The first three months are a scary time for new moms. Since over 25 percent of pregnancies will end in a miscarriage during the first trimester, a new mom has reason to worry. New moms count the days and pray the baby lives until the second trimester, when the chance of a miscarriage drops dramatically. Nevertheless, the thought of a miscarriage is still of concern throughout the pregnancy. And not just for the new mom.
Although a new dad’s anxieties can’t compare with those of a new mom, the thought of a miscarriage is just as devastating and painful. When it does occur, the immediate response of others is to express compassion and sympathy for the new mom and dad, but just as it is with the news of the pregnancy, it isn’t long before the spotlight turns to the new mom, and the new dad is yanked off the stage and forgotten. Relatives, friends, and neighbors naturally focus their attention on the mom to comfort her and provide her with emotional support. After all, she is the one who was carrying the baby and had to deal with the unpleasant side effects of the miscarriage that include vaginal bleeding and passing of blood clots, which further complicates the feeling of loss for a new mom. Soon after the miscarriage, a mom can become so caught up in her grief that she unintentionally forgets that her husband is also grieving.
I attribute this behavioral trend to the nature of our culture. Unfortunately, there is a tendency in our society to not show the same level of sympathy and empathy to new dads as to new moms. As if to suggest that a mom’s bereavement is more painful than a dad’s, and that a new dad’s bond to the unborn baby that he has worked so hard to establish had no value. In our culture, a man’s role in the death of a loved one is to be the rock and the person giving emotional support, not receiving it. Well, guess what? The loss of life is equally as painful for a man as it is for a woman. A man also needs a shoulder to lean on, as these dads came to realize:
“A few days after we received news of the miscarriage, I was still pretty distraught. I wanted to talk to my wife about it. But after I saw how more distraught she was, I decided to just be there for her and worry about me later.”
“I received the usual sympathetic words. But as the days passed my wife was receiving all the attention. She was also receiving cards expressing sympathy for her loss. I was left alone to lick my wounds.”
“We already had names for the baby. The dreams I had hoped for as a dad suddenly vanished. It made the loss much more difficult.”
“The miscarriage happened so fast. I was a proud dad-to-be. Then all of a sudden our baby is dead, and I’m not a dad anymore. Next thing I know, my job is to console my wife. But nobody is around to console me.”
“I worked hard to bond with our baby. And now she is gone. Yet, people act as though I had no invested interest or relationship with the baby. I’m also grieving, but my wife has received most of the sympathy and hugs.”
“It has been six months since the miscarriage, and I’m still grieving the loss of our baby and being a dad.”
I think the reason there is a tendency for people to show more sympathy towards a new mom is that the mom is pregnant, and they view the miscarriage as synonymous with pregnancy loss. I don’t have a dispute with the fact that mom is pregnant. I am arguing that what has really occurred is the loss of a baby, especially if the baby already had a name. And also lost are dreams. Lost dreams of motherhood and fatherhood, watching a child grow and play sports, graduate high school and college, maybe get married and have grandchildren, and especially for some dads, a broken dream of adding a branch to the family tree.
Now there are circumstances in which a new dad may not experience the same level of grief, with reasonable explanation. The bond between a baby and mom is unique because the baby is growing inside her womb. This bond begins the moment a new mom receives news of the pregnancy, whereas a dad may not begin to develop a bond with the baby until seeing the ultrasound picture or after the baby is born. This means your husband may be less affected by the loss. This doesn’t mean his loss is any less painful but rather that his grieving period is less than a new mom’s. So don’t get upset at your husband for not showing the same depth of grief. It may be taking him longer to come to terms with the loss of the baby. But just because a dad doesn’t experience the symptoms of a pregnancy or a miscarriage doesn’t mean he is immune to the pain and grief. The gain that once was is now a loss for both mom and dad.
If you and your husband are one of the 25 percent who experience a miscarriage, my sympathy goes out to both of you. As you mourn the loss of the unborn baby, please don’t buy into the myth that men don’t acknowledge the death because they are afraid of the hurt and aren’t emotionally equipped to mourn the loss, or that men will not accept help and support. Men are equipped to grieve. People just don’t give new dads the compassion and sympathy they deserve. Give your husband a little more credit because he is also grieving. And if both of you are still struggling with the miscarriage, please read other books that address this issue or seek counseling.
Excerpted from 30 Things Future Moms Should Know About How New Dads Feel ©2010 Turner Publishing Company