The Thin Blue Line

Pregnancy & miscarriage from the male perspective

Imagine your life as a line.

Is it straight? Curvy? Dotted or whole?

Is it roaring towards you like a freight train, or disappearing off into the sunset without a sound?

More importantly… Does your line make you happy or sad? Are you excited to see where it leads, or does it feel like there might be something missing?

I hate to think of life being whittled down to something so painfully simplistic, yet the past 12 months have taught me to find beauty in the brutality of this idea.

Because sometimes, there’s no line at all.

This is my son, and yes, he is literally the best thing ever.

After struggling with what I now understand to be post-natal depression for a long time after he was born, I have loved him exponentially more since the moment he looked up and called me ‘dada’.

I love the way he forgets what he’s laughing about, but keeps laughing anyway just to make me happy.

I love that he knows exactly which books he wants to read each night, and that it’s never the same two nights in a row.

But most of all, I love how happy he makes other people, particularly my beautiful, patient and caring wife.

Which is why it was so hard to see our last two pregnancies end in miscarriage… And watch her experience something so heart wrenching and vulgar it could only have come from someone she loved as much as my son.

The simple fact is, there’s nothing we could have done.

But when you’ve spent nearly two years telling yourself (and anyone who would listen) that you never want another baby, then decide to change your mind, only to lose a child in the early stages of pregnancy… It definitely feels like nature is making a point about your insignificance to the entire process.

Sitting in the hospital for nearly 24 hours sucked.

Explaining to our son that ‘sometimes babies have to go away’ really sucked.

But worst of all was the soul crushing, unshakeable feeling that I’d somehow gotten exactly what I hoped for. That my ego and selfishness had somehow dialled an outside line to whoever was in charge of my baby’s life and said ‘nah, I’ve got a lot of work to do in the next few months and I’m sure there will be another one soon so feel free to just let go’.

Another one did come along soon. And we lost that one too.

All while I was busy raising money on Kickstarter and getting interviewed all over the country for a documentary about being a great dad.

My entire life was beginning to feel like a lie and the only one who knew the truth was suffering worse than I was. I thought the fatherhood project my friends and I were building would allow me to focus and escape into the stories of other more capabable dads, but instead I’d made things worse by building a business around a unicorn.

I completely lost my confidence and began questioning everything.

I made some terrible decisions and allowed myself to be led on many others.

Waving the white flag

Which is how, many months later, I completely trusted my wife when she collapsed in my arms and said ‘that’s it, we’ve lost another one’.

Everything had been moving along reasonably well, but at the usual 7 or 8 week mark, her pregnancy symptoms had seemingly gone completely dark. I’m sure you can imagine how, after a few of these experiences, our brains get reprogrammed to search for the worst, so I’m sure it didn’t take much convincing.

No more sore boobs and no more feeling like crap = No more baby.

I barely even registered the next 24 hours, as once again, we made our way to the doctor’s office to confirm what we already knew to be true.

Sitting in the waiting room of an Obstetrician can be a bit awkward for dudes at the best of times, but when your partner used to work there and would be genuinely excited to catch up with the staff under any other circumstances besides those you are currently in, it’s downright hellish.

Not to mention an antsy 2 year old in my lap deciding that tearing books apart and banging into walls with a toy mower is the best way to stop mummy crying.

I’m far from the macho type, but in moments like these, I am all the superheroes wrapped into one. I am Mr. Protecto and I must save the Princess.

Only, I didn’t marry a princess. I married a strong, capable and highly intelligent woman who just happens to want to disappear right now, and there’s nothing I can do to help her.

After what feels like a year, the doctor finally opens her door and beckons me to sit in the dark, while my wife makes her way onto the table to receive the bad news. My son is snoring gently on my shoulder so I’m grateful to be free to focus on the hand holding and pathetic shoulder rubbing that only men holding toddlers next to a crying wife can understand.

The doctor squirts half a ton of radioactive waste onto a big clear wand and proceeds to move it around my wife’s flat stomach. For a moment I imagine I can hear the baby’s heartbeat just like the first time I heard my son’s in this exact same room just a few short years ago and I instantly tear up at the thought of it.

What if this just keeps happening? What if we just keep trying and can’t get past 3 months, what then? Do I really want a baby so badly that I’d consider other options like IVF or adoption? And since when did I even decide I wanted another one, am I really only doing this for my wife and son like I tell myself or do I believe things might be different this time and I might actually get to enjoy being a dad for the first few months instead of the constant, cloudy mess that plagues my earliest memories of fatherhood…?

And then, there it was.

Heartbeat, check.

Things that look vaguely like a head and body, check.

Wife clutching my hand and smiling?

Check, mate.

Murray Galbraith is the founder and creative director of Dads.Co, a global community for digital dads. Follow him on Twitter here