Don't forget, it was my baby too: Nobody sat me down and asked how I felt

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Andrew Johnston, 27, is a psychiatric nurse. He has been through an abortion and two miscarriages with his partner, Fiona.

THE ONE beginning with the 'A' happened six years ago. We were talking one night about going abroad to find work when Fiona burst into tears and said she was pregnant. At first I was pleased, but then the reality hit me - I had no job, no prospects and Fiona was the only breadwinner. We weighed it up calmly and although neither of us wanted a termination, we felt it was the right thing to do.

For weeks after the abortion Fiona was tearful, inconsolable and angry - angry at me, angry at herself. She had a cat she doted on that she stopped caring for and she lost all interest in her personal hygiene. I tried to be supportive, but at the same time, I felt she was over the top, which sounds cold I know, but that's how I felt. I felt helpless in comprehending what she'd been through.

Two years later, she fell pregnant again and although it was unplanned, we were elated. We were in better financial shape and there was no question that we'd not have the baby. But one day, very early in the pregnancy, there was blood and she was in the bathroom a long time. When she came out she was emotionless and cold and said she'd miscarried. I was dumbstruck. It dawned on me that the abortion may have caused some internal damage. I threw the blame at everyone - at my parents, at the system - and then, when I was finished, it all came back to me. I felt that I'd ruined Fiona's life, that because of me she'd never be able to have children.

When Fiona fell pregnant the third time, we decided we wouldn't get too attached to the baby in case something happened. About five months into the pregnancy, she began bleeding, so I rushed her to hospital. For nearly two hours, I waited in reception, but no one came to tell me what was going on. Eventually I asked a receptionist, who said Fiona had been admitted to a ward ages ago. I said: 'You're joking, why hasn't anybody told me?' They had just forgotten about me. Again I was tormented - was it because of the abortion? I sat by Fiona's bed, and while she slept, I cried and cried, apologising for everything from the abortion to not putting my clothes in the wash basket.

The next morning I looked at the care plan and couldn't believe it. All it said was: 'Problem: vaginal bleeding. Solution: arrest the bleeding.' There was no acknowledgement that it was a baby - a miscarriage we were talking about. Later that day, Fiona was induced and delivered the foetus. I wasn't allowed to be there. Nobody told me what had been done or asked if I'd like to see the foetus or expressed any regret. Nobody even mentioned that she'd had a miscarriage.

That was the first time I went through a process of grieving. I needed to talk about my feelings, but there seemed no one to talk to. My male friends and colleagues knew me as someone who was always able to cope. It was a barrier that stopped me being open with them. Also, the subliminal message I kept getting was that men don't get upset about these things. In a sense, I felt that myself; I knew my feelings were genuine, yet I was chastising myself, thinking, what's wrong with me? Am I a fake? Fiona had been through it physically and she was OK. What gave me the right to feel like an emotional wreck?

The fourth pregnancy was an extremely nervous affair. When our son was born, we had something like 40 people there within a few hours. Having a child helps tremendously, but it doesn't blot out what went before. It's so unusual for someone to ask for men's input. I didn't feel from my experience that anyone ever bothered with men. All I needed was somebody to sit me down and ask how I felt.'

(Photograph omitted)