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When Babies Die, Dads Often Suffer in Silence
It has to be among the worst heartbreaks a human being can experience: the death of a child. And those who have suffered such tragedy will tell you that it's no less painful, or life-altering, when the baby dies during pregnancy, sending shattered mothers home to empty nurseries and uncertain futures.
Millions of moms can attest to the impact such searing loss has had on their lives — about 600,000 women a year miscarry in the United States, 26,000 have a stillbirth, 70,000 lose their babies in ectopic or molar pregnancies, 19,000 infants die in their first month of life, and 39,000 die within the first year — and they do, every day in the blogosphere.
So moved by the cohesive, emotive community grieving mothers everywhere have created in thousands of blogs throughout cyberspace, and the stories of strength, hope and inspiration they tell with each shared experience, I wrote about their movement in a Nov. 5 column in the hopes others could learn by their example.
But I left out an important component of the whole picture — the dads. Sadly, that happens all the time, as one baby loss dad explained in a moving e-mail about his own struggle. And that's tragic in itself.
It's so easy perhaps to think of the impact of miscarriage in terms of how it affects the woman who must endure both the physical and emotional damage, we forget in most cases there's also a dad trying to come to grips with the pain, disappointment and uncertainty himself — all while trying to be strong for his reeling wife.
Aaron Gouveia, a Cape Cod, Mass., father who has suffered through two miscarriages with his wife, makes the point more eloquently than I ever could:
"As painful as miscarriages and the loss of a baby is to mothers, it's also devastating to dads," he wrote in that e-mail. "But what compounds the issue is that dads have no outlet. The going theory is it wasn't in our body, so we should suck it up and be tough for our wives. And because of that, a lot of guys can end up not dealing with this properly and being really screwed up."
So sadly true. Of course, men are not known for being the emotive creatures women are, with our need to express every feeling and "talk out" every problem. And there's catharsis and healing in that feminine trait. So while it's not terribly surprising that the vast majority of the thousands and thousands of baby-loss blogs are geared toward and written by moms, the dearth of men doing the same means there's a whole lot of grieving dads out there with bottled-up emotions.