#misCOURAGE story, 24/05/2017, by Shona
This week, many charities are raising awareness of Maternal Mental Health and I cannot tell you how pleased I am that it’s becoming more socially acceptable to admit when we’re not ok!
What you’re about to read has been incredibly difficult for me to write but I feel it needs saying:-
I’m not ok!
I know that I share a ton of photos and we’re all smiling etc, but behind those smiles is immense sadness over our inability to provide my little boy with a sibling. I should add, however, that the smiles aren’t false smiles; I’m incredibly proud of and grateful for my family, we’re all a little nuts “but the best ones usually are!”
A fair few know our story, some have (mostly my hubby) been at the brunt of my sadness and indeed my anger and frustrations, and I’m deeply sorry for that!
You see, whilst a lot of the focus has been on the mothers who have had traumatic or difficult pregnancies/births or post natal depression/anxiety, very little focus has been made on those who have suffered multiple miscarriages and infertility.
I have even spoken with a number of these charities about joining their campaign and asking this very question: why haven’t you included recurrent miscarriages or infertility at all? And nearly all their answers have been: “you’re right, it hasn’t been our main focus but it’s certainly not excluded!” – well, that doesn’t help individuals like me who are looking for this specific type of support.
Please don’t think I am taking anything away from those suffering with negative thoughts after their pregnancies, or those who have struggled with Post Natal Depression, I’m not!
I simply want to raise the flag for those who also fall within the bracket of miscarriages and infertility.
All too often have I sat in a waiting room surrounded by expectant ladies and their partners. Some are nervously awaiting their first ultrasound, having had no complications up to that point and some have had some complications and are incredibly anxious about what that ultrasound is going to reveal.
The rooms are clinical, the process is like something out of a factory and if that scan reveals your worst fear, the sonographers (who have very little empathy in my experience) direct you to a different room while you wait to discuss the scan with a Nurse Practitioner, you are labelled a statistic, handed a leaflet and sent on your way, past the same room you were just waiting in, left to grieve and deal with the loss on your own.
The trouble with having 1 miscarriage, is that it is as common as they say, unfortunately! The fact you have to endure it 3 times before our national health will do further investigations is just beyond heartbreaking.
Not once, in my experience, did I have anyone follow up on my wellbeing. I can tell you, I was torn up each time I was delivered the news that my pregnancies had failed, and it only got worse the more I had.
I’ll admit, it would take a few days, maybe a couple of weeks for the tears to stop. Some days I would be absolutely fine and other days I wasn’t.
I have never been 100% ok though.
We know of the likely reason for our miscarriages but as we’ve been able to have our beautiful boy, we held on to the hope that one day, we’d gift him a sibling. Sadly, 4 further miscarriages since his birth and an incredible build up of frustration, anger and sadness brings us, emotionally, to where we are today, and I’m not ok and that’s ok!
As it turns out, my local health service explained that many women don’t want the follow up after a miscarriage; women don’t want the reminder apparently. Whilst that might be the case for some, it wasn’t the case for me.
Going through my first 3 miscarriages, I couldn’t tell you what support I would have liked or wanted but I’m sure someone a lot more qualified than me would be able to identify that some kind of support was needed!
The emotional build up behind every fake "I'm ok", "I'm fine", following the recent 4 however, has unfortunately tipped me over the edge and left me wanting the impossible: someone to make the decisions for me (IVF or continue naturally) or at least tell me how we were able to have our son and struggle so much since.
Generalising should not be an excuse to avoid asking the most important question: "How can I help!?" and it's only since raising this with my doctors that this question is now being asked.
You know, they don’t teach this sort of stuff in sex-education, well, they certainly didn’t in my day, making me (and no doubt, many others) naïve to think that falling pregnant was as simple as having unprotected sex.
They don’t warn you of the possibilities of infertility. They don’t talk about genetic anomalies outside of Downs or Edwards Syndrome. I’m sure there are many other things that don’t get talked about.
Today, we continue to wait for our results of our recent loss, following which will determine whether we pursue IVF treatment or somehow keep going naturally.
I’ve decided to receive acupuncture and I’m fortunate to have connected with the same lady I saw before I had my little boy and I’m confident this will help in my healing.
Unfortunately, I have a fear that if we do go down the IVF route, that I may be naive (again) in thinking it will work first time! I can tell you now, I'm really struggling to wrap my head around the reality of likely outcomes.
Whilst family and friends play key roles in support, many don’t really know what to say or do, and that’s no one’s fault, but I’d advise to let that family member/friend know how you’re feeling and what (if anything) you would like them to do if they ask.
Personally, I now worry that I am burdening mine and also creating unnecessary worry for those who are currently expecting or are thinking of starting a family.
I have often wondered whether I should "save" them (including my husband) of worry and concern over future pregnancies/losses but I know that won't do me any favours.
I’m inspired; however, by some Facebook support groups I’ve found and believe it’s helped me a lot by speaking with many in my position. Sadly, I only came across these groups by pure chance and then by word of mouth of other groups from group members.
I think it would help greatly if some of these well-known charities advertised these types of groups on their websites (I know there will be many, but they can easily be categorised) but I’ll list a few here:
Balanced Translocation Support Group
IVF with PGD/PGS Support Group
Pinks n Blues CIC
Miscarriage & Pregnancy Loss
Miscarriage Association (linked with Bristol Miscarriage Support)
Tommy’s are also doing an amazing job researching the causes of pregnancy and infancy loss and also give amazing support throughout all stages of pregnancy/birth.
Netmums and Help Us Grieve (HUG) also have forums and a lot of information to help support you through the process.
Mummy bloggers are also paving the way for further awareness and often post links to some amazing supportive websites.
I haven't written this post to get sympathy or gee'd up by "positive vibes" or "thinking of you" messages - not that I'm ungrateful, but it's not the message I'm trying to promote.
I wrote it because I haven't felt I've had the right support from the medical profession.
I wrote it because my emotional wellbeing has impacted those closest to me. I wrote it because I know I am not the only one who has gone/is going through this and if I noticed a flaw in these Awareness posts, I'd bet anything that others in my position have as well.
Don't suffer in silence, seek help in any (healthy) form that you can (booze/drugs is not the answer). We can only help ourselves and others, by reaching out and talking about it.
Please note that the opinions expressed by users in Tommy’s Book of #misCOURAGE are solely those of the user, who is unlikely to have had medical training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of Tommy’s and are not advice from Tommy's. Reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a qualified health care provider. We strongly advise readers not to take drugs that are not prescribed by your qualified healthcare provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, midwife or hospital immediately. Read full disclaimer
By Jo (not verified) on 6 May 2017 - 18:48
I've had the misfortune to suffer 7 miscarriages. After the latest (in Feb) I asked my doctor to refer me for counselling. I was told that there was no availability and given the number for Cruse - a worthy organisation, but not exactly one focused on this type of loss. Private counselling is around £50 per hour in my area - not an option at present.
You're so right - more needs to be done and being open about not being ok is the first step.
By Midwife @Tommys on 8 May 2017 - 15:42
Thank you for your comment. I'm so sorry to hear about your 7 miscarriages-it must have been such a difficult time for you and also that your GP has not been able to refer you for any counselling to support you. Have you had any investigations into the possible causes of the miscarriages?
Tommy's has opened 4 centres and clinics for miscarriage research I have attached a link if you would like further information. You would need to contact your GP for a referral
Another organisation that you can contact for support is the Miscarriage Association that may be able to help you with a referral for counselling
Hope this helps. Please contact us again or call our helpline
0800 0147 800 if you want further information