There are many articles on coping with grief after the loss of a baby. These are usually targeted at the mother, as are support groups both online and in person. But there are now fairly ample resources for men and husbands, too; several blog regularly on illustrious sites such as Glow in the Woods. Magazines recognize that fathers have a unique grief that societal gender norms tend to mask: men aren’t “supposed” to cry, after all. As this recent article also notes, a man’s friends may ask about the loss, but usually to inquire as to how the woman is doing: “How’s she healing? How’s she feeling? She’s fine? OK, let’s stop talking about it, then. How about those Wildcats?”
I appreciate articles like this, but it frustrates me that they all assume that a couple who has lost a child is a married (or at least, partnered) male-female pair. They rarely if ever (okay, never that I’ve seen) take into account that some babyloss mothers are single, and some are in same-sex relationships (and some babyloss fathers are as well: losses can happen through surrogacy and adoption for them just as for everyone else).
Ever read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” or a similar book? Ever notice the chapters on fathers, the assumption of the “he?” Now, I’m not really on a bandwagon here; I get that most people who read these books are married women with husbands. But in today’s society, come on, it shouldn’t be a given.
In my situation – and I can only speak on my own situation here – the non-birth mother (in my case, K) is not a man, does not grieve like a man (if there is a “manly way of grieving, which I don’t necessarily believe, though I do get that there are societal pressures on men to show emotions differently than women). She is the other mother to our son, though not biologically (but when has that truly mattered in a family?). Yet she did get treated like the man in the miscarriage story when we lost said son. She was asked about me, how I was doing. Many people were confused that she had lost a son – she hadn’t been pregnant, after all, so if they didn’t know I existed, they assumed she had had a miscarriage, which led to a different type of emotional conversation, the constant coming-out process. A female same-sex partner is treated as a husband, but is she allowed to show her emotions as females are “allowed” to do? Honestly, I think people expect not; I think they assumed K would function as the “man” in the family and be the strong one, the supporter, the protector. But it’s not fair for her, as it isn’t for men.
Anyway. I clearly haven’t thought this through all the way yet, it’s just something that has bothered me for a while, the assumption of husband, father.