Welcome to the Join Up Dots Podcast with Shawn Collins
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Introducing Shawn Collins
Todays show is going to be different from the majority of the Join Up Dots shows that have been delivered to the world so far.
But in many ways it has the same traits too.
Strength, courage, openness, persistence, creativity and love are in abundance on this show.
Todays guest has experienced something that so many people have endured in their desire to start their own families….miscarriage.
Along with his wife, Kristine and his three children Elise, Charis and Clare, he made the bold decision to instead of pretending it never happened, and to speak about it in hushed tones, he would embrace the fact. He would keep the children that he had lost alive within the fabric of his family.
He wrote the amazingly powerful book “Letters To My Unborn Children” where he not only writes letters to the children he lost, but explains from the heart how he felt from hearing the words “You are going to be a dad” to walking away from another terrible heartache.
How The Dots Joined Up For Shawn
Three times he has dealt with something so personal and heart-breaking that you wouldn’t wish it on anyone, anywhere
This is a moving book, that shows that fathers are as much a part of the process of grieving and healing, and need the same support as mothers, but for some reason do not get the same aftercare.
So how did he manage to write something, that even in the first few chapters that I read I struggled to go on with feeling the upset and distress that he has been through?
And was the book well received by everyone, or does the world need to hide away from these things?
Well lets find out as we bring onto the show to start Joining Up Dots with the one and only Shawn Collins.
During the show we discussed such weighty topics with Shawn Collins as:
How he loves Marmite and tries his hardest to share this unusual taste with his American friends and families who are less than keen to say the least.
Why he was fearful of being a Dad at first, even though the excitement of being a father was all around him.
How he felt when he and his Wife went through their separate grieving processes, and how it took many years to make the connection between their different journeys.
Why it took him eight years to publish his book, and how it started from humble beginnings, but grew until he was ready to share it with the world
How he is so proud of his journey and the legacy that he has left behind for the worlds men, and future generations to come too.
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Interview Transcription For Shawn Collins
When we’re young, we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be. But somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling. Join Up Dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here’s your host live from the back of his garden in the UK, David Ralph.
David Ralph [0:26]
Yes, hello, everybody. How are we today? Episode 246. of Join Up Dots. And I suppose today’s show is going to be different from the majority of the Join Up Dots shows that have been delivered to the world so far. But in many ways it has the same traits to strength, courage, openness, persistence, creativity and love are in abundance on this show. Today’s guest has experienced something that so many people have enjoyed in their desire to start their own families miscarriage along with his wife, Christine and these freedoms Children Elise Charice and Claire, he made a bold decision to instead of pretending it never happened and to speak badly in hushed tones. He would embrace the fact he would keep the children but he had lost alive within the fabric of his family. He wrote the amazingly powerful book letters to my unborn children were not only writes letters to the children he lost, but actually explains from the heart how he fell from hearing the word, you’re gonna be a dad, to walking away from another terrible heartache three times he has dealt with something so personal and heartbreaking, but you wouldn’t wish it on anyone, anywhere. Now, this is a moving book, but it shows that fathers are as much a part of the process of grieving and healing and need the same support as mothers, but for some reason, did not get the same after care. So how did you manage to write something that even in the first few chapters I read, I struggled to go on with feeling the upset and distress that he has been through? And was the book well received by everyone? Or does the world need to hide away from these things? Well, let’s be Find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots with the one and only Mr. Shawn Collins. How are you Shawn?
Shawn Collins [2:06]
Good morning David doing very well. Thank you.
David Ralph [2:09]
Uh, you have obviously got an American accent and before we started recording I was surprised but you are this side of the pond we have adopted you as one of our own.
Shawn Collins [2:18]
You have I I’ll confess that most of my friends think that I moved my family to the UK for 18 months because I just wanted to stabilise my supply chain of Marmite but there’s actually more more to moving to the UK than just getting steady access to my mind
David Ralph [2:36]
in America when
Shawn Collins [2:37]
they do it’s quite expensive and you take the love it or hate it. Sort of friendly banter that you get in the UK and in the in the US. It’s pretty much there’s no question people hate it.
Unknown Speaker [2:52]
David Ralph [2:54]
it’s the one thing that we always as a family we always take on holiday. A job mama because When when you get to Spain or whatever, it’s like eight pounds or something for a smaller jar so we always take Marmite with us. So explain to the to the listeners out there thinking Hang on, I’ve gone mad What the hell is mom I explain it to.
Shawn Collins [3:16]
So I mean, I’m obviously as somebody who loves it, I’m not going to give you the, it looks like axle grease or tar or oil. Those are all the things that my wife says, but it’s a byproduct of the brewing process. And basically, you take some of the yeast extract that that’s there when you’re brewing and you turn it into a salty spread that you can put on. We generally do it on toast but as a kid, we would also put it on rice or you can put it in soup and other things. So rice,
David Ralph [3:53]
rice, yeah, sure when you got mad man, rice,
Shawn Collins [3:57]
right. Rice rice. With lots of butter and then spread Marmite and yep that I thought that was normal. I saw
David Ralph [4:05]
something actually, this is the greatest episode I’ve ever recorded. And we might get Marmite sponsorship on this. I saw it on the back of the packet the other day or the job as it is it was saying spread it on your sausages. Now back.
Shawn Collins [4:20]
I’ve seen that and I’ve talked about it with my older two girls both love Marmite, my three year old Claire has decided she doesn’t and my wife is quite happy about that because she feels a bit outnumbered. But we agreed that Marmite on sausages was a bit of a stretch.
David Ralph [4:38]
Stretch. I just I think they’ve got mad themselves. So so your your life at the moment and where where was he in America before you come across and where are you now in the United Kingdom.
Shawn Collins [4:49]
So we were living in Indianapolis my my day job is in Project engineering with Rolls Royce. And in September about September of last year. Mobile tapped me on the shoulder and said, Indianapolis has a lot of engineers. The Rolls Royce in Indianapolis has a lot of engineers working on the Trent 1000 engine programme that is one of the big ones for Rolls Royce and Darby. And there was a position that’s kind of Indianapolis, UK liaison that was going to open up because the person who was over there, her visa was expiring. So he said, We need a list of candidates. We’d like to staff it from the UK would would you be interested in being one of the candidates for consideration? So my wife and I talked about it and we’ve, I mean, this has been kind of a the living overseas has been a dream of mine for a long time. But in talking about it, we felt like this was a this was a good time to at least, be open to the possibility that the kids are young. And it’s a position that’s that’s connected with work that’s going on in Indianapolis, so it provides a good path for re entry to the state’s next summer when we return
David Ralph [6:04]
and so you will be going Batman
Shawn Collins [6:06]
right so the assignment is for 18 months we’ve been here since January of this year and then right about the end of the school year in July we’ll we’ll pack our things and head back to the States.
David Ralph [6:17]
So we can’t keep you here you’re not gonna get to 18 months and go No Actually I prefer in the United Kingdom well
Shawn Collins [6:28]
I have friends and family and in the US who if I told them that we’re going to stay in the in the UK permanently. I think they might fly over with with a gun or some other unpleasant weapon and and have things to say about that. It I am I’m always cautious to say that a path is never going to happen because I’ve done a lot of things in my life that I never thought would happen. But as it stands right now, our plan is to go Back to the states in July.
David Ralph [7:01]
And that’s the beauty of life, isn’t it? That is, it’s unstable in many ways. You never really know what you’re going to get. I think john lennon said life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. And it’s so true that so you’ve got your tight family unit, which is lovely to hear. But obviously, the reason we’ve got you on the show is you have you’ve shared something which is quite remarkable. You’ve written this book, and you were very kind to send it to me and I’ll be honest, I read the first chapter. And I was close to tears. It really upset me. I’m a father. I’ve had kids and I’ve also experiences as you have miscarried. So it really affected me and I found it a very difficult read. Have you had that same reaction to so many people that it’s one of the hardest books that you can actually get through?
Shawn Collins [7:56]
you’re the first person who said it’s one of the hardest books to get through. But I have people have said that
it’s very short. And it’s very intense. I think
there’s a couple different themes that have have come out of that. I shared want to share the book with my parents who had walked through the the miscarriages with us. Their response was, you know what, you got it right. I mean, you you captured the experience that actually happened. And as a, in sharing with with a couple other folks who I didn’t know, but when I was kind of doing the probes to say I’ve got this manuscript and I’m thinking about publishing it, but I know it’s a bit unusual. So would you mind sort of sanity checking it for me? That was one of the things that that came out. You know, that first loss you captured the raw emotion. And, and you changed and your second loss you are much more Matter of fact and in some ways clinical and Yep. When we had our second loss, we just didn’t have the emotion that that went with it. I think other people, the people who’ve read it who haven’t been through miscarriage have said, it takes a lot of work to read because of that, because of how raw and
say on unprotected I guess that it is. I was.
David Ralph [9:36]
I felt like I was reading my life to be honest. And I read the first chapter and I walk it through the whole book because it is hugely powerful. And it is beautifully written as well. It’s, it’s quite Matter of fact, in many ways, it’s almost like a diary. But I was kind of expecting it to go straight into the last but you lead up to it, don’t you, you you you do the pop. So you’re unborn child would actually read about the excitement that you first felt being told that you were going to be a dad and and the progressions that go through pregnancy and take up at nine moms. Did you feel it was important to do both sides to actually share the story of the whole thing?
