As many as one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, but it is still not your average dinner table topic. More women are breaking the silence but what is it like for expectant fathers? Gareth Watkins shares his story
We had been trying for a baby for a couple of years when Jo got the first positive test. They tell you not to plan anything in the first trimester, but we couldn’t help it.
She started lightly bleeding or ‘spotting’ early on and, though we reassured that this is fairly normal, every toilet trip became a source of worry.
We planned to tell family at 12 weeks, which coincided with Jo’s birthday. We visited her parents in Kent: there was a lot of celebrating even before we could get the words out, and the conversation quickly turned to babies. But by this point Jo was already bleeding.
Back at the house, it became clear what was happening, Jo’s mum called an ambulance and we spent the rest of the day in the hospital.
I cancelled my parents’ planned visit for the following day, making up an excuse. I didn’t want them to worry and I would have fallen apart if they were there.
The miscarriage was confirmed ‘complete’ a few days later. We were sent home and told to wait for Jo’s next period before trying again.
I made an excuse to pop to the shop and rang my dad in the car outside. I went to bits after I told him, but I composed myself and went home as if nothing had happened. I felt kind of numb.
Instead, I focused on reassuring Jo.
At work the next day I tried to carry on as normal, but found myself crying in the car between visiting clients. No one at work knew; for some reason I felt almost embarrassed by it, or at least about being sad about it.
I was willing to try anything, I hated living where we lived; everything reminded me of the miscarriages
The second time it was a ‘missed miscarriage’. The baby died at about six weeks, but we didn’t know anything was wrong until about 12 weeks when Jo started bleeding. We managed to get a referral to the early pregnancy unit, but the outcome was the same. Again, we were sent home with a leaflet and told to wait for the miscarriage to complete.
We did loads of research and changed our diets. This made me feel like I was doing something useful.
I still never cried in front of Jo.
I was angry at people I knew who were going to be dads. I didn’t understand why they wanted to talk about it.
It had got to the point where I was willing to try anything. I hated living where we lived: everything reminded me of the miscarriages, and the stress was causing us to argue over petty things.
I felt like I was to blame, as if I had failed.
The third time it was a misdiagnosed ectopic – the egg was planted inside one of Jo’s fallopian tubes. I got a call at work: Jo had taken herself to hospital with pain and had to have an emergency operation to remove the tube.
Six months later Jo was pregnant again and, amazingly, we now have a baby girl, Jessica.
I’m much better now, and I find myself talking about it more. It’s hard to talk about because no one really knows about it: it’s hidden away in people’s homes and hospitals.
It still makes me sad and I do cry occasionally. I still never let Jo see it, and I still don’t tell people how sad I was or how helpless I felt. I hope that by being open about it, others will feel able to do the same and will realise they are not alone.
In April, Gareth ran the London Marathon for the Miscarriage Association.
Photo: Nick Veasey/Getty Images