Over the next two years, I had 4 miscarriages, all around 6-7 weeks, as well as a few chemical pregnancies. My mental health was getting worse and worse. There did not seem to be a reason why I was always miscarrying. We were being followed by the fertility clinic and given progesterone supplements. We were thankful to be there but also found it more stressful as they do early ultrasounds. We would always see our baby just before loosing it which made things so much harder.
Every miscarriage I was told it’s common, 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage and I always knew other pregnant women and felt like I was doing something wrong, wondering why I was always that 1 in 4. I felt so alone. Some doctors that I saw would tell me a miscarriage is just like a period and to just take Tylenol. A miscarriage is nothing like a period. You get bad cramps and then mild contractions until the tissue is passed. Even at 6 -7 weeks it was very clear what tissue was the sac and cord.
I had started doing my own research into recurring miscarriages. The fertility clinic could not find any reasons why I was miscarrying, and I wanted more information. After my 4th miscarriage, my mother found out she had celiac. I also did the blood test and was borderline celiac. The next pregnancy I tried to limit my gluten intake which was hard as that is what I craved with the nausea from the progesterone.
That 5th pregnancy/miscarriage was the one that made it fully to 7 weeks. We saw our Jellybean on a few ultrasounds. The last ultrasound the technician used what I thought to be too much pressure with the wand and her hand, she was trying to get a better view of my tubes. I started spotting immediately after and miscarried a few days later. I was told by my doctor that it was “for the best” as Jellybean was measuring a couple days behind.
This miscarriage was my breaking point. I did not want to stop trying but felt like I could not handle any more miscarriages. Each ultrasound we saw Jellybean grow and were so hopeful it was the one to survive. When I spoke with the doctor after I asked more about my borderline celiac test, he agreed I should try going gluten free. I immediately cut out gluten and we took a couple months off trying. Then exactly 2 years after we started trying, I got pregnant with my rainbow baby Dylan. Throughout the pregnancy, I was so scared to lose him. Every time I went to the washroom, I crossed my fingers and had to check hoping for no blood. After loosing Jellybean, I was gifted a butterfly box. It had information about the Butterfly Run. We had only told a few family members about our miscarriages, we signed up for the run and asked them to sponsor us. We went to our first Butterfly Run when I was 8 weeks pregnant with Dylan. When I first got in the field house at Carleton and saw everyone there, I just cried as I no longer felt so alone. There were people who had similar experiences to me and would understand what it’s like. I wrote that we were running for the 5 Spearin babies on the banner which felt so good to acknowledge them.
We waited for a while to buy anything for Dylan I was worried we would jinx it. At around 22 weeks we bought a car seat and stroller, that day I saw blood when I went to the washroom. I cried all the way to the hospital thinking the worst. He was fine as I found out it was a UTI, but I never felt he was safe. He is almost 2 years old now and we love him so much!!
I have family in Victoria, BC and saw that the cemetery where my grandmother is buried has a spirit garden for miscarried babies. One time when we were visiting, we decorated a spirit house to represent our 5 babies. It is such a beautiful spot in the trees with wind chimes and so close to my grandmother’s grave.
We started to try for another, and I already had a chemical pregnancy/early miscarriage. I am still gluten free and have a typical celiac reaction if I eat gluten. I am in therapy and on medication now for my anxiety. We are not trying to think about it too much and hoping we can give Dylan an earth-side sibling.
- A big thanks to Christina for her courage to share her story.
Did you feel like a dad when I was pregnant with Zalayah?
No, I did not feel like a dad while you were pregnant, but I felt like it was coming. I guess it is different for dads since we do not experience pregnancy. I know for you, you felt like a mom during the pregnancy, especially around the time she started moving. I did feel like I was ready to be a dad and that as soon as Zalayah was born, and I saw and held her that I would feel like one.
Did that change when she was born?
Yes, it did change in a way, but it also did not. I realized that even though I could see her and hold her, she was not really with us, so I still did not really feel like a dad. I felt like a failure. I felt like because we were not taking her home and I would not be experiencing fatherhood like many other fathers do that I was not a dad. I still feel like that today. Even though I talk to her and think of her often, it just isn’t the same to me and it makes me really sad.
Did you feel like you had to hide your emotions after she died?
Yes, I did. I could see how much pain you were in and felt that if I put on a strong face, it would
somehow help. I felt that if you saw me sad or crying every day that it would just bring you down. As a man and husband, I felt like I was supposed to help you and support you and I could not do that if I showed you how sad and depressed I really felt. There were many days I did not want to do anything, but I had to. I knew that I had to be strong for the both of us for us to get through it.
Do you feel like we were treated differently by professionals after her death?
