I’ve experienced a Miscarriage, followed by my ‘rainbow’ baby Grace and now my struggle with Postnatal Depression.
Hi there, thanks for taking at look at my personal blog! I hope you find it helpful, reassuring and honest.
My blog is primarily about my experiences of being a mother whilst also trying to be me as well. Problem is, motherhood has changed me. I’ve experienced Miscarriages, including two ectoptics, and Postnatal Depression some months after my daughter was born. I still struggle with my grief and have to always maintain my mental health. I believe that these life experiences have changed me and helped to make me a better person.
The aim of my blog is to facilitate my love of writing whilst also showing others with similar experiences that they are not alone and that it is ok to talk about it- in fact it is good to talk about it.
I hope you enjoy, are reassured and find hope,
When I was diagnosed with Hypothyroism (under-active thyroid) I was about 19 years old and could never have anticipated the affect it would have on my fertility later in life. Back then I was most concerned about the weight gain and tiredness I experienced, and when the new medication helped me to lose weight I was delighted! Over the years I’ve learned so much more about the condition and how it affects my health and my body. I can spot a mile off when the function of my thyoid is off kilter and ring my GP to get bloods done again to check if I need my dose of medicine altered. But I never ever anticipated how vital my thyroid was in early pregnancy.
So what is the thyroid?
“The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, just in front of the windpipe (trachea). One of its main functions is to produce hormones that help regulate the body’s metabolism (the process that turns food into energy). These hormones are called triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Many of the body’s functions slow down when the thyroid does not produce enough of these hormones.” (cited NHS website)
Symptoms I’m now very accustomed to with my thyroid health include
– tiredness, fatigue
– poor concentration
– poor memory/ mental recall
– brittle nails and hair
– sensitive to cold
– slow digestion
– weight gain
– low mood, or depression
I will never know why my first pregnancy ended, though it was most likely just the 1 in 4 statistic with no real reason, but another possibilty is my thyroid. When pregnant for the second time with Grace, I was seen regularly by an endocrinologist who monitored my thyroid levels during pregnancy and luckily all was well. My third and fifth pregnancies were ectoptic and so just considered bad luck, but with my fourth (and possibly with the first) my thyroid function was way off and deemed to be the most plausible reason for the miscarriage.
Since last years avalanche of recurrent loss, I’m seen regularly by the endocrinologist as a ‘pre-conception’ patient. I was informed that my thyroid function must be normal before conception, as rectifying an abnormal level once pregnant can be difficult. The medication can take 4-6 weeks to level out the thyroid hormone and by that stage early miscarriage is likely- which is what happened with pregnancy four for me.
It is important to know that a normal thyroid function for an adult is different than a normal thyroid function for a pregnant woman, or indeed a pre-conception woman. In other words, if you want to get pregnant or are pregnant, the parameters change. If you have a diagnosed thyroid illness, please get your bloods done pre-conception and inform your GP that you are trying to conceive. Ask to be referred to the endocrinologist just incase too, though if your GP knows you’re pre-conception then they should know to monitor your thyroid function according to pregnancy parameters.
I find my thyroid levels to be frustratingly inconsistent. Every 6-8 weeks I get my bloods done and speak with the endocrinologist, which is great. BUT the thyroid levels seem to be constantly fluctuating between a bit too high and a bit too low. I’m rarely in the ‘Goldilocks zone’ of just right, which is frustrating when your fertility and the success of a pregnancy rely so delicately on this. I just have to keep reminding myself that I’ve had Grace, and trust that that it is possible again.
For more information about thyroid function, do a little online reading and talk to your GP if you are concerned. Here is a link to the NHS advice about Hypothyroidism (Under- active thyroid).
In February of this year I didn’t feel like myself. I began to feel highly strung, impatient, angry and overwhelmed. I found myself snapping at others and becoming very hard on myself. After the baby burial in January, I just seemed to find myself one year on from last year’s January loss, and absolutely no progress made- still no baby.
