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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

A Dad's Struggle To Move Beyond Miscarriage

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Guest Post by Kelly Jean-Philippe

Host, Welcome to Fatherhood Podcast

CREDIT: GettyImages

There is nothing quite like being a dad. When my firstborn signaled his arrival between 02:30 and 02:45 on a foggy Tuesday morning as my wife's water broke in May of 2020, I knew everything would change. When I laid eyes on him at 14:32 later that same afternoon, I began to feel how things were changing. Soon after he was born, I was whisked away from my wife’s side to be at his for comfort.

"Hey buddy, this is daddy… I’m right here,” I recall whispering to him.

His piercing cry rang like a gentle lullaby to my ears – but only that one time. I placed my right index finger in the palm of his left grip, and the moment he grasped on to it with his tiny little fingers, not only did he immediately stop crying, but also the very foundation and paradigm of everything I thought I knew fundamentally changed.

I was a dad. I was really, truly a dad!

The journey to having my sons was taxing and strenuous; humbling and disheartening; painful, numbing, and traumatizing. The factors that work just to conceive a single human life are nuanced, complex, and mysterious. It goes further and deeper than biological processes. My experience taught me just how fraught and fragile it all is.

The first time I was an expectant dad, the pregnancy ended in miscarriage. Somewhere along the way, someone said, "Don’t be surprised if the first pregnancy doesn’t stick."

While 8 out of 10 miscarriages happen in the first trimester, according to some reports, that was a stupid way to introduce the awareness of that possibility to me. Still, that statement planted a seed in the back of my mind going into the first ultrasound. I reasoned that, at worst, I wouldn’t be surprised if it "did not stick."

Fathers do not experience physiological medical concerns like mothers during a miscarriage. However, the mental and emotional aspects must be acknowledged by healthcare professionals for both parties.

Sure enough, the pregnancy was not viable, and my wife and I found ourselves at the clinic for a D&C. Because of the expectation that was set, I wasn’t tethered to the emotional trauma my wife was experiencing. I failed to empathize with the physical ramifications of her procedure. I was callus. I did not respect her space, experience, and pain. She hid behind the protective cocoon of a grief I did not resolve to understand – I already knew "the first pregnancy might not stick" anyway. And like an unyielding woodpecker, I was forceful in my attempts to invade her space.

We worked through the first miscarriage and found ourselves expecting once again. Since there was no mention of subsequent pregnancies not sticking, I was certain I would become a dad this time. I was wrong.

The second pregnancy also was nonviable. I was devastated. My heart turned to goo, feeling something akin to what I suppose my wife had previously felt and was feeling once more.

We soon found ourselves waiting in a closet-sized room at the clinic for a second D&C. I started to internalize certain negative assumptions and I began questioning whether I was the cause of our miscarriages. What do I need to do to make stronger, healthier sperm? Am I ever going to have my own children? It’s my fault these people are about to scrape the insides of my wife a second time. I’m failing my wife as a husband. I’m never going to be a dad after all.

We waited for what felt like forever. The longer the wait, the more guilt I felt for the way I treated my wife after the first miscarriage.

A male physician walked in, followed by a Black woman resident. I was sitting in a corner almost perpendicular to my wife, an arm’s reach from the door and surrounded by white walls. The physician positioned himself with his back to me given the room’s size and arrangement. He made no attempt to acknowledge my existence. The resident stood against the door and was more cultured. Closing the door, she made eye contact with me and offered a smile – a simple yet profound act of kindness for which I will be forever grateful.

The doctor secured my wife’s consent and then, as quick as he came, he left. Never once did he acknowledge my presence.

I felt invisible. I felt powerless. I felt out of place.

My grief, my pain, and my experience were not validated, and perhaps not even valid. My wife was the patient. Not me. End of story.

Since leaving that clinic, I’ve wondered whether my experience is indicative of other fathers in these spaces, especially Black fathers.

There are reputable research studies that draw attention to the way implicit bias plays a role in how Black pregnant women are perceived and receive care in healthcare settings. Less researched is how these biases frame the experiences of men and fathers – particularly Black fathers – in these same situations with their pregnant partner.

My wife was obviously the patient. She was the one carrying. She needed the D&C. Her miscarriage was the very reason we were both there. But she hadn’t become pregnant alone. As her husband, I provided the sperm that fertilized the egg that made her pregnant, and I was there not just as her husband but also as the father of the nonviable fetus in her womb.

This was our miscarriage.

Although I wasn’t the one physically carrying our baby, I was carrying the emotional weight of unfulfilled dreams, hopes, and aspirations for a fetus who did not survive, as well as carrying a crippling amount of guilt, shame, and angst due to consecutive loss of pregnancies.

I was there not just as her husband but also as the father of the nonviable fetus in her womb. This was our miscarriage.

Although healthcare professionals prioritize physical over mental and emotional care, the latter has become more prevalent in healthcare practices over the years. Fathers do not experience physiological medical concerns like mothers during a miscarriage. However, the mental and emotional aspects must be acknowledged by healthcare professionals for both parties.

Two months after the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, my wife and I welcomed our healthy baby boy into our family. We experienced two more devastating miscarriages before welcoming our second and final son in February 2023. Now that we are no longer trying to grow our family, and as I’m beginning to process multiple past experiences, I have positioned myself as a voice for other fathers. I want to represent those fathers whose experiences are overlooked and who may feel uncomfortable having this incredibly painful and awkward conversation.

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Support for Dads Experiencing Miscarriage

Have you or another dad you know been dealing with pregnancy loss? To support dads like you – like us – I have created a Facebook community called "Dads & Miscarriage: An Unfortunate Brotherhood." I encourage you to join us there and share the link with others who may need it.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Coincidentally, an article published just today in Early Learning Nation addresses the subject of pregnancy risk and inequality for Black mothers. While the article makes only passing reference to the experience of pregnant women's partners and could've been more comprehensive with the inclusion of some Black fathers' voices, it does offer links to a few important organizations advocating for equality in patient care, including developing a training framework for healthcare workers called Respectful Maternity Care. According to the article, that initiative aims to "create an accountability system in which patients can report instances of discrimination and bias, and that data will be reviewed by administrators of Medicaid and other financial reimbursements that hospitals receive." We hope such organizations/initiatives will make a concerted effort to include dads/partners in their programs and research going forward.

Kelly and his sons.

Kelly started the Welcome To Fatherhood Podcast after he and his beautiful wife welcomed their baby boy in the spring of 2020. Not only was parenthood a brand new experience for their family, the societal context at the time of the birth, both locally and globally, played a huge role in the challenges Kelly faced as a first-time father. While experiencing what he considers his most life-changing event, Kelly’s early days as a father were fraught with anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and unrest. The Welcome To Fatherhood Podcast became a way for Kelly to openly talk about the experiences of his fatherhood journey as it unfolded. Kelly's family expanded with the arrival of his second son in February 2023. Like his family, the Welcome To Fatherhood Podcast has also grown to include difficult conversations, such as pregnancy loss. Kelly's growth as a father is reflected in the complex and intimate topics he explores in each podcast episode.


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