Shawn Collins [10:17]
It was it’s interesting that you say it felt like reading a diary. It actually started as a diary. I have way back as a as a high school student when I was in East Africa, I started journaling because my dad had kept a journal for many years. I thought, Okay, this would this would be a good thing to do. And it habit that stayed with me. And so when, when we lost our first child, I sat down with my diary. And over the course of several months, I just started writing a letter. And it was it was important for me as I wrote the letter, I think, to unpack the journey, because there was so much that went into that that I hadn’t realised at the time and to be able to look candid and say, you know what I was I was quite scared of becoming a dad. But there was more to it than just the fear. And actually, I was beginning to anticipate it. And I was beginning to have hope. And that’s part of what made the loss so painful. Was that, that it was the loss of hope that I had acknowledged, I think for the first time. And so then to be able to say, yeah, I think there’s, there’s more to it than the pain and so how do I bring all of that experience into into my life, not just the pain, but the beginning to hope in the beginning to dream and the beginning to face fears? Because that, I mean, yes, some of that you have to face as a parent, but hoping and dreaming and facing fears that’s not limited to parenthood or miscarriage. I mean, that’s something that you have to do all the time.
David Ralph [11:52]
Well, you you do is what life is all about. You never know what life is gonna come at you with really And most of the time, it is scary. I feel scared on a daily basis. If I think about what I’m aiming for what I’m trying to achieve, and it’s it’s fears that are unfounded. And the interesting thing that you were saying on there was that when you first got told you were going to be a dad, you actually fought fearful because that is something that I experienced the very first time it was like, oh, wow, I’m going to be a dad. Brilliant. And then about two days later, oh, my God, I’m going to be a dad, am I going to be good enough? Am I gonna be able to cope with it? All those kind of stuff. And I remember, we actually lost our first child. And I read loads and loads of books, reading how to be a best dad how to do this, how to do that. And then when we had the second one, come along, Daniel, who’s with us now who’s 12 I didn’t read anything. And I hardly told anybody about it at all. It was almost like I half expected it to go wrong somehow, right? So I kind of closed down and it was interesting, but you touched on But the first time was obviously horrific. The second time was much more Matter of fact, do you think that you had those same emotions that I had, but you kind of almost expected it to go that way. So you didn’t open your heart as much as you did the first time?
Shawn Collins [13:13]
Yeah, absolutely. And
I mean, it’s kind of funny when a daughter least who’s now nine, she’s, I guess, in the sequence, she’s a third child, but she’s the first child who lived. And when she was born, and she was in a hospital and my wife as I mean, as I understand it, you know, when all the all the hormones are changing, its This is not unusual, but she, you know, she burst into tears, and you know, she’s so beautiful, and I love her so much. And, and I was, you know, I didn’t have that experience. And my, my brother in law called and said, you know, congratulations, dad, and I didn’t, I didn’t bite back verbally, but there was a part of me that said that, you know what, I don’t know if I’m really at Dad yet because I don’t know if she’s gonna stick around. But I was also, you know, we didn’t read a tonne of books. I think part of me got very cynical. I mean, yeah, it goes back to will if we get to a full, full term and a baby who lives then we’ll think about what do we do with a baby who lives but but one of the books that I did read was called the expectant father. And there was a couple things that stuck out. And one of them is that in many ways, fathers are excluded from the sort of pregnancy and childbirth experience. And so when when Elise was born, I went in saying, I’m not going to let myself be excluded, and we’re in a hospital, my wife’s a pharmacist, and when the hospital where she works, so the nurses love her and they want to give her all sorts of good care, which was great. But I’m going to be there and I’m going to say can you please show me how to how to change is a diaper and how to swaddle the baby. And I think it’s as I, as I made those efforts to step in and say, I’m going to be here and I’m not going to let myself be excluded that then sort of the reality of fatherhood became a little bit.
A little bit stronger.
David Ralph [15:19]
But But you do get excluded, don’t you? I went after some came alone. I remember, I must have spent the first three weeks opening the door making cups of tea and taking bunches of flowers in whilst everybody came to see the wife and the baby. And it was almost like I was going, excuse me, I think I had something to do with this. I was there. And it didn’t feel that way. You didn’t feel that way at all. You were excluded. You weren’t part of the process somehow. And it is bizarre. Yes, I know. The lady carries it before term. Yes, I know they go through a lot more than us. But there is an emotion that an expectant father feels But I don’t think he’s he’s catered for somehow I don’t think they quite expect us to be wanting to be so involved as you are when you actually in it did you did you feel like the same thing
Shawn Collins [16:14]
I did and I think this was in sort of
there’s some of these reflections in the in the book even as I was thinking about it with with the children who didn’t live but I mean in my office and this was before I went to work for Rolls Royce and ended up in Indianapolis there’s a lot of a lot of the sort of dad banter is oh you’re you know, kids are coming and your life is you know, it is going to be over and you never going to be able to do anything that has that’s fun and and it has this ugly effectives of almost making it the the experience of childbirth. become something that you mourn because you know you like You know, it is over and but that that wasn’t my experience and and even when we thought, you know, with our first pregnancy when when we thought before the miscarriage started to happen, and I went skiing with some friends and I’m watching families on the slopes and seeing how they’re interacting with their kids, and I thought, you know what, I mean, there’s a whole side of life that can be opened up when when I get to do stuff with my kids, and that was not a dream that I’d ever allowed myself to, to feel because I’d been so convinced that I would be an incompetent father, and I’d be clumsy, and I wouldn’t be emotional and all that, but
I mean, that was a dream that grew. And so when at least came along,
you know, I’d had a year and a half of that dream to grow because we’d spent a year and a half, either pregnant or miscarrying. And so the that, I mean, if I think back on it, I’m sure there was a degree of excuse But I didn’t, I didn’t experience it to the same extent that you’re describing.
David Ralph [18:05]
I felt it strongly. And I actually felt that I was babysitting somebody else’s kid for the first maybe week or so. And that, because it’s all effort, isn’t it when when they’re very little, it’s just there’s no fun, really just FFFF are probably gonna get a lot of critical emails to this. But I did, I felt that strongly that somebody was going to knock on the door and go, Oh, I’ve come to pick the baby up. I got thank God for that. There you go. But of course, once it starts developing, and the characters come out, and they start moving around and becoming more accepted, then you wouldn’t want anything else. It’s just perfection, isn’t it? So if we could take you back to the sort of the, the moment obviously when you were leading leading up to it, were you aware that something bad was going to happen or were you just oblivious to the fact
Shawn Collins [18:59]
it We were oblivious. We had had a friend who was an age mate who had a miscarriage and my wife had a co worker who had a miscarriage but we had no clue that miscarriages were as common as they were. And so we got, we got pregnant and we were excited. And both of us were apprehensive. And we were enjoying the, the journey away from apprehension to anticipation. And then at we, we went in for a nine week nine week ultrasound, expecting to be told everything’s fine, and you can come back at 16 weeks and you get to decide if you want to find out if it’s a boy or a girl. And and the ultrasound technician said so we’re showing a sack that six weeks old and we said no, wait a minute, that’s not true. Because based on our dates, it should be nine weeks and that was the first warning sign which you You know, it changes the whole experience from going in with with a sense of hope to good grief, what I mean what’s going on, and that fed into then, Okay, come back in a week. And yet we went back a week later and the sack hadn’t grown and the heartbeat wasn’t where it should be. And then went back another week later, and the heartbeat had stopped. And they said, yup, your, you know, your babies died, and you need to come in for the DNC. And, And oh, by the way, this happens 25% of the time. So don’t don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with you. And you know, it’s quite common. We were completely flabbergasted. I mean, we had no no clue that, that it could be as as frequent as it was. And the idea that something awful like this should happen and you’re not supposed to blame yourself, because really, there wasn’t anything you did wrong. We had no framework for for internalised. A message like that we really wanted to find something that went wrong, that we could point to.
David Ralph [21:06]
Did it bring you and your wife closer? Did you feel you know that he was in it together? Or was it a time when the two of you were finding your place in this separately?
Shawn Collins [21:17]
it? It took a really long time. It was multiple years for us to work through our grieving separately. And then to begin to say, how are we going to grieve together
in the beginning,
and it wasn’t that we, we didn’t want to come closer together, but we just didn’t know how and we, we had a really hard time accepting that the other person was grieving differently. And so we came home from the hospital. My wife said, how you doing? Can we talk and I just I wasn’t ready. And in many ways, I mean, that was part of why I journaled Because I had to, I needed a way to express myself, but I couldn’t do it with words. And so I began writing that letter in my journal. And once I’d finished it, which which took a long time, I let my wife read it. And that was an important way for her. I mean, she she said, Thank you, right, thank you for for doing the work of continuing to grieve for our child and for letting me see a window and into your soul. But it Yeah, I’ll be honest, it was not easy. And it did take a long time.
David Ralph [22:35]
And so you you had that situation where you were grieving separately for the first one. Were you more aware that you need to work as a unit for the second one and the subsequent third miscarriage that you experienced?
Shawn Collins [22:52]
To be honest, the second one was even worse. And I think
I mean, as I think about it, It was
I knew we both knew that we grieve separately I said, Okay, fine, we’re we’re going to recognise that we’re going to grieve separately and we’ll let each other work through this. But there were there were parts of both of us that really wanted to step in and help the other person get through it, which you know, it’s really hard to distinguish at times Let me help you versus Would you please see the world in my way because if you just see it my way then we can agree and get on. And, and so, being able to, to love my wife unconditionally, even when she was experiencing the second miscarriage in very different ways than I was was was very difficult. And it was in the letter to my second child, I kind of camped on this because it took I had the, the luxury of being able to cycle to and from work at the time and a lot of those, those nine mile bike rides and the praying and the thinking about what was going on and praying for my wife. I mean, it took an awful lot of that, that work to be able to shift from I’m really frustrated with my wife for not seeing things the way that I am to I’m going to love her and support her even though she’s not seeing things the way that I am. And the third miscarriage I think, in part because we had two living children who needed attention. It was we, we weren’t able to camp on it as much. I mean, we just there was so much else going on in life that we had to handle. But that one I think we did do a much better job of sitting down and saying, right, we know, we know how much this hurts and we know how much we can hurt each other if we’re not careful. So we’re really going to work very hard at doing this together. And there was some some hurtful conversations in the first week after we lost that baby. But by and large, we were able, I think we did learn from all the pain of the first couple losses, and we were able to be much more supportive for each other.
David Ralph [25:23]
Because I’m not really sure that me and my wife actually had a conversation to be honest. I’m reflecting back on it. Now. We we talk about it, because the kids are interested and we didn’t want it to just be something that was pushed under the carpet. And my daughter who’s nine, I’ve got three stepchildren and then my wife and me. I’ve had the last two biological ones. And we always wanted to, and we had mice, we lost the first child and when we had my son, and my daughter the other day, who’s nine said to me, you know that baby you lost? If you had it? I wouldn’t be here would I? Yeah. And I said to her, probably not, I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t know how to sort of get around it, you know, but you look at it now and you think I couldn’t bear to be without her. So it’s like, why isn’t it replacing somehow I don’t know how it does it but it finds that holding your heart and manages to plug it up with something else. That’s that’s how I feel.
Shawn Collins [26:25]
Yeah. And and I
thought about that one many times. And, and I, there were people who out of the kindness of their heart, tried to say this is all for the best, right? I mean, you can put a Christian view on it and say, This is God’s will. And so we just need to accept it. Or you can put a sort of biologists view on it and say, You know what, I mean, this was genetically unfit for life. And so it’s better than that they didn’t survive. And so, rate is for the best and And be glad or at least accepting and I’ve never, I’ve never felt like either of those perspectives were, were adequate. But the truth is that my three living children who I love very much and who I can’t imagine life without, would not be in my life without the deaths of my three unborn children. And so that is something that, that I’ve chosen to hold intention that I received a life because I experienced a death and I mean, as you with your daughter
David Ralph [27:38]
it’s, it’s astonishing, really. But you have got this strength of character, to not only take something that is so, so personal and so intimate to your family, but give us the gift because what you’ve written is a gift for all the families out there, who you know, 25% whatever. We’ll go through this. There’s not this kind of resource out there. I’ve never heard of this. And this is why I was I was emotionally touched by it when I started reading it. It’s, it’s a gift, isn’t it?
Shawn Collins [28:13]
It is. And, I mean, I think
when I started looking at this, and it was 2004, when I when I first began writing, and I mean, I published in 2012, but in 2004, there was very, very little and, and over the last, over the last 10 years, there’s been a lot more discussion and a lot more resources that that have become available, which which is great, but it’s still there’s still very few resources out there and and I mean, when I think about what you said about you and your wife so right, and I’m not sure we really talked about this. I think that’s that’s common, because even when When a father or mother wants to talk together, they’re not really sure how to do it. And this is where the unfortunate there’s an unfortunate revenge effect with with miscarriage support is that it it can create a sense that this is for the grieving mothers and and that it’s for grieving mothers because fathers don’t understand what’s going on. And there’s a lot of times that’s true. It’s unfortunate that that at that point of loss and point of crisis husbands and partners are so unable to speak into the life of the grieving mom and vice versa.
David Ralph [29:39]
It’s because you don’t want to upset the other person isn’t it really is because you care about them so much. You almost think that they’ve gone over it now. It’s somehow they’ve they pass hold it up. The last thing that you want to do is open up that parcel and and upset them where really the best way is sort of opening up and free background Spread.
Did you look back on the death? Because it took eight years was was there a part of the process where you were unaware that you were writing a book?