As you all know, from my previous blog posts, my husband and I lost 3 babies in early pregnancy last year. Recurrent miscarriage had us in the gutter by the end of 2018 and feeling completely f@#ked off- to put it mildly! It became so difficult to deal with that my mind closed it away from me. I couldn’t feel the level of grief that I knew I needed to. I became numbed to it. I didn’t choose to do that, my unconscious did it for me- probably as a coping mechanism and self preservation. I remember putting a post up in a support group on Facebook asking other parents (mostly Mums) “How can I make myself cry? I really need to but just can’t. Any tips?” Or something to that effect. I received lots of tips, including ideas like watch a sad movie or write down your feelings then burn the paper. I tried all of the tips- they only scratched the surface.
Fast forward to February 2019, I had been feeling ‘off’ for a few weeks, this evolved into feeling sick. I convinced myself I had ‘an aul bug’ and continued on through my working week and daily family life. That weekend I began to feel better and was glad because we had arranged with friends to go to Belfast to see The Bodyguard musical (was great by the way). We had a fun evening and I had a ball (wasn’t even having a drink #designateddriver). Monday morning came and rising to face the day was arduous, but as I find Mondays difficult (and most of us do) I battled through it. But as I was driving to work, I couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to run and hide. I just found myself saying I can’t do this anymore. I felt like I needed to get off the merry-go-round of survival- I couldn’t be strong anymore. With this came a tsunami of feelings and tears, which led me to pulling the car over at the side of the road. I tried to pull myself together but just knew that no amount of deep breathing was going to fix what was going on within me.
So que the time off work (again), going to see the GP (again) and starting back with my counsellor (AGAIN). I felt and still do feel sometimes, like an absolute failure. I mean it is cringe-worthy how embarrassed I feel at not being ‘normal’ or able to cope. Infact it really pisses me off that life got so difficult for me. But then I HAVE to remind myself that no one has the perfect life, we ALL have our ‘shit’- as I like to call it. In allowing myself time to deal with ‘the shit’, through counselling mostly, all of the locked up feelings began to surface, and this is where the title of this post comes from.
In a very safe environment, with a highly trained counsellor, I was able to access my feelings. However this did not happen easily nor quickly. I spent the first four weeks of therapy, talking about everything but my grief- I talked about my struggle with low mood, lack of motivation, my feelings of disconnect, my excruciating lack of self worth and my absolute fear of making mistakes.
And yet the source of my anguish lay beneath all of this. These were just symptoms of what was hidden underneath. In the depths of my being, is a dark place, were all the trauma goes. As I started to tap on the lid of this, I would feel the darkness overshadow me. It felt like it was in the room with my counsellor and I, lurking near me, and making me feel petrified. I would avoid eye contact with something that wasn’t physically there! And yet, I could feel it. I would try to put words to it but could not. It would choke me and make me feel nauseated.
Instead of words or tears, I felt really sick. My stomach was tight with pain, the blood drained from my face and I had to put my head down to prevent fainting. This feeling happened within 20 or 30 seconds- swooped in and consumed me. We managed to get me on my feet and ready to go home. I felt so ill and scared of what I had just experienced. On the way home in the car, I had to eventually pull over to throw up. It was projectile and it was relentless. I managed to drive on further and arrived home, only to find myself sick again in the toilet. I went to bed, a wounded individual.
This happened for three weeks, and each time it happened it took me 2 or 3 days to recover from it. My friends and family queried why I was doing this to myself, was it such a good idea to keep attending counselling? And yes, sometimes it would be advisable to avoid such an experience if it were beginning to lead to an unravelling, whereby the person’s state of mind was being negatively impacted. But for me, as awful as it was, I felt like I was getting rid of poison. Each week I was still sick but to a lesser degree than previously. I could feel that the dark place within me was getting smaller.
