July 18, 2019
When excitement changes to fear and detachment
My wife is currently pregnant. We haven’t made a big announcement to the world like you do the first time. Because from experience until we’ve got our baby in our arms there is still a chance we’ll lose it.
That’s hard to admit, but sadly our experience.
The first time we found out Louise was pregnant it was super exciting. We were bringing a new human into the world and starting our own family. We started thinking of names, looking at furniture, working out how we would reshuffle our lives to suit this new addition.
Then, we lost her.
Until that point we didn’t know anything about miscarriage. We didn’t know that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. We didn’t know why it happened, or that most of the time nobody does.
We both tried to understand a little more about ‘why?’ on the internet. We also had conversations with friends and found that more people than we knew had experienced baby loss. It’s not something they cover in the NCT curriculum, or the ‘So You’ve Decided to Have a Baby’ instruction manual.
A short while later Louise got pregnant the second time and we were still mostly excited. Although we knew a little more about miscarriages, our experience at that point was thankfully brief, so it wasn’t really on our minds.
That second pregnancy resulted in our now 5-year-old son, Sebastian.
Then Louise got pregnant a third, fourth and fifth time and with each pregnancy the excitement diminished and the fear and anxiety increased.
We are now currently in week 30 and it’s hard to feel the excitement I felt back in 2012.
Although, I think that’s partly normal. Like most things in life when you experience them again and again that initial excitement wears a little thin. Particularly when it’s something where you’ve experienced set-backs or challenges. You approach them differently second time around. For some people that excitement changes to determination. For others it changes to anger or fear.
For me, the excitement is replaced by detachment and a sprinkling of fear.
I guess it’s a bit of a protection mechanism, because I know how much the previous losses affected us, particularly Louise. It’s easy to say, I’m sure it’ll all be fine and it won’t happen again. But it’s much harder to believe it and change the way you feel. Particularly when there’s a pattern.
As a Dad I’m also a bit removed from the baby growing process. I’m not carrying the child, so I’m not reminded every minute that we’re growing a baby. The closest I get is poking it and possibly feeling it kick back. That also involves poking the wife, which has to be done tactfully during pregnancy.
I’m also not experiencing the day to day changes that are going on. So in my mind I’m questioning the things I associate with pregnancy progressing in the right direction. I’m questioning if she’s getting bigger. When was the last time she complained about being kicked (by the baby)? Is she doing any of those things that I associate with a healthy normal pregnancy?
Part of the problem with the questioning is that I don’t want to ask her. I know how anxious this pregnancy has made Louise and I know that some times she’s going well, and other times our previous losses are on her mind. So bringing it up at the wrong time is the last thing I want to do.
It’s also a pretty helpless situation for me. Something I find quite difficult is not being in a position to change or affect a situation. I generally like to understand what’s going on and work out how I can solve a problem and, if not fix it, mitigate against problems that might arise. This is true in all aspects of my life.
I was reading a thread recently on a Dad’s forum where they were talking about the experience of fathers throughout the pregnancy, and the birth of their child. And there were some pretty sad stories.
What really stood out was the number of situations where a father was excluded from a part of the pregnancy or birth. And this was often propagated by the healthcare system.
Experiences included things like hospitals having policies around the father’s attendance at scans. Or a father being asked to leave the delivery room and wait in the corridor.
For many this was their first pregnancy experience. And sadly some of them will take some of that experience with them into future pregnancies. These issues don’t help in alleviating the already present social and personal obstacles that can disconnect men from their role as fathers. I also think that some of these situations are more easily remedied than what I’m experiencing.
A report by The Fatherhood Institute found that less confident and less well-resourced men are most likely to be negatively affected. Something I don’t generally have a problem with, but I can see how, even in these environments, I may be less likely to speak up.
I get the argument that in pregnancy the primary role of the healthcare system is about the wellbeing of the mother and child. But I think that there could be greater accommodation of the father’s role and providing whole family support.
Fortunately I’m not alone in thinking this and there is starting to be a lot more research into how new fathers and want-to-be fathers can be supported through the pregnancy journey. Because, let’s be honest, having a baby is massively life changing for both mums and dads.
Lately we’ve been starting to prepare for the arrival. Sorting out the baby clothes in the loft. We have clothes for either gender, which is helpful, that’s a funny story if you haven’t already heard it. Getting the buggy and crib out and cleaned up. And that’s helped reattach to the process a bit.
Thankfully to date our baby has been continuously active. Perhaps it senses that this is what it’s mother needs. Providing a reassuring fanny dagger at an inappropriate time. Hopefully it will also sense that when it comes out she also needs sleep and be an amazing sleeper. Wishful thinking perhaps.