THE WHOLE TRUTH
Now, it would be ego-soothing to write down that I was only concerned with strategically protecting our emotions. Unfortunately, for my sense of self-worth, this just isn’t true. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that part of me also imagined that a miscarriage would allow me to avoid facing my fatherhood fears a little bit longer. The simple fact that I would get more time to be free of parental obligations was a silver lining that I was not guilty to hold.
I don’t like this part of my older self. This part of me willfully chose to not consider the pain, trauma, heartache, and physical agony a miscarriage would place on the person I love more than anything. This part of me is so intentionally ignorant, that it can equate not speaking about miscarriages as proof that they are universal and just not that big a deal. But there is no point in pretending that this part of me didn’t exist.
What I can truthfully say is that the moment we became pregnant, that part of me withered away. I am proud of that, but it’s still hard to know that it took my own wife getting pregnant for that version of me to actually pack up and leave.
I’m 35 years old. There’s no excuse for that part of me to have hung around that long. He stayed there because of entrenched entitlement.
Initially, when Gems had that first positive test, it was the potential impact on her that made me realise what a twat I had been. She is an optimist by nature, and her optimism is her most important tool in facing adversity. She drives forward, preparing for the best, fully confident that she can cope with the adversity if it goes awry. I don’t doubt that she will cope if the worst happens because that’s her skill. But having now seen what this little blueberry in her belly means to her, I know that it will be a steeper mountain than we could have imagined before. She will hurt – and the sudden visualisation of her hurting like that was like being hit with a cricket bat.
What genuinely shocked me this week, though, is that I no longer just fear for her wellbeing. I finally fear to lose the opportunity of being scared of my impending fatherhood, more than the imminent fatherhood itself. Which…is absolutely wild. Somewhere in the past seven weeks, I became attached to this sub-1cm long reptile, taking up residence in her uterus. This is a whole lot quicker than I anticipated this transformation taking. Part of me was nervous that it would never take place at all.
On the one hand, I am pleased that this is a sign of growth. On the other, there are still 33 weeks of pregnancy to go (hopefully). Then there are a whole lot of years after that, where the anxiety will only intensify (again, hopefully). This is an overwhelming realisation.
The learnings from this week have not just been personal, though.
Having absorbed all these experiences and emotions, I have also been left bewildered by how ass-backwards we are when it comes to discussing miscarriages.
I am aware that this is another embarrassingly naive take stemming from someone who likes to act woke but is really still cosied up to the patriarchy. But, grasping how little we say about a topic that affects so many people, has legitimately shocked me.
The conventional wisdom I have absorbed from everyone around me is that you are meant to wait until twelve weeks until you tell people you are pregnant. The idea is that this prevents you from having to then deal with breaking the news to people if you lose the pregnancy during this early danger zone. Like my myopic view of miscarriage itself, it seemed so rational and such a healthy way of approaching things.
I’m pretty conflicted about this idea today.
As a couple, we eschewed this collective wisdom when it came to telling people our news. There wasn’t a lot of thought or justification involved in this decision. We simply told our families and some close friends as soon as we found out because it seemed too hard to keep it secret. We also knew they would be excited and would be able to cope if things went south.
As it turns out, this has unexpectedly been one of the best decisions we ever made. We now have an accidental support network to share in anything that goes wrong and to keep things positive. Our families helped us through this week, and I have enormous gratitude for their help in sharing the emotional load. If we do miscarry, we will undoubtedly lean on them to help us, as we would do for them if the situations were reversed. With hindsight, it seems implausible that we would have considered anything different.
Medical professionals understandably want us to change how we perceive the issue of miscarriages so that women can have better tools to deal with them when they arise.
Because miscarrying is such a common occurrence, it makes sense that we should probably think in more mechanical terms to soften the blow.
Additionally, people deal with these kinds of problems in their own way. There is no right way to heal, and lots of people prefer undertaking healing in privacy.
But I can’t shake the feeling that by encouraging women to keep quiet until twelve weeks, we are tacitly trying to keep a lid on the topic altogether. It feels like we are doing what we do with all questions of reproductive health – which is to nudge them to the side so that men aren’t uncomfortable.
There is a disconnect. We want to frame the topic as something that is natural and can’t be helped. But we also discourage people from talking about early pregnancy in case they have to deal with it. Surely, we can’t have it both ways. We can either talk about these things openly and honestly, or we can normalise silence and all the implications of failure that silence brings about.
I don’t know what the answers are. But it feels like we’re throwing pregnant women under the bus by normalising superstition and tradition, instead of encouraging the building of support networks. Maybe I’ll feel differently next week. I sure do feel different today than I did seven days ago. It’s early days, and if this week is anything to go by, we’ve got a few more rides to go on before we leave pregnancy park.
Originally published here.