Richard Burke and his wife endured nine miscarriages while trying for a family. He discovered that the pain of pregnancy loss can be just as devastating for a man

She had gone to the GP that morning because of a bad period. It had gone on for over a week, she was bleeding heavily and the pain was excruciating. We thought that her coil had become dislodged. It was the only explanation we could think of. When she called me at work to say the GP was sending her to hospital, we were worried but nothing more.

It must have been about four in the afternoon when she rang again, clearly panicking. At the hospital, they had scanned her, prodded her, tested her blood, all without explanation. Then a doctor came to explain that they were sorry but she had lost her baby. The pregnancy had been ectopic and now they had to remove one of her Fallopian tubes.

What baby? We were taking precautions. Ectopic? Lose a tube? In the course of half an hour, we were introduced to a whole new vocabulary - the language of failed pregnancy.

Since then, we have had eight more miscarriages, including another ectopic. We have also had Daniel, our son, now 10. Along the way, there has been hope, despair, uncertainty and grief. We carry the scars of them all.

And yet we've been lucky. We have a child. Not everyone gets that far. When it happened, we were still in the first rush of discovering that we were in love: evenings spent just staring at each other, sex at every opportunity, the jokes that no one else could understand. But coming back from hospital after the laparoscopy, I drove as though she were made of glass. Nothing was the same between us.

I watched helplessly as Valerie's emotional strength drained away. She became fragile and unsure of herself, of me - of us. Truth be told, so did I. We couldn't talk: not to each other, not to our friends. For Valerie it was all too raw. For my part, I was too busy coping with her feelings to consider my own. She was hurting, that was all that mattered. I had to protect her.

Sex had gone overnight from that fantastic first flush of a new relationship to an uncomfortable question mark. Was a cuddle just a cuddle - or a prelude to something more? We couldn't just bonk with abandon, because we both knew what that had led to before.

We'd only been together eight months. I could no longer imagine life without her. She had never wanted children before, but the miscarriage left her with a gap in her life that she could only explain one way. She wanted a baby, with me. But I was 29, and enjoying things as they were. More than anything I wanted to go back to the life we'd had before. I wasn't ready for children.

That was a burden for both of us. Because now, my reluctance was the cause of her pain. And, because she saw my reluctance, she was unsure of my love. And her uncertainty of me, if anything, drove me further away. Every period was a reminder for Valerie of what she had lost, and to me, a reinforcement of my failure.

Many couples' relationships must founder in the aftermath. We were lucky. We got married. I'd been happy as we were, and so had she. But that had all changed. Marriage was wonderful - but it didn't change the problem. There was still a sadness in Valerie that I couldn't reach.

After nearly a year of living with Valerie's yearning, watching children playing in the park every weekend, I slowly began to see the attraction. I decided that this was something that I could give her after all. I told her on her birthday.

That night, we threw away the condoms. Seven weeks later we had a miscarriage.

In total, we had five miscarriages before we had Daniel. We entered a kind of daze: try, fail; try, fail; try, succeed; lose it. In bed, every night and morning, we faced the same unspoken questions. Do we want to make love? What's the chance of a baby? What about the pain if we lose it? Then we'd stop making love because it was just too emotionally damaging. It became harder to approach each other with a genuine sense of arousal.

It stopped being about the baby. It was only about the pain. Which particular ways will this month find to hurt us? Perhaps the uncertainty of each other's sexual responses, or the fear of talking when the period's late - because if you talk, you'll jinx it. Perhaps the moment when the period comes - only, it's not a period because it two weeks too late, and far too heavy, and you know you've lost another one.

We'd been together long enough now to trust each other. Talking made all the difference, so this time we talked to other people. And, for the most part, other people understood. They might not "get it" - but they saw the pain, accepted it, and moved on.

After five lost pregnancies, we got a cat. It was a poor substitute, but at least it was something to love. A month later we were pregnant again.

We were regulars by now at the Recurrent Miscarriage Clinic at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington. There were blood tests once a month for both of us, and doctors who told us they had no idea why we kept miscarrying. But this time was different. A week after Valerie's period was due, we were in there for tests: yes, they told us, you're pregnant. Come back next week for a another test and a scan. They seemed so confident - and we felt the beginnings of hope. We were more afraid of the hope than anything else. We knew how easily it turned into despair.

The day of the scan came - and we saw our baby for the first time. Valerie was six weeks pregnant, and he was the size of an eyelash. Amazingly, we could see his heart beating.

The scans and blood tests that gave us strength. There were no drugs, no injections or special things to do. More than anything, I think it was psychological. We had scans once a week - and each time Eyelash was still there. It felt different - and it was. Morning sickness wasn't a problem - it was exciting. So was the fatigue, the bloating, all the usual trials of pregnancy.

Daniel was, is, always will be, a wonder to us. He's 10 now: bright, complex and always full of something new. From time to time, though, he asks us why he couldn't have had a brother or sister. And we tell him - we tried.

We would have loved to have more than one baby. And we did indeed conceive. Then we lost it. It was the first of four more miscarriages. The last of them was another firm pregnancy, like Daniel - but ectopic.

We both feel that this last miscarriage was the easiest to grieve for. It was the first one since Daniel that had really felt real. We were two-and-a-half months in before we lost it. It was when we began to think: never again.

I think I have learnt something through the pain of so many miscarriages. I have a wife I love, a son I adore, and there isn't enough time in life to spend it jumping at shadows. It's not a coincidence that there is a miscarriage at the heart of my most recent novel, Redemption. The two central characters have suffered one, and now she is pregnant again. It's not a story about the miscarriage - it's a psychological thriller. But for me, it was an emotional book to write.

Every day when Daniel slips into bed with us for a quick snuggle, I count my blessings. But the grief never leaves. The trick, if there is one, is to accept the grief as part of you and to be open about it with the most important people in your life. Our own redemption came through trusting each other. Through that, we finally found the courage to accept that there were people who loved us, whether we were happy - or grieving for an unborn child.

Redemption by Richard Burke is published by Orion, £10.99; the Miscarriage Association helpline 01924 200 799, Scottish helpline 0131-334 8883

Failed pregnancy: the facts

* More than one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage - around a 250,000 in the UK each year.

* Most miscarriages happen in the first three months of pregnancy - but they can happen up to the 24th week. Pregnancy loss after 24 weeks is known as stillbirth.

* Any woman who is at risk of pregnancy is also at risk of miscarriage - it can happen to anyone.

* Even after several miscarriages, most women have a good chance of a successful pregnancy.

* It is common for women who have miscarried to feel high levels of anxiety surrounding a subsequent pregnancy.

* Most women never know what has caused them to miscarry. Investigations are generally limited to women who have had three or more miscarriages. Even after investigations, in many cases a specific cause is not found.

* One in 100 pregnancies is ectopic. This means the pregnancy is developing outside the womb - most often in one of the Fallopian tubes. This condition is life-threatening for the mother and, with exceedingly rare exceptions, the pregnancy cannot survive.

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