Digging up locked away emotions is a bit like having to open up the wardrobe that the bogeyman lives in. You know when you were a child and you were convinced that there was a bogeyman or monster in your wardrobe, or behind a door? You knew that there were two ways to deal with it, close your eyes under your duvet and pretend it’s not there, or go look behind the door and face your fear. The latter is what I did for a very long time. And I think a lot of us do, we bury our heads, we busy ourselves, comfort ourselves with food and alcohol etc, all to distract ourselves from our own dark place. Again, like me, we do this unconsciously, never realising that we do it.
It hasn’t been an easy road for me. Sometimes I wish I could go back to the me that existed 5 years ago. That feels like an easier life to me. And yet, I would ever take back the experiences I’ve had recently- the fantastic and the traumatic. Because although I’m a different me, I’m an improved me, more heartfelt, more learned, more conscious and more aware of myself and others than I have ever been; for that I am thankful.
The sickness has gone now and life is becoming more normal again. I still experience bouts of anxiety now and again, which illustrates that there’s more work to be done in my healing and learning, but I’m doing great at the minute and am feeling more able to face life and to try again.
This is just a little part of a poem I wrote in 2014 after my first miscarriage. I kept everything related to that experience: hospital appointment cards, scans, information booklets, condolence cards we received from family and friends, and a wee knitted penguin toy that I’ve always loved since childhood so I gave it to the baby and keep it in the blue box.
Since then, that wee penguin toy now has to be shared among four babies (I can just imagine the heavenly rows over it!) I often sit down with the blue box and gently inspect every artefact in it. I read everything again, I look at the scans, I look at the positive pregnancy tests of which I only have three as I didnt keep the first one. I binned it not realising how sentimental it was. I cry and I cradle and kiss the penguin- I mean I must look deranged, but I’m just trying to connect with what could have been.
Today I’ve opened the box again as I need to write down a time line of events so that I can accurately share the journey of recurrent miscarriage with a private doctor. My husband and I have decided that for a second opinion, a more holistic view point and for peace of mind, we really need to see someone private. Part of me was reluctant because the next pregnancy could be absolutely fine, but the fear and the lessons learned from the past nudged me towards getting seen now before anything bad happens. I’d always regret it if I didn’t.
So as I sit here, writing down all of the dates, signs, symptoms, surgeries etc I am floored by the memory of all that has been. I mean….I’m actually shocked as to how bad and relentless this has been for us. And as life has ticked on I think we both have been like the rabbits stuck in headlights! Shocked and bewildered.
As I spoke about this recently in counselling I realised that a big part of my struggle now, besides the lost babies of course, is the feeling of giving up altogether on ever trying anything again. Each time I have taken a knock back, I have pushed myself to recover, built myself back up, raised my hopes again, motivated others to do the same, to see it as a ‘journey’ etc only to be brought to my knees. The hopelessness I have faced in recent times has been tinged with a lot of anger too. I sometimes fantasize about being rebellious! I said to my husband one day, “I just feel like going to the Tesco car park to key scratch all the cars there!” My husband’s face said it all (“WTF? She’s lost it”) By the way I never acted on my rebellious urges so if your car got keyed- it wasn’t me- for record!
I’m not an angry person or rebellious what so ever but I just wanted the world to suffer like I was, and I wanted to get my own back in some sort of way. I was very down hearted about the amount of times I’ve taken a knock, asking God, “Why me? Why after all my efforts to get strong and move on do I keep getting pushed down the mountain I’ve just climbed?”
But then I told myself that I am not the only person to have struggled. We all have our struggles; some more than others. We all have had set backs and knock backs. So, yes, I keep falling, but look at how many times I’ve gotten back up! That’s frigging amazing! And I’m not on my own here….just look at your own life and how many tough times you’ve had and you’re still standing.
