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Ending a pregnancy for fetal abnormality

Men's ideas about their role in ending a pregnancy

We talked to 9 men about their experiences of ending a pregnancy. All were affected by the experience and said it had changed the way they looked at themselves, their lives and their families. Here are some of their thoughts.

Supporting their partners

 

Feels that his role was to help his wife recover properly by making sure she had enough time and...

Feels that his role was to help his wife recover properly by making sure she had enough time and...

Age at interview: 45
Sex: Male
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Gosh, there's a myriad of things, I mean there are so many things, so many issues that are just huge. You're worried about depression for, for yourself, but for them. You're worried that the, in our instance we had a little boy that needed looking after, you feel nervous that his care is not going to be as good as it should be, or could be. Because there you are as parents, both of you very sombre, very sad, very determined to try and make a baby, so your whole life is taken over by this, you know, need to have a little sibling but, and you forget how to enjoy the first child. 

So you, I was worried for her, from that point of view, and I know that that was an issue for a while, but she did fantastically well. But it is a horrible thing, your body is changing, you're hormonally in a dreadful state, physically you're in a bad state. I suppose I just wanted to sort of put sticking plaster over all the leaks really and try and, I know that my effort with my son went two-fold. I sort of, did sort of step in and really take over a lot more of the day-to-day sort of pastoral care of him, and that sort of gave her a relief I think to sort of regroup and really get her strength back. So I think that's the best thing I could have done for her really, let her know that he was alright.
 
 

Thinks that it has helped his wife that he was there to listen and talk to her.

Thinks that it has helped his wife that he was there to listen and talk to her.

Age at interview: 41
Sex: Male
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Yeah, that was the first traumatic thing that had happened to us since we'd been together. And I mean, we didn't grow apart or anything - I mean we were very close before - and we were close through it all, through the whole thing. Yeah I mean we were solid all through and afterwards. I never felt that we were becoming more distant or anything, even when she was depressed, and I couldn't really help her, I didn't feel like that was going to be a problem for us. I just thought it was something that she had to deal with because I couldn't help her. I mean I try and talk things through but it doesn't really help always, does it?

So what's your strong point for her do you think?

Yeah my presence and, and talking things through. We do talk about things, probably not as much as she'd like. But, [laughs] yeah, being there through everything, always, certainly that's the most important thing, to be there. And to talk about it I guess yes, that's important.
 

He feels that men should be strong and describes how he helped his wife in practical ways.

He feels that men should be strong and describes how he helped his wife in practical ways.

Age at interview: 38
Sex: Male
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Father' I'm a bit old-fashioned I suppose, they've got to be strong. They've got to be strong and they've got to take more responsibilities for everyday decisions. Because a lot of men don't. 

Mother' You sort of took over.

Father' Yeah, take over basically, so [my wife] can concentrate on what she's got to concentrate on, especially if like there's a termination coming up. That's, you've got to just be there.

And, you know the silly little decisions like 'What are we going to have for dinner?' You know, if you're emotionally involved with something like that, a termination, who cares about what you're going to have for dinner? But you've got to eat, so why doesn't the man take simple little things like that over - those sort of what you take-for-granted decisions. 

 

Feels that he and his wife supported each other through the termination and that he has accepted...

Feels that he and his wife supported each other through the termination and that he has accepted...

Age at interview: 49
Sex: Male
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The termination my role I said before that there were two phases. The one was the 4-week period of making the decision and there it was both of us just having to decide what to do. And but sometimes feeling of being a punch bag, because you know there was a sort of feeling of why is this happening to us and the sort of irrationality 'why me?' that kicks in. And yes to some extent you do become a bit of a punch bag, but in other ways, [what's needed is] just sort of general support of something that we've got to do together. 

Things that men found difficult 

 

He felt helpless when he saw his wife in distress and thinks that it can be difficult for men to...

He felt helpless when he saw his wife in distress and thinks that it can be difficult for men to...

Age at interview: 41
Sex: Male
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Yeah, apart from holding your partner's hand on the day you do feel powerless and impotent, it's a terrible thing and, if you're a bloke it's even more terrible [laughs] I suppose - do you know what I mean? You always like to have some sort of control over a situation. And I think it's important that you know, maybe people should be more informed or fathers should be more informed about what's going to happen on that day, and you know how best they could help their wives, or partners you know.

