“Something’s wrong,” my wife said. “What’s the matter?” I asked nonchalantly.
“I think I am having a miscarriage,” my wife replied, with a touch of panic in her voice. Trying to sound like I was in control, I said, “We had better get you to the hospital.”
Together we whisked our four children under 9 years of age to our family babysitter. From there the short 8-minute drive to the hospital seemed like an eternity. For the sake of my wife, I put on a brave face, but the questions flooded my mind and inside I was panicking.
My greatest distress was my inability to help my wife, and in the long term help her in her grief, and maybe my own besides.
This was my experience of miscarriage as a father. I am not alone. An article in the Fatherhood Bulletin titled, ‘Grieving Alone – The Reality About Men and Miscarriage’, tells the story well.
“Tristan MacManus still remembers the gut-punch of emotion when his wife, Tahyna Tozzi, lost their
first baby. “I was heartbroken,” the new co-host of Studio 10 admits. “It literally broke my heart. I’d waited my whole life to be a father. When Tahyna told me we were having a baby, it was easily the best day of my life.”
The couple had suffered a miscarriage, an experience that is sadly all too common with between 15-20% of pregnancies ending before the 20th week. The emotional toll of such a loss is increasingly acknowledged. Yet while many celebrities from Beyonce to Sharon Stone have opened up about their experience, the subject is invariably dissected from a female perspective.
This is hardly surprising given that women are biologically obliged to bear the brunt of the child-bearing journey. Yet research suggests that men can also be deeply affected by miscarriage.
One British study of 323 men found that in the aftermath of miscarriage, men were initially more reticent about losing the baby and displayed less “active grief” than their partners. In the eight weeks following the loss, however, the researchers found that men were more vulnerable to feelings of despair and difficulty in coping.
Tristan talks about his miscarriage experience in a new film that’s now showing on Stan. “I remember being very confused as to what I should be doing after it happened,” he admits. “My way of handling the trauma was literally to put it to the back of my mind and not deal with it.”
See the video trailer below.
What he did was try to figure out if he’d somehow contributed to their pregnancy’s abrupt end. “My wife was very healthy, while I used to drink a lot, smoke a lot and go out all the time before I met Tahyna. So, my instant thought was: ‘F***, I’ve ruined this with my lifestyle and behaviour. So, there was a kind of guilt there. You don’t know how common miscarriage is, so you just assume that you’ve done something wrong.”
Despite wrestling with these emotions, Tristan bottled them up. “I didn’t talk to anyone about it,” he says. “My attention immediately switched to Tahyna like: ‘What can I do? How can I help?’ I just felt like that was my role and that, in a sense, it didn’t matter how I felt.”
Sadly, this wasn’t to be the couple’s only bad pregnancy experience. While they eventually had two children (Echo and Oisin), they also suffered two further miscarriages. The film, directed by Tristan’s wife, follows the pair through their wild highs and desperate lows, also interviewing other couples navigating the issue.
When Tahyna develops gestational diabetes while pregnant with their son, the film shows her mounting anxiety. In one scene, Tristan is seen trying to soothe his wife’s fears as a reassuring voice of reason.
Surely though he wasn’t that calm and level-handed beneath the surface? “No, no, no!” he concedes. “I was like a duck in water – calm on the top, while the f***ing feet are going like crazy at the bottom. I wasn’t in control of my emotions, let alone this situation. I felt heartbroken, sick in my stomach, sick in my head. I was beating myself up inside!”
Strikingly, the film shows that, for all the couple’s obvious closeness, Tristan attempts to deal with each of the miscarriages on his own. “I think that’s a problem that other people have as well; sometimes the support needs support.”
It’s this area that he focuses on when asked to give advice to anyone else confronting the same ordeal. “I wish we talked more about it,” he says. “You have to listen to what your partner is going through, but you also have to listen to what you’re going through.
It’s advice backed up by wider research. Working through your grief is proven to be beneficial, with one study showing that men who struggled to cope following a miscarriage were vulnerable to a “delayed grief response” two years later.
Avoiding the subject can also exacerbate the fallout for your partner. Another study showed that six months after a miscarriage, the women who were most depressed had the partners who were least willing to talk about the loss.
What the film highlights is that miscarriage affects both partners, albeit in different ways. “As the man, you’re going to be the father just as much as your partner is going to be the mother,” Tristan points out.
Find more information on where to see the documentary here: ‘MUM: Mis-UNDERSTANDING of MISCARRIAGE’.
I take my hat off to Tristan for sharing his story. He is a brave man, as is his wife, who made the film.
We found out as we talked to friends, particularly those who were older than us, that miscarriage was surprisingly common. Sadly, it seems even more common today.
My wife even wrote a song for her baby, lost to miscarriage, and sang this song at a Pregnancy Loss Memorial Service. Her loss became a source of comfort and encouragement to other grieving couples. Three years later, our beautiful daughter was born, which means we have five children on this earth, but six in the economy of eternity.
A beautiful verse in the Bible sums up our experience of grief and healing: “So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”
Tristan and Aaron are right to question the negative effect of bottling up the pain of miscarriage. The grief is distressing, but not being able to share it with others can be worse. The old saying is still true, “A trouble shared is a trouble halved.”
Check out the team at Sands who offer that sort of care and support. Perhaps this is something you can share with your friends who have walked this road. Together, we can make a difference!
Yours for Each Other,
PS: Good news — Dads who are keen to upskill themselves can book in now for the Courageous Course, starting on Tuesday 2 May 2023. Booking & Info here.