Shawn Collins [30:13]
Yeah, so this is where I mean, when you talk about Join Up Dots. There’s some very non intuitive dots that that joins together for this. It started, like I said, as a journaling exercise. And at the time I was, I was working as a project engineer, and I was I was doing a PhD in anthropology and in the evenings. And one of the ways that I survived my PhD journey was I had anything any possible thing that could go into a dissertation, I had to write it down. Because I just didn’t have the free time to go off and do a wonderful ethnography. And so I had to do it in my workplace. And so I had to look for ways to write about what I was actually Experiencing. And so in many ways, writing about what I was experiencing is what I was doing with the miscarriages as well. And the other thing is that you don’t get through a PhD without believing that somebody else needs to read what you’ve written. And so there’s a there’s a sense of I mean, is it arrogance is it confidence is it stubbornness that that all comes together in order to finish that and and so I finished my the first, the lettuce, my first two children about the same time that I was finishing my dissertation and so as I’m toying with the idea of Could I publish a dissertation i thought you know what, I bet there’s not much out there on on men and miscarriage so I wonder I wonder about publishing but but then that I mean, that took
a couple more years because there was still
you know, it was always an evening endeavour
David Ralph [31:57]
and then through another miscarriage and Another pregnancy that. So and yeah, I mean, that’s part of why I think I had the bulk of the book finished in 2007. But I didn’t really finish it until 2011. And then it was published in 2012. Did you have the fears of putting it out there? It’s in many ways, it’s it’s reasonably easy to write a book and hold it to yourself, but actually putting it out when the world’s eyes will look at it. Was that a scary moment or was that liberating?
Shawn Collins [32:32]
It was, it was scary and it was liberating. I
was fortunate to get plugged into a writers group through through a local church in Indianapolis and and I mean, these are people who take their craft of writing very seriously and and they, they were very gracious to let me in as a part time writer and and look at the manuscript and give me feedback and they were very positive and I did join some miscarriage support groups. line to say, I’ve got this manuscript and I’m thinking about publishing it. But I know that moms and dads can be a sensitive thing. And so with anybody, mom or dad in this group, be willing to take a look at it. And as I as I worked through those cycles and had people give me affirmation that you’ve written something that resonates with my experience, then I became, it became easier to make the decision to publish.
David Ralph [33:31]
It Be quite fascinating, actually, to see the second book where it’s actually other people’s experiences. And you are, you’re the conduit for it that that would be quite interesting to see how many similarities run through everyone’s stories, so that you, you as a reader, you kind of think, Well, I’m not alone. This is exactly how I should be feeling because this is how life has set up to fail.
Shawn Collins [33:58]
Right. So there’s a fellow I’m blanking on his last name Kelly something but he wrote a book. Recently, I think it was 2010 2011 timeframe called grieving dads to the brink and back. And that’s exactly what he did. I mean, he channelled the grief at his loss of two children into collecting stories from from all sorts of fathers who’ve lot who’ve experienced loss and and then compiling those and making that available as that to be a conduit. So I’m, I’m thrilled. I’m thrilled that he’s doing that. I mean, he’s one of the guys who has created is one of the new resources that was not there. When I was there. When I was going through this 10 years ago.
David Ralph [34:46]
Do you see your life going in a different direction now? Can you imagine yourself being the main supporter, having some kind of platform where you help men get through this because it’s Difficult to be a man. We’re supposed to be strong all the time. We’re supposed to not show our emotions. And I don’t know why we do this because I don’t think anyone’s ever told me that you shouldn’t, but you just don’t.
Shawn Collins [35:10]
Right. there’s a there’s a sort of silent expectation that that’s the way you act.
David Ralph [35:14]
Yeah, absolutely. So could you see a time when you’ve actually got an online portal? Or you you counsel or you coach people who are going through this, this experience? Or can you always see this as a project that was done and dusted and you’ve moved on?
Shawn Collins [35:30]
to? To be honest, I’m not sure and I’ve wrestled with that because I mean, one of the things that made publishing the book possible is there was a network of very talented and very supportive people who, who came around me to bring it to life and the, the the reviewers who came from very different kind of across the spectrum, who all when I sent them an email to say him, you know, I’m working on this manuscript in it and I’d love to have you take a look at it and I’d be thrilled if you’d write a review and I mean, I had no business reaching out to them and yet they were so supportive and so encouraging with their reviews. And so there was a part of me that wonder kind of, okay when I’ve launched the book and my brother’s a filmmaker, and he helped me put a film together that that’s on the website. Maybe this could be a more serious endeavour you know, it’s not likely that will ever replace my my day job but maybe it could be something that that I become very actively involved in and, and the circumstances changed and none of that really happens the the places that I reached out to an Indianapolis, I didn’t get a tonne of feelers and so I made the decision at the time that to sort of say the burden was to do the book. And I’m, I’m really proud of the book and I’m really proud of, and I think thankful for the feedback that I’ve gotten from from people who’ve read it and who are passing it on. And that stands alone is something that, that I’m
yeah, I don’t know that thankful is the right word, but
but that stands alone as a burden that that was carried and as a path that I went down and if you know, another opportunity comes up, I certainly wouldn’t turn it down. But
I’ll kind of as I see people in the office or or when when my wife needs somebody who’s lost a child, I’ll reach out to the husband and say, You know what, I know everybody says, how’s your wife doing? If they talk to you? They’ll say how’s your wife doing but I want to affirm that you lost a child to and I’m sorry. And you know, a handful of times when I’ve reached out it really, it hasn’t, hasn’t resonated. And a handful of times when I reached out, I felt like, I’m really glad that I did that.
