November 10th begins like any other day in the autumn. The morning starts with darkness and a pot of coffee brewing. I wake up and start the day with a "Good Morning!" from my son and spouse. I am busy getting breakfast ready and preparing for the day ahead. This November 10th is a bit different and is feeling more empty than any other previous November 10ths in the past. Today was our due date for child number two.
This year has been a challenging one with so many new choices to make and live through. One we were exceptionally excited about in February was the news that we were pregnant with our second child after several years of off-again on-again trying to conceive. I was relieved, excited, and nervous as soon as my partner told me she was going to have another baby. I also remember feeling a different sense of excitement mixed with a little bit more serenity, knowing that I have done this before. I immediately started thinking about the first 3 months, the amount of diapers, feedings, swaddling, and routines that were going to take place and I was genuinely grateful and enthusiastic. These feelings told me that I was indeed ready for number 2 and that I would be able to do this all over again.
My partner was also excited, but also scared, anxious, and stressed about work schedules, time off postpartum. I can't tell you the totality of her range of emotions and feelings because as a biological father, there is no way I can tell you the amount of stress, pressure, and anxiety facing women today who are pregnant. My role is easy in comparison to all of the stigma surrounding pregnancy, changing body image issues, and postpartum expectations placed on new mothers.
We had been trying for years to get pregnant again. There were periods of not talking about it and not trying to trying too much. As with most experiences in life, there is a spectrum and ours was like others I have talked to about this process of dealing with fertility issues. There were times when I questioned myself and my partner's biology, physiology, and character during this process and vice versa. Some conversations were warm and others were cold. This also was like what others said about this process. Once we knew we were pregnant, we couldn't wait to tell our doctor, who had helped us through our first pregnancy. We looked forward to our 12 week check-up so we could see her in person. It was all I could have hoped for and more when we first saw our doctor. She was exuberant in her jubilation for us and we were swept up in it as well. She has always been such a caring physician and that came out in our appointment. We went through the usual intake questions at the beginning, identified the due date (November 10, 2015) and started talking about diet and up-to-date research on what to avoid, take in moderation, and to eliminate entirely. Then came the first ultrasound.
We found out that we lost the baby at the appointment. All of us wept. I was trying to stay positive, thinking that the equipment in the office wasn't catching all that was happening in the womb. It was confirmed later that day with an ultrasound. We both wept. We scheduled an appointment to finalize the process (DNC). We wept more. We then went home. We wept even more. Then we were faced with a pressure of do we talk about it. How do we talk about it? Are we even able to talk about it? Do we tell our son, who was 6 at the time? How do we tell him? What do we do? All while trying to make sense of or completely ignore the deep sadness that entered us.
I think there was this feeling of shame and that we should bear this ourselves. This is a common feeling from others I have spoken with about miscarriages. The mothers feel an overwhelming sense of blame and shame-"my body rejected the fetus", or "something's wrong with me" are what I hear reported most of the time. The fathers feel lost and unable to offer comfort to their partners or themselves because most often we are socialized to not talk about feelings. I felt a strong sense of failure not being able to protect my wife and unborn child. It was guttural and raw. I felt exposed and weak. Both of us have commented on how hard it has been to see expectant mothers, especially those that are due around our due date. We have shared this with one another and also not shared it as to not open the wound again and again.
Where does this behavior originate so that we silently suffer? Does it hold its roots in the civil conversation rhetoric that says to only talk about the superficial and to ignore the real? Have we lost touch with the permission to speak our pain and suffering as much as our joys and successes? Are we concerned about others' feeling discomfort in our pain? To me as a clinician, these are the tell-tale signs of unresolved grief and negative image of self. Grief, when gone unnoticed, unrecognized, or ignored, has a way of showing itself and permeating into every conscious experience over time. If it is addressed, it loses its power over us to keep us in a place of isolation and despair. To me as someone in the grieving process, it is difficult to bear. I notice that there is unresolved grief when I fixate on the same song (Small Bump, by Ed Sheeran) or look at a photo of my already beautiful family and see something missing rather than what is already there. We can't move forward when we don't acknowledge and work on the feelings we get from our grief.
November 10th is just like any other day in the autumn. We are choosing to do something a little different by taking a night away, just the three of us, in the hope to reflect on what we have, acknowledge what we lost, and attempt to move forward, together and not alone.
For more on the issues of miscarriage, infertility, and safe places to talk about it and other grief, request a consultation with dkp counseling or visit: