'My anxiety was very much a ‘black dog’, always in the background, niggling away. It was this unknown danger, that it felt like I couldn't control. Just when you think everything’s going swimmingly it will catch your eye, catch your mind and take your feet out from under you.'
After some early bleeding, Amber ended up in the Early Pregnancy Unit having an internal scan, which confirmed a strong heartbeat.
From that time on she dealt with her anxiety by focusing positive thoughts on the baby and telling her how much she was loved and wanted. She took time for herself and visualised the future, while trying not to scare herself with internet information.
'I remember thinking ‘I’ve seen you now, you’re real. I’m not letting you go.' For me that was the most important thing, it was very much about finding a connection with the baby very early on. We’d talk to her all the time. By making her be part of the family from the start we wanted her to feel loved and welcomed and wanted, and it was ‘You will hang on if you know how much you’re wanted’. It was the only way we could cope with it.'
'Every day I’d make a point of lying down and spending 25 or 30 minutes talking to the baby.'
'I tried to look after myself as much as I could. But also tried not to overthink things - Google is awful, step away from Google. I read a book about the first year and again it was about visualising the future. It was all about feeling as positive as possible about everything.'
Amber booked for maternity care early because she wanted the pregnancy to be acknowledged as ‘real’, but she wasn’t open with the midwife about her anxiety because she was worried about being labelled with a ‘red flag’ on her file.
Instead she got support from her partner. Although he sometimes became frustrated with her worrying, overall being open and honest with each other brought them closer.
'I didn’t say much to the midwife because I didn’t want them to judge me as being neurotic or difficult, a tricky one, but at the same time I wanted to get all the care. So I told them about the baby we’d lost but I didn’t tell them about my anxieties because I didn’t want them to pigeonhole me as having a mental health issue. Again it’s this thing about wanting to be the perfect mum from the start.'
At 20 weeks, Amber had a big bleed which she found very frightening. Doctors at A&E and the Early Pregnancy Unit couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat, but Amber was overjoyed when a midwife tried and found the heartbeat right away.
Although she was reassured by feeling the baby move and kick, she remained anxious about ‘tempting fate’.
'I think I missed out on a lot because of it. I had people wanting to throw me a baby shower, but I said, ‘Don’t be daft, don’t tempt fate.’ I had people inviting me to a pregnancy spa day, paint your bump: ‘Can’t do that, might tempt fate’.'
Looking back now that her baby is 12 months old, Amber reflects on how she accepted her feelings of fear and anxiety, and instead of trying to overcome them, she reframed them by focusing on positive thoughts about the baby.
'It was like I’ve got this big blockage and if I can’t power through it, I’ll go round it, do this by bonding with the baby and being positive. Yes, you’re afraid but hold onto every positive and get to know your baby from the moment you can, it really helps.'
Health professionals need to be better trained in helping couples to cope with the loss of their baby.
Jo went into labour at five months and lost her triplets. Six years later, she’s finally coming to terms with her grief.
Aruna suffered two miscarriages between April and October 2011. She now has two sons.
I cried a lot during the pregnancy
I cried a lot during the pregnancy
People were just completely bemused if I said, ‘I don’t really like being pregnant.’
I always say, ‘If your feelings are not normal for you, come and talk to us.’
I was completely petrified, almost irrational.
Lara’s first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and she found this a very lonely experience with others finding it hard to acknowledge her grief.
Sarah occasionally suffered from brief periods of feeling down before she was pregnant. In her first trimester she suffered from extreme exhaustion and thought this was the trigger for bouts of anxiety and angry outbursts.