I sincerely do not think that I can overstate enough how close I was to losing my shit, and honestly, I'm not out of the woods yet. It's going to be a long road.
I'm acutely aware that our lives look pretty damn perfect and happy from your view of us on social media or seeing us out and about. We do family days out, we share some pictures of an expanding bump and my sweary, jokey views on the world in general seem to be liked by those around me.
But life is not all it seems on Facebook or in a passing chat and I have always said that if our experiences can help others then I am happy to share, so here I am; laying myself bare and saying hello, from the other side.
Pregnancy this time around has been;
Crying, all the tears, because the baby doesn't have a name and you don't want him to die without one. It's having a name for the new little fella but being so paralysed by anxiety that you cannot bring yourself to say that name out loud because you just know that you will jinx him, he will be gone and it will be your fault.
It is never being able to picture this long legged little boy in our home, in our lives.
It is spending weeks reconciling the idea of celebrating this expanding belly, of having a photoshoot. To then become riddled with anxiety, eating away at the very core of you.
It is angry words spat out and grudges held against loved ones because they cannot understand.
It is tears packing a hospital bag, over picking clothes and buying a baby toy.
It is breath taking panic at a change in movements and a dash to the hospital.
It is literally believing you are losing your mind.
It looks like obsessions. One thing after another, anything just to save you from your own thoughts. New boots? Let's have seven pairs in one month. Christmas presents? Let's dedicate almost a months wages to that in April.
It is the paradox of wanting so badly to enjoy this last, much wanted pregnancy yet having that stolen from you by worries, endless worries.
It is being cajoled out of the house by a concerned husband, a fretting friend, a nagging toddler.
Pregnancy tests, of every brand and variety.
//It's been only a few hours since we found out that we are back on this rollercoaster and I've already taken six tests//
More tests will be taken throughout the coming days and weeks. After all, it's the only coping strategy we have, for now.
Results from numerous investigations into our miscarriages.
//I'm sitting in the room of the specialist midwife, the wall next to me covered in pictures of beaming mothers with their new babies. The success stories. Newspaper cuttings tell of medical triumphs "16 miscarriages and now I have my baby"//
Bizarrely, it's the only time in my life I have wanted to find something wrong with me. Finding something means answers, it means the likelihood of treatment. What happened for us was that there were no answers, there is nothing wrong with us, each loss was and is unexplained.
//The consultant and specialist midwife sit opposite us with our results "...you could have twenty more miscarriages and there's nothing we can do to stop them"//
Pictures from the many scans we had, and those aren't even all of the images.
//I'm lying in bed, literally paralysed with fear and powerless to stop forecasting the death of the tiny baby growing inside me. My husband at a loss as to how to help any other way, on the phone to the local fertility and scan clinic making yet another last minute appointment to check for a heartbeat//
Pregnancy after loss, for me, is weeks of what you are sure is standing at the gates to the hell that you never truly believed in until now. It's not being able to get from the bed, the sofa, from the floor because the anxiety is tearing you to shreds.
Letters for mental health appointments.
After the third time she saw me practically incapacitated by my mental health, crying silent tears, the midwife kept recommending I visit the doctor to talk about my mental health. I didn't to go because I was so sure that I would be sent packing after a five minute appointment with a strip of pills that I didn't want to take.
//I'm at rock bottom, I am unable to go to work, I am barely functioning. I'm sitting in front of the Doctor and the rest is a blank.//
Anxiety and depression are thieves, they steal memories and experiences. All I know is, I couldn't have been more wrong about the doctor. I receive referrals to the local mental health team and the perinatal mental health team. They are much needed, and just in time. The doctor I originally saw keeps in touch and asks me to update him.
//I'm in a waiting room of a local mental health unit, waiting for an assessment. I am surrounded by people who are very clearly, very mentally unwell. Am I one of "them"?...do I really need this help?...am I taking resources from people who need them more than me?...//
The outcome of the assessments is a diagnosis of anxiety, depression, OCD and potentially PTSD. I am struggling.
//It's 12:15am. After an hour of sleep I am up for the day, yet again. Pacing the house. Again. I am getting by on approximately two hours of broken sleep most nights. This is torture//
Prescription for anti anxiety medication.
