painful journey of healing as soon as she could.
It was in the last room that it struck me, that in that moment of shared pain, how the world seemed to see only my wife’s grief. From our entry into the ward, I felt invisible. No greetings, no acknowledgment. The miscarriage nurse continued to tell my wife about the different options for post-miscarriage. Knowing that my wife was probably still in shock, I asked follow-up questions to make sure my wife had the information she needed to make the right decision. I had a surreal experience where I was asking the questions, and the nurse was replying to my wife as if had been her that asked the question. She needed all the support. But hey, I lost my child too.
Back at home, I made my wife as comfortable as I could. When things were settled I turned to meditation. I’m no stranger to trauma and grief, but this was a new kind of pain and suffering I’d never experienced before.
Practicing meditation and mindfulness has never been so important to me as it is now. Earlier in life I had created a lot of pain for myself by compartmentalizing and suppressing any feelings. Like a fertile tree, the pain grows if you bury it. So I began silently saying to myself “Let the sadness in.” It became my mantra.
I let the feelings surface, the helplessness, the sadness, the anger, the guilt, the confusion, the disbelief, all the different spectrum of emotions bubbling under the subconscious. Two emotions didn’t want to be ignored; the frustration that I couldn’t fix things for us, and the hurt I felt for being ignored by all the hospital staff.
Some might read this and think, “Eddie, it’s not about you.” And they’re right. But it’s not just about my wife either. It’s about both of us. And every other dad out there who’s felt this pain and felt alone in it.
So, to all the dads who’ve been through this: Your pain matters. Your grief is real. And it’s high time the world acknowledged it.
The Self-Compassion Break
If you’re going through dark times, the following practice can help. Research has shown that using self-compassion can help stop us from spiraling into emotional chaos. It’s called The Self-Compassion Break and was created by Dr. Kristen Neff.
- Acknowledge the Pain: Think of something that’s bothering you. Feel it in your body. Then tell yourself, “This is a moment of suffering” or simply, “This hurts.”
- Realize You’re Not Alone: Everyone faces challenges. It’s part of the human experience. Remind yourself, “Suffering is a part of life. I am not alone in this.”
- Offer Yourself Kindness: This is where you comfort yourself. Maybe place a hand over your heart and say, “You’re dealing with this the best you can.”
- (Optional) Take Action: Think of something that might help, even if it’s just a little. A bath, a walk, a chat with a friend, or even more meditation.
Repeat these steps as needed. Let them sink in. Let them comfort you.
For more support, please consider the following organizations: