After the loss of three children through miscarriage, Andrew Foster was struggling to find the words to express his bereavement.
A loss of a child, either through miscarriage or ectopic or molar pregnancy, can be an unhappy, frightening and painfully lonely experience for women and their partners.
For Foster, his experience was difficult to explain to those outside his relationship. He found a growing inability to express his grief and struggled with how he felt he was meant to react, following the miscarriages in 2010 and 2011.
“I didn’t know what to do or say after our miscarriages; I was just numb, devastated. I was surprised how little people asked me how I felt at the time, yet they say, “How’s your wife” The assumption was that the pain was only going on with her, not with me, and I felt very vulnerable as a man talking about a ‘woman’s issue.”
The illustrator’s latest exhibition, entitled Labours Of Love, is a celebration of the way life would have looked, had those children been born. A provocative take on the common perception that miscarriage only affects women, Foster sought to move his audience through the “joyous aesthetics” and “challenging content” of a life imagined.
The exhibition will feature a 75 foot scroll painting, entitled Pain Will Not Have The Last Word and will be accompanied by inflatable sculptures that also reflect the message of inclusivity and understanding.
The work is not meant to be sentimental or harrowing, instead, Foster speaks of the authenticity of tenderness that allows his artworks to break down barriers associated with processing grief.
The exhibition is being held in collaboration with the UK charity Miscarriage Association, and is part of the Partners Too campaign which seeks to assist the partners of the women who have miscarried, in finding support and comfort in knowing they are not alone.
Research conducted by the Association, revealed that, whilst one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage, nearly a quarter of men didn’t share their feelings with their partner, for fear of upsetting her more or saying the wrong thing.
It was only through art that Foster was able to, gradually, come to terms with the loss suffered by the couple.
“Everyone knows someone, and you never forget. Of course, the loss of a baby is different for a man – it’s the woman who is carrying the baby. But it’s not a lesser one for a man…” Foster said in an interview for The Guardian.
“I’m fairly open, but I just felt this void and, if I was struggling to find words, then men who are ‘manly’ must find it even harder and isolating”.
Working with the Miscarriage Association is therefore integral to Fosters message; to be able to find a place where men don’t feel isolated or separate from the ordeal and can express their views openly without fear.
Miscarriages affect one fifth of all pregnancies and as such, should be spoken about more than it is. As a particular type of loss, it brings with it a particular type of grief that is often misunderstood by those outside of the experience.
The exhibition which is showing in north London, promisees to celebrate the everyday experiences of fatherhood and recognises that “men grieve too”.
“We [Foster and his wife, Sophie] both recognise the three lives we lost are still part of our family while feeling very blessed that we have two beautiful healthy kids who we adore and cherish”.