There have been a lot of times in my life when I’ve made poor decisions, when I’ve not behaved as I should have, when I have not been the person that I now try to be. Many of those times have led me down the road that culminated in who I am today and as much as I may have regrets I’m a believer in the theory that sometimes it’s our wrong turns that get us where we need to be.
Other times I was just a total asshole and I’d like a do-over, having no excuse for my actions.
Some other times I was also a total asshole but can give myself a break in retrospect. Sometimes those lines blur. Life is complicated.
When my daughter’s mother first told me she was pregnant I was half asleep. We had been trying off and on for a while but it was known that I had less swimmers in my pool than normal. Her daughter was ten and I had come to accept that being her dad might be the only parenting that I was going to do and I was OK with that. I was committed to doing that as best as I could. When the little pink lines turned up positive and she woke me up with the news my reaction was “Don’t tell anybody.”
And then I fell back asleep.
I can’t imagine the feelings that she had at that moment. The shock, the disappointment, the complete deflation of whatever joy she might have been feeling. Whatever excitement she may have had just totally wiped away by some dickhead that couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge the magnitude of the moment.
There is no excuse but there is more to the story, another chapter about a decade earlier. One that ends with that same guy being an asshole again unfortunately. I was with somebody else at the time, somebody quite a bit older, and we were trying to make a baby.
We were trying but nothing was happening. For a long time nothing happened and then it did. We waited the requisite time before telling anyone, subscribed to all the magazines and free stuff that different brands will send you. We started talking about names and when the thing started moving around I started reading to it so that it would recognize my voice and start to know who I was.
I say “it” not as any sort of statement or out of any need to de-humanize the child but because we choose not to know it’s sex, at least not yet.
We never found out. Some abdominal pains later, a horribly handed ultrasound where we were cheerfully told “no, your baby is right there, it’s the heartbeat that you can’t see”, a night of vomiting and cramps, a hastily scheduled dilation and curettage that the anesthesia took all memory of from her later and we were left stunned, broken and childless.
I brought her back home, went out to pick up some Tylenol and decided that what I really, really wanted to do was stop someplace for a beer and get my head together. I stopped by the place where everybody knew my name, drank about my body weight in tequila and was fortunate to be where I was and had people to deliver me back to my house safely.
My house that I arrived back at, threw up in the bushes, and was of absolutely no help whatsoever to the person I was supposed to be there for, the man she was supposed to be able to count on and lean on. I didn’t even manage to get the Tylenol.
There is no excuse but do you remember that D & C procedure that I said she had to have to remove the dead tissue from inside her the next day? Remember how I said she didn’t remember having it done?
I do. I was in what’s called a “bunny suit”, the paper outfit that you put on over your clothes instead of putting on legitimate operating room scrubs. I was standing next to her, on the other side of the sterile drapes, holding her hand, and I remember every bit of it. It’s been over twenty years and as I sit her typing these words I can still hear the sound of it. I’ll hear it tonight in my dreams, the same as I did for weeks all those years ago.
We tried for a long time after. Hour long drives to the fertility clinic so I could pay $100 a month to jerk off into a cup for cleaning and turkey baster insertion. Sometimes it actually worked but we lost those too. It’s a lot easier after the first one, a lot easier when they aren’t actually moving yet. It’s a lot easier when you go numb and sex becomes a chore and eventually you grow bitter and resentful and decide that it’s not something that you want to do anymore. Some relationships are strong enough to survive that. Sometimes cracks that were already there get larger and the whole thing falls apart.
Listen, I’m not for a minute denying that it was much worse for her. No man will ever know what it is like to feel another life growing inside of you or to one day no longer feel that. I get that.
I’m just saying that we hurt too and whether it’s because of a sense of chivalry, of “manning up” and being there for our partners or because we have been conditioned to not admit that men have feelings or just because nobody ever asks how we are doing would -be dads are swallowing their pain and it’s not good for anybody.
My wife was happy and excited and reasonably expected me to be that same but I ruined that because of unresolved issues that I didn’t even know that I had. Frankly, because I was scared. Everything turned out OK and if you’re reading this now it’s probably because you’ve read other stories about my daughter. It’s 90% of what I do here.
That doesn’t make it a happy ending however. That morning stuck with my daughter’s mom for a long time. Relationships don’t break all at once. They start with cracks and those cracks spread and build upon each other until things are broken and it’s difficult to identify exactly when or what started the break.
As New England based bloggers we’d been in each other’s orbits for a while, at a New England Patriots playoff game that we went to courtesy of Dove Men + Care in 2016, at Has-Con in Providence a year later, but it wasn’t until my first Dad 2.O Summit in Washington DC last year when I actually met Aaron Gouveia and his wife MJ. They recently published a book called “Men and Miscarriage : A Dad’s Guide to Grief, Relationships, and Healing After Loss ” and you can find it on Amazon.
The tagline tells you what to expect but what this book is really about is letting you know that you aren’t alone. Some of my stories told above are in the book, as well as those of others that have suffered similar loss and been through the same things.
The message of the book, and of this blog post, is this: miscarriage is a dad’s issue too. We may not feel the same effects as those that actually have a physical investment but our mental one is significant and should be acknowledged. Be there for your partners guys, but also make sure that you take care of yourselves. We are taught to stifle emotion and to not show weakness but if that leads to us eventually hurting people that we love or hiding secret fears that have a profound influence on our parenting mentalities down the road then maybe it’s time to change that mindset.
Reach out to me, reach out to a friend, talk to somebody. You aren’t weak and you aren’t alone.
Previously Published on thirstydaddy.com and is republished on Medium.