Miscarriage, abortion and dodgy condoms — a guy’s guide to panic and grief

My life would have turned out very differently had I lived in a country that did not support the right for women to get to decide what to do with their bodies. I’m from 🇦🇺Australia🇦🇺 and now live in 🇳🇿New Zealand🇳🇿. Fortunately, in these two countries women have access to the morning after pill and it is legal to have an abortion.

For those guys who have no one to talk to or perhaps just need a bit of guidance on what to do next, I thought I’d share my experience with miscarriage, abortion and dodgy condoms. I had no idea where to turn to for help when going through these things. So I hope this helps you figure out what to do next amongst the panic, confusion and all the other things you’re going to be feeling.

Well, here goes.

My story

During our three and a half year relationship, my first girlfriend had one miscarriage and one abortion. She was late teens/early twenties and I was in my mid-twenties. 

Let’s get some definitions out of the way.

  • A miscarriage is when a pregnancy ends on its own within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. 
  • An abortion is a procedure to end a pregnancy. 

When the miscarriage happened, my partner didn’t know she was pregnant. One day she noticed she was bleeding more than usual. She took herself to the doctors while I was working and told me later that day that the doctor had said the bleeding was caused by a miscarriage. At this stage, we had only been dating for a couple of months.

Fast-forward three and a half years later. We had broken up, but were still trying to see if we could make things work when she told me she had had an abortion. I had gotten us tickets to see a game of AFL football and was wondering why she was so quiet the whole night. When she told me the news, I was floored.

Looking back, I can’t believe how hard these two experiences must have been for her. She made the decision to have an abortion on her own and then told me afterwards. Both times, I remember feeling a cocktail of shock, relief and sadness. On hearing about the abortion, I wondered in the weeks after why I hadn’t been a part of the decision. The hardest part was the fact that I could no longer deny she did not see me as a part of her future.

Neither the miscarriage nor the abortion was due to bad luck. We made decisions and we faced the consequences. In the turbulence and chaos of what was both of our first proper, long-term relationship, we rarely used condoms. My partner sometimes got a contraceptive injection, which acted as a form of birth control for around 6 months. That provided peace of mind as we lived dangerously.

When the miscarriage happened, we were living in Wellington, New Zealand. We had no family and no real friends at that stage. She was from Malaysia originally and had just moved to Wellington. I had flown across from Melbourne to join her. We were all by ourselves. It was an incredibly scary and lonely time. 

For both the miscarriage and the abortion, I told my mum first. I also tentatively talked to some other family members. Just to have some people to listen to me was so helpful. 

Only years later, after the relationship with my ex had ended, did I begin to work through these traumatic times in therapy.

When I went through these things, I don’t know if I played my role really well or really poorly. No matter how scared you are, try to be as physically and emotionally available as you can. In the future, you will feel good about being able to look back on this time and know that you tried your best.

If you’re a guy and someone you’re seeing has a miscarriage, decides to get an abortion, or you have the misfortune of needing to deal with a condom breaking, it can be really hard to know what to do next. So I’ve put together some actionable next steps below.

These steps are what I believe to be the best course of action for each situation, based on my own experiences. You can’t change what has happened, you can only control how you respond. The steps might not work for everyone, and you may want to change the order, but hopefully they serve as a helpful starting point. 

Okay, let’s go!

Miscarriage for guys – how to respond

  1. Create a safe space for the both of you to grieve. All you need to do is listen. Bonus points if you can try to anticipate her needs. Don’t look for hints that she needs help. Walk towards the fire. Jump in. It’s okay if you get it wrong, she will appreciate you trying.
  2. Cancel everything and just be there. Be a great servant. How you react to this news will set the tone for everything that happens next.
  3. Talk to someone else. This could be your mum, as it was for me, or it could be a sibling, another family member or a therapist. Just talk to someone else.
  4. Cry whenever you want. It’s a good and totally normal part of the process. You will be okay.
  5. Be patient with yourself and the person you are going through this with. Time will pass and things will get better.

Abortions for guys – how to respond

  1. Say thank you to her for telling you. She doesn’t have to. But she chose to. Put your own ego aside for a moment (easier said than done) and say thank you.
  2. Ask curious questions instead of making assumptions. You will have so many questions for them. It’s okay to ask. Your ego will want to activate beast mode, but it is your job to let it have its little tantrum another time. Ask questions like a scientist. Assume nothing. Be curious and seek understanding. It shows that you care. You will feel better for having asked. Nothing will make sense for a little while, but the more curious questions you ask, the easier it will be to understand her perspective.
  3. Ask her what you can do to help. Listen to her answer and get to work. Don’t look for hints that she needs help. Walk towards the fire. Jump in. Now is not the time to make decisions about the relationship you do or don’t have with this person. It’s about being the best person you can be for them.
  4. Talk to someone else. This could be your mum, as it was for me, or it could be a sibling, another family member or a therapist. 
  5. Later, decide what sort of relationship you want with this person going forward. If you can make this decision together, even better.

Condom breakage for guys – how to respond

  1. Tell her that the condom broke. The truth stings, but an STI stings more.
  2. Take responsibility for the situation by remaining calm and reassuring her that it will be okay. Taking responsibility looks like giving some nearby pharmacies a call to see if they sell the morning after pill. If not, wait until the morning. 
  3. Pay for a morning after pill. This is the price you must pay for choosing a crappy condom manufacturer. Ideally you can go to the pharmacy together, but if she can’t come with you, make sure she is available by phone when you go. The pharmacist will need to speak to her in order to sell you the pill.
  4. Deliver the pill to her in person. Be the sort of person who shows up during the challenging moments. Along with delivering the pill, perhaps you could pair it with her favourite treat.
  5. Follow up that evening to check that she took the pill. Ask her how she’s feeling and listen. Ask her if there’s anything else you can do to help.
  6. Talk to someone who isn’t your partner. This could be a friend, as it was for me, or it could be a family member. The cost of keeping the panic to yourself increases the longer you keep it to yourself.
  7. One month later, encourage the person you are seeing to join you on a fun visit to a sexual health clinic or a doctor to get checked for STIs. Some STIs can take a while to show up, which is why waiting one month is better than going straight away. Safe sex is the sexiest sex.

These events will be some of the most challenging in your life. When in doubt, focus on how best to help your girl. There will be time afterwards for the equally crucial work of focusing on yourself and how you feel.

You will be okay ❤️


Thanks to Sierra Truong and Adam Walmsley for reading drafts of this.

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