Loss, Mental health and wellbeing

Can I trust you?

Today I had my 6-week postnatal check up. This understandably brought up a lot of emotions, not helped by the inevitable waiting room full of babies and new parents. I had considered avoiding it altogether; in the aftermath of losing Orla and giving birth, my own physical health and wellbeing felt insignificant. Eating and drinking was a challenge at worst, a routine at best. I tried to walk the same distances that I had been just days before, heavily pregnant, but ended up leaning over walls and railings trying to gather the strength to manage the walk back home. I felt that I was not deserving of physical rest and recuperation, as if I should be punished for what had happened. At other times, I felt so detached from my own body that I may have been experiencing pain, but my mind wasn’t allowing it to register. I decided that I needed to give up sugar and caffeine and was almost back to my pre-pregnancy weight within two weeks. By this point I felt awful; my body ached, I had horrendous night sweats and just walking around the house left me exhausted. I’m sure that I had entered some kind of state of physical shock.

I felt an intense dislike of my body; it had let me down in the most horrendous way and I wasn’t sure I could ever trust, or even like, it again. Every time I saw myself in the shower, I was reminded of what was no longer there. I was an empty vessel. I could once again see the scars from the laparoscopy surgery I had last year for a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, which had previously been hidden by my huge bump – yet another reminder of how my body had failed. I had mistakenly trusted after the first loss that my body could nurture our baby and I trusted that it could protect her, but I now felt completely betrayed. How could I ever learn to believe that it wouldn’t do something like this again?

The one thing that stopped me from showering completely in the dark, apart from a lack of blinds, was the development of a faint linea nigra following giving birth. I had hoped for this throughout my pregnancy and it had never appeared. It has always seemed to me like a mystical zip; one that gives the illusion that your stomach will just open up and your baby will magically appear when the time is right. I’m led to believe that it’s quite uncommon for this to develop post birth and this brought me a sense of comfort, as if this was Orla’s parting gift to me; something to remind me that I have had a baby, that I am a mother and to be proud of what I have achieved. Although it may seem like a small thing, it really has helped prevent a slippery slope into complete self-loathing, since I cannot possibly hate something so precious that was given to me by my daughter.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been trying to get myself back into a better state of physical health and wellbeing, as I know that this will help emotionally but also in preparation for our trip away. I have tried to eat three meals a day, to drink more water and to start taking supplements again. I have undertaken regular pelvic floor exercises, annoyingly prompted by the NHS ‘Squeezy’ app, and to walk a bit more. Some days are more successful days than others, but I can feel the benefit. However, learning that I actually deserve to nurture myself is work in progress.

The GP felt that my body had recovered well and had more or less ‘bounced back’. She gave me the go ahead to start exercising again and encouraged me to continue with supplements to get my body ready for when we want to try to conceive again. She gave lots of reassuring words about there being no reason why I couldn’t go on to have healthy live babies in the future, but I just can’t help but wonder why my body has let me down so horrifically, more than once. Its hard not to think that there must be something inherently wrong. I know that learning to trust my body again is going to be a really tough journey. I’m sure that there will be lots of support from the medical profession in the future in terms of assessment and monitoring, but I feel that the most significant challenge will be me learning to believe in myself and my body and that it can do this. I need to learn to embrace and accept the scars and marks that my two pregnancies have left and not to be scared by them. If nothing else, they show me that I have the strength to survive but also that I have experienced the most intense love in growing our beautiful daughter that she would want me to share.

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  • Reply Kelly June 21, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    My thoughts are with you and can empathise to some degree. I’m sat reading this in tears, so hope that when I press “send”, it actually makes sense and isn’t as jumbled as it is in my mind…
    We went through IVF 2 years ago and suffered both a miscarriage and a late ectopic with our two precious embryos that were implanted.
    I too, hated my body and the tiny scar left by the surgery to remove my baby – along with all of the others from the various surgery I’d undergone in my quest to become a mummy.
    It was a late ectopic as I’d bled, so assumed that it had failed. I wasn’t to know until 9 weeks later that I was actually pregnant; the day before Mother’s Day. We had a scan that following day and heard the worst news imaginable on the worst imaginable day.
    I was adamant that was our first and last attempt, as my body clearly wasn’t designed to do the one thing that I ached for it to do.
    I still don’t know how, but I summoned the strength for us to try again and we were blessed with our little miracle, Charlie last May.
    I’ll never forget our “Pip” and our little boy will always know that he’s got a guardian angel watching over him.
    I think I went into autopilot throughout the second round of treatment as I didn’t trust my body not to fail me again.
    I work in the crisis intervention area of mental health and wasn’t able to practice what I preach at all. The fact that you’re showing such determination and strength in what is still so very early days, is testament to the strong woman – the strong MOTHER that you are.
    I wish you all the love and strength to carry on and if at any point you do decide to ‘try again’ (I hate that phrase!), that you’re blessed with every happiness. Take care X

    • Reply dearorla June 27, 2016 at 10:19 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing Kelly – what a journey you have been through. Its absolutely amazing how we somehow find the strength to continue battling on – like you say, when it is something you so ache for, you just have to continue. I’m so happy for you that you have Charlie, but that you are also carrying the legacy of Pip with you.
      Practicing what you preach is so much harder than I had anticipated, but I hope that this will help to make me a better practitioner – and a better person all round. Developing a more compassionate self feels like a big part of the journey.
      Thank you again.