It is you know, with hindsight, it is all geared around the woman, whatever reasons I mean, you, a lot of single mums around, and whatever, you can see the reasons why. I don't know whether counselling at the time would be good for me - I don't think it would have been - I don't think I wanted to do anything about, you know, with those emotions then. 

There's not until 6 months, a year later, then it sort of starts, I don't know, sinking in a bit more. Maybe you know you can. but sometimes I don't know what the benefit of counselling is. It works for some people, it does work for some people, for others it causes more problems you know.

 

He tried to support his wife in all kinds of ways and realised the most difficult thing was...

He tried to support his wife in all kinds of ways and realised the most difficult thing was...

Age at interview: 38
Sex: Male
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I think the right thing to do for whatever person, it's going to depend on the woman anyway and how they're dealing with what's happening to them and to the couple and the extended family.  

My wife found it very, very useful writing down everything in her, on the computer - I'd find her tapping away at the computer, I'm like, 'What are you doing?'. 'I'm just updating my diary'. So she literally wrote a diary of the pregnancy.  

What I found useful and what I also found very upsetting, was reading what she'd written, because she was able to get down a lot more in a, in a you know, in a file on a computer than she could convey to me without, without breaking down in tears all the time. So that, that document was very, very helpful for me. As I say it was very upsetting as well because she was saying things in there, where I was thinking, 'Well I should have known that', or 'I could have dealt with that better'. So it was, it was upsetting because I, you know, I knew maybe I hadn't been there when she needed me or whatever.  

But just listening a lot of the time, but as couple we were talking about it a lot as well, whilst trying to have a fairly normal family life for our little boy, so it was difficult. I know that I was putting on a very brave face. And once, once we'd gone through the termination, probably, well a few days after that, that's when it all came out for me. I remember sitting here and it just went, that's when I just let go. A probably realised then how much of a brave face I'd been putting on it. 

Do you recommend doing that 'putting on a brave face', is that something you probably have to do to get through it?

You have to put on a brave face to get through some of, you know, you need to get, because life does go on. And as much as the situation we were in was sort of, it never really took over our life, but it, I can see how for some people it might just take over your life completely. But we still had a little boy to look after, we still had friends that wanted to see us, we still had responsibilities at work and responsibilities outside of work, and you've still got to get on with those things, so yeah the, the brave face is necessary. And I think as a man you're more expected to put on that brave face and to be strong and to be there, but sometimes it's bloody difficult, really was.

 

Describes feeling very anxious about the possibility of going through another pregnancy.

Describes feeling very anxious about the possibility of going through another pregnancy.

Age at interview: 45
Sex: Male
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Yes, it does, it makes it more intense, because I think you live the fears, you live the anxieties in a very strong way, yeah, in the same way as I think my wife would have done. You're sort of very every day into that, and it's very difficult to stay cheerful when there's potentially some very gloomy news on the horizon. And so, yeah, it's a very, very intense time. I mean unbelievably my wife is talking about having another child. You know, well, you can probably tell just, I mean I'm exhausted by that thought. I mean, you know, we have a child that is healthy, a son, two children that didn't make it, and another child that is healthy. 

The last four years has I think really used a lot of energy, emotionally and physically, more physically from my wife's point of view, because being pregnant that many times in that short space of time must be just exhausting, let alone the emotional devastation that is exhausting as well. So to put yourself in that position again. I think is potentially very dangerous. Not because it, I mean it might work, we might have a very healthy child, but if it doesn't, it's jolly tough. 

How ending the pregnancy has changed them

 

His experience has affected his work and has made him more concerned about the children he...

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His experience has affected his work and has made him more concerned about the children he...

Age at interview: 29
Sex: Male
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Mother' If something happens at work though with kids, you do come home upset, don't you?

Father' Yeah, I've found that has been a bit of a downside for me. In my profession I find it difficult to deal with children now, which is obviously, it does come up at times. It's not as though - if anything bad happens to a child that I come across, then I do my best to deal with it as I would have done - but now I do find I come away afterwards thinking about it still.
 

Says that having another baby as well as the passage of time helped him and his wife recover from...

Says that having another baby as well as the passage of time helped him and his wife recover from...

Age at interview: 37
Sex: Male
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Well, I would say it's tough but... it's possible to get through it, but it is a very very tough time, and there's no way of making it any easier, other than, as you say, the passage of time is the only thing that can make a difference. We're fortunate that we're in a position where we can consider having another child afterwards, and I think that does make a big difference. Because our baby's problem wasn't a genetic one, we were reasonably happy with the idea that, that it wasn't going to be something that would necessarily happen again, so we were happy to go ahead with another pregnancy and very glad that we did.

