Don't forget, it was my baby too: Our loss was greeted by a wall of silence

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The Independent Online
Tim Sullivan, 35, an investment banker, and his wife, Susan, endured multiple miscarriages before corrective treatment to Susan's immune system allowed them to have children.

I WAS 27 when the first one happened. I recall Susan picking the bits and pieces out of the toilet, very visibly the beginnings of a human foetus, putting it in a matchbox and us burying it in the garden. It was our only evidence that Susan had ever been pregnant. Over a two-year period there were five miscarriages. I can't remember the exact sequence or detail, it's too awful to recall. Susan does though - she even knows the due dates and on occasion she'll say: 'Baby X would have been four today.'

As the one who went through it physically, Susan's response was more vociferous than mine. She was excitable and hysterical. Having a baby became an obsession with her - it was the only subject we seemed to talk about and sex was reduced to a very mechanical process. I saw my role as a consolatory one. It was only later that I felt a sense of loss in my own right.

In the hospital each time, Susan was, as you would expect, the focus of attention. I sometimes felt left out, even resentful because although she'd carried the baby, I'd also had something taken away from me. The man's involvement is a hell of a lot bigger than anyone realises. I had just started a demanding new job and I kept needing to take time off work to help Susan. When I approached my mother for help she was unsympathetic and told us to pull ourselves together. She found the subject embarrassing and scolded me a lot - 'Men don't get upset' and that kind of stuff. One day, she even phoned Susan and told her to snap out of it because she was pulling me down at work. My male friends weren't particularly understanding either, they preferred to stay out of it. Matters of that nature are rarely discussed in an all-male environment.

My wife was the only one who encouraged me to cry and let my feelings out. Being allowed that outlet got me through it I think. But she wasn't always understanding. Women can be a bit exclusive about their experience, saying things like, 'It happened to me, not to you' and 'You couldn't possibly know, you couldn't possibly understand'. I got a fair amount of that from Susan. Because my pain could never be as great as hers, it was somehow less valid. In later years, she admitted how unkind she'd been (though not deliberately) and what an enormous burden had been placed on me and what a great support I was to her. And she thanked me.

When a child dies, it gets a death certificate and a grave, but with a miscarriage, the whole issue is treated like it never happened. Particularly in Britain, there's an overwhelming sense of embarrassment when it comes to expressing emotion. If I had my arm cut off, it would be worthy of conversation for quite some time. But with our multiple miscarriages, we were greeted by a wall of silence.