January 27, 2020
“She says it’s a pregnancy ‘of unknown viability’. A blighted ovum. She didn’t make eye contact and there seemed like a problem with the machine. She told me to come back in two weeks to see a doctor.”
What I’ve Learned About Supporting A Partner – And Yourself – Through Miscarriage
My partner was calling me from the hospital with news of the 12-week scan of our second child. The ‘she’ was a locum sonographer, who left my partner with an out-of-date medical term and without a clue what to do next. 
I googled ‘blighted ovum’ as my partner was on the phone. The first result? Call the pregnancy loss helpline. My heart sank. And then I felt anger – at her most vulnerable my partner was left to deal with a confusing bureaucratic process that encouraged us to believe the machine could have been wrong.
I was looking after our daughter, then just two years-old, who wanted to grab the phone and speak to her mummy.  We had toyed with the idea of taking her to the scan so she could see her brother or sister’s image on the screen.
I wished the machine was wrong but the rational part of my brain knew this was false hope. A second scan showed my partner had a ‘missed’ miscarriage which meant that the baby had died but there were no miscarriage symptoms, such as bleeding or pain. My partner was still having morning sickness that would only pass after she’d healed – a cruel, constant physical reminder of her pregnancyThe only uncertainty we faced was what to do next: the following day we saw an unhelpful GP who brusquely told us “the scan cannot be challenged”, and whose only recommendation was that my partner went back to work and ‘waited’ to miscarry. We were shocked, until our midwife took charge, contacted the right people and we were booked to remove the pregnancy. Meanwhile, my partner was still having morning sickness that would only pass after she’d healed from the procedure – a cruel, constant physical reminder of her pregnancy.
We were in shock for a few weeks after. We had not even considered there would be a single complication. We both remembered our first pregnancy and birth was straightforward (it wasn’t – my partner had chronic morning sickness, while I had a back operation on the baby’s due date). The miscarriage never would be remembered with any of this nostalgia. Even comparing the second pregnancy to stories of the first makes me feel queasy; to make light of this devastating loss seems horrendous.
But my partner needed support despite her ingrained stoicism and resilience. I was changing careers and in a position where I could put all my efforts into her wellbeing, and do more than my usual share of childcare. I made the bold call to almost march my partner to the GP’s surgery so she could get a sick note – naturally selfless, she was trying to cope by working even harder at her job. She didn’t want to cause a ‘fuss’ but I could see she desperately needed a safety net and time away from her colleagues who were mostly unaware of her silent suffering. We earmarked breaks from childcare, where I would listen as much as I could to my partner talk about how the loss had hurt her. These ‘date nights’ really helped us to keep our relationship strong so we could withstand the pain of losing our child. They weren’t fun, but they were necessary. 
Playing with our daughter was a bittersweet relief for us. We cherished her more (which I had never thought could be possible as she fills our lives with so much love) and began to hope we could ‘complete’ our family soon. Related... Birth Diaries: ‘My Husband Died When I Was 6 Months Pregnant’ The Miracle Baby Born After 8 Rounds Of IVF And Multiple Miscarriages Beyoncé Says Miscarriages Taught Her The Importance Of Self-Care Telling people really helped too. Conversations with neighbours made us feel part of a community, while talking to old friends strengthened our bonds. I felt an overwhelming gratitude and don’t think we will ever forget their thoughtfulness – especially as we were worried we would be overburdening them or they might feel awkward talking about the subject. Instead, we discovered how common it was for our friends to have endured the pain of miscarriages. Speaking up was important – if we’d known how common miscarriages were among friends, we might have felt more prepared for our loss.
But throughout all this, I hadn’t thought much about my mental wellbeing. I threw myself into childcare and supporting my partner. But I couldn’t face a pint with a mate who I thought would rather talk about football than the mourning process (that I was ignoring). Socially, I tend to prioritise entertaining friends over talking about important things, but I think many men don’t always like discussing the ‘adult stuff’ in life, as speaking about our actual problems means admitting we’re not young anymore. It’s easier to tell stories of our drunken days than face the fallout of life-changing events especially when you’re still processing the trauma.
That changed when I caught up with a friend of more than 20 years. Usually we just exchange anecdotes – in fact, our friendship is built on tall stories – but when I told him about our miscarriage, he didn’t change the subject. In fact, he did the opposite. He told me that he was relieved that I had told him as his wife had experienced miscarriage a year ago. Men need to do this more – we pigeonhole our friendships and I’ve learned that’s not always healthy. We need to let each other know that we’re there for one another. When you’re at your most vulnerable you need your friends to help you deal with the intense feelings of loss and sorrowThe second source I have to thank is my therapist. Some people probably think that I am lucky to afford this service – the truth is I barely can, but I’m grateful for the amazing advice and support. Mates are great but you also need someone impartial. My advice to anyone going through a miscarriage is that, whoever it is, speak to someone. When you’re at your most vulnerable you need your friends to help you deal with the intense feelings of loss and sorrow. Plus, it’s time we ended this idea that there’s a stigma for men who reach out for help particularly when they’re mourning. It’s not a weakness to speak about issues like miscarriage.
It’s taken me a year to but our miscarriage is something I now feel comfortable sharing. In many ways it’s liberating – I can be open and honest as to how difficult things were, but also about optimism for the future of our family. If there’s two things I’ve learned from all this, it’s how to value what you have got, and the importance of talking about what you’ve lost. We’re in a place now that hopefully some time soon we’d be lucky enough to share the news of a third pregnancy.
David Jesudason is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidJesudasonMore from HuffPost UK Personal This Is How My Dad’s Suicide Shaped The Parent I Want To Be I’m Tired Of People Not Making An Effort To Get My ‘Difficult’ Name Right I’m A Mental Health Nurse. This Is What It’s Like On The Frontline Of Our Strained Services
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