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
After losing Orla, there was initially an overwhelming innate need to be pregnant again, to grow a baby that we would bring home and pour our overflowing love into. However, it also felt terrifying – the thought of starting again, knowing what we know now. That not all babies make it. Then came the fear that stopped us from actually trying as well as the shock and numbness that meant that days and weeks passed without us really understanding how. As medically advised, we duly waited a few months and I did what I could to get myself physically and mentally ready. Whatever that actually means, since I think that no one can ever by fully prepared for pregnancy after loss.
When the positive test was actually in front of us, I think we were in complete shock and disbelief. I didn’t anticipate how many confusing and conflicting emotions would come with pregnancy after loss: the renewed waves of grief, the guilt, the isolation, the extreme anxiety. The sudden reality that another baby was beginning its own journey in the place that Orla had grown only months before bought both comfort and sadness. I wondered if this was more significant when you lose your first child – this sense of a sacred space that has only been known by you and your firstborn. I felt an increased sense of guilt that I hadn’t been able to keep Orla alive and that I was now hoping that I would be able to do so with her younger sibling. And then an overwhelming fear that my body would fail and we would lose yet another baby. Continue Reading
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
Please be gentle with the heart of a bereaved mother
Your happy birth or pregnancy news or beautiful family photos may be a painful reminder of everything she has lost. Her response may be sadness or overwhelming pain. It may be intense anxiety or possibly even panic; a fear of how she will be able to cope as your belly swells, or your baby grows. A need to run and hide.
It can trigger a renewed sense of grief and be a stark reminder of everything she has lost. She may feel guilt and shame that she was not able to bring her baby home. She may again question herself, her abilities and whether she did something wrong. Did she miss a sign or eat the wrong food? She may wonder if she has done something to deserve her fate when others are able to avoid such suffering. If she is a bad person. Or worse – a bad mother.
It may be hard for her to say how she feels, through fear of being judged as bitter or selfish. This only adds to the guilt and shame she may feel. She may congratulate you with enthusiasm or glassed over eyes, attend baby showers and birthdays, like your photos; but know that her fragile heart is potentially shattered that bit more each time. She may instead avoid, make excuses not to attend but find it hard to put into words why. Please don’t take this personally or criticise, but instead recognise and name for her that you understand that this might be difficult. Spare her of this additional burden. Continue Reading