20. Families suffer miscarriages together

On July 2nd 2011, I attended a wedding. Alone. I watched the happy couple say their vows. Alone. I toasted the speeches. Alone.

My wife, Kayleigh, was not with me that day. Just twenty-four hours earlier I was sat, alone, in a hospital room, waiting for her to return from surgery. She was undergoing an Evacuation of the Retained Products of Conception (ERPC) procedure, to surgically remove the remains of our first child.

So, why did I go to that wedding? Because I didn’t want to let my friends down? Because I wanted to pretend that life was normal? Because I wanted to show my wife that I could be strong in the face of adversity? Because I wanted to escape? Because I didn’t feel that I, as the man, had any excuse not to go?

All of the above. This is the world of men and miscarriage.

Most people were non-the-wiser that day. I made plausible excuses for Kayleigh’s absence. “She’s ill”. Not a million miles from the truth. I acted happy. I celebrated. I smiled. My first child had been taken away, and yet I acted happy, celebrated, and smiled.

For men, there are no physical consequences of miscarriage. And so, as miscarriage is quite commonly considered to be a temporary physical ailment, there is often little thought given to how it impacts upon a father. It can be isolating. It can be confusing. It can be heart-breaking. Society expects men to carry on, be strong, and look after their wife.

The reality is that women don’t suffer miscarriages alone. Families suffer miscarriages together.

On March 8th 2012, we went to have an ultrasound scan. We were told that our second child had died. Of all four miscarriages that we suffered, this was the toughest. We’d heard the heartbeat of this child the week before. We have ultrasound photographs of this child. We thought that the first miscarriage (diagnosed as a complete molar pregnancy) was a one-off low-point in our lives, and weren’t expecting to lose another child.

My first day back at work following the worst day of my life? March 9th. The next day.

During the course of four miscarriages, spanning two years, Kayleigh took a number of weeks off work to recover both physically and emotionally. The number of days that I took off work during the whole time could be counted on one hand, without the need for every finger.

The pressures on men are different. The expectations of men are different. Nobody forced me to carry on as normal, but I felt like it was the done thing.

I remember everything about March 8th 2012. I remember what I did that morning. I remember the CD I listened to on the way to the hospital. And I remember the noise I made when we were told that our child was dead. More than three years on, I haven’t listened to that CD since.

From the second miscarriage onwards, we started to wonder if we would ever have children. One miscarriage is upsetting, unfortunate and unsettling. Two miscarriages feels like a pattern. It’s a recurrence. And the nature of our second miscarriage, having seen and heard our child before losing it, made us feel particularly helpless.

If you’ve read Kayleigh’s blog, you’ll know that I never gave up on our hopes of having a baby. I never said that we couldn’t do it. I insisted that one day we would look back on this period of our lives with a different perspective, as a tough time we had to go through before starting our family.

I honestly don’t know if I remained steadfast and strong because I felt I had to, or because I truly believed it. In any case, I’m glad I did. I think it helped us both. I became very protective of Kayleigh. In particular, I was determined to keep her spirits up. I wanted her to feel as positive as I did that we would get there in the end. I felt that if she lost hope, then we would never get there, as if there were some link between a woman’s mental positivity and her likelihood of miscarriage.

I’m glad I stayed strong and positive, but it was mentally isolating. It meant not always telling Kayleigh how I truly felt about things. It even meant hiding things from her, such as stories of others’ hardships or successes that were affecting me. It meant remaining resilient when we lost our third and fourth children, despite the speed and inevitability of those miscarriages casting ever longer shadows on our dreams.

Our fifth pregnancy brought with it many new challenges. And, because this was a successful pregnancy, those challenges were spread across a nine-month tension-filled period between July 2013 and April 16th 2014.

Firstly, there was the responsibility to support and help Kayleigh with the treatment programme prescribed by our consultant, Professor Quenby. For fourty-two consecutive days (between weeks six to twelve of pregnancy), Kayleigh had to inject herself with heparin. I was there, every evening, encouraging my needle-phobic wife that she could do this, and clearing up her sharps once it was done. Words can’t describe her bravery to do this fourty-two times.

Secondly, as our baby began to grow and move, I found it very difficult to be the one who couldn’t feel if things were OK or not. Kayleigh could feel our baby moving, squirming and kicking. She could feel sickness, or other hormonal indicators. She could feel that things were OK. Whereas I was often sat at my desk, or on a train, or out on a run, worrying that my baby might not be alright. I felt like I needed constant reassurance that we hadn’t lost baby number five. Men don’t feel the physical reassurances when things are going well. Men simply feel tense, worried and helpless.

