Miscarriage is often spoken about by women. Of course, women endure the physical pain of passing an ‘inviable foetus’. But the mental pain is shared by both mother and father. Here, Papa Pukka speaks of miscarriage from a male perspective.
Do not say, ‘at least we can get pregnant’. What you’re really saying is ‘I did my bit,’ even if you don’t realise it.
Do not suggest that, ‘it’s kind of like a heavy period’ because it happened in the first trimester and the internet told you it was no bigger than a peanut or a poppy seed or an avocado pip.
Do not say, ‘it’ll work next time,’ because those are empty words and you don’t know if they’re true, and this isn’t the same as trying to start a 2002 Ford Fiesta.
Do not say, ‘at least it happened early’ when she is curled under your arm on the sofa and you have paused Netflix because she started crying. Because it doesn’t matter that it was early, it matters that it was there, and no amputee was ever made to feel better by being told they should be grateful for a clean cut.
Do not think that everything is fine because a week has passed and she only took a day off work.
Do not fail to be ‘the strong one’ when she weeps, weeks later, at coffee spilt on a rug. Or when she stands in the kitchen and with red eyes demands that you get more involved or give her more space, that you cook more or fuss less, that you talk about it properly or stop talking about it entirely.
Do not be ‘the strong one’ so much that you forget to tell her what you feel, whatever that might be. It might just be that she needs to see you cry to know that it matters to you too.
Do not rush to change channels whenever an infant appears on screen, like you are protecting a child from a horror film.
Do not say, when you discover that you are pregnant for a third time, that this one will ‘hang in there,’ because this is not a half-time pep talk for a struggling under-9s football team.
Do not fix your features to be blankly supportive whenever she talks to you, because in the end you’ll just end up looking like you’re talking to an elderly relative.
Do not feel ashamed that you are – on some unspeakable level – a little relieved that you have longer to save money or find a bigger place to live. But do not share that thought, either.
Do not forget about the moments when each pregnancy ended. Like the first time, when she wasn’t supposed to be pregnant at all because you’d only been seeing each other for a few weeks, but in that first flush you’d both failed to realise that antibiotics stopped the pill from working. When you spent four hours sitting in a strip-lit corridor in the Hammersmith Hospital, waiting for a female doctor (who looked like she might be about your age) and who confirmed that, ‘yes, it looks like you’re miscarrying’. The time when the West African nurse said ‘I’m afraid it’s just about waiting now, dear’ and gave you a thin mattress and wool blanket so you could sleep on the floor by her bedside. Until the next night, of course, when she was moved to a ward and you had to leave because, it ‘looks like everything has passed.’ Which you knew, of course, because in the wee hours when the nurse came to give more pain relief and clean up, you’d seen the butter-bean-sized amniotic sack in the grey cardboard kidney dish that they took away.
Or the second time, years later, when you were drunkenly singing Christmas carols and all wearing novelty jumpers over at a friend’s place and she, very sober, came out of the bathroom and said, ‘Can we get a taxi home?’ even though it was only 9.30pm and you immediately knew and became very sober yourself too but had to keep your big stupid Christmas grin on so you didn’t deflate anyone’s evening, and just said, ‘yeah sorry, we’re off, Anna’s tired’ and went home to lay next to each other and wait because you couldn’t do it in a hospital again.
Or the fifth time, when she was at daycare picking up your three-year-old daughter and was late because there was a signal failure on the Tube, and she had to ask to use the staff toilets (even though the staff were reminding her that pick-up was strictly 6pm at the latest and it’s ‘an extra pound a minute after that’), and she went in to the cubical and knew what was happening but still wasn’t ready for the sound of the little splash, like a penny falling in to a wishing well.
Do not let trying stop you from living.
Do not fail to tell trusted friends.
Do not stop talking.
And do not give up on each other.
Matt Farquharson (@papa_pukka) is a journalist, author and husband to @mother_pukka
One in six
One in six known pregnancies ends in miscarriage, with about 75% of those coming in the first trimester.
According to pregnancy research organisation Tommy’s, one in five UK women who miscarry have anxiety levels similar to people using psychiatric outpatient services. A third of women in the UK who receive specialist miscarriage aftercare are clinically depressed.
Recent research by Imperial College London suggests that four in ten women who miscarry suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result.