Miscarriages are sadly more common than we think in the UK with one in four pregnancies ending in miscarriage and one in a hundred women experiencing recurrent miscarriages.
During this tragic time, male partners can often get overlooked as the focus is on the woman (and rightly so, as she not only has the emotional effects but the physical and hormonal effects to deal with).
The male partner has a role to play in comforting and supporting his partner but how does he deal with his grief?
Sadly, not very well according to a survey I recently conducted. It concluded that 95% of men had no or little support during this time and none of them were offered counseling, although some said if they’d asked for it at work it would have been provided. In the main, they just got on with it and often floundered and were at a loss as to how to comfort their partners or know what to say.
I know when I suffered my miscarriages, my husband was distraught but didn’t know how to comfort me, so he buried his pain in his work which seems to be an all too familiar pattern for men going through this trauma.
My survey also uncovered that a shocking 85% didn’t speak to anyone and the 15% who did, felt they didn’t get enough support from their mates – simply because they either didn’t understand what they were going through or just didn’t know what to say. “Better luck next time mate,” doesn’t really cut it.
My advice as a Miscarriage Mentor with more than 20 years of experience in wellbeing is to seek out groups of dads who are going through a similar experience. You will find that there are a lot of other people going through it and they will understand where you’re coming from. This allows you to open up and share your experience.
If you’re struggling to know how to support your partner, ask what she needs. She may prefer to be left alone to cry and knows it would be upsetting for you, or she may want to cry in your arms. Everyone is different, but by letting her know you’re there for her in the way she needs you to be will help. In my experience it can come across uncaring and inappropriate to suggest trying again soon; she will need time to process THIS loss because she wanted THIS baby. Give it time before suggesting it.
If counseling /mentoring is offered, take it. In hindsight, 42% of men wished they had received some as the support they got from friends and family just wasn’t enough.
One of the men I have worked with, John, said being positive and focusing on the future with his partner really helped and eventually led them to successfully having a family. But, like a lot of men, the experience of loss and grief over losing a baby never fully goes away. Of all the men I spoke to about their experiences, 57% said they feel that they have processed it and come to terms with what happened, but it never fully leaves them.
Jo Tocher is offering a free 20 minute conversation to anyone that is affected by this. Please contact her on her site: life-after-miscarriage.com
Baby Loss Awareness Week: 9th – 15th October