  • Reply Cardiff Mummy Says June 21, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    Such beautiful words, Michelle. I’m so sorry to read of everything you have experienced. It’s just heartbreaking and I am full of so much admiration for you for having the courage to talk about it. I can relate to the feeling of being let down by your body. I hated my body after my miscarriage. I felt like you say like an empty vessel and couldn’t understand how it could do this to me when I had been so careful. So many complex feelings. Your final words on this blog post have moved me to tears because I feel the same – my baby may not be with my physically but through the writing and campaigning I have done on miscarriage, I know he or she has made a difference in the world, just like Orla is. Much love to you all and thank you for being brave enough to share your experiences. I know they will be providing comfort for many. X

    • Reply dearorla June 27, 2016 at 10:22 pm

      Thank you Cardiff Mummy – it is such a complex and turbulent process going through a loss. I love that you have also been championing talking about miscarriage as it takes strength and bravery to break down the barriers that exist in talking about these issues. I am sure that your baby has most certainly made a difference to others as well as yourself.

  • Reply memsandbeingmum June 21, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    Firstly I’m so sad for you and your husbands loss. I cannot imagine your pain. You write so beautifully and sharing this journey will undoubtedly help others as well as yourself. Like you I am a clin psych. I too went through a difficult time, though nothing like your loss, four years ago, when I was diagnosed with MS. Writing about it helped me enormously and connected me to so many others from whom I drew strength and learned a great deal. My experience changed my life hugely in so many ways as I’m sure yours is forever changed. Take one day at time and put one foot in front of the other. And gradually you will find a way through this. Good luck, and much strength to you and your family. X

    • Reply dearorla June 27, 2016 at 10:26 pm

      Thank you memsandbeingmum – its so nice to meet other clinical psychologists who are also speaking out about their own personal experiences and journeys (I was worried that other people might think it was a bad idea). I will have to look through your blog too as I am sure that there are many similarities in the themes of our journeys despite the reasons being different.
      Definitely just trying to put one foot in front of the other – some days its just sparrow steps rather than big leaps, but I think I can accept that!

  • Reply Mae June 24, 2016 at 2:54 am

    I feel this . Wholeheartedly and to my very core. Ruptured ectopic which nearly took my life in January and a courageous second try ending with blighted ovum @ 8 weeks last month . I too see my laparoscopy scars and I am still hostage to the hormones which are stubbornly slow to dissipate and I feel it ….the “Why me”, “what now” and the fear of the unknown. Terrified and isolated by the unpredictable future that my own body could keep sabotaging me and my family .It’s a lonely and hopeless feeling that the emptiness of not trying again is equal to the fear of trying and being betrayed by my own body . I too was diagnosed as “just unlucky” but save for antidepressants there is no medication for this diagnosis . Follow up appointments and seeing the round bellies and hearing new cries is torture. The healing is slow and one day at a time with one foot in front of the other . This “taboo” affliction needs a voice – the grief needs an outlet … so thank you for sharing your struggle and the process of your journey to healing . Blessed be and much love to you and yours .

    • Reply dearorla June 27, 2016 at 10:29 pm

      Mae, it sounds as though this has been such a difficult year for you too both physically and emotionally. I hope that you are getting all of the support and care that you need and that there are lighter and brighter days ahead. I think that learning to develop some trust with our bodies is going to be a difficult journey, but I wish that we both find some hope in the future.

  • Reply Fiona June 28, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Michelle I just want to say how sorry I am for your losses, both Orla and the previous pregnancy. I found your blog through the Tommy’s website and you write so beautifully about something I wish no-one had to experience. I had a miscarriage in my first pregnancy and I understand the sting of people asking questions about whether you have children, whether you want children or whether you are pregnant that they see as routine but are like knife wounds every time. I still think pregnancy is an amazing miracle, that our bodies can create life, but it is all too cruel to feel that the same body has failed us or let us down. Writing about it (albeit only in a diary) was helpful for me but talking talking talking made a difference too and I saw a counsellor who really helped me learn to be easier on myself and not blame myself or my body for something I couldn’t explain. I wish I’d been as brave as you and some of the other ladies above in terms of campaigning or being more public about what I’d gone through but gradually I have started to tell people what happened hoping that the more people talk, the less lonely an experience it is for everyone. I don’t really have a point to make but your story jumped out as I have an Orla myself, born on 4th May 2014 and your writing really touched me. I suppose I also wanted to say that I have been in a place where I never thought I would be happy again or trust my body or be the person I was before the loss and though it was a hard road and I think often about that baby that never was, the dark times did not last forever. It feels trite to say anything when your loss is so recent but I hope it brings you strength and comfort to read about other people’s experiences.

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