Coping with the loss of a baby in pregnancy
The loss of a child can be one of the most devastating experiences a parent has to endure. How do you go from a hopeful dream of building a family to saying goodbye to a future you will never know? It is a traumatic experience for a family; erroneously an experience where much of the focus is on the person who has miscarried: the mother. And yes, there is a unique physical pain for a mother who has to endure the implications of a miscarriage – but we often underestimate the impact of this loss for a dad who too will experience an overwhelming sense of loss. Often, dads put the expectation on themselves to remain strong and hold things together for his family. This article looks at some of the steps you can take to help you move forward with your loss…
The sad truth is that 1 in 4 pregnancies will miscarry, 1 in 80-90 pregnancies will be ectopic, 1 in 50 unborn babies may have a serious birth defect, leaving parents to make that consequential and devastating decision whether to keep the pregnancy, and 1 in every 200 births ends in stillbirth. Here are a few considerations if you have experienced such a loss.
Give yourself time
Whether you lost your baby at seven weeks or your baby died after birth, the pain of losing them can be overwhelming. For some men this grief can be instantaneous but many men need time and space and the feelings may not hit them until many weeks later. It is important to try not to pressure yourself with certain expectations of what your experience should look and feel like, and try not to feel guilty about the way you are. There are no rules, there is no right or wrong way to do it and there is no required process or pattern that you must follow with your grief.
Many men try to distract themselves from their feelings by keeping busy and taking on the practical activities that need to take place following the loss of a baby. Often this can lead to looking for solutions and ways to ‘fix things’. This is a very common and natural reaction. However, as men and women grieve so differently, often women misinterpret this as not caring about the loss and it can lead to arguments. If you do find that you are distracting yourself, do allow yourself time to grieve and try to communicate that this is your way of coping.
Men are usually expected, or may expect themselves, to be the strong and supportive one at such an emotional time. As a result, they often avoid talking about their own feelings or the loss because they think they are protecting their partners by not raising a potentially distressing subject. While being a family ‘rock’ and providing commendable support, this can also lead to difficulties if you don’t get the opportunity to grieve or if your partner wrongly misinterprets your attempts to protect her as indifference to the loss. Again, communication is the key to working your way through this distressing time.
Bereaved couples sometimes experience temporary difficulties with their sexual relationship. For example, you may find lovemaking a source of comfort and closeness, while your partner may not feel physically ready, may see sex as a frightening reminder of the loss, or may feel that the desire for sex is insensitive.
Talk about it
Men tend to be more reluctant to share their feelings and are often used to relying solely on their partner for emotional support. However, if your partner is devastated by her own grief, you may feel that you don’t want to add to it and try to put your feelings on hold. Although it may feel difficult, the most important thing that the two of you can do is talk to each other.
This is easier if both of you are aware that grief is very individual and both your feelings and how you deal with them will not always be the same. Every individual expresses and deals with their feelings differently and it is not an indication that one partner feels the loss of a baby more intensely than the other.
Sometimes it can help you or your partner to speak to someone else who has been through what you are going through. Just hearing that you are not alone in your experience and that your feelings are normal and similar to other peoples can be a huge comfort and can relieve some of the pressure.
Recovery takes time. Just like a physical wound, a psychological wound cannot be forced to heal quickly. Flowing with the healing process is better than fighting it. It is important to understand that there are no real time frames for this and each person takes as long as they take to overcome the challenges of experiencing a trauma such as baby loss.
You and your partner may feel the need to talk about what happened and how it made you both feel then, and how it’s making you both feel now, over many weeks and months. Often, feeling that there is someone to listen who isn’t trying to fix anything but is able to listen in a compassionate way, is extremely helpful in the recovery process.
Alex Peace-Gadsby, The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust
If you have been affected by an early pregnancy complication you're can contact the The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust Their Helpline is: 020 7733 2653
This article was updated on 18.10.2017 by Kiran Kaur.