The ‘M’ word
Tommy's guest blog, 07/04/2017, by Marty Hayes
It was 8.30am on the 28th July, 2015, when my wife and I sat together in the A&E department of the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, our lives, hopes and expectations changing at a rapid pace.
Rewind to four days earlier and we were excited to be in the secret-stage of early pregnancy, with no-one but the two of us knowing that there’d be a third little one to join our two young daughters in a few months’ time.
Naively, it hadn’t ever crossed our minds that our little date-sized baby-to-be might not make it into this world.
Back to that Tuesday in July and we entered the hospital merry-go-round of consultations, tests, more consultations and more tests, before finally being sent home to ‘wait and see’ what happens.
We picked up our girls from their Aunty’s house and went home to rest and wait. Not long after they’re tucked up in bed, we experience what we’ve been waiting for, and have to rush back in to hospital.
13 hours after arriving there for the first time that day, the ‘M’ word is mentioned by the doctor as the likely scenario. The elephant in the room. My wife already knew. We all already knew.
The couple of hours after that were the hardest of my life; my wife in pain and distress, I unable to do anything to alleviate either, the feeling that something so simple and natural was going so unexpectedly wrong, and the threat of going into theatre if things didn’t ‘improve’ – a word I wouldn’t typically associate with suffering a miscarriage.
Then it got a little worse, for me at least, as the realisation dawned that my wife was now admitted to a ward, and I therefore had to leave her.
I made the short drive home that night in silence and arrived home at about midnight to relieve the mother-in-law of her babysitting duties, and we shared a tearful embrace as I told her what she already knew.
At 1.42am I first wrote about my experience of miscarriage. I didn’t really know what else to do. I couldn’t sleep, and didn’t know where to turn for help or support – miscarriage isn’t really the thing you chat about down the pub, or with your mates, or even online.
At around 2.30am I finally forced myself to sleep as I’d need to be dad again in the morning once the girls woke up, and had to put on a brave face for them, as they were totally oblivious to what was going on.
Over the next few days the emotional rollercoaster continued but the overarching feeling was of devastation, guilt and emptiness.
These aren’t things that are easily talked about, or expressed, and so I continued to write, and started to discover The Dad Network, a website and Facebook group ran by Al Ferguson, someone who was attempting to break the silence and taboo of miscarriage, particularly with men.
It was around this time that I learned about Tommy’s too, and the work that they do to fund research, raise awareness of prematurity, stillbirth and miscarriage, and save babies lives.
I wrote in August 2015 that;
There’ll always be a void, a gap, a would’ve been, a could’ve been.
There’ll always be the 28th of July and the 18th of February.
There’ll be one missing on father’s day, on mother’s day, at Christmas.
We went from 2 to 3 with 2 blue lines, love, hope, excitement, and expectation.
We went from 3 to 2 with hospital speak, devastation, heartbreak, emptiness, confusion, anger, despair, and desperation.
We’ll remember every day, in spite of having nothing to hold, nothing to show, no memories to draw on.
I returned to work, who were incredibly supportive of my absence, just over a week later, and that was another milestone in coping with miscarriage.
I learned quickly that after the first; ‘are you OK?’, people didn’t really know what else to say, and didn’t really want to bring up the subject of miscarriage; perhaps in fear of upsetting me, perhaps because they didn’t understand it, or perhaps because it’s not the done thing.
That silence or unwillingness from others to talk about it made it harder for me. I had lost something. I was grieving, and no one seemed to understand.
That’s why I continued to write about miscarriage on my own blog, Northern Man, and seek out opportunities to support other people going through what we did, via The Dad Network, via my own circle of friends (I found it amazing and also worrying how many of my friends had gone through similar, but I hadn’t known due to them never talking about it apart from behind closed doors), and via charities like Tommy’s.
20 months later we marked ‘The Last of The Firsts’ as it could have been the 1st birthday of our rainbow baby on 18th February 2017.
I had written previously about coping with miscarriage, and that the word ‘recovery’ was the most appropriate.
I also stated that:
People don’t ask how we feel about our miscarriage.
They don’t ask how we’re coping.
They don’t ask about the impact it’s had.
It was also at this time that I signed up to run The Great North Run for Tommy’s; an attempt to raise awareness of miscarriage and offer what little support I can in the shape of a familiar experience, a knowing ear to listen with and in the form of cold hard cash via sponsorship money in order to support their research and their quest to support families.
I wish I had known then what I know now about miscarriage, about men and miscarriage, and about the support that exists for men and women going through that most terrible of times, and I hope that my small efforts can go some way to making sure that a few more people get the support they need to help them get through it.