 

Feels that the experience of ending a pregnancy has made his relationship with his wife even...

Feels that the experience of ending a pregnancy has made his relationship with his wife even...

Age at interview: 32
Sex: Male
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Relationship-wise we're still very close, and we're still as strong as we ever were. We were very close anyway as a couple, we love each other dearly, and I don't think that's really changed. We're both very supportive of each other, and probably, I mean probably more so now because we've both been through this and we have that extra bond that no one else has. I don't think it's changed it that much, certainly not for the worse. 

A selection of what women said they valued about their partners - written clips only

 

'He was a rock'.

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'He was a rock'.

Age at interview: 33
Sex: Female
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And he was very much a rock, a complete rock, and I feel he felt he had to be. All our family, we have no family that live close by, so it wasn't a case that you could just pop in and see your Mum or they could just pop in. But it was very much sort of, he was there but he knew what kind distance to keep and when to sort of stay out the way and let me have a rant and a rave - the usual [smiles].

 

'I wouldn't have been able to go through that experience without my husband's support and his...

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'I wouldn't have been able to go through that experience without my husband's support and his...

Age at interview: 34
Sex: Female
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I could hear that it was a problem now, but I couldn't understand whether the amniotic fluid was produced by the baby, or was produced by myself and whether there was any chance of the amniotic fluid increasing, and what, whether it was a leak or, you know, that, I couldn't get my head around any of that. 

It took a lot of work on my husband's part - because he knows how I am and he knows how I work - to ask her questions in a way that I would understand. And a lot of repetitiveness was required for me. 

And I, even at the end of speaking to the registrar doctor, I still didn't have a terribly clear understanding. And it was when, and the obstetrician came in, the obstetrician consultant came in and, again, I didn't really hear what she was saying. And I can remember specifically coming home and saying to my husband, 'What's the effect of the baby having no fluid around him?' And my husband having to explain it to me at least 3 times then. 

And I wasn't sort of - I was listening but I wasn't really hearing the detail of what I was being told - and it was... had my husband not been there, then it would have been, I just don't know I'd have done. And I wouldn't have been able to go through that experience without having my husband's support and his clarity of thought. And being him, being able to ask the right questions, I had no idea what questions to ask, I had no idea even what I wanted to ask. But he did and that was a tremendously helpful. 

 

[About her partner] 'With him I felt safe because... this was our loss together'.

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[About her partner] 'With him I felt safe because... this was our loss together'.

Age at interview: 36
Sex: Female
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And I think, after having the second loss last year I think we immediately were very very much close with each other, you know. I didn't want to be with anyone but with him, because I felt, if I was with him I felt safe and because he was the, he, you know, we were both, this was our sort of loss together, and he was going to feel the love for the baby more than anybody else would. And I suppose in a way that was the same with the first, with [the baby's] loss. Because I did want... even though the first weeks were very difficult in terms of what, us communicating because we were so emotional, I did feel that I didn't want anybody else but [my husband] but my husband near me because, because he was, because he would have felt the love for the child that I did. Anybody else just thinks, 'Oh, it's just a fetus' or... you know, they don't understand that it's a human being, it's a person.

 

[About her partner] 'He did try hard... he's very good at talking about things'.

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[About her partner] 'He did try hard... he's very good at talking about things'.

Age at interview: 41
Sex: Female
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He did say at one point that it was very difficult having to stand by someone and see them go through all this turmoil and not actually being able to fix it - that that was sometimes the most difficult thing. And then we had the problems about the baby's remains, and it was one thing after another, and he wanted to be able to put it right for me, he wanted to be able to help, and there was a feeling of helplessness. And actually, that was, in many ways, the worst thing for him. 

He did have his own pain about losing the baby, but in many ways it was worse having to stand by and watch the effect it had on me, and, and feel that there was absolutely nothing he could do really. I mean, and he, yeah, he did try hard, he did try, he's actually a very good talker, he is actually very good at talking about things, and when I got very, I did get depressed for quite a lot of months, he did, and he could tell when I was in a you know, a really bad frame of mind, and he'd say, 'Would you like to talk?' you know 'Would it help to talk?' and, which I did always appreciate him making the offer, but sometimes, like, 'No. I don't want to talk,' and I would just go to bed and pull the covers over my head. 

Last reviewed July 2017.

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