When Fathers Weep
Hollywood movies, fiction novels, the marketing industry, and even the Bible have, for as long as we can remember, portrayed men like the tough (sometimes emotionless) protectors of the realm in which they find themselves. One can merely take a walk down memory lane through decades of amongst others, tobacco advertising campaigns – Paul Revere on his horse, the Camel ads and even the many seasons of Benson & Hedges as the primary sponsor of SA cricket – all of which consisted of rough and tough cowboy-types who were portrayed as “real” men.
It’s almost as if the advertising industry created a false image in the eyes of the world. Although men are by nature protectors, physically stronger than women, and taught to be emotionally stable, no matter what; has anyone ever really thought about whether the proverbial Paul Reveres of yesteryear were fathers or almost-fathers? If the cricket player, taking that brilliant catch or scoring yet another 50, experienced only numbness just before a match.
The reality of miscarriage is something that has been around for many years. The total destructive footprint it leaves with the mother is echoed in many memoirs recorded by psychologists, who work to patch up those broken souls after losing their first, or only chance of becoming a mother.
Amid all the despair and brokenness stands a silent figure, the “rough and tough” Paul Revere of the house; awkwardly rubbing his wife`s back or holding her hand, while her tears fall. He might steal a glance at his mobile phone, where yet another message from a close friend or family member comes in asking how his wife is doing and whether she is ok.
His wife, through her despair, leans on her husband, and all he can do is muster up an attempt of a reassuring smile and continues to hug her to soothe her fractured soul.
Not many are aware of the hidden sorrow within this man.
“I will never, for as long as I live, forget the events that unfolded in 2015.”
My wife and I, as many expectant couples do, were overjoyed with the news that we would be parents for the first time in early 2016.
We made plans, had a few minor tiffs about names, themes of the baby’s room, and went about excitedly creating innovative ways of breaking the news to our parents; that were to become grandparents for the very first time.
The day we were told about the miscarriage, a new type of despair within me was created. It was the thing nightmares are made of. All I could do was put all my effort into supporting my wife and buried my feelings deep down to cope. I still remembered every moment of that day as if it were yesterday.
The next morning, I took my wife to have the procedure done to evacuate the remains out of my wife’s womb. The medical term for this is a “D&C.” However, to me, it was scraping away evidence of a life that was once there. One of the most challenging things I have ever had to do was to walk out of my wife`s room so that they could take her into theatre. The reality in my mind was that her beautiful belly was our child, and in hindsight, I came to the realization that I was saying goodbye to a pregnant tummy. I wandered around the hospital aimlessly in a state of shock.
When we eventually returned home, my wife was trying over and over again, to make sense of what just happened to her baby and her body. We spent hours sitting with each other in stillness, me almost stony-faced, awkwardly holding onto my beloved wife. I used the excuse that I needed to freshen up to steal a moment of alone-time. As I shut myself away in the bathroom, my body fell to the ground, and I broke down uncontrollably.
How could this have happened? How, as a man, could I have been prepared for this eventuality. How am I going to cope with this? How is it possible to be there for my wife, yet deal with the feeling that something was ripped from my soul?
The next morning we both woke up a lot earlier than usual, and emptiness filled the room; it was then that I allowed myself to break down in front of my wife, and we wept together for what felt like hours.
Within the trauma of a miscarriage, lies the stigma that the man doesn’t feel the pain that his wife or partner goes through. So, my mission is to break that stigma because, honestly, I had no idea how to handle the pain I was going through.
I am fully aware that a mother goes through indescribable pain both emotionally and physically, dealing with the loss on both levels, not to mention the hormonal chaos she goes through as her body needs to re-adjust after a sudden change. However, what the world seems to shy away from, though, is that the silent father figure, trying to hide his emotions to support his wife, and wears a fake smile while letting the family know that his wife is better than yesterday; is equally as devastated. I am acutely aware that support for a husband or partner gets lost in the attempt to comfort the mother.
According to the British Miscarriage Association, it is suggested that “More than 50% of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage or stillbirth, but that almost half of all men whose partners miscarry never speak about their grief with their partner for fear of saying the wrong thing.”
“Why is that? Are we as a society programmed to that extent to suggest that men cannot show emotions and shouldn’t cry? “
Here`s a thought and my contribution to the above study: It is not because of a weariness that you might hurt your partner, that keeps us silent. Although we are shattered beyond recognition, amidst this storm, we don’t recognise our own weeping hearts.
Fathers are just used to suffer in silence. Not because we want to, but for one; that is what society demands; and secondly (and this is my belief ), we don`t know how to grieve appropriately. We are meant to be warriors, protectors of our realms, we are supposed to ride horses into the sunset, and yet the crumbling, weeping heart of a father is unreal to us as men, but it is as real as the mother that struggles with her own her sorrow.
Strangely enough, it appears that studies had to be conducted to see the effect of what a miscarriage has on men. Taking society`s false perception into account, are these studies led to see how men can be counselled, or is it done to see if men are supporting their wife or partner correctly?
Although attempts to remove the stigma are in play, I believe more needs to be done to support fathers going through losing a baby. Men need to write about the suffering of men; without taking away the sorrow of a mother, it must be noted. When a couple experiences a loss like this, immense healing is needed for both parties. It doesn`t matter how “normal” a miscarriage may be by listening to medical explanations of the fragility in the first 6-8 weeks of pregnancy. Miscarriage cannot be compared to anything remotely near “normal.”
Every year in the birth-week of our baby (our “Froggie”) as the first scan resembled a little tadpole, this father`s heart weeps over and over again.