I started to feel like a misfit, in a strange limbo between happy bachelor and family man. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere and because men don’t really talk about it, I felt like I was the only wannabe Dad in the world.
Everyone says they know people who’ve been through the same, so what do all the other men like me do? How do they adapt their hopes to their shifting chances of fatherhood? Is it a problem for them like it has been for me or do they take it in their stride? And where the hell are they all?
All those questions pointed to the same strange conclusion. There must be many men out there who want to have kids but have none, who want to be Dads but are not, but no one ever mentions it. Maybe they can’t conceive, maybe they can’t find the right partner, maybe they hoped and tried and expected but in some way it just never happened. Luck, circumstances, health, time, anything. From the strange cold coastline I’d washed up on, the whole issue seemed to loom large like the great unspoken topic of our gender.
There’s not a lot of literature out there written by men about their experiences of losing a baby and even less about the frustration of repeated failed attempts at fatherhood. What little there was I felt didn’t tell the full story from the man’s perspective and I always felt as if none of it really sounded like it was written by someone like me.
I would like to have read that someone else had been through the same despair and delirium, understand how they motivated themselves to keep putting one foot in front of the other, deep-mining the energy to support their partner and their own self day after day. Being aware that there was a world beyond the maternity suite where this happened to men like me regularly, and that they felt the same as me about it would have been a huge comfort when we were coming through the fire.
I’m convinced I’m not the only person to feel like I do about what has happened to us. Maybe all the other men who’ve been through similar don’t feel the same or aren’t affected by it like I was, but I really don’t think that’s the case.
I’m sure there are many people who have had it much worse, but this isn’t a misery memoir, or an arms race of personal pain. It’s an account of what happened to us, and an example of how it can question and undermine the path you thought your life would take.
It’s an attempt, through just my own limited story, to represent something of the silent army of potential Dads out there who are ploughing on in their own furrow, working out how their future is going to look, making the best of the hand they’ve been dealt.