David Ralph [38:16]
But then you’re reaching out on you, you’re you’re you’re reaching out to people who might be, you know, uncomfortable with the situation themselves if they were reaching out to you about asking for help. I I personally, from my experience, I look at this and I think I know how I felt. I know that there’s so many people out there that are going through this, and I know there’s such limited resource for this kind of support. I think this could be a huge thing for you, Sean. And I think there’s a belief in the process, that you’ve started something, but I don’t think you believe that you’ve actually finished it. I think that there is more to be done on this, I think is a worthwhile I think this is your legacy, sir.
Shawn Collins [39:01]
Well, you’re very You’re very kind. I yeah, I
don’t disagree. I think the mechanics of, of how that legacy gets worked out.
We’ll see. And I mean, to be honest, it’s,
you know, there is a way of reaching people through being able to speak and being able to present and there’s a way of reaching people when your daughter is, is on the playground and mentions to somebody that that she has brothers and sisters in heaven and the kid. The kid says, No, that’s not possible and the teacher says, We don’t talk about miscarriage. And then your daughter takes the book in the next day and says, hey, look, my dad wrote a book I have brothers and sisters in heaven and it opens up a path for the school.
to experience to be honest about the miscarriages, the families, Who their students are part of are experiencing and and to help the students talk to each other. And it’s not that you want a group of nine year olds to dwell on miscarriage. And you don’t want necessarily nine year olds to be afraid that their pregnant mom is going to lose a baby. But it’s a path for them to learn that this is a part of life.
David Ralph [40:21]
But I think nine year olds so much more clued up about stuff, my daughter comes back, and I can hear her talking about things I think, Oh my god, I’m fully full of it just picked up on that now and they’re, they’re like nine year old sponges, aren’t they? They are advanced to where we were
Shawn Collins [40:38]
David Ralph [40:40]
So leaving a legacy even if you stop now, that is your legacy that that that book will be in the British Museum, won’t it because every book that’s written goes in the British Museum, so when you leave this, this earth, you’ve left something behind, that’s gonna make you feel proud.
Shawn Collins [40:58]
It does, and I
Unknown Speaker [41:01]
I mean, I’m
Shawn Collins [41:05]
yeah, I’m proud of what I wrote, I’m, I’m proud that I wrote something that reflected a journey. And I’m, I’m really grateful for the journey, that writing that took me through. I mean, it was, it was transformative for me as a grieving father, as I wrote the book to say, I will be a grieving Father, I’m not going to put this down. And then to reflect with my wife, what does it mean to bring these these little ones that we lost into our family? And to be honest, it I mean, they’re more or less present at our life at different times. But
you know, those were important conversations and
it, it’s not lost on me that you know, some of the publishers that are reached out to so don’t do this. Men don’t talk about miscarriage, it’s an impossible market to reach. And by the way, you’re an engineer engineers don’t emote. So there’s no way you could write anything that would resonate.
I mean, I’ve had very positive feedback. And so I’m, I’m proud of putting something out there that has has been a resource for the people who’ve received it.
David Ralph [42:24]
Well, so you should be proud. And those those publishers should be ashamed of saying things like that. Everyone’s got the chance of doing something. There can’t be somebody to say you’re an engineer, you can’t write a book. I feel like going around live and waving my fist in their direction showing you’ve got me all worked up now.
Shawn Collins [42:45]
Well, so let me let me throw another another Join Up Dots at you.
And this is not to I mean, not to downplay the frustration that comes from a response like that. But one of the benefits of being a project engineer is You learn to think about risk and value propositions and things like that. And it’s not to say that a big organisation like Rolls Royce always makes the right decisions about how to manage risk or what value propositions to pursue. But you have to think in those terms and and once I understood that, what the publishers were really saying was, you have a new product, and it’s just too high risk. And and regardless of whether it could work or not, we’re not willing to take the risk. Then I said, You know what, that’s okay. I am willing to take the risk and I’ll, I’ll put my funding into it, and I’ll own the intellectual property and that’ll let me do whatever I want with it. And, and so that that’s the that’s the direction that I went down.
