Unfortunately, miscarriage strikes those who fall pregnant far too often (1 in 4). And usually, the woman is the one who gets the majority of the support rather than the man, as she is the one who physically endures it.
Infertility also affects too many couples (1 in 8), and is becoming more and more prevalent. Again, the woman tends to receive most of the sympathy, of course with no ill will intended towards the man. The woman tends to talk more openly about the condition, and again, is often the one enduring the physical treatments associated with it.
Although miscarriage and infertility are not 1 in the same, both pull at my heartstrings.
In light of National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), I think it is important to take a minute to think of all those men who are plagued by infertility and/or miscarriage, too. Many times they are truly the silent sufferers.
I know this first hand, as it took my husband 3 recurrent miscarriages before he was able to start truly opening up about the losses, and our infertility journey… and I am sure he is not the only one.
A few days ago, a fellow blogger (miscarriage memoirs) posted the story below about a man who was grieving the loss of his wife’s pregnancies. It really touched me. No doubt, it was definitely worth the read.
In the aftermath of losing his child to miscarriage, Terry Maguire recalls his wife getting dreadfully upset about his apparent lack of emotion.
“Caroline thought I didn’t care,” he says.
“She was in pieces – her emotions were so raw and obvious that there was no mistaking what she was experiencing. While on the face of it I was just getting on with things and appeared very quickly to have put the upset behind me.
“Caroline just didn’t know what to make of that and so, as you’d imagine, it caused arguments.”
But while Maguire might have appeared to have sidestepped the terrible pain and despair that his wife had been plunged into having miscarried their first child 13 weeks into the pregnancy, this was actually far from the truth. In fact he was experiencing equal turmoil.
His feelings, which he kept hidden, tally with the findings of a major new study into how partners experience miscarriage. It found that they are unable to talk about it with their wives, or girlfriends, and feel sidelined by a lack of professional support.
“I was struggling to sleep, had this terrible sense of emptiness and deep sadness deep inside of me, all combined with a constant churning sensation in the pit of my stomach,” agrees Maguire
“But I didn’t feel able to share any of this with Caroline, because she was in bits herself. She’d physically lost this baby that we both so desperately wanted and I felt I had to be strong for her. In my mind she needed a rock.”
One thing stopping Maguire, 52 – a publican in Chelmsford, Essex – from letting his wife see his own distress, was an all-too common sense that her heartache was somehow more valid than his own.
“She’d been carrying our child,” he explains. “She had to go through the dreadful experience of having the remains of the pregnancy surgically removed and so was having to deal with it all on a physical, as well as an emotional level.
“I felt my role was to be practical; to deal with the doctors and nurses and be the person who would sort everything out so that she at least didn’t have to think beyond her own personal suffering. But in fact what she really needed was to also see that I was grieving, too. I just didn’t know how to let all that out.”
Maguire believes men has difficulty in opening up following the trauma of miscarriage, in part, due to the way pregnancy is, until then, a shared experience. But once it ends, the focus changes.
“You spend all those weeks looking at pregnancy books and magazines together,” he explains. “You talk about baby names; what sex you’re hoping for and which features they might inherit. You announce there’s a baby coming to your family and friends and everyone gets behind you both; it’s such a joyous and exciting time.
“We’d already been told everything was fine with our baby at eight weeks – we’d conceived through IVF because of fertility problems and so had an early check up. All we’d expected from this follow up scan was to be told that everything was progressing normally and get a peek at our baby.
“To go from a position of great excitement, looking forward to a new chapter opening in your lives, to suddenly being told that it’s all over is a devastating blow.
“At that point it all becomes about the woman – is she ok? How is she feeling? What needs to be done to help her through it?
“Everyone was asking after Caroline. But only one person asked how I was coping with it all – and that happened to be a fellow man who had been through miscarriage himself.”
The Maguires went on to lose two more babies to miscarriage before their son, Turlough, was born 21 months ago. Experience didn’t make these ordeals any lighter for either to bear. But over time, through talking, the couple found ways to support each other through them.
“Caroline pointed out to me that I had as much right to grieve as she did, because these lost babies were as much mine as hers. It helped her to see that I was upset, too. Sharing how much I was hurting also made her feel less alone in her pain.”
“At one hospital visit I picked up a leaflet for the Miscarriage Association. It gave information about how common miscarriages are and described the feelings I was experiencing as being very normal for any man. I visited their website, which was a great resource.”
Maguire says this charity was a huge help. He just wishes he had been directed to it on day one following the first miscarriage, rather than having stumbled across a leaflet himself many months down the line.
“I felt invisible after the miscarriage,” he says. “That’s something health professionals – and family and friends – should take on board when they’re dealing with couples who have lost a child in this way.
“Talking about the deep sense of loss I had been left with was incredibly helpful, whether that was with Caroline, or my family and friends.
“I’d go as far as to say that’s something that should be offered up to all men, perhaps through counseling, or just as an idea that’s generally encouraged within families.
“It really does make a world of difference.”