Thirdly, I still felt the need to act strong, carry on and power through in the face of distress. There was a day in December 2013 when Kayleigh text me to say that the baby had been moving less than normal, and that she was going to the hospital to have it checked out. I received that text message less than ten minutes before making a high-pressure presentation in front of two directors at work. I stood up and made that presentation, whilst my mind was filled with the dread that this might just turn out to be the most devastating day of my life to date.

It wasn’t until 21:06 on April 16th 2014 that I felt any sense of relief. Our son had been born, and he was OK. I feel it’s a little disingenuous and inconsiderate to eulogise about Blake during a miscarriage blog, but needless to say I love him very much.

This blog post is relatively short, but I hope that other men can relate to some of the emotions and circumstances that I faced. Doing things alone. Feeling isolated. Acting differently to how you feel. Hiding emotions. Experiencing helplessness.

Raising awareness of miscarriage is a battle that campaigners are beginning to win. But the rhetoric is still too strongly weighted towards this being a thing suffered by women. Only recently am I beginning to see the media talking about the impact of miscarriage on fathers. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently brought the issue to a global audience, revealing the three miscarriages that he and his wife suffered. Miscarriage Association Patron Nigel Martyn (former footballer) and Ambassador Matthew Burton (from ‘Education Yorkshire’ – coincidentally my namesake!)  have done much to raise the issue in the UK.

On October 11th 2015, I’ll be running the Yorkshire 10 Mile race. The race coincides with the annual Baby Loss Awareness Week (October 9th – 15th), which culminates in Baby Loss Awareness Day (October 15th).

If you’d like to sponsor me, and contribute towards our ongoing fundraising for research into recurrent miscarriage and molar pregnancy, you can do so here https://www.justgiving.com/teams/KayleighandMatt. You can also sponsor me by texting KMBU66 £5 to 70070.

Women don’t suffer miscarriages alone. Families suffer miscarriages together.

Help us to #BreakTheTaboo

Matt Burton, August 2015

Advertisements

24 thoughts on “20. Families suffer miscarriages together

  1. Thanks Matt…..not ashamed to say reading this with tears streaming down my face. I sporadicaly have these pressure releases of emotion. Your words sum up my experience although I must admit I was a little more of a pessimist. After 9 losses I still vivdly recall hugging in the doctors preg 1, the stillness of the image in 2 and 3, the name picked for 4, the vunerability of my wife ayns post surgery, the achng fear of 5,6and 7 and hopelessness of 8 and 9. Although Mila is with us now and helping to heal I will never forget the ain our little family went through and to see Mila grow only serves as a reminder sometimes of what is lost. Thanks.

    • Hi Dale

      Thanks for being brave enough to comment and share your experiences. It’s important that more men feel able to talk about this.

      I’m so sorry to hear of your 9 losses, but happy to hear that you now have Mila. Blake brings us to much joy, and we gave him the middle name ‘Quin’ in order to remember that he is one of 5 babies.

      Some of your words resonate very much with me, in particular “the stillness of the image”. I know how that feels.

      Best wishes to you and your family in the future

      Matt

  2. Such an important post Matt. Broke my heart to read it as the subject is close to my heart. I applaud you for speaking up. I will be sending this to a close friend of mine for some solace.

    • Hi Alison,

      Many thanks for commenting and for your kind words. It’s lovely to hear that my blog might bring solace to someone.

      Thanks again
      Matt

      • Hi there, I really love your blog and this post in particular really struck a chord with me. I recently suffered my fourth miscarriage, and we were reminded (yet again) just how important to is to realise it affects not just the woman, but the partner, and the wider family too. I’ve decided to start my own blog to help me make sense of my experiences – it won’t be about mc per se, as there’s other things I’ve wanted to blog about for a while but just never had the courage! I will do a post about my most recent mc though, and I wondered whether you would be ok with me linking to your blog/this post to highlight it as a blog that I’ve found real comfort from. I’d be very grateful if you could let me know either way – thanks. Lucy

      • Hi Lucy,
        I’m so so sorry for your losses. I found writing the blog such an emotional process, but it really helped getting it all down too. Of course you can link to our blog.
        I hope you get your own happy ending soon,
        Kayleigh x

  3. I too went to a wedding the day after a miscarriage. It was my sister’s wedding and my first miscarriage. It was expected, as we too had found out at a scan that our baby had not developed properly, and the hospital wanted me to have an ERPC the day we drove to the wedding, but of course I couldn’t not be a bridesmaid for my sister. My poor husband had to drive me up to Yorkshire, even though I should really have been in hospital. I was too caught up in my own pain and misery that night as I lost the baby and throughout the wedding the next day to appreciate what my husband was also going through. He has been there throughout everything, our 2nd loss, a successful but incredibly stressful subsequent pregnancy, and the months and months of trying for a 2nd baby, all the tests which showed it probably wouldn’t happen, and finally our miracle 2nd baby. All through that he cared for me, but suffered too. I think one of the things he found the hardest was that few people seemed to care about him. Everything was focused on me and it was almost as if he was just a spare part. More people really need to consider the other person in these situations.
    Thank you for your post. It has made me appreciate the support my husband gave me even more than I already did.

