By Matt Francis on 26 July 2018
My wife, Tegan, and I have been married for ten years, and are blessed with two beautiful children: our son, Tate, aged four; and our daughter, Cora, aged two. In March 2018, we learned that we were expecting number three, and began planning for the changes ahead. Everything from bunk-beds for Tate and Cora, to a bigger couch, and a new car that would accommodate our expanding brood – it was all on the table!
Having only recently commenced in a new role, I was reluctant to be away from the office when I “didn’t need to be”. While I had attended all the Obstetric appointments and scans for Tate and Cora, Tegan and I had agreed that she would attend the early Obstetrician visits this time, and I would join her as the months ticked by, and we got closer to the end of the pregnancy.
Tegan went for a check-up at the 11-week mark and took the kids along to meet ‘Raspberry’ (the name we had affectionately assigned to the baby when it reached the size of this food item in Tegan’s pregnancy-tracker App) for the first time.
I was in a meeting at Tegan’s appointment time. When my phone rang, I glanced down to see that it was Tegan and sent the call straight to voicemail (I would phone her back soon and hear all about the appointment and how cute the kids’ reactions had been). The phone began to ring again almost immediately, and I knew instinctively that something wasn’t right. I left the meeting and called back; Tegan was in tears, and could barely speak. She didn’t need to – I knew exactly what was wrong.
Twenty minutes later I was sitting in a treatment room at the Hospital, with Tegan and the kids. Our Obstetrician confirmed that Raspberry’s heart had stopped beating. Judging by the fetal measurements, everything was seemingly ‘on track’, suggesting that it had only occurred in the last 24-48 hours. We were ultimately presented with three options: see how things go naturally (give Tegan’s body time to pass the baby); take some medication to speed up the natural processes; or have surgery.
Once Tegan was safely through this process, and seemed to be ‘doing okay’, I gave myself permission to fall apart. Sometimes I cried, some days I focused (too) intently on work, and other times I did less constructive things, like drink or isolate myself. After a couple of weeks of intermittent ‘pity-partying’, I decided to talk through my concerns with friends and family members, and face the grief head-on, rather than trying to pretend that everything was ‘fine.’
For Tegan and I, it has been more than the loss of the baby; it’s also the loss of everything we thought our life was going to look like in the coming six months, two years, and beyond. The larger car we had settled on is no longer needed, and the bunk-beds we had picked out (so Tate and Cora could share a room) can stay at IKEA for now.
Then there are the opportunities we declined, like travel, or concert tickets, or countless other things, because they were scheduled to occur ‘right around the time Bub is arriving’. I think the key has been allowing ourselves to grieve, not only for the loss of the baby, but for all the other comparatively meaningless things too, and not making ourselves feel guilty about it in the process.
Already having kids has helped us get through the last couple of months, but it has been a double-edged sword. On one hand, we don’t have the “will it ever happen for us” anxieties that many other couples must endure when they are experiencing fertility issues or miscarriage, and don’t yet have any children. On the other hand, one of the hardest parts of the whole experience has been trying to help Tate and Cora make sense of the situation so that they can move on, and not be waiting for something that, right now, isn’t happening.
I managed to tell Tate a version of events that satisfied his four-year-old thought processes… “Bubby has been feeling sick, so God decided not to send Raspberry down to us at the moment. He is going to keep Baby until it feels better and then try again later.” Cora, though, still doesn’t understand, and rounds out grace each night at the dinner table with “… and let baby come”. It’s a work in progress.
One of the things I have learned on this journey is just how common miscarriage is (as many as one in four pregnancies), and the disconnect between this high frequency, and how little it is spoken about. This culture of silence is something I would like to help change, as I genuinely believe that a burden shared is a burden lessened, and the more we can educate and openly share our personal stories, the less likely that Mums and Dads will feel alone when they experience loss.
I hope that by telling our story, Tegan and I have contributed in some small way to helping someone else cope with their own experience.