Miscarriage: A bloke’s perspective
I arrived at the BBC studios in Essex early one Sunday morning ready to do 14 regional interviews that would be broadcast across the UK. I was as prepared as I could be, presuming the questions would be around my upcoming When Faith Gets Shaken tour, which explores what happens when life falls apart and you feel as though God has left you.
Most of the interviews went as expected until one interviewer stopped me in my tracks. “What was it like to lose a baby?” he asked. “Do you struggle to believe In a God of love after that?” He had obviously done a bit of research into my story and discovered that a few years earlier, my wife and I had suffered a miscarriage at 13 weeks.
I will never forget the day it happened. We really wanted another child, especially my wife, Diane; the new baby would complete our family. But then Diane started to spot. She wasn’t too concerned at first as this had happened in her previous pregnancy and everything had turned out fine; however, when it continued she knew she ought to get checked. I was at work when I received a text that simply said “Sorry babe”. My heart sank. I knew immediately what had happened and I phoned Diane straightaway but she couldn’t speak through her tears. I felt useless and guilty for the times I had been worried about how we would have coped with another child. But most of all I felt awful for Diane; she had carried our child and now it was gone.
As a bloke in this situation I felt a real mix of emotions. My main concern was for Diane. I kept saying to myself, “I must be the strong one” but, of course, I was grieving as well. Since I hadn’t physically carried the child, I felt my pain must be nothing compared to Diane’s, so I tried to bury it as much as possible. I’ve since realised this isn’t an unusual response and many of us play Top Trumps with pain. We say to ourselves “Your pain is much worse than mine, so I will bury it” but this doesn’t actually help anyone.
Our other three children knew Diane was pregnant and I had no idea how they would react to this sad news. To make matters worse, my dad was in hospital with cancer and had undergone four operations in nine weeks, leaving him extremely weak. I didn’t want to tell him, or the rest of the family, about the miscarriage, as I knew how upset they would be. The baby had been a light on the horizon during a dark time for us. All of my concerns were focused on how everyone else was feeling as I continued to push down my own grief.
Diane had to have an operation to remove what the doctors described as “products of conception”. She didn’t want me to go to hospital with her; she just wanted to be on her own. When I picked her up afterwards all she was able to say was that it had gone smoothly. I desperately wanted to talk but at the same time wanted to support and respect her wishes. I later learned she had been put on the same ward as those having a planned termination and had frequently been referred to as someone who was terminating her pregnancy. It couldn’t have been further from the truth. We later talked and decided to give the baby a name. We both had a strong feeling the baby was a boy and so we called him Joel.
I didn’t know what to do with the feelings I had around the miscarriage. It didn’t help when I tried to talk about it. One friend said to me, “It’s just one of those things; it’s a lot worse for the women.” My overwhelming emotion was anger, largely directed at God, wondering how he could allow this to happen. Anger is a natural response to pain, but we’re rarely taught how to manage that anger and express it in a healthy way. I thought the good Christian thing to do was to push those feelings aside as soon as they reared their head, but unfortunately they refused to go away. I would imagine picking up objects and hurling them at the wall but then I would immediately feel guilty. Suppressing my emotions didn’t seem to be working.
Everyone remembers the TV series Only Fools and Horses which is one of the most beloved British comedies of all time. A very moving scene occurred in the 1996 Christmas Special1 after Rodney and Cassandra had suffered a miscarriage. Rodney was unable to talk about it; like a lot of us, he felt the best solution was to bury his emotions deep down. Del deliberately trapped himself and Rodney in a lift to try to force Rodney to open up, saying, “I feel sort of frightened. You don’t know what that’s like.” Rodney looked at him in shock and eventually responded, “Don’t know? Me and Cass were so happy, Del. We were looking forward and all we could see in front of us was a big wide highway and we were just cruising like we were in a Rolls-Royce. And suddenly it came to a shattering halt – just like the poxy lift. Suddenly ‘Happy Families’ became ‘Dungeons and Dragons’. And I’ve never felt ******* pain like that in all my life.” He goes on to say, “It’s almost like if I don’t talk about it, it might not be true.”
