Have you ever felt unseen? Have you ever felt like no one knew what you were going through?
When it comes to the pain of losing a child during pregnancy, as a man, there are so many struggles.
Here are a few feelings I experienced during that time. Maybe you can identify with some of them.
I felt unseen.
When losing a baby, as a man, it can be easy to feel unseen.
For me, everyone asked, “How’s Ash?” Very few individuals asked about me. But my pain was real. It was deep.
We were pregnant together. But it felt like the baby was more Ashley’s than mine. Why did it feel this way?
I cannot give birth, I cannot carry a baby in my body, I cannot feed a baby. But our baby was mine. He had my DNA.
And though my pain has not been acknowledged by many, my pain was deep.
There are so many unseen elements of miscarriage. The baby was unseen except by the ultrasound and if mom was showing. A man’s grief can go unseen. And a woman can feel unseen as well.
Often, many couples have not even made a public announcement when the life is lost.
Unseen grief can be a precursor to other emotions as well: anger, loneliness, disappointment.
I felt hopeful for the future and then suddenly so disappointed.
The reality is that this child was going to live in our home, we were going to introduce him to his brothers, and we would have taught him to walk and ride a bike.
Since Ashley and I had our two oldest boys during several of our miscarriages, we had to explain this loss to them. Looking at my boys and telling them what happened to the little sibling was so painful. It was overwhelming to see them hurt.
I felt like a failure.
There was nothing I could do… really? Nothing I could have done to save my child?
This was such a weak place to be in. With each of our children I have asked myself, can I provide for and protect this child? And with the little ones we lost, I failed by that standard. I failed to provide a safe and healthy start to life, and I failed to protect our older boys from the pain of loss.
I felt weak, and the hurt that came along with that sense of failure was intense.
I felt inadequate.
I felt a responsibility to protect and provide for my family, pressure to be strong when I felt weak, and a need to offer hope for a situation that I had no control over. I felt inadequate to fulfill these duties.
I wasn’t sure how to make it better.
I felt distant.
Losing a baby before birth is hard for a man because we often never get to hold the child that we lost in any kind of way. We wait for the physical touch that the mom has been getting, and it never comes. This can make the loss that much harder for the mother because of the connection, but the father can just feel so distant.
With one of our babies we lost, I got to hold him. A tiny, little one who represented months… years…of hope. I got what Ashley was going through on a deeper level in that moment.
It changed me. I will never forget it.
As men, we’re not always sure that we should or that others really want us to express our emotions.
When it comes to expressing emotions, we, as men can have a harder time, sure. But men experience the same number of emotions as women.
Maybe sometimes men are too competitive to share their feelings with one another.
With our partner, we don’t want to appear weak. And if we feel like women have so much more of a reason to be upset than we do, we can resist expressing how we feel.
If a man wants to “fix” the bad feelings, it does not make sense to add to the bad by sharing in that same grief. But the truth is, by not expressing, we are just creating distance when a woman wants closeness.
We create an appearance of apathy when the woman needs empathy. And we really are hurting, too; we are simply battling so many other experiences as well.
Losing a baby is hard. What emotions have you experienced?
What do you do with these emotions?
Connect with someone. Realize you’re not alone. Reach out. It will make you a better man, a better father.