If you happen to go to the many support meetings that I have attended, you should eventually notice this strong and mostly silent being next to the grieving mothers. It is the often-forgotten, orphaned father. He sits there, usually quietly, holding his partners hand, as she recounts their story. This is most likely not the first time she has told this story, but he knows that telling it again, is what she needs. So, he comes along, as support mostly. Eventually, we start to see the dads disappear with time. They were there for their partners mostly it seems, and when less support is needed they can finally think about themselves.
You see, the orphaned father is often an afterthought. The mother is the main concern of the nurses, the gynecologists, the psychologists and the social workers. She is the patient. She is the one that went through the miscarriage, the stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy, the abortion due to medical reasons, the loss in childbirth and so on. Yes, physically she is, but we cannot forget that the loss of baby is not only that of the mother’s. She might have the burden of healing after the miscarriage, stillbirth and so forth, but it is the couple that wanted the child. We are terribly stuck in our insensitive, outdated view, that it is still only women that really want babies. We somehow feel even in this day and age, even with father’s being more in more participant and invested in child rearing, that somehow it is the mother’s loss.
I assure you, from what I have seen, mainly from what I have witnessed with my own husband, the pain is deeply shared. Although, it may not manifest itself in the same manner. As Father’s Day approaches, since the loss of our son at 25 weeks, my husband prefers not to discuss the holiday, make any plans or receive any gifts. Coming up to the holiday, he reminds me that he prefers to be left alone on the couch to watch horror movies. (I recognize this as his default coping mechanism.) Basically, he wishes to stay in his man cave and avoid all Father’s Day picnics or father/son baseball games as much as humanly possible.
At first, I would offer cards and gifts or try to encourage him to go out. I realize, I was basing these actions on my own needs, not his. Motivated by my own need to acknowledge him as a father, to try make him feel better, but I was doing it in a way that would make me feel better, not him. You see, in contrast, being able to talk about my feelings around Mother’s Day makes me feel better and helps me deal with the anxiety and the pain that it brings every year. Being included in celebrations and acknowledged as a mother, despite my children not being in this realm, make me feel validated.
In contrast, for my husband, he prefers the man cave, as many men prefer to quietly support their partner, rather than retelling their story, again and again.