David Ralph [43:51]
I’m glad you went through that direction, sir. I really do. I think he’s, he’s, I’m going to finish it. I started yesterday, and as I say, I found it found it upsetting The first bit so I’m going to go back. Maybe I was unstable at that time, maybe I was tired, I don’t know. But I’m going to read it because it’s really well written. And it there’s, there’s comfort in it, there’s there’s hope that things will get better, and you can get through these things. So, thank you so much for delivering that to us. Sure.
Shawn Collins [44:19]
Well, I’m, I’m glad that you see the comfort and the hope because, I mean that’s, I think the big theme that I’ve circled around as I thought about the loss of miscarriage and as a one of the things in at the end of the book is how the experience of loss with miscarriage and the experience of sort of being part of a community of lot that has lost is not unique to miscarriage. I mean, there are other other places in life where that happens. And and so when we experience loss or when our dreams are shattered, what do we do with that experience? Do we do we accept The, you know, the experience of being shunned and being told not to talk about it? Or do we find ways to keep the hope alive and let the dream take us in other directions. And so I’m glad that you were able to see that in what I wrote.
In addition to just the ride me of grief,
David Ralph [45:21]
absolutely a cup of so many things show and this is the part of the show when we’re going to send you back in time now to have a one on one with your younger self. And if you could go back in time and speak to the younger show, what age would you choose and what advice would you give when I’m going to play the theme and when it fades you up? This is the Sermon on the mic.
Shawn Collins [46:05]
So as I’ve thought about this, and I’ve thought about this from listening to some of your previous podcasts, I think what when I say how would I give advice to myself for their key transitions are key formative times in my life. And I circle around very similar themes and the themes of loss and hope and, and an open handed loving are all woven into that, not just the miscarriages. So I’m going to go back to a younger self at age 17, who is leaving Kenyan and coming to the US for university, but the words to my younger self it at very important transitions and the words to my older self with hopes that I’ll look back and say, Yep, I actually took those to heart. So here’s what I’ve written to my younger self. Join us 17 you’re preparing to leave Kenya and go to the US for university. You’ve decided to train in engineering even though part of you deeply loves music and liberal arts. You’re not sure if he made the right decision. It’s okay to one. To be honest, you’ll face many times in your life when your decision isn’t between right and wrong is between multiple options that are all plausible. In those moments, you’ll feel the same tension that you feel now as you question your decision to study engineering. Give yourself grace in those moments, and if you can learn to live with that tension, because with time you’ll learn to harness it and it will begin to become a creative force in your life. As you harness your creative force, you’ll find experiences and skills that make you unique. They will be important parts of who you are, but they will never be the only thing that you are. You may wonder especially when it’s hard to find external affirmation that your uniqueness is worth much whether it would be easier to shut down that part of life altogether. It’s okay to wonder life’s ebbs and flows mean the different facets of your experience will be more or less prominent at different times. Don’t give up on those experiences though, keep it the hard work of integrating them with the next steps on your life’s journey. Let them feed your dreams, the ones that take shape as you thought they would, and the ones that takes shape and unexpected, positive or painful ways. Finally, it’s natural to look for friendship from people who are like you because they share your experiences in some way. There will be times when this is true, there will also be times when it isn’t. Because appearances are frequently deceiving and people experienced life even shared life very differently. Give yourself grace when you feel alone, give grace to the people who you wanted support from because they were like you and give grace to the friendships that show up from unexpected places. Because you never know when putting your uniqueness together with someone else’s uniqueness could create something special.
David Ralph [48:50]
shown how can our audience connect with you sir?
Shawn Collins [48:54]
I have a website for the book. www dot letters to my unborn children calm And on there, there’s a place you can contact me. There’s also a link to some videos about the book. Those are on YouTube. And I’ve got a playlist of songs that other people have have written for people who have experienced miscarriage. If you’re interested in buying the book, obviously my preference is you buy from me, self promotional plug there, but it’s available on Amazon and and a number of other places as well.
David Ralph [49:27]
We’ll have all the links on the show notes. Sean, thank you so much for spending time with us today. joining up those dots and thank you for being so honest on a subject which most people would shy away from, I think has been a hugely powerful episode. But he’s come back again when you have more dots to join up because I do believe that by joining up the dots and connecting our past is the best way to build our futures. Shawn Collins, thank you so much.
Shawn Collins [49:51]
Thanks very much. It was my privilege to be on your show.
Today, David doesn’t want you to become a faded version of the brilliant self. You were wondering become so he’s put together an amazing guide for you called the eight pieces of advice that every successful entrepreneur practices, including the two that changed his life. Head over to Join Up dots.com to download this amazing guide for free and we’ll see you tomorrow on Join Up Dots.