My wife Alice was about eight weeks into her first pregnancy when she turned to me and said she didn’t feel pregnant any more. I didn’t realise then what a rollercoaster ride lay ahead.
We’d got married in May 2014 and conceived that October, excited about starting a family together. But our dreams were shattered when we visited the early pregnancy clinic and were given the news that Alice had suffered a miscarriage.
Sitting by her side, I didn’t know what to say or do. I stared at her and watched as her world collapsed. It was utterly overwhelming.
As a man, I felt I had to be the strong one and be there for my wife. I tried at first to do this, as both of us sat there crying and asking why this had happened. Foremost in my mind was the feeling that I couldn’t protect her, and couldn’t protect our baby. I felt embarrassment (we had already discussed names), shame, hurt, confusion and anger. In the Duchess of Sussex’s heartbreaking account of her own baby loss, she mentions her husband’s tears. I know those tears too well, and I know the pain he’ll be going through, and that it will stay with him.
But it’s not a pain we, as men, talk about. It isn’t a pain we’re asked about. Understandably the focus is always on the mother instead. Everyone who came to support us at our home in Bath was asking: “How’s Alice?” But when my mother-in-law said: “How’s Brett?” it meant everything to me. It was like an acknowledgement that there were in fact two of us going through the grieving process.
I don’t want to take anything away from the physical and mental anguish for a woman of losing a baby. But it’s so important we recognise that the male partner goes through that mental anguish as well, and can struggle with it just as profoundly.
When we suffered our second miscarriage a few months later, it wasn’t any different from the first. People tell you: “At least you know you can get pregnant,” and “You can always try again.” But that doesn’t help at all. It’s as if your loss doesn’t matter – and we’re talking about the loss of a child.
I didn’t talk to my friends about the pain I was suffering; I only felt able to share it with Alice, the person I was going through it with. And I couldn’t find any support out there for men in my situation.
It wasn’t until last year that I decided to speak up. I contacted the Miscarriage Association and asked if I could tell my story, as no-one had asked me to do so. Until then, I don’t think anyone outside my family had any idea what I was going through. I’d kept all those feelings inside, mainly because there is still so much stigma surrounding men and miscarriage. No-one is openly discussing the fact that men feel all those emotions too at the loss of their unborn child; that men’s grief can be just as deep. That you look into your wife’s eyes, see the devastation and know there’s nothing you can do about it because you’re crumbling inside too.
After a third miscarriage, our beautiful daughter Emma, now three, was born. But in April this year, during lockdown, we lost another baby, just before our 12-week pregnancy scan. Partners weren’t allowed to be present at appointments at that point, so I had to drop Alice in a rainy hospital car park, miscarrying our child on her own. I was so emotional I couldn’t even drive, and had to pull over to cry. It was one of the hardest moments I’ve ever been through in my life. But again I didn’t talk about the pain.
As men, we have to start talking; to know there is no shame in it.
As told to Rosa Silverman