Father’s Day is for the dads of miscarriages, too

Published 10:40 am Friday, June 18, 2010

Balancing on the edge of an examining room table dressed in an oversized lobster bib, confidence was not my dominant emotion. I needed to ask my doctor a question, an awkward question like those key plot points in pharmaceutical commercials. “Doc,” I began, “do you think we should start playing the lottery?”

My doctor was used to me reaching down for gallows humor when reality rose to absurd heights. We hit the long shot again, and if we were standing around a craps table, or running the Best In Show lap with our bald Pomeranian at Westminster, I’d say the dice and the nearsighted judges were on our side, but not now.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, there is a 2.25 percent chance that a woman will have two miscarriages in a row, the chromosomal abnormality trisomy 16 occurs in approximately 10 percent of miscarriages, a fatal molar pregnancy accounts for about one in every 1,000 to 2,000 pregnancies, and a whopping 1 percent of couples trying to conceive experience three or more consecutive pregnancy losses. That day in the doctor’s office we had every one of those “never going happen” heartbreaks stacked behind us and were ushering in our fourth miscarriage. Pregnancy had become a death foretold.

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Sorry to be a tease, but this is not a column about miscarriage. It’s about Father’s Day. You see there was a third person present that day, the person the doctor rarely looks at when explaining, yet again, what went wrong, the person to whom the doctor rarely directs her condolences: My husband, Graham (aka, the father).

I don’t blame the good doctor; for obvious reasons, the woman is the unlucky star of this dark show. I’m ashamed to say it wasn’t until we lost our fourth baby that I surrendered top billing and really saw the man patiently waiting in the wings. I was lying in bed following the standard operating procedure of miscarriage aftermath: cry to exhaustion and stare into space until sleep rescues, when I heard Graham, who was sitting in the corner say, “I would have been in his corner always. I would have rooted for him. I would have been his biggest fan. Or her …” he added after a minute.

Most pregnant women have an expectant father by their side. We attach to him the good-natured stereotype of the guy running for Chinese food at 2 a.m. only to find himself fetching Mexican food at 2:15 a.m. He’s the one with a thousand pieces of crib on the floor around him and one set of directions still in the box. In the old days, he would pace the halls outside the maternity ward gripping a handful of cigars and a bouquet of gift shop roses.

Most miscarrying women have a father by their side as well. There is no traditional stereotype for this man because he is usually hidden somewhere within his wife’s grief. He is the one consoling her in the middle of the night after another nightmare jolts her awake. He thinks of his broken dreams and wishes there was a set of directions he could follow to put them back together. He paces outside the house gripping a bouquet of grocery store roses that probably won’t make anything better, but he tries anyway. He doesn’t ask for sympathy. He gives it. You won’t catch him seeking comfort, only providing it.

Father’s Day is for these men, too. The man you might know, or maybe even live with, may only have early ultrasound images in his family photo album and there are no cards on the mantle crayon stained with, “I luv you Dady.”

On Father’s Day, this man stoically finds his way from morning until night, perhaps looking at his watch a little more often than usual, urging the day to be done. He won’t complain and doesn’t want pity. None of us living this nightmare wants pity, but maybe he might want you to recognize that he was once, however briefly, a father. It’s not just about owning the role of parent. It’s about acknowledging that his child or children existed. For a moment, they were his family. Let him know that you understand and you see him.

For every man who supports his wife during the loss of a child or who is struggling with infertility, for every man who is hoping this pregnancy will be the one that sticks, for every man going through IVF, searching for donor eggs, or sitting on an adoption list that seems endless, I am in your corner always, I am rooting for you, and I am your biggest fan.

St. Paul resident Alexandra Kloster appears every other Friday. She may be reached at alikloster@yahoo.com and her blog is Radishes at Dawn at alexandrakloster.com.