Grief encounter Dads are forgotten in the loss of a baby — they are forced into the stiff-upper-lip support role during their heartache
Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo’s recent bereavement may have one positive outcome beyond his family, reframing baby loss as a devastation for dads too.
With partner Georgina Rodriguez, the news the couple had lost their newborn twin son shortly after birth put a father’s grief in the frame when they’re usually left to cry their silent tears on the subs’ bench.
Often, dads are forgotten as the physical needs of a mother take priority, which they must when a pregnancy is ending in loss.
But without recognition that dads are losing a baby too, they’re forced into the stiff-upper-lip, support role — where manliness has to mask grief that can last forever.
My miscarriage — our loss — at 12 weeks was awful, when an unexpected bleed just a few days after our three-month scan confirmed there was no heartbeat.
As I experienced professionalism and empathy, my husband remembers insensitivity, being pushed to the fringes of an experience in which he was intrinsically involved, watching his wife suffer and our future change as suddenly as the flip of a coin.
He was losing a baby too, but it took a more senior member of staff to address us as a couple who would have to hold each other up.
We were given a day to breathe, cry and come to terms with the miscarriage before I was brought back for the procedure to empty my womb. I struggled for the correct term for a D&C, dilation and curettage, but emptying seemed to fit best.
I also expected to feel empty, but I didn’t. I felt relieved. Not that I’d lost a baby but that it had happened when it did.
We’d already been through a successful, healthy pregnancy — a positive where there were few because I knew I could carry a baby to term — so we’d had the excitement of flutters which become kicks which become a tiny human pushing your organs out of the way.
I’d had the experience of watching a tiny foot arc across my belly like a satellite, but always with the superstition that no baby supplies beyond the essentials came into the house until there was a healthy child to need them.
So, when the news came so early that this little one wouldn’t make it, as is so common in pregnancy, our tears were mixed with a sense of gratitude that the dream had ended before we had a bump, a name, a plan.
We’d never held the baby that would never arrive. In the gradient of grief, losing my elderly father came with the celebration of a great life, losing a relative in their prime was a tragedy — losing a child who’d lived would bring a grief that never leaves.
Where on that timescale the pain begins is a personal rite and some couples take enormous comfort from remembering those early losses and celebrating a life which couldn’t happen. With another baby to care for, we felt the right thing for us was to grieve and move on.
The memory is still there but with each year its emotional impact recedes, and the arrival of another baby meant we had to focus on the present and their future.
News of Rodriguez and Ronaldo’s loss will have stirred the saddest of memories for many couples, whose grief at the loss of the smallest of beings can be their heaviest load to carry. Times doesn’t heal any wound, but it can make the load a little lighter.
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