One thing I have learned over the last couple of years is that I need to face the pain that I carry inside. Suppressing it does me no good; I need to open up to others even when it feels excruciatingly vulnerable. I’ve come to realise that courage and vulnerability are the same thing, and that when we are vulnerable that often gives other people permission to do the same. Brené Brown, a vulnerability researcher, says: “Today we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion this definition fails to recognise the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences – good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ‘ordinary courage’.”
Being honest and letting others in is vital if we’re to deal with the anger and emotions that heart-breaking circumstances like miscarriage leave us with.
I recently received an email from a couple who had to cope with something similar, who had written to say thank you for the things I shared in the When Faith Gets Shaken DVD.
It's ok to be angry
My husband, Wayne, and I were trying for a baby for a long time. My sister had a clear prophetic word that we would fall pregnant on the 22nd of February 2016. Two weeks after that date we did a pregnancy test. We were so used to them reading negative that when this one was positive I used every spare stick I could find just to be sure! We were so excited and thankful. God was great.
However, one day at work I started bleeding. We went in for a scan and they told us the hardest words to hear: there was no heartbeat. I would not let them operate, hoping they had made a mistake or that God was going to breathe life back into our baby. However, it was not to be. We were angry at God. We still believed in God but thought he was cruel. I thought he must have been punishing me, my husband thought God was a God of hate not love and said he might as well go back to living like he used to. (Before he was a Christian he was violent and a thief; he didn’t understand why God had turned his back on him when he had turned his life around.) We didn’t know why God had promised us a baby then taken it away. Not very helpfully we were told we should have prayed more, we had prayed every day for that baby. We hated God but couldn’t tell anyone how we really felt.
Then by ‘chance’ we came across an advert for your DVD. Wayne ordered it and said it was worth a go but it was the only chance God was getting. It arrived and we watched it in silence, in tears. It was OK to be angry at God, we weren’t the only ones. He wasn’t cruel and he wasn’t angry at us for being angry with him. Then God spoke to Wayne, he said our baby was a girl, that he gave us the date not to be cruel but so that we knew she counted as a life, that it makes no difference to him whether the baby was just conceived or died at 100, a life is a life. He said if he gave us the date of the baby we would hold then we would not have known if our little girl counted. He also said she was in heaven and we would see her when we got there. He also said that by 2017 we would have another baby. I doubted him as our first one took so long but as I am writing this I am due next month. The whole experience has changed our view of God and dying. I used to be scared of me or my husband dying but now we joke that the first one to heaven gets to hold our little girl first.
Thank you again for such an honest and real DVD.
Rachel and Wayne didn’t feel they could express their anger and though anger isn’t talked about much in church the Bible doesn’t shy away from the topic. The apostle Paul says, “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27). In other words he’s saying the anger isn’t a sin but hanging on to it is. Solomon said, “Anger resides in the lap of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9) with the word ‘resides’ indicating he means letting it become a resident rather than a visitor.
We have to grasp that getting angry with God and letting loose on the thoughts that are tearing us apart is OK. God is big enough to deal with it. Getting angry means we stay engaged with God and we find release; pretending we’re OK can drive a huge wedge into our relationship with him. If we let it, anger can drive us into God’s presence looking for answers and there we find there is no need for pretence; we are free to express everything we’re feeling before a God who knows and loves us.
Though it feels strange for me to be writing about this subject I realised after the radio interviews that although it is common to suffer the sad loss of miscarriage, unfortunately it is not spoken about much, particularly from the point of view of the father. Current estimates say that miscarriage happens in around 1 in 4 recognised pregnancies, with 85% of those happening in the first trimester (weeks 1 to 12) . That’s a lot of pain and sadness that’s not addressed. I wanted to share something of our experience to stand with those who have experienced this type of loss and pain. Everyone reacts differently but it can be a great strength and help to know you are not alone, and that it’s OK not to be OK. We need to keep reminding one another that it’s actually healthy to express our pain, anger and fear and that God is with us and loves us no matter what is going on. It’s also good to share in one another’s joys and the wonderful news for Wayne and Rachel was that they’ve just had a healthy little boy. They called him Noah Samuel which means rest and comfort in hearing God and being heard by God.