The pregnancy loss that tipped me over the edge was a medical termination. We lost Luna at 19 weeks, she had Turner’s Syndrome, we knew this from 12 weeks. We had been giving her time to see if the complications she was suffering from may stabilise to a point where she could be born live with a chance of a relatively ‘good’ life. Sadly, this wasn’t the case and at 18 weeks, the consultant repeated what he thought would happen, that I would eventually miscarry. I’d already experienced three previous miscarriages, all different in their own right, but losing Luna was like a bomb going off.
Benjamin was just over 2.5 years old at the time and we were very conscious of how all of this may be effecting him and if we continued with the pregnancy (especially after being told Luna’s chances of survival were practically nil, even if she made it full term), what that may do to us as a family. We reached the point where it was time to make difficult decisions for Luna. It’s an impossible decision for any parent to make. Weighing up what is best for your baby versus what you desperately want to hold on to. We were in agony.
I was induced on the 25th January 2017 late in the afternoon and delivered Luna a few hours later that evening. It was a very quick labour, which was not what anyone was expecting…but I and my bereavement midwife took this to mean that Luna was ready to be born and quite possibly my body was getting ready to deliver (miscarry) anyway. Those first few days and weeks after delivering Luna were a haze of shock, guilt and grief. We had amazing support through the hospital bereavement midwife, she was our saving grace. Both my parents are dead, so I didn’t have this type of support to rely on, which just made my grief even more seismic. Losing Luna cracked open all of these previous griefs, including my previous miscarriages. It was so completely overwhelming. I lost my voice for the first few days after returning home from hospital. My body hurt all over, for months afterwards, especially in my hips and legs. I lost weight, even though I was trying to eat. I was grinding my teeth at night, waking up with a sore jaw and headaches. And then the waking nightmares. All of this grief, the loss of Luna, made me panic. I realised nothing was safe. Anything can and does happen. I have no control. I would imagine Benjamin crossing the road on his scooter and getting hit by a bus. I would see it in technicolour. I would dream about this sort of thing too, or him going missing. I began to have panic attacks, usually in crowded places, but they could happen anywhere. I felt like I was dying or going completely crazy. I was petrified.
Charlie and I were having therapy through Child Bereavement UK by this time and we were both trying meditation to try and calm ourselves. I was trying to eat properly and sleep as best I could. I didn’t want to take pills, as I thought (and still do think) that this was relatively normal. I was experiencing a high level of grief. Anxiety and depression are normal in these circumstances. I found the suggestion by some that I should consider anti-depressants insensitive. I’m not opposed to them in principle, I have taken them before, but this time I felt feeling the grief was important. The pain was providing information, albeit, some of that was overwhelming my system. Still, I wanted to FEEL, I needed to feel. I didn’t want medication numbing anything. If I hadn’t been taking steps to look after myself and work through the grief and pain, if I was allowing the anxiety to completely rule me, then I can see the point of taking medication, but this wasn’t the case…luckily, my GP agreed! And that’s a point I’d like to make, my GP was fantastic. When she saw me initially (and Charlie came with me, which was actually really important) and I told her all about the symptoms I was having, she just listened. Then she asked me what I wanted to do. I think she really got my feelings of lack of control and the need to be HEARD and rather than imposing her ideas, she listened to mine. We made a plan together. She referred me to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions and followed up on this, and she asked me to book in for another appointment with her in a couple of week’s so we could discuss how I was getting on.
In this time, I forced myself outside, but I also took care to listen to myself. I chose my interactions carefully, made sure that I was either with people I felt safe with or that the environment wouldn’t trigger me (not an easy thing to do when it comes to pregnant women and babies). I tried the CBT group sessions, but the situation just freaked me out, I had to leave part way through the second session. They switched me to 1:1 sessions, this was better, although I’m not sure the actual CBT helped, or if it was just having another therapy outlet, someone to talk to. Most of our sessions just became talking, rather than the prescriptive CBT lines. I was on a waiting list to be assessed for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I was probably suffering from this, but it’s so tangled up with the grief response that it’s a difficult one to detangle. By the time they eventually called me for the assessment, my scores for these things had come down significantly. The one take home thing I learned from the CBT was to try and stick with the panic, try not to run away from the situation as this can create more panic and/or can start limiting what you do, where you go, etc. Face the fear and breathe through it basically.
I haven’t had a panic attack for over a year now. My imagination can still get a little overexcited about possible tragedy, but I’ve learnt how to manage it better. I’ve stopped grinding my teeth at night, my legs don’t hurt anymore. I had another miscarriage in July 2018 (blog post: Disaster). I was really worried that this might throw me back to the grief wolves and tear me apart, but it didn’t. I think that has a lot to do with what we’ve learned from Luna and about grief and trauma. We handled this pregnancy and the subsequent miscarriage in a very different way from before. It’s still heart breaking and I don’t know whether we have the strength to risk trying again, but one thing I can say for certain is that we are better people for what we have experienced. That may sound like a really strange thing to say, but ALL of my babies have had a deep and meaningful impact on my life and who I am as a person. And I think mostly for the better.
You can find more information about pregnancy loss and mental health on the Miscarriage Association website.
My post T.O.P talks more about what we went through losing Luna.