//How is this guy still wearing a hoody in the stifling heat of this office?He's a psychiatric nurse who is congratulating me on "surviving" so far. He calls for the psychiatrist who is the only person who can approve and sign off on the medication because I am pregnant. She comes in the room, all smiles "this guy just sees me as a walking prescription" she says brightly.
I'm totally going to take these tablets...I think.//
The side effects for the babies of untreated anxiety in pregnant mothers are remarkably similar to the side effects of the anti anxiety medication, I am told. I get home, pills in hand and cannot bring myself to take them.
//It is 4:11am. Here I am again, staring at the medicines box that we keep way up high, out of Brogan's reach. Those anti anxiety tablets stare back at me. Still, I do not take them//
I have found someone who specialises in counselling those with miscarriage or fertility issues.
//The lady is everything I needed her to be. The right counselling approach for me and I benefit hugely from a couple of sessions. Her counselling office is an impressive garden pod situated in the grounds of her beautiful, mansion sized house. I feel anxious with inadequacy and never go back.//
At times this has (somewhat sadly) been a life line
//It's 3am. I'm swapping meme's about anxiety with a friend who is having their own issues. I feel less alone, and definitely less crazy. For now.//
Acacia offers pre and post natal anxiety and depression support.
//It's an Ikea couch, I think. Definitely. Brightly coloured cushions and a washable cover. Definitely Ikea. The kind lady from Acacia just waits as I spend nearly the entire appointment crying.//
Letters confirming my place in a perinatal anxiety and depression support group.
//If I go to sleep now, I can still get an hour before the day starts. Sleep does not come and so the day begins. I do not remember the drive to the hospital where the support group is held, such are my anxiety levels. I take a deep breath and walk into the building, to be faced by the team who run the group telling me that there aren't enough people in attendance today to run the group. I cry. All the way home. I call a friend and she takes me for coffee where I continue to cry. This was supposed to save my sanity, not test it further.//
//A few weeks later I am back at the group which now has enough attendees to be able to run. I accidentally say the baby's name out loud and spend the next three days crying.//
A date for a c-section to deliver Albie.
We spent a lot of the later stages of the pregnancy at midwife appointments or going back and forth to hospital. A private scan had revealed that this body of mine had created excess fluid around the baby and because he refused to move into the "right" position, there was a risk that if my waters broke, the cord could come out first and rupture which can be fatal. This proved to be one worry too many for me. Ste fretted for both of us whilst my anxiety channeled itself in bizarre things like whether we had enough tins of beans in the cupboard.
//We have been sent back to the hospital by the midwife who yet again found the baby lying sideways. There is talk of admitting me into hospital so that I am in the best possible place should my waters break. The scan finds that the water has increased which is a worry, but at some point during the journey to hospital, the baby has moved slightly and our under-pressure NHS cannot justify admitting me at this point. The date for the c-section is over a week away and Ste implores the consultant to bring it forward, for our collective sanity. She agrees and is immediately enveloped into a massive hug by Ste.//
I have been asked several times since Albie arrived, whether I am "better" now, and the answer is no. It doesn't quite work like that unfortunately, and I may never be the person I used to be. I never truly believed that Albie would feature in our lives and so I walked into that theatre genuinely expecting to deliver a child who had already passed away. It was a surprise to hear him cry, seeing my child alive felt like letting out a breath that I had been holding for a very long time.Living like that changes a person.
After he was born, I did not sleep for more than a few minutes at a time for almost five days. My anxiety told me that whilst he had survived the pregnancy and the birth, my time with him was limited and should I sleep, my child would leave me. Thankfully, just as i was on the verge of hysteria, Acacia were able to offer a counselling appointment, and the next night I slept...as much as a breastfeeding newborn allows their mother to sleep.
Whilst we are obviously thrilled and ever grateful for the presence of Brogan and Albie, we have still endured unimaginable and irreversible pain to get them here and as a result, I am a work in progress.
It feels apt to release this blog post today as this week has seen a flurry of activity on social media with the results of research undertaken into the link between miscarriage and PTSD. Unsurprisingly, my experience tallies with other women who have experienced losses. Unfortunately, it's not how I felt though, I felt totally alone in my journey through pregnancy with anxiety which is partly why I write this blog; if it helps just one person then so be it.
So, I'll see you all back on Facebook with quotes from my insanely hilarious daughter, tales of poo explosions from my son and probably quite a bit of swearing, because swearing is my favourite.
Hello, from the other side.