Men's mental health and miscarriage

In this blog James opens up about how losing 4 babies has impacted his mental health. James shares his coping strategies and what worked for him to get through the grief - and hopes to open up conversations with other men and partners who are going through the same pain in silence.

Walking out of the hospital on that March afternoon, I was numb. I could not comprehend what had just happened. There had not been a single sign that anything was wrong with our baby. I had never even heard of a missed miscarriage before now. Everything I’d read or seen in films focused on heavy bleeding and sharp pain. Instead of rejoicing at a beating heart, we had stared mournfully at an eerily dark screen. This was not how it was supposed to pan out.

Wishing that I was a seahorse 

I texted my Mum to simply say that it hadn’t worked. I could not face calling her because I knew that we would both break down. My wife and I walked like zombies into our local pub and ordered pints of Peroni with the 10 pound note I had taken out earlier for a scan photo. We tried to soothe one another by saying that everything would be okay because this was our first time and we would try again. Later, she headed out for a run. I would have done the same had I not already been that morning. Instead, I sat at the top of the stairs, hugging our black Labrador Milo, wishing that I was a seahorse so that my wife did not have to burden any of the physical pain.

Excessive stress has an overwhelming impact on your body. For several weeks after the scan, I woke up with the bed sheets drenched from my night sweats. My lack of usual morning wood taunted me; I convinced myself that I had given my wife a dodgy sperm. A foggy brain meant my days were doomed before they had the chance to begin. I did not have much of an appetite. I felt nauseous most of the time. I was a wreck.

Very little out there for men and partners

I was struggling massively with falling asleep in the evening, so I turned to drink. Beer and wine would make everything fine. In my haze, I scoured the Internet for articles and blogs on missed miscarriages. I desperately sought solace in other people’s experiences. There was exceptionally little from the point of view of men or partners. Maybe my grief was not even legitimate. I wanted to be strong for my wife, but I was consumed by my own anguish.

My wife is a tough cookie. She recovered quickly from her operation and, although devastated by our loss, had a very positive outlook. The doctors had told us that she would be more fertile for a few months following the procedure, so it was up to us when we felt ready to try again. Fun-filled months of the World Cup, my wife’s birthday and a trip to Costa Rica helped us to heal. We were not the same people, but we had our confidence back.

Horrified and helpless

Seeing those 2 beautiful blobs on the screen was a split-second feeling of ecstasy. Then the horrifying reality set in: their heartbeats were not viable. We were not having 2 little babies. We would be returning to the Gloucestershire Royal so that my wife would go under the knife once more. That tower block gave me nightmares. I needed to be strong for her, but grief hit me like a freight train. Our Labrador puppy, Florence, was a very welcome distraction, but not even she had the power to remove our torment.

As all the doctors told us, 2 miscarriages were still common, and they could not do any investigations until a third. I felt utterly helpless. Of course, our third pregnancy could go swimmingly - or we could have to go through all of this pain again. How was any of that fair on my wife? The thought of a third miscarriage was absolutely terrifying.

Feeling hurt by friends with babies

In the meantime, all of our friends were making it look so easy. Every baby announcement was a crushing blow to our morale. I wanted to scream and hurl my phone across the room when I saw an update on Facebook or Instagram. And the pious advice from those lucky couples was so galling. “I’m sure it will be third time lucky for you,” said one. “You could always try IVF,” said another. They most likely meant well but it was soul destroying.

It was hard to feign excitement when we found out that my wife was pregnant for the third time. I was filled with dread and apprehension. I kept trying to convince myself that the statistics were still in our favour and this really was our time. It was difficult to concentrate on much else.

Then the horrifying news came. It had happened again. 3 times in a row. What had we done to deserve this?

Breaking down and getting help

I was completely crushed mentally. I did not want to see anybody, even close family - I became a recluse. Insomnia befriended me once more and I turned to alcohol; have another drink and forget about your pain, numb the senses and bask in blissful oblivion. Of course, this did not help, and made all of my pain so much worse.

Finally, I plucked up the courage to see the doctor. The alternatives were too severe. I broke down inside his office, sobbing about our miscarriages and my depression. It was the best thing that I could have done. Having resisted antidepressants in the past due to their stigma, I followed a course for 6 months. They are no substitute for talking about grief, but they did help to rescue me from a very bleak situation.

One of the best things that I do for mental health is run with our two Labradors. Watching Milo and Flo tussle over sticks on the trails is one of my greatest pleasures in life, losing myself in their happiness, surrounded by calming shrubs and trees. I remind myself that life is a marathon rather than a sprint. This is my headspace to think of the 4 babies that we never managed to meet; they shall live on forever in our memories. I yearn to be able to cuddle a child of our own one day - it just hasn’t happened for us yet.

Read James' story here.