    • Hi there

      Thank you for sharing your story. I think a lot of people have shared our experience of suffering miscarriage yet feeling the pressure to keep commitments and act as if things are normal. I can’t imagine the difficulty of being a bridesmaid whilst going through that.

      I’m glad that my blog has helped you to understand your husband’s experience (though I’m sure you were already there for him and appreciated his support)

      Matt

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. We sadly has a 34week stillbirth in March and are currently having a miscarriage. I know my husband is being strong just for me, which I wish he wouldn’t, we are a partnership, I shall share your post with him so he knows he’s not alone xx

  5. Matt such a lovely post, and wonderful to hear it from the point of view of the other half. This goes for our mums, dads and sisters too I expect. We’ve just experienced our 5th loss and I can tell you I worry every day about how my hubby is doing while I take time out to recover, but like you he’s incredibly strong and too good at hiding how he feels.

    • Hi there

      Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad you liked the blog.

      You’re right, there are other perspectives to consider too. A whole family is affected by miscarriage.

      Very sorry to hear about what you’re currently going through. Don’t give up

      Matt

  6. Hi Matt,

    I am reading this (for about the 5th time), 5 days after my wife and I were told we’d lost our first baby. We’re still coming to terms with it, but reading success stories like yours makes me hopeful that we will be successful next time around. Thanks for sharing your story as it has really helped me over the last few days.

    • Hi there

      I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, but glad to hear that you have found some comfort in the blog.

      I know you’ll be going through hell right now, but try to stay positive and believe that next time will be successful.

      Don’t give up

      Matt

  7. Dear Matt, what an excellent piece. I commend you for you honesty and bravery and willingness to share your (and your partner’s) experiences. Men so often get lost and forgotten about in the mire of pregnancy loss. I am just completing my phd into couples experiences of pregnancy after loss and it mirrors much of what the men in my study had to say. Please continue with the open discussion, it is only in talking about our losses that society will acknowledge the effect that grief and loss have and provide the supports needed. Best wishes Margaret

    • Hi Margaret

      Many thanks for your support and kind words.

      It’s great to hear that you are researching the topic. I hope your PhD is published and contributes to the awareness raising campaign!

      Matt

  8. Hi Matt, I’m another who struggled to read your post. It thank you for writing it. My wife has this week lost the second of our unborn twins, and as much as I have tried to stay strong I must say I have managed until today, when I got a phone all from my boss at work asking why I wasn’t in! To say I’m angry is an understatement. I feel completely let down by an organisation I have given my all as a Police Officer to for 14 years. That’s gratitude for you and has undone the last thread of good will I have. The suffering we as a couple have experienced has just been completely glossed over by our employer and something needs to be done to raise the awareness and understanding. Why is it you can have time off to grieve for a relative, yet are expected not to grieve for your unborn children?

  9. […] Miscarriage is not just about women. It affects partners too – the hopes for a much longed-for (or even unplanned) pregnancy are likely to be no less intense (if probably in different ways) for the partner as for the woman who goes through the physical ordeal. The prevailing view of miscarriage as simply an event that women experience completely overlooks the fact that men can also experience serious trauma from it, not least in watching their partner go through intense physical and emotional pain. There still isn’t very much written about men’s experiences of miscarriage. One blogger whose partner wrote very movingly about miscarriage from a man’s perspective is worth a look here. […]

  10. Hi Matt I’m a little late reading this but every single word resonated with me. My wife and I have sadly suffered 7 recurrent miscarriages and they don’t get any easier for my wife. But it’s a source of comfort to have someone write so beautifully about everything from the man’s point of view. Your comment about the day after having to go back especially hit home as I had been at work when my wife went for the scan where we discovered our baby had died and I felt terrible I wasn’t with her. Thanks again for speaking up for all men who have suffered

    • Hi Jim,

      I’m glad that my blog was able to bring you some comfort, and remind you that you’re not alone. I really hope that you and your wife get there soon.

      All the best
      Matt

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s