I must begin by saying that this is a long one; clearly anxiety was a very big deal in PAL! I must also say that this post doesn’t go into what I did to manage my anxiety, as I want to do that justice elsewhere. This is just me trying to make sense of what it really meant to feel the fear of PAL and how it manifested for me personally.
I would estimate that about 99% of the clients I have worked with throughout my career experience some form of anxiety, whether that be by itself or alongside depression and / or other mental health difficulties. I feel confident in talking about the origins and functions of anxiety, ways in which to understand and manage the symptoms using some basic strategies, as well as some more complex and exploratory therapy techniques. I had anxiety in the bag.
And then I experienced pregnancy after loss.
During a particularly stressful Sunday CTG
I thought I knew anxiety having experienced it on many occasions in different circumstances. I understood the stomach flipping, hands shaking, heart beating faster, mind spinning, difficulty thinking / talking / functioning that comes with being fearful. I understood the, sometimes catastrophic, interpretations I would make of situations and how this exacerbated these feelings. But what I didn’t understand was what it would be like to exist in a state of anxiety every single day. For almost every single minute of every single day. And reassurance was often short lived and in the moment – and for me, worked less effectively and for less time as pregnancy progressed.
I feel that this will be the first of a series of posts, since if I write about it all now, it could take days to read. There is so much swimming around in my head about my nine months of pregnancy after loss, and I want to give it the time and space it deserves. This is therefore a bit of an introduction for myself really – getting me in the headspace to pick apart what is ‘normal’ and expected and what I maybe need a bit more help with making sense of. And I find getting it out on paper (or virtual electronic paper) is the best way….
This diagram was something I sketched out at 4am on the day I went to hospital to be induced. Knowing that it was likely to be a long process, I had planned to spend the day writing a blog post on my reflections of pregnancy after loss, the sense I made of it from a mental health perspective, and how I had managed the relentless 37 weeks to that point. However, I ended up spending the day huffing, puffing and moaning about how slow induction was this time around, pounding the streets around Camberwell, climbing and descending the stairs of Kings College Hospital, bouncing on a ball, sniffing clarey sage and lavender, before finally flopping down with a book and a less than appetising hospital dinner. I am not very patient as my face below shows: Continue Reading
This week it was officially announced that my midwife Michelle (yes, that is quite confusing!) is the London regional winner of The Royal College of Midwives Mum’s Midwife of the Year. I nominated Michelle back in the summer last year when we were away on our fundraising adventure and then promptly completely forgot about it until I got a message from her in December saying that she had won. Cue lots of tears from both of us! Michelle is wonderful woman and midwife; she is kind, compassionate, dedicated and passionate about her work. She has gone above and beyond in her duty to look after myself and Andy and I feel that we have a bond that will last forever. I am so honoured to have Michelle as my midwife and incredibly proud that she has won this award. She thoroughly deserves it and anyone who has the opportunity to have her as their midwife is very lucky indeed.
Michelle is a caseloading community midwife. This means that she runs a team of midwives who have a small caseload of women who they see all the way through pregnancy, birth and up to a month afterwards. This provides women like me with:
- Continuity of care. I don’t need to explain who I am, what I need or what my journey to motherhood has been thus far at every appointment. Michelle will always follow up on any questions or concerns I may have, and there is a sense of progression at each appointment – that together we are moving towards bringing our baby into the world.
As I edge ever closer to the third trimester, I feel just about ready to write something more about pregnancy after loss. Although I have written smaller pieces via Instagram, there has been something of a block between that and getting something more thorough and robust onto paper. I could put it down to being busy; returning from the States, announcing this pregnancy to family and friends, going back to work and then our first Christmas without Orla. But in reality, I think that there has been something bigger stopping me. My own mind.
It’s as though I fear that if I commit anything more substantial in writing, that this will be the end. That somehow I will cause everything to come crashing down around me. ‘Magical thinking’ in psychology speak. Except that the outcome would be anything but magical.
I can without a doubt say that these last few months have been the hardest of my life. The pain of losing Orla has remained as an ongoing hum, ever present, always occupying space in my heart and head. One that intensifies at times, just as I feel it always will. I found that once the initial horror sinks in after loss, the numbness wears off and the despair hits, you become acutely aware that the worst thing that you could have imagined has happened. You can no longer fear it, since you are living it. You cling onto life with your fingertips and grapple and grasp to find something, anything, that will give you a shred of hope that things will be okay. You go to the darkest places of your mind and soul and you wonder if you will survive. And you do, one day at a time. In many ways, I felt that I had already faced the worst, and therefore if I could still wake up and put one foot in front of the other, I would somehow be okay. Continue Reading
As the festive period and 2016 draws to a close, it feels like a time for reflection, taking stock and thinking about these last twelve months as a whole. I think it is fair to say that it has been a tough one: the toughest I have faced so far. But I refuse to see it as all bad and I certainly do not want to turn my back on 2016 at midnight and write it off as the worst in history. This was the year that I became a mother, the one that I got to meet our precious daughter, who has changed me and my life beyond all recognition. It is the year that I have learnt more about myself personally and professionally than I have in all the 34 years that came before. And I hope that it is a year that has made me a better wife, friend, psychologist – I guess, just a better person.
Certainly, globally in 2016 there have been many challenging, saddening events, and some downright disasters; political madness has prevailed with Brexit and the election of Trump, there have been many high-profile deaths of much loved and talented celebrities. But sad things happen every day all over the world, many life altering and devastating but not national news worthy. This won’t stop in 2017; people will still die and wars will continue to be fought. When the clock ticks over to a brand-new year, all of our difficulties will not fade away and we will not be new and revived as if by magic. But maybe it is a time when we can think about how we hope to set new intentions, to find gratitude and strength in order to face, and learn from, the curveballs that life can, and will, throw at us.