For the men folk
This blog is for all the guys… for all the husbands, dads, and dads-to-be, in the infertility and pregnancy loss community.
Too often miscarriage, in particular, is considered a women’s problem, which can leave their other halves feeling forgotten or overlooked in this whole fertility and miscarriage journey.
But the truth is that the men folk aren’t just onlookers, third party observers or uninvolved bystanders, waiting by on the sidelines… they are right alongside, in the trenches, fighting for their lives too.
And okay, so most of the hard stuff may not actually be happening to their bodies, but it’s still their pregnancies, their emotions, their marriages, their families, their mental health, and their future dreams lying in the balance as well as the mothers.
I knew all of this already, but it’s something that’s struck me again over the past few weeks as we’ve dealt with another miscarriage…
So this one is for all the guys, bravely in the background, supporting the ones that they love…
You are strong. You are brave. You are good. You are seen. You are valued. You are appreciated. You are loved.
More than you will probably ever know.
So please don’t ever feel like your feelings aren’t equally relevant, valid or important in this whole space too.
Thankfully, when we shared our latest baby loss news a few weeks ago, my husband received plenty of personal support from friends and family as well as me, and people offering to take him out.
But still I often wonder how it feels to be on the other side of things; and how hard it must be to walk in those male shoes too.
I mean they’re dealing with all the same feelings surrounding all the waiting and disappointment and loss; but they’re also forced to watch their partner in pain and discomfort, yet feeling powerless to do anything, and perhaps sometimes left wondering if they really have what it takes, or can be strong enough for you both…
How easy it is for the male perspective to be overlooked and under-heard, when everything about pregnancy and loss and miscarriage just naturally centres around the woman.
So even though my husband Andy felt well cared for by friends and family, I really noticed this dynamic played out. Because the truth is that the main support systems around miscarriage don’t really focus care around fathers at all.
I mean, Andy was wasn’t ever offered a medical note, or signed off work and told him not to come back into the office until he really felt ready. And none of the nurses in the hospital ever asked how he was feeling either, because he wasn’t actually the patient in the bed.
In fact, more than once whilst I was in for my surgery, he was actually told by health professionals that he had to wait in the corridor, or leave altogether. We challenged that ‘rule’ quite strongly of course, and the staff involved eventually relented.
But it does leave me wondering in what way is it ever okay to tell a dad who is losing his baby, that he can’t be in the Gynaecology Ward with his wife because it is ‘just for women’?
Of course I wanted him there for extra moral support before I went into surgery, but mostly I also just wanted him to be able to stay around because it was his baby that we were losing as much as mine.
Ten ways to support the guys
So in light of all this, I decided to come up with a few suggestion for ways that friends and family can help support men, in the aftermath of infertility problems or miscarriage…
1. Text, call or message to let him know you’re thinking of him and are always available if he wants to talk.
2. Offer to take him out for a beer. You don’t even need to talk about what’s going on specifically. He may not want to talk about it, and often just offering male company is enough, but also be available to listen if he does.
3. Invite him to the cinema. Why not suggest going to watch a ‘boy’ movie (translation: action/marvel superheroes) that their wife won’t want to see? You don’t have to talk at all, but it might help take their mind off things. Trust me, this is actually doing both partners a favour!
4. Buy him a little ‘man’ gift and drop it in – because normally there are endless gifts of flowers and chocolates for the women, but nothing especially for him. How about a six pack of beer, some bbq steaks, or whatever is his jam… !
5. Offer to babysit (if they have other children already) so that the couple can get out and just have some space and time together to talk, without all the distractions of being at home with kids.
6. Or just offer to bring over a pre-prepared meal… Or if you don’t cook, just grab a takeaway and take it round. Returning to work straight after a loss can be hard on a guy, and it just helps to lift off one extra responsibility, especially in those very early days.
7. Offer to go round and help them with that DIY thing. Not only will that help the whole family out practically, but also men often find it easier to bond and talk over doing physical things.
8. Buy him a voucher to support some self-care. This could be for a massage treatment or a male grooming session, a book or music voucher, or even just dragging him out with you for a run or to the gym.
9. lnvite him to do something fun with a group of friends. Whether that’s watching the football, going to a gig, or visiting a climbing wall, getting him out to do ordinary, fun stuff with friends will help him feel more himself. And doing it as a group also takes the pressure off too…
10. Encourage him to talk to a professional. Men tend to struggle to talk openly about their problems as much as women. So if you sense that he’s struggling, why not encourage him to see a counsellor or therapist. You could even research into it, or recommend someone that you already know to make it as easy as possible.
So there’s my starter for ten… but if you have any other thoughts or ideas for how to support the man folk well, I’d be really keen to know.