Docs: “Your daughter has heart failure and I’m sorry she’s probably not going to make it.”
My wife and I: “It’s ok.”
Docs: “It’s not ok.”
That’s exactly the conversation we had. Of course it wasn’t ok but what else could we say. We’d been scanned twice a week for a month and things were only getting worse. Our world crumbled before us. We’d had a miscarriage before but this time we’d seen our scan pictures and our daughter had a name. It was far from ok. The fetal medical consultant and the cardiac consultant both gave us a hug. As we went into a side room the cardiac consultant did explain to us that miracles did happen. He’d seen babies come back from worse, he’d seen healthy babies not make it. He gave it odds of 1 in a million, but she could be that 1. I held on to that. My wife was less optimistic.
The plan was now to simply to wait for the baby to stop kicking. We’d go back to weekly scans and if she survived until 38 weeks i.e. another 10 weeks she’d be delivered via c-section. If she stopped kicking we had to go in and they’d induce the still birth.
My wife prepared herself as best she could for this. Her mother had had a still birth so she was a good support and confidant for her. We tried to live life as best we could. We did all the normal things; meals out with friends, cinema, weekend walks etc. However we couldn’t enjoy them.
From a personal point of view I knew I had to be strong. My wife had always dreamed of having a baby girl. Now that dream was being ripped away from her when it seemed so close. Every day waking to wonder if today was going to be the day our baby would stop kicking was near torture. I’m naturally a positive person so the almost inevitability of the worst was sickening for me. However, the not knowing was something I struggled to cope with.
My wife was fantastic at keeping me informed of baby kicks, but her updates weren’t regular enough for me. I wanted to know every few minutes. I don’t know how she put up with me. It was happening inside her. She could feel every move, twist, kick our baby made. I could only ask. So when I said we couldn’t enjoy a film at the cinema, it wasn’t because the film was bad, in fact if I remember right it was Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, it was me wondering every 10 minutes if our baby had kicked yet. She hadn’t kicked all day. Just as Tom Cruise was hanging off the edge of a building, I got an elbow in the ribs, Isla had kicked. Well, I leapt out my seat and fist pumped. I’m sure everyone in there thought I was rooting for the terrorists. I’d be surprised if I’m not on a watchlist somewhere.
My anxiety kept me off work sick, it was a constant sick feeling in my stomach and barrage of heart palpitations. I was prescribed diazepam from the doctors to help cope but they made me extremely drowsy and my wife, being heavily pregnant, relied on me to drive us places so taking tablets wasn’t really an option. Fortunately I had a very understanding boss and place of work. I don’t know if all employers would be so empathetic.
I know lots of men have opened up about their forgotten feelings during a miscarriage and the impact it has. Personally, I felt that this was happening to my wife, not me, I have to be strong for her. Speaking to my friend who had the same scenario happen to her told a similar story. Her husband was so calm but said it was hard on him inside, however he knew it was more difficult for his wife because she was the one carrying the baby and feeling her kick. He was just concerned with trying to just be there for his wife. This is probably a common response. Of course that doesn’t mean we don’t suffer. I clearly did.
I did feel supported during our miscarriage prior to Isla but this feeling of impending miscarriage was 10 times worse. It was a constant feeling of loss for 10 weeks. No one really considers the feelings of a man during a pregnancy. There is support available after a loss but as we approached what seemed like an inevitable loss we had our family and each other. And slim shades of hope.