Fathers and Pregnancy Loss
“She was my baby too…”
The physical experience of pregnancy loss requires practical support, and often treatment, so the initial focus is of course on the mother. Losing a pregnancy can be far more physical than many people appreciate. Depending on the type of loss, the experience can take anything from a few days, to several months. The focus on supporting the mother who carried the baby is of course, essential, but it is so important to recognise that the emotional impact of losing a baby is felt by both parents.
While research (and experience) shows us that women are more likely to seek, and to be offered, support and intervention from their social circles and from healthcare professionals, they also rely heavily on their partners for support in the early months after pregnancy loss. For dads, they often see their role in those early days as a support to their partner. There is a lot of ‘admin’ to deal with during pregnancy loss, incomprehensible as it feels to us, the rest of the world carries on despite the fact that ours feels like it has come crashing down. Dads/Partners tend to take on the tasks of making phone calls, scheduling appointments, notifying workplaces and organising other children. For some women it can feel as though their partner is not grieving or has “forgotten” the baby. But from a purely practical point of view, it makes sense that the grief timeline is different for each parent.
What tends to happen is that as mothers start to recover, and rely less on their partners for support, bereaved fathers start to experience their own grief symptoms. However, because of the length of time between this and the pregnancy loss, many assume that dads have already recovered and moved on, when the reality is that they haven’t even started yet. Dads emotional needs are no different to mums, they need acknowledgement of their grief, and affirmation that they have a right to grieve. They need to be allowed to express their emotions, be it sadness, guilt, anger in a supportive environment. And they need time.
So many times we have heard from dads “he/she was my baby too”, after they have been asked for the umpteenth time how their partner is, while their own feelings have been forgotten about.
It’s important to remember that people don’t intend to be cruel, they just don’t know what to say. So, with Father’s Day on the 20th of June, what better time to reach out to a grieving dad and ask him how he’s doing?