It’s such bravery to pick yourself up and take steps forward again; perhaps on your knees initially, then shuffles, then baby steps and then strides. But to do that…my God….such mental and emotional work goes into those movements forward. So I can’t just complain about how often I’ve taken a knock when equally, more powerfully even, I’ve stood up again! I have to focus on that strength.
I’ve reference Coldplay’s song Speed of Sound in the title of this post because when Chris Martin sings the line ‘How long do I have to climb, up on the side of this mountain of mine?’ ( link https://youtu.be/VPDhN_BpIys) it always resonates with me so deeply and fills my eyes with tears because it is such a desperate plea. The piano music that follows is also so beautiful and powerful I could just cry and feel that it’s perfectly safe to do so. But as the song goes on to imply, or perhaps this is just my reading of it, is that difficult climbs do also bring gifts or lessons. As tough as they are, the growth that we go through is something special.
I’ve mentioned in my blog before, the Japanese art of Kintsugi (see image above), where broken things get glued together again using gold. So the mended vase or plate or whatever, is now more valuable due to its golden cracks, and the golden cracks would not have been there had it not been for the break. Sometimes we have to just trust that life’s experiences, highs and lows are part of our character building and part of our purpose in this life.
I’ve always had a rocky relationship with my body, aesthetically speaking. I’ve gone through periods of being happy with how I look and times when I wished I was taller, slimmer, fitter, stronger etc. But over the last year, a much deeper sense of disappointment in my body has developed, and this time it’s been more than just aesthetics.
Recurrent miscarriage has had an effect on my physical body as well as my emotional body. It has made me feel an enormous amount of guilt. Guilt that I am a failure, that I’m not good enough, guilt that I’ve let those babies down and guilt that my body is the cause of it all. My husband has had to suffer these losses too and that is an added guilt, though I know that he doesn’t blame me in any way, not even for a second. Rationally and logically I know that the loss of the pregnancies was something out of my control. Even if I had the healthiest body with everything working efficiently, there is not much I can do to control whether or not embryonic cells continue to multiply and grow. Statistics ‘reassure’ me that miscarriage is very common and therefore not my fault; so why do I still blame myself?
Grieving is a process that we must go through after a loss. It has no particular beginning, ending or in between. It is described as having ‘Stages of Grief’ but really we can go in and out and back in again to each of those stages. One of the stages of grief is Anger. In order to cope with loss, to process what has happened and to rationalise the loss we have to find the point of blame. Who can I be angry with? Who can I blame?
In my case, I think that I’ve been through four losses now, three of them consecutive and I’m the common denominator. My body is the constant factor. Although I know that the miscarriages are not my fault, I simply can’t help but blame myself because I feel so frustrated with the outcome and my body is at the core of it all. I begin to think, ‘What if I’d done this? Or tried that? What about that morning I forgot to take my thyroxine- maybe that is the cause?’ etc etc. Trying to find a cause and sourcing the cause in my actions and in my body.
My hormones have been on a rollercoaster for the last year with all the ups and downs of pregnancies and miscarriages. One minute I’m laughing and the next I’m crying. My mood is constantly going up and down daily. When people ask me how I am, I honestly don’t know what the most accurate answer is. My body doesn’t know which way is up anymore! Life must go on but loss is still being filtered through me both emotionally and physically.
My body is also battling with thyroid function issues- hypothyroidism. I’ve had an underactive thyroid for about 15 years now but it has always remained steady until pregnancy and miscarriage threw a spanner in the works. I now get my bloods tested every six weeks and am being monitored closely by an endocrinologist who adapts my dosage of medication so that my body can adequately support a potential pregnancy. In September 2018 I was given ‘the go-ahead’ to try for a baby. My thyroid function was at a suitable level to maintain a pregnancy. Then an ectoptic pregnancy happened, which was through no fault of the thyroid, just sheer bad luck!
And then there’s the physical scars of miscarriage. When I see my body and how it looks and feels so different now, I am reminded of all that I’ve been through. I’ve been scanned, poked, prodded, injected, examined, medicated, unconscious, cut open, cleared out, bandaged up and sent home with a pregnancy test to confirm I’m that no longer pregnant…four times.
