Mara Lane started an important conversation about men and miscarriage

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Mara Lane, the American wife of Irish actor Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, has shared a short video on social media of the moment she learned her pregnancy had ended.

“So unfortunately, the foetus has no heartbeat today,” a doctor can be heard telling the couple over an image of a video ultrasound of a tiny, immobile form.

The clip, which is no less painful to watch for its brevity, has sparked bewilderment and some revulsion online, especially in the corners of the internet which seem to exist to tell women where and how they should live, love and grieve.

In the caption, Lane wrote: “We will try to be more transparent on our journey as I see it may be helpful for others as well as ourselves. We don’t have to carry the weight of the world ourselves. We can help lift one another up.”

It is unsurprising that people balked: in this era when almost every facet of human life is considered fodder for sharing, miscarriage is one of our last remaining taboos.

We have become accustomed to the sharing of scan photos, 3D videos of babies in the womb, and pictures capturing the first moments of life on social media. But seeing a video of a soon-to-miscarry foetus is still deeply shocking. You don’t have to have suffered the loss of a pregnancy, or even to be a parent, to understand the devastation the words “the foetus has no heartbeat” will have brought. Hearing them spoken aloud on video, in a replay of the exact moment Lane and Rhys Meyers heard them, is almost unbearably confronting: far more immediate and intimate than simply seeing them written down.

Why, as several commenters asked, would anyone want to share a moment that?

There are a couple of things to be said about this.

9/7/17 Forever Young 🙏🏻🙌🏻With much sadness, we open our hearts to share that J and I lost our second child, who was baking in the oven. Child was very very much wanted (right now especially by J, so he took the news particularly not so well) and we are still working with coping skills over here… when life throws us curve balls such as these. Depression is a real concern from past abuse as well as alcoholism which he was born with. He has been able to turn any ugliness and hurt in his life into art and is the strongest person I know. I do not know anyone who has been through what he has been through and reached his level of successes. It does seem though that every time we seem to be making so much progress… sometimes it’s like two steps forward, one step back. Thank you family and friends and all of you lovely kind beautiful people who send us good energy and thoughts and support. It is so appreciated. I have so much love for you. To some others, my husband is an Irishman who battles alcoholism and depression and drank between jobs to try to cope with the sadness of this news. I am trying to and still learning/adjusting to living with the public, like one would as a concerned mother-in-law. I feel that whomever took photos of my husband was slightly in the wrong and was concerned for the wrong reasons but … it’s ok. It’s ok. Maybe you have/had a family to feed and need/needed money? I don’t know. We forgive you. He is safe and with his sober living companion and bodyguard to get into a detox closer to home since he was denied hospital help twice in Ireland because of an already two month wait period. Life is life. Life is beautiful. Life is tough sometimes though so let’s try not looking down at someone unless we intend on helping them up. Sending love to those in… Texas, Florida, India and Mexico with all the natural disasters going on. We are both so sensitive and the past couple of weeks have been so ouch in our hearts for all humans and animals affected. With Love, M&J

A post shared by Mara &Toca Lane Rhys Meyers (@thelionandthelambchop) on

The first is that Lane is of a generation which communicates in video. Short bursts of video are at least as common as the text message as a way of staying in touch. Instagram and Snapchat stories are the equivalent of earlier generations writing a diary, passing notes to friends in class or, increasingly, meeting face to face. The rest of us might not like the idea that such private moments are now material for public consumption, but we’d better get used to it: hers is a generation that has grown up with one eye on their audience.

The second, and more important point, is that she was sharing the image, and an earlier Instagram post, as a means of offering context for photos that surfaced last weekend of the Cork actor in an apparent state of drunkenness at Dublin airport. The photos, which were published in several tabloids, showed him staggering around the airport, along with an eyewitness account that described how he was seen to be confused as he tried to board a flight to Canada.

In an Instagram post published immediately afterwards, Lane – who has a son, Wolf, with the actor – revealed news of the miscarriage and said that the baby “was very very much wanted (right now especially by J, so he took the news particularly not so well) and we are still working with coping skills over here”.

“Depression is a real concern from past abuse as well as alcoholism which he was born with. He has been able to turn any ugliness and hurt in his life into art and is the strongest person I know,” she wrote.

She added that he was “safe and with his sober living companion and bodyguard to get into a detox closer to home since he was denied hospital help twice in Ireland because of an already two month wait period.”

In her lengthy photo caption, she refers to Rhys Meyers’s alcoholism, touches on the shortcomings of the Irish health service and decries the invasion of privacy she believes, quite rightly, that he suffered at the hands of the person who sold the photos of him to British tabloids.

But it’s what she doesn’t say that is arguably more significant: the impact of miscarriage and pregnancy loss on men is something that is often overlooked, and underestimated.

Although Meyers has said nothing publicly himself about the miscarriage, the photos of him leaning against a wall at the airport, or sitting in a chair with a garda keeping a steadying hand on his shoulder, tell their own sad story. He was, it is clear, significantly affected.

We know this already, or we should, but it’s worth repeating nonetheless: it is not just women who suffer the emotional fallout of pregnancy loss.

When a wanted pregnancy ends, women tend to be good at self-care. They rally support to themselves, they talk, they cry. Men are expected to give support, but not to ask for it. It’s assumed that because they aren’t the ones to experience the physical symptoms, they are immune to the emotional impact too.

Often, this is a fallacy men are happy to play along with. Part of the reason for this is that, from early boyhood, they are told to dry their eyes, man up and don’t be a baby: we teach them, as the comedian Robert Webb recently remarked in a powerful Channel 4 interview that went viral, to separate themselves from their feelings.

“You’re almost training boys to ignore their feelings. And if you do that, then you’re not able to take responsibility for them, and so you end causing more harm than you might to yourself and to the people you share your life with.”

With his history of depression and alcoholism, Rhys Meyers is someone whose vulnerability is worn on his sleeve. But it’s safe to assume that other, less outwardly troubled men feel the loss of a wanted pregnancy just as acutely. They may not be photographed drunk in airports, they may lack the emotional language to talk about it, they may have no desire to.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t experience the same feelings of anger, confusion and despair. It doesn’t mean their grief is any less real.

So instead of shaming Mara Lane for her decision to publicly share such an intimate moment, we should thank her instead for starting an important conversation about men and miscarriage.

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