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Bereaved

Pregnancy after loss

Walking the terrifying cliff edge of pregnancy after loss

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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

Pregnancy after loss

Pregnancy after loss at Christmas

* This was a guest post written for Tommy’s for their Christmas 2016 series of articles
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This Christmas isn’t as we hoped it would be.  We had anticipated having a seven-month-old baby that we could dress in various festive themed outfits and having a tree full of decorations proudly declaring ‘baby’s first Christmas’.  I look back at this time last year, around 18 weeks pregnant and how we kept exclaiming how different everything would be this year.  And it is.  But sadly, for all the wrong reasons.
Everyone always says that the first Christmas after loss is hard.   Christmas is a time of cheer, of celebration and happiness. But what if your heart doesn’t match this ideal? From early autumn, we are surrounded by advertised images of perfect families, engaging in activities full of cheer.  The expectation is to join in with the festive spirit and not be The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Yet how can I pretend to be full of the joys of the season when my soul feels so heavy?
This year has the added joy and challenge of ‘pregnancy after loss at Christmas’, which is not quite the same as ‘pregnancy before loss at Christmas’; and I can remember the latter so vividly since it was just one year ago. Last year there were lots of conversations about how different next Christmas would be, how special, how I should make the most of getting presents just for me since this would be the last year it would happen. Yet now all I really want for Christmas is for Orla to have lived – and for this baby to make it safely into the world. Continue Reading

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Tommy's Mum's Voice Award 2017

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I am proud and overwhelmed to share that I have been shortlisted for Tommy’s Mum’s Voice Award 2017.  This is an award that celebrates mums who have spoken out about their own pregnancy experiences, and in doing so have helped and given hope and support to others.  I am honoured to have been shortlisted alongside some other incredible mums who have helped me immensely through 2016 and who are all are worthy of winning. I feel so lucky to know them and their babies, and to be able to call them friends.
I have spoken out about losing Orla, my experience of stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy and pregnancy after loss, the impact that this has on myself and Andy and how we are learning to navigate life after loss and survive our heartbreak – all in the hope that it will make a difference in some way.  There is so little that I can do for Orla now that she is gone, but the love I have for her drives me to do anything I can to keep her memory alive, and to try and help others. It is something that I hope would make her, and our future children, proud.
I have openly shared things that I would never have done before, in the anticipation that I can do my little bit towards breaking the silence that I feel exists around pregnancy and child loss.  I believe talking is the thing that can make a difference.  My passion for improving mental health support for parents has leaked from my work life into my personal one (or rather, crashed into it), and being on the other side of services has meant that I have been given a new and very different perspective. For me, this makes this nomination all the more meaningful. Continue Reading

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I didn’t know that I was allowed to feel sad

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I am aware that I haven’t ever written about my first loss, yet I have found my mind contemplating this a lot over the last few weeks.  Long days of driving alone have allowed my mind to meander through a number of events and as it is Baby Loss Awareness Week, it felt right to write something now.  I’m also aware that I haven’t read many accounts of ectopic pregnancies before, which is interesting seeing as this is the outcome for 1/100 pregnancies.  Not all end in the way that mind did, as some are caught earlier and can be managed less invasively.  But for me, I was suddenly made aware of the many dangers, some life threatening, that women can face on their journey to motherhood.
 
It was a Monday morning when I started bleeding.  We had been trying for a baby for four months and I had just finished my period the week before; no baby this month.  I called the GP in a bit of a panic as I was feeling unwell and shocked by the heavy unexpected flow.  She was blunt and to the point – ‘the last time someone described these symptoms to me, they were pregnant’.  I responded by asking if this meant that I would be miscarrying and she curtly replied that this was ‘a possible theory’ and that I should come in and see her that evening. Continue Reading

Mental health and wellbeing

Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints

“The real essence of your distinctive footprints may least be felt in your presence and much more in your absence”
Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

Andy and I like to travel, although I’m more of a novice.  Andy has visited over 80 countries and taken on many weird and wonderful adventures.  A year after we met, changes in work circumstances meant that we both left our jobs and travelled for 7 months through Africa and South America together.  Andy pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to do things that I never thought I could – and although at the time I often cursed him for it, I was always grateful afterwards.

We have found a shared love of seeing animals in their own habitats; mountain gorillas in Uganda, The Big Five in the Serengeti, sharks in South Africa.  We have stargazed in the Atacama desert and walked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.  We have visited witch doctors in remote African villages.  And when we found out that we were pregnant, we started to dream of taking our child to these places.  To give them the opportunity to see the beauty of the world through an unfiltered lens.  We discussed our desire for them to see animals in the wild rather than at the zoo and for them to learn to understand and appreciate diversity and other cultures.
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