Miscarriage and mental health
October 10, 2017
At the end of October 2015 we found out I was pregnant with our second baby. On December 4th 2015 we found out that rather than being the 10 weeks pregnant I thought I was, I had in fact had a miscarriage. I want to share my story of both miscarriage and the following impact on my mental health because it’s not a stigma to talk about it and I want to do anything I can do that might possibly help others deal with their experiences.
I always thought losing a baby would mean loads of pain and bleeding, but I had no ‘warning’ signs that this pregnancy wasn’t progressing. I had some mild tummy ache – I barely even noticed it, but something wasn’t feeling right. Even now I can’t explain articulately what this ‘feeling’ was but I couldn’t shake it so I called the early pregnancy unit and talked to a brilliant nurse who was so reassuring that it was probably nothing but she could understand me wanting to check so she arranged a scan a couple of days later for me.
The early pregnancy unit was every emotion you could feel in the early days of pregnancy in a small space. There were people in the waiting room who had come out the other side and had been given good news and those that hadn’t all sat in one small waiting room trying to avoid eye contact. I had spent the days in between making the appointment and actually getting there telling myself that what was about to happen was a bonus look at our baby and I was worrying about nothing.
The scan started and after a couple of minutes I knew something was wrong based on the questions the sonographer was asking us. I won’t go into loads of detail on this but needless to say as much as I rationalise that they have an incredibly tough job, she set the tone for what became the most traumatic experience I’ve had (more on that word traumatic later…). We were put into a side room and left. And left. Graham actually had to go and find someone in the end to check they hadn’t forgotten about us. My mind was a fuzzy haze of feeling like I’d failed and all the plans we’d had in our heads about adding to our family were gone. My heart ached and I had no idea what was going to happen next – I still had no symptoms of a miscarriage.
What followed were a number of days of tests, scans and gynaecologists prodding and poking me talking in degrees of urgency about my ‘situation’. My hormone levels weren’t in line with a miscarriage (they were still going up) and the professionals were throwing all sorts of possible answers at us – the worst was a molar pregnancy that I was told not to google (I of course did). Where we actually got to with an amazing consultant who explained as much as she could was that this pregnancy had started out as twins and my hormone level, as high as it was, hadn’t gone up quick enough to support their growth. After a week of waiting for something to happen naturally I was taken in for a D&C. I thought I was going to be in hospital for a matter of hours – I ended up being there for two days, the longest I’d had away from Polly. I’m petrified of general anaesthetics too – just a bit more to add to the mix!
I’m going to fast forward about eight weeks into 2016, when I was talking with a friend (actually my then boss) at work who gently said I hadn’t seemed myself for a while and wondered how I was dealing with what had happened (she was one of a handful of people we told). I broke down like I have never done before. The flood gates opened and I sat and sobbed and couldn’t talk – she was right, I didn’t feel myself and I didn’t know why. I know that sounds a bit weird, surely I could put two and two together, but it didn’t feel like the right answer was ‘because I’ve had a miscarriage’. I had actually barely said those words because my immediate reaction to Graham was that I didn’t want to tell anybody unless we absolutely had to. My boss was incredible – she got me access to occupational health immediately and after an initial consultation with a nurse I was being referred for counselling.
I had five sessions with an immense lady who just got me from the word go. She was really upfront with me after our first conversation where she diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and that I was grieving. I’ve brushed over some of the detail of the care in this post because it’s far from what most people would want to read, but needless to say there were some gaping holes in the quality. Whenever I had to drive near the hospital afterwards I had a panic attack. The grieving part caught me off guard too – probably the language she used. The counselling was incredible and she worked with me a lot on normalising what had happened, facing into the care side and getting me into a better place if I wanted to try again. Pretty quickly into the sessions I had homework – driving to the hospital, telling people, mindfulness techniques, that sort of thing. The telling people was the toughest for me because I’d been so closed off before, but she helped me see that that was actually causing some of my issue – I was bottling it up and seeing it as a stigma. My counsellor made me use the word traumatic whenever I was telling people, because until then I’d been trying to down play everything about it…it felt pretty uncomfortable but I soon felt the benefit of playing by her rules.
It’s still a hard thing to talk about and think back to. I will always wonder what those babies would have been like and what life with twins would have turned into. I’m a dates person so when it’s heading towards the time of year this happened, and then when they would have been arriving I will always think about them.
I’m sharing this story for two reasons – firstly the miscarriage. The Miscarriage Association have done a lot of work on a #SimplySay campaign recently and I think it’s been really powerful. It is hard to know what to say (and not to say) to people who have gone through it, but if we don’t talk about it we’ll never get there and those feelings bottled up can’t come of any good. I didn’t want to talk about it in the beginning but once I did as tough as it was, a weight was lifted. Secondly, the mental health side of things. Ok so every now and again I have to tick a box on a form to say I’ve had treatment for mental health, but so what? It shouldn’t be a stigma, sometimes we need a bit of help and that’s just fine.
We have our beautiful rainbow baby Lilly now, we were lucky and I know that’s not the case for so many. I hope if anybody is going through something similar they find the support I did either from counselling or a supportive partner, friend or even a stranger on the street. Talking about it is hard but it works with varying degrees of time. If you know somebody going through it and really don’t know what to say or are worried you’ll say the wrong thing have a look at the Miscarriage Association website, Twitter or Instagram feeds – you might just be the person they need to talk to.