Each time that that I get my period, with its cramps and bleeding I feel that part of my body so vulnerable again.
When I look at myself in the mirror and I see my surgery scars, I am reminded that my body has lost parts as well as babies.
Every morning when I take my thyroid medication, I wonder is it doing it’s job properly.
The brave face that I wear most days is covered now with spots and breakouts because my hormones are so warped and irregular that my usual very clear skin has changed.
I’ve gone up a size in clothes because I find comfort in food and safety in staying indoors.
Now I must point out that I DON’T feel this way ALL the time. I don’t constantly feel disappointed. I don’t always feel sad about these things. But on days when I’m not myself, on days when I’m struggling, these are the feelings that reck havoc in my mind. I feel utter disappointment in all the losses and with what my body has had to endure.
On the other side of the coin, just look at everything I have had to endure. I look at the scars, the baby scans, the pregnancy tests, the spots, the medication. And still…I rise up every morning and move forward down the line. Some days I move at a snail’s pace, some days I feel my burden, and other days I feel lightened and ready to embrace hope and excitement for what still could be! Despite the pain and the horrible circumstances, I have come through it all- albeit chewed up and spat back out again! But here I am, day after day, dusting myself off and moving forward.
Though I may not always feel it, I am pretty awesome, and so is my body!
I saw you today at the baby burial. I didn’t think that I would because my head really wasn’t in ‘that’ place. I wasn’t in grief. I wasn’t sad. I felt emotionless. My head was busy with other things. It’s been three months since my last miscarriage so I really felt quite separate from it. And after having other losses before, I honestly thought that I’d just become so used to miscarriage and attending this particular service that it had no effect on me anymore.
And then, I saw you…
The young couple standing side by side, heads bowed. She was solemn and held tears in her eyes, not letting them fall. He had his arm around her waist, protecting and supporting her, which was all he could do. This had been an unplanned pregnancy with an unexpected start and an unexpected end. As awkward as he felt in this strange and surreal scene, he knew that he was the one who had to shoulder her pain. So he stood there holding her and holding a flower arrangement, because that’s what you do when you attend a funeral.
I saw you…
The married couple standing side by side, arms folded. With a family already at home, they’re not sure how to feel about their loss. They tell others that they’re just thankful for the children they have and that this loss was ‘just one of those things’. But as they stand here today, looking at the little white coffin, they feel the pain of what could have been, and they put on their brave face.
I saw you…
The woman on her own, standing shivering in the cold January day. She holds a tissue in her hand, and dabs her tears away. She was alone in her pregnancy and she is alone in her loss, for no one knew that she had been expecting. But from the moment she saw that blue line appear til the moment she bled, she was a mother. At the graveside she tries to hold it together. There is no one here to hold her close if she breaks down. She waits until she’s in the safety of her car to cry.
I saw you…
The couple who had waited so long to conceive this child. Their IVF baby had been a little miracle. But here today, that journey was ending. As a small token of remembrance the hospital chaplain gave them paper hearts to write a message on to. With one of the hearts placed in the ground beside the coffin, she held on to the other heart, stroking it’s edges, as though it were the most precious thing in the world. This was all they had left now.
I saw you…
The grandmother who had lost her grandchild, and whose heart was breaking to see her son go through this loss. She came along to the burial service to support her son and his wife, but she cried by the graveside too as their loss became hers.
And then I saw me.
I saw myself in all of you.
I saw the sadness and the disappointment.
I saw the crushed hope and the brave face.
I saw the tears cried alone and the tears cried together.
I saw the flowers and the paper hearts.
I saw the blue lines and the red blood.
I saw the little white box and the hole in the ground.
And as we walked away today, I saw myself walk away from all the other burials and I cried
I cried because each time I walk away, I think that it’s the last time, and it never is.