A UK father-of-three has opened up about the pain of miscarriage and it offers a heart-wrenching insight into loss and grief, from a male perspective.
Warning: This post discusses baby loss.
A dad’s perspective
The 29-year-old Tunbridge Wells dad, Al Ferguson, was formerly a teacher and now works from home, caring for his children Louis, Isla and Ted.
In January, Al recorded and shared an emotional video on his The Dad Network Facebook page, discussing baby loss from a father’s point of view.
“This week, my wife and I found out that we are having our fourth consecutive miscarriage and our fifth in total. I’ve felt so many different emotions, from loneliness, despair, disappointment, sadness. For this one, the overriding emotion I have going through my entire body is real anger,” Al said in the clip.
He couldn’t conceal his disappointment and bitter feelings of being mislead.
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“I’m angry at the nurses and the doctors and the people who said that we have as much chance of having a normal pregnancy as anybody which isn’t true.”
“There have been times when I’ve been sat in a room with a medical professional and they say ‘Your chances are the same as everyone else.’ It gives you completely false hope.”
0.5 seconds of joy
Al reveals the couple’s initial excitement was soon erased by the fear and worry that go hand-in-hand with pregnancies experienced after baby loss.
“Just before Christmas, Jen told me she was pregnant. She put a positive pregnancy test in a cracker for Christmas. She said ‘come on, pull this with me’ and the positive pregnancy test fell out.”
Rather than be excited and joyful following the sweet reveal, Al quickly tempered his hopeful feelings, fearing further heartache may be ahead.
“I reckon I had 0.5 of a second of those feelings, before I literally feel the blood drain from my head and I’m left feeling anxious and worried and nervous. The point is, for someone who’s had miscarriage after miscarriage after miscarriage, that whole excitement around pregnancy and finding out that you’re pregnant is completely evaporated and not there,” Al explained.
“That’s really, really hard to deal with.”
“Maybe this one is okay”
Al said that this pregnancy seemed different, that his wife was glowing, had terrible morning sickness and developed a tiny baby bump which hadn’t happened in her other pregnancies. He had almost dared to hope for a more joyful outcome.
“My brain started going down that route of ‘Maybe this one is okay?'”
“The thing about miscarriage is that you can do everything by the book and still it happens. We’re five in now and we’ve asked doctors for advice and we’ve read books and we’ve tried to do everything we possibly can and still it happens,” he said tearfully.
Watching his wife go through such a traumatic experience left him feeling helpless.
“The most difficult thing by a long way is as a man, as a dad, I want to be there for my wife and one minute she’s lying on the sofa with a hot water bottle in incredible pain because she’s got cramps from the miscarriage. The next minute, she’s upstairs in the bathroom being sick from morning sickness. Just to even comprehend that is so abstract and the emotional toll that takes is unreal.”
“How could I put her body through this again”
Al explained that wife Jen was awaiting a procedure to end the pregnancy and admitted he was grappling with confusing, conflicting emotions.
“Jen’s carrying an unviable foetus. What that must be like, I have no idea. I can’t even begin to empathise with that.”
“At some point there is going to come a time where I have to accept that maybe I’m not supposed to have another baby. When you want something so bad and it’s not happening, its so hard to deal with.
“It’s taking its toll on Jen’s body, not my body, Jen’s body. Both our heads, but Jen’s body. To love, care and protect her is one thing. How could I put her through that again? How could I put her body through this again? Another operation. Another general anaesthetic. Weeks of pain.”
“Now I expect the worst”
This grieving dad said he’d been completely transformed by the loss of the couple’s babies and the trauma his wife has endured.
“My entire life I have been optimistic and hopeful and I’ve always tried to give the benefit of the doubt and look on the bright side of things.”
“Every cloud I’ve had has always had a silver lining. But this is changing the way I’m thinking. Now I’m hopeless. Now I’m pessimistic. People say “how are you?” The answer is “rubbish.” I am dreadful. I have never been worse.
Approach with care
Al urged people to approach discussion of baby loss with sensitivity and be careful not to minimise the pain parents endure when a pregnancy ends.
“The worst thing you can say to someone is, ‘But you’ve already got beautiful children,'” Al said.
“I fully understand that there are some people in the same situation who don’t have any children. That is incredibly difficult. But saying ‘It’s okay, you’ve already got children’ doesn’t make it okay.”
Coming to terms with what lies ahead has added an extra layer of difficulty to an already terribly painful experience. Perceptions of masculinity and the protection of marriage are weighing heavily on this dad.
“The question in my head is, ‘Will there be a next time?’ And I genuinely don’t know the answer to that.”
“Being terrified is not a very manly trait. I’m really, really scared. My heart is completely broken over this in every which way.”
“The woman I love is really suffering and we’re also grieving loss and just processing that is impossible.”
If you or someone you know has experienced the loss of a baby, there is support and valuable advice available via the good folk at SANDS. Please reach out for help and don’t endure an extremely difficult time alone.