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
A letter to the woman who has just been told that her baby has died
As I prepare to give birth again, I look back to just ten and a half months ago and wonder what advice I would give to myself now. The person who had just been told that her baby had died at 37 weeks gestation, without any warning. Her baby who was healthy and perfect in every way, who she had seen wriggling around at the 36 week scan just five days before. Whose heartbeat she had heard just two days earlier.
That woman, who lying on the triage room bed, had just seen her baby’s still heart on the ultrasound screen. Who was surrounded by doctors and midwives, being told that she had no choice but to labour and give birth, that she had to start the process that evening; that all she was allowed to do was to go home and pack a bag before returning for induction. The woman who wanted to be put to sleep and never wake up, who couldn’t fathom that she had to go through the process of birthing, something she had so lovingly prepared for, knowing that the outcome would be silence and leaving the hospital empty handed. Knowing that she had to break the news to her family and friends that she had let them down in the worst way possible. That she had failed to protect her much loved and longed for baby.
This week I caught up with (read: binge watched) The Replacement, and it reminded me of a blog post I started a few months ago and never got around to finishing or posting. Returning to work after the death of your baby is so complicated and multifaceted and there is no right or wrong time or way to do it. In fact, for some people it may not be right at all. However, I know that many have asked me what helped me, so it seemed a good idea to share what I did and what I have learnt from these last few months.
I returned to work six months after Orla was born. I could have stayed away for longer; in fact with the amount of annual leave I am now entitled to with the NHS, I could have stayed off for around 14 months (not all paid). However, for me, six months felt like the right amount of time. We had been away for three months, and once we returned, I knew that I needed the structure and routine of my job. To put this need into context, work has always been a huge part of my identity and plays an integral role in my self-worth and self-esteem. I see my job as a career, a vocation if you will, and it is something that involved many years of training and many, many sacrifices. I moved all over the country, to do jobs that were at times awful and paid a pittance, lived in house shares that made me miserable and then took out a massive loan to do a Masters degree that I hoped would help get me onto the allusive and competitive Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. That then took three years of hard slog, and being single at the end of it, I spent the next few years building my career and working my way up to the grade I am today. Whereas many of my peers started families very soon after qualifying, I busied myself with changing jobs and finding myself in a senior position and managing my own team. I felt confident and competent at work, so I really wasn’t sure how I would manage the shift in identity from ‘Michelle the psychologist’ to ‘Mummy Michelle who also wants to work as a psychologist and achieve the same as she did before she became a mum’.
28 week yoga baby doing plough pose
I am sure that there are many reasons as to why the last few weeks have been increasingly difficult emotionally. Why I have needed more support and more reassurance and why I have turned up at MAU twice in one week. As time moves forwards and this baby grows, the reality that we may be lucky enough to bring them home becomes greater. As their kicks, rolls and jabs get stronger, as I have started to see various limbs poke outwards from my protruding belly, I have suddenly become acutely aware that this really is a little person. And it’s a little person that I have allowed myself to get attached to and to admit that I love.
This isn’t easy in pregnancy after loss. I have spent most of the time in a state of detachment, trying not to get too attached or to let my hopes run away with me – after all, there are no guarantees right? Of course, I know that this is futile, and that my hopes were sky high as soon as we even started thinking about having another baby. But there is a part of your mind and soul that tries as best it can to protect you. Continue Reading
Looking back, the second trimester seemed to go on forever. Despite being incredibly busy in one way or another, the weeks felt long and the anxiety and worry seemed to gradually build. Whereas in the first trimester, I was able to adopt a more ‘whatever happens’ attitude (a sense that there was very little I could do apart from maintain good health), in the second, the sense of responsibility became heightened. I started to feel movements very early on, as early as 12 weeks, but this of course was intermittent and followed no pattern that would allow for reassurance. The familiarity of those flutters and pokes was simultaneously comforting and terrifying. Since the nausea and tiredness had subsided, this was the first sign that I really was pregnant – yet there was a sense that I couldn’t even trust my own judgements about this. How could I believe that what I was feeling was actually a baby? And when I couldn’t feel anything, what did this mean? Falling pregnant so soon after losing Orla meant that these feelings were so recognisable; having Orla safely cocooned inside of me was within touching distance and feeling the movements of her younger sibling brought me closer to her, yet also painfully further away. A physical reminder of everything we had lost, creating its own renewed wave of grief. Continue Reading