On 25th April 2019, my fiancé and I had our world ripped apart as we attended our 12-week ultrasound scan at the hospital and were told - in far more unpleasant terminology and lacking in patient bedside manner - that our baby had no heartbeat and I had suffered a missed miscarriage. Never heard of one? No, us neither!! The baby had stopped developing at around 6 weeks but my body hadn’t realised and I’d continued to have pregnancy symptoms and thought everything was fine – I had no cramps or bleeding and was completely side-swiped when there was just an emptiness showing on the 42inch TV screen for where a 12+6 baby should have been.
Our world would never be the same. Over the coming weeks and months we had to get our heads around the grief, the disbelief, the isolation, the lack of knowledge and understanding, the embarrassment, the sympathy and more than ever - not having anyone to talk to - Google was our best friend yet it was so cruel with its results.
We really didn’t know where to start or how to deal with our grief. Shortly after our loss, we went to a local Miscarriage Association support group but found it was too soon and too overwhelming. I’d scroll and search online for help groups, support groups, people that had lost babies (who knew there were so many?!), people that were trying again after a loss - but it was all way too much, too soon and I just felt completely alone.
I felt guilty for not knowing there was something wrong with my baby inside my body. I felt guilty for not being able to produce a healthy baby for my partner. I felt guilty for not being able to give my daughter a sibling she so desperately wished for. I felt guilty for bringing embarrassment to our families and friends who didn’t know what to say to us. I felt guilty for not being good enough and felt like it was all a punishment for something I must have done. I let it eat away at me and was too ashamed to tell a soul – not even my fiancé.
After three months we both felt we were ready to try again for a baby and amazingly, we were so lucky to fall pregnant so soon. The joy I felt when I saw the stick turn positive – yet it was just so bittersweet.
The joy didn’t last long a week later (at week 5) I started bleeding one evening and was rushed to the hospital. We had a scan the next day at the Early Pregnancy Unit which honestly was horrendous - the thought of lying on a bed with the big TV screen glaring down on us once again as we await the news. Unfortunately, the baby was too small to see so we had to wait an agonising two further weeks before going back for another scan. The anguish, the pain, the heartache, the worry, the anxiety all started to build fast.
Thankfully at 7 weeks we went back and there was a baby with a little tiny heartbeat – looking healthy, growing and developing as it should be. Yet that was when my anxiety really hit me and all I could think about was getting to the 12-week point again. I just didn’t know how I was ever going to get there. Christmas came and went and my anxiety and depression grew and grew. We booked a private scan at 10 weeks - just to be sure - before going for the routine 12-week scan. Everything was fine and baby was growing, developing and living happily in my womb and I remember feeling happy and relieved for two whole days.
Then my anxiety started to build up and up again and within days, I was convinced this baby would also die and I would suffer another missed miscarriage. I felt like such a terrible person I was to think something like that. Week by week, my baby grew inside me – just as my anxiety did.
I always was on the lookout for blood in my knickers, which thankfully never came, but that wasn’t enough. Because I’d suffered a previous missed miscarriage, I was convinced it could happen again and without constant reassurance scans, how would I know for sure it hadn’t? Because of this, I couldn't even acknowledge I was pregnant until I was 4 months and would ignore family congratulating us because until the baby was full-term and born, how could they be so sure it would be ok?
I didn’t want to take my chances and protected myself by just not talking about the baby or acknowledging my pregnancy. There were no social media announcements and I couldn’t even decorate the nursery or buy anything for the baby until the final trimester - (this was really bad timing as COVID made shopping for newborns a bitch!). I’d cringe at any early pregnancy announcements from others, as I’d just feel they were setting themselves up for disappointment as things COULD go wrong... and I envied their naivety for not knowing that pain and fear...
By 11 weeks, I'd reached a really low place and all I could do was cry. I wasn’t sleeping. I couldn't even get out of bed. I didn't want to go to work and didn't know who to talk to. I couldn’t talk to my fiancé as I felt I had let him down and I knew I needed professional help. I just couldn’t stop crying and so, after lots of research I self-referred myself to a local mental health charity Mindsmatter and I also found two local ladies who had a business helping pregnant ladies with relaxation classes so I signed myself up.
I started these in January (around 14 weeks) and after just one class I felt relaxed enough to almost fall asleep at night. I felt like a complete fraud being in that pregnancy class with women who had baby bumps and me thinking that I didn't deserve to be there because my baby wouldn't survive but I persevered and went to weekly classes.
The two ladies that ran the classes were just the most wonderful kind and caring ladies I've ever met. I managed to open up to them both about my missed miscarriage and they too had experienced miscarriages and for the first time in months, I felt I’d met people I could finally talk to. Without them and their support - along with Hypnobirthing relaxation techniques that I was learning - I couldn't have got through my pregnancy without them!
After 2 months of waiting, I was referred to a male counsellor for my depression which I declined as what would he know about what I've gone through? How could he help I thought… by now my anxiety was at the highest level and I couldn't acknowledge my pregnancy. Finally, after another 4 weeks, at almost 5 months pregnant, I was referred to a perinatal counsellor (a woman too) who I could talk to and who would hopefully understand the pain and suffering I was going through.
In our first meeting, we discussed my pain over the miscarriage, the guilt and grief that I was experiencing, as well as the trauma of the birth of my first daughter in 2013. After some reflection, I soon realised that what followed after her birth all started to link together. It was a traumatic birth and I ended up with undiagnosed postnatal depression which ultimately led to my divorce. I discovered I was experiencing a pang of almighty guilt not giving my first daughter the family I wished her to have and the worry that potentially, this could happen again with this second baby and new relationship. I was also fearful of having another traumatic birth leading to postnatal depression.
We broke down each session into compartments of my worries. Week by week, my and anxiety and depression levels started to decrease and it started to get easier to talk about my feelings. Yes, there were a few more bumps in my road to recovery - especially when faced with more scans and coming face-to-face with the sonographer who'd delivered that heartbreaking news 12 months previous. Life started to feel more ‘doable’ and the stronger I became, the more positive I became. The more confident I became in pregnancy and towards my birth. Consultant-led, I chose to have an elective section (planned) as this was the best option for me to help keep control and to enable me to have a positive birth experience.
My little rainbow was born on the 15th of July 2020 at 11:30 am and it was the most positive experience I could have wished for. My mental health following the birth has been positive and healthy and I am forever grateful to my partner for understanding and supporting me in those early days, as well as the ladies who supported me with the Hypnobirthing and mindfulness techniques, and also my perinatal counsellor. Without them, I would have struggled even more and I worry about the place I would have ended up in.
I worry that many women don't have the luxury or the willpower or drive to find support and ask for help after experiencing similar situations. More so, I worry that there isn't much help out there other than the doom and gloom in Facebook private groups with constant reminders of the pain you've gone through (there's images out there I just couldn't cope with remembering the clots, the blood, the loss...) - instead of looking to make sense of the pain and rebuild ourselves to be strong once again.
Actually, more needs to be done for me and women like me! So, today I'm launching this new blog - the M-word - to try and help other women - just like me.
Pregnancy is hard and sometimes really shit! Birth is the most natural thing in the world, and yet can be the hardest and most enduring task a woman's body will go through. Once the baby is here it doesn't get any easier and motherhood isn't always the fairytale that people make out.
The M-word is here to promote a kind mind and positive mental health for women suffering from anxiety, depression and grief whilst trying to get pregnant, throughout pregnancy and postpartum. Our goal is to remove the stigma and taboo surrounding miscarriage, baby loss and traumatic births. We want to provide a safe place to speak openly and frankly about experiences, offering support and helping women move forward positively.
Welcome to the M-word!