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Jonathan Seidler is an Australian author, father and nu-metal apologist. You may have read his memoir, caught his compelling live performance at this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival, or noticed his distinct eyebrows on the street. He has some interesting things to say about music, fatherhood, Aussie culture, mental health and the social gymnastics of group chats. This is his column for Esquire.

I HAD THE DISTINCT impression of feeling like an extra in my own play. We were sitting in the GP’s office, having just found out my wife’s pregnancy was ectopic. This meant that not only were we forced to deal with the whiplash of learning our child would not be born, but that it could potentially endanger my partner’s life. When I think back to this time, my lasting memories are of guilt and despair; that I had somehow brought this upon us, and that soon my wife wouldn’t speak to me at all. The latter would eventually come to pass; in losing a child, we had also lost the love language that defined our relationship.

I hated myself for my inability to find a solution to this problem of utter hopelessness, and often found myself veering dangerously close to depression. One evening, after months of eating takeout in the silence of our locked- down apartment, I cracked.

‘‘I’m allowed to feel shit about this too,” I blurted out to her, between tears. “Of course you are,” she said, as the dam that had been quietly building between us finally burst. “Who ever said you couldn’t?”

Much work has been done in bringing the secrecy and shame around miscarriage out into the light—as it should. This isn’t some random mishap that befalls select couples: statistically it sits at around one in five, higher still if you consider it can also happen for some who don’t yet know they’re pregnant. If you asked all of your mates over beers if their partner had ever miscarried, there’s a decent chance the answer would be yes. But why on Earth would you do that? What a massive downer.

I wrote about our miscarriage in my first book, and I remember the particular chapter coming up again and again in interviews. The journalists, almost always women, were in awe that I’d decided to write about it at all. Many had stories of their own; of partners trying to be stoic in the face of what is essentially a kick in the nuts from God, ultimately drinking, shouting or bench- pressing their way through it. After dedicating every waking hour to caring for their partners, they’d found themselves left behind, and acted out accordingly.

“If you asked all of your mates over beers if their partner had ever miscarried, there’s a decent chance the answer would be yes. But why on Earth would you do that? What a massive downer.”

“Historically, pregnancy and birth were seen largely as a ‘women’s issue’ in society, with men traditionally playing a less active role during pregnancy and birth,” says Dr Kate Obst, a psychologist and postdoctoral research fellow at The University of Adelaide, whose PhD explores men’s grief and support needs after pregnancy loss. “This history may have led to an assumption that men are ‘less affected’ because they did not have the same opportunity to develop a relationship with their baby as women who physically carry the pregnancy.”

Of course, there is a reason our culture approaches miscarriage this way—the physiological and psychological effects it has on women are often devastating, sometimes fatal. But to assume that men feel no connection to the pregnancy is to reinforce the false yet potent stigma that emotional and mental struggles do not befall us.

Throughout the process, I was mostly addressed by medical staff in purely practical terms—here’s what you need to do, here’s how to administer drugs, here’s how to look after your partner’s emotional health—which I have since discovered was not unusual. While the standard of care my wife received was incredible, I was rarely asked how I was. At one point, a doctor gave us a pamphlet from a local charity. On the back page in small font was a stipulation for Dads, or would-be Dads. It said something to the effect of ‘this will be hard for you, too, chin up, see a counsellor’. It didn’t imbue me with confidence, either in the validity of my feelings nor my role in my partner’s recovery beyond physically being present.

Thankfully, the discourse has evolved significantly in the two or so years since we miscarried, but it’s still nowhere near at the level it needs to be. And structural issues, just as much as belief structures, are preventing necessary change. Dr Obst’s research uncovered that Australia’s healthcare systems do not officially recognise men as patients in the same way as a woman who is pregnant or giving birth.

“This means that men’s contact details aren’t collected in the same way for follow-up, and their medical or mental health history is not gathered or screened,” she says.

When we miscarried, I spoke to nobody about it. My wife and I dealt with our pain in separate ways, which often involved one of us shutting down conversations and leaving the house. Of the various stages of grief, my two favourites were definitely sadness and anger, which flared up whenever I found out anyone else was pregnant.

Dr Timothy Keogh is a clinical psychologist and the president of Penthos, a mental health charity that provides a therapeutic program for couples struggling with loss. He points out the need to acknowledge that men and women grieve differently, and how failing to do so can have serious consequences.

“Men have been expected to be a strong and silent support to their partners, yet this often contributes to a couple’s relationship breakdown,” he says. “It can be misread as an indication that they are not as emotionally distressed by their loss, which is far from the truth.”

This problem is exacerbated by the few resources available to men that lose children, whether through miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death.

Charities like Sands, which recently merged with Red Nose Australia, are to be commended for the work they do in specifically targeting men, with detailed collateral that speaks directly to the experience of losing a child. They remain in the minority, with others linking to private Facebook pages that rarely update or phone support lines that men are unlikely to call.

“There’s absolutely a need for services that are tailored specifically for men in this space, including the use of male-friendly language, settings and timing of support offered,” says Dr Obst. “There are very few dedicated ‘men and partner’ services in our hospitals and health settings.”

Sometimes, men find it easier to talk about specifics rather than the vagueness of feelings. I, for one, found it much easier to discuss my wife’s progesterone levels than my own lingering despair.

“Men have been expected to be a strong and silent support to their partners, yet this often contributes to a couple’s relationship breakdown… it can be misread as an indication that they are not as emotionally distressed by their loss, which is far from the truth.”

“I do believe that the best initiatives to meet men’s needs are likely to be developed by bereaved men for bereaved men,” says Dr Obst, citing football league Sands United FC, which was started by a grieving father of a stillborn baby and has since grown to over 30 teams across the UK. “Continuing to provide platforms for men who experience loss to share their experiences and feel heard and validated is the best place we can start.”

Today, we are blessed with a child of our own, but I still think about that time constantly. Dealing with pregnancy loss of any variety feels a bit like being on the rotor ride at Luna Park; you think you couldn’t feel any worse and somehow the machine keeps spinning. It continues rendering you emotionally nauseous after the embryo or foetus leaves the body, and it’s this mental long tail which can too often wrap itself around men.

I have had friends who have miscarried who have never talked to me about it; mates currently dealing with ongoing pregnancy complications that probably have no idea how to process what they’re going through. And that’s a real shame, because while growing a child remains out of our wheelhouse, the enduring pain of losing one is universal.

Jonathan Seidler is an Esquire columnist and the author of It’s A Shame About Ray (Allen & Unwin).

Like all proper columns, this one will be back next week. You can see Jonno’s first column for Esquire here.