Yes, I do. I remember during some counseling sessions only being asked one or two questions over the hour and all the rest going to you. It seemed like it was difficult (not sure what word to use here) for the counselors to talk to me and ask me questions. I do not know if it is because in our society men are supposed to be strong, they are not supposed to cry or show emotions, so I felt like they did not want to force a reaction out of me by asking too many questions if that makes sense. It is messed up, but I guess that is the kind of world we live in. But in a way I feel with a loss like this, the mother suffers more. You carried her, you felt her growing, and when she was moving you knew what she was doing at every moment every day. I think you had more of a real connection with her and an actual bond than I did. I was just kind of there on the outside like a spectator, I guess. Yes, I got to feel her move by touching your stomach and I learned about her and her routine by what you would tell me but that does not really compare to what you had and went through. To me the father’s time comes after she is born, and it is really sad that I did not get that. So yes, I feel like you and I were treated differently in terms of the support and care we received after she died, but I am not upset about it. I felt like you needed more support in this difficult situation.
Would you have liked more time off?
I feel like I did have enough time off, but I think that is just because of my profession, my boss’
generosity and the timing of everything since she was born close to Christmas. As a mechanic, it is very slow for garages after Christmas, so my boss let me take as much time as I needed but it was unpaid. I ended up taking almost 3 months off. In general, though I do not think fathers are given enough time off. I was not entitled to parental leave since that is only given for living children. There should be some type of leave for bereaved parents where they can both get EI for a certain amount of time. I have heard people being forced to use vacation or sick days which I do not think is fair. Even 15 weeks (maternity leave) may not be enough time. I know it was hard for you when I went back to work, so you went back to work early just to be able to do something, but I know we both probably were not ready. They (the government) should really do something about that.
Did you feel like you received adequate support?
Despite everything I just said, I do feel like I had a good support system. The Roger Neilson House was very good, especially the group sessions where they made a point of asking everyone (mothers and fathers) the same questions. Looking back on it now, I honestly do not know how we would have gotten through all of this without them. In terms of the other services that were offered, I guess it would have been nice if there was something specifically for fathers as there was for mothers but again, I understand why it is mostly focused on mom in this situation.
Here's a great resource for fathers looking for additional support. Kelly Farley, is a father to two angel babies and has made it his mission to help other fathers cope with pregnancy loss. Please check out his story by TODAY on YouTube Father Breaks The Taboo Around Grieving A Pregnancy Loss | TODAY or on their website Fathers grieve for pregnancy loss as much but get no help (today.com). To read more about his story, read stories from other fathers and/or share your story please visit his page Grieving Dads – To the Brink and Back.
There was nothing to fight against. There was no foe to defeat. There was no crazy situation to overcome. There is just a single moment when someone tells you “I’m sorry sir, there’s nothing we can do” and you must accept it no matter how much you do not want to. For me, that day was Sunday, December 15th, 2019. My wife and I were expecting our first baby, a girl, we decided to name Zalayah. On December 15th, 2019, my wife had just made it to term. We were expecting our daughter within the next week or two.
My wife had gotten up that morning after having cramps the night before and said she could not feel our daughter moving. We called her midwife who told us to meet her at her office. She searched and searched for a heartbeat but could not find one, so she called an ambulance to rush us to the hospital. My wife was beginning to panic but I just kept telling her everything was going to be okay. Little did I know how wrong I was. The ambulance came and loaded her up. They told me I would have to follow behind in my car. That drive alone was the longest drive of my life even though I was speeding as fast as I could. By the time I found parking and ran up to the maternity ward, my wife had already been checked. The nurse met me and brought me down the hall to her room and up until that point I still managed to convince myself that everything was going to be okay. And then I heard the screams. It was like nothing I had ever heard before, screams of pure agony, screams of a broken heart. That is when the nurse spoke to me and all I can remember is “I’m sorry sir, there’s nothing we can do”. At that moment, my world fell apart. The rest of the day was a painful blur. Our daughter was born the next day and it was the saddest day of my life. I kept waiting to hear her first cry, but it never came, just pure terrible silence. My mind knew she was not going to make a sound but, in my heart, I pleaded with her to wake up, take a breath, open her eyes, anything. That day I cried more than I ever have in my life.
The next few months passed in a haze of sorrow and grief. Before I knew it, Father’s Day was just around the corner and I did not know how to feel about it. Many people I spoke to told me I was indeed a father and that I should be celebrated but I did not feel that way because I did not have my daughter with me. I could not hold her, play with her, or give her kisses so I did not feel like a father. I debated telling my fiends and family not to bother doing anything for Father’s Day and to just treat it like any other day. In the end I decided against that idea and I let my loved ones do what they felt was best. Some wished me Happy Father’s Day, some did not. Regardless, for me, it just felt like another sad day like every other one since Zalayah died.
This year, Father’s Day may be a bit better. My wife and I were lucky enough to welcome our rainbow baby, Ezrah, on December 24th, 2020, the happiest day of my life. So, this year I will be able to spend it with my little boy which will surely be better than last year. I know, at the same time, I will be missing what could have been. My daughter Zalayah will always be in my heart. I speak to her everyday and this June 20th will be no different. It will surely bring tears to my eyes but this year at least my little Ezrah will be here to give me one of his beautiful baby smiles and I know that will make it a bit better.