Anyone else feeling stuck in lockdown limbo?

Like most people, I’ve been looking forward to restrictions lifting and life getting back to normal. Don’t say it… the “new normal”, does that make anyone else cringe? I couldn’t wait to eat out again and to go places and see people and just start to feel human again. I think we have all felt the fatigue of lockdowns and restrictions. Video calls and even phone calls got old real quick. We needed human interaction and changes of scenery with the same desperation as Hancock grasping on Gina’s backside.

However, as things are opening up and we are presented with more and more opportunities to engage with things again, I’m left with a hesitance, perhaps more a lethargy. I feel surrounded by people with full diaries, several holidays planned, social media feeds awash with activity. Meanwhile, I sometimes feel a pang of relief when the few plans that I have get cancelled. I feel a bit guilty about that, like there is an expectation now that I should feel grateful for the opportunities that we have and I must pack my diary to the brim with events and occasions. As an extroverted introvert, I’ve often battled with wanting plans and wanting to cancel plans. I think lockdowns and restrictions took the pressure off this for those like me!

Society glorifies being busy, however, I do think we have seen a shift in this. Many people speak of how they have enjoyed being forced into a slower pace of life and employers have recognised the importance of work/life balance more than they ever have. We have expanded our definition of achievement beyond being busy and our values have had a much needed overhaul.

When isolating for 10 days after my daughter got Covid, although it was very stressful, I enjoyed being hunkered down in the bubble of my family. Not the illness and the work bits. On my first day of freedom I went for a walk round the block to remember what it was like to leave the home, I remember thinking that I must never take for granted all the things I lost in those 10 days. I told myself that I will get some dates in the diary with everyone I want to see and get things moving. It’s truly not that I don’t want to see people, I really do. I’m a people person and felt overwhelming loneliness in the lockdowns. It’s more that I can’t be bothered doing it, I don’t have the brain capacity to make the decisions or the energy to be sociable. That said, when I have dragged myself out I have been so happy that I did and so incredibly grateful to those special friends that don’t let me disappear of the face of the earth.

It seems that I’m not alone, I read today that nearly half of us are feeling nervous about socialising again. Even those that are excited to be back out and about might also be feeling anxious to some degree. There’s a lot of change which has affected all of us, therefore, it’s normal to have some questions and concerns. When do we hug? Who do we hug? What if someone tries to do that weird elbow bump thing at me?

Perhaps it’s a process and I will slowly come back out of my shell and in to the real world, but at the moment that hesitance is still there and I’m still waiting. I’m not sure what I’m waiting for, but I’m waiting!

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Breastfeeding does not make the weight fall off….and that’s OK!

Breastfeeding does not make the weight fall off! And that’s ok!

I believed that if you breastfeed and take the baby for pram walks every day, any weight you gained during pregnancy would just drop right off. I know I’m not alone in believing that. This message is believed by many and social media reinforces this by flaunting ‘reality’ TV stars who are holding newborn babies while showing off their flat tummies. We often see celebrities in the media talking about how they ‘got their body back’ which adds extra pressure to the average mum.

Ladies, you do not need to get your body back, it didn’t go anywhere! It’s been through an amazing transition to grow your baby and how it looks and feels now is the result of that. Whether you’re carrying some extra weight or you’ve lost weight after birth, with or without making the effort, you’re beautiful and amazing. Your worth is not measured by your waistline.

This post isn’t a scientific one by any means. It’s a heartfelt account of what I’ve experienced and learned. My aim is to help postnatal women to feel normal, supported and not alone.

But breastfeeding burns calories, doesn’t it? So how can you not lose weight?

While women who are breastfeeding do burn more calories in the day by producing milk, this is often counteracted by other things. First of all, most new mums are not very active in the beginning.

I would recommend holding off exercise until you’ve had your postnatal check by a doctor, which usually happens at around 6 weeks after birth. If you’ve had a C-section, it’s usually recommended that you stay away from exercise for longer. This is due to the recovery required from the birth and potential risks to your body during any future pregnancy if you don’t recover properly. Some people recover more quickly than others so always worth a chat with your doctor.

As you may not be as active as you were previously, the calories that you’re burning through breastfeeding might be equal to or less than the calories that you would normally expend in a day through moving more. Secondly, breastfeeding is hungry work! It can make you ravenous, I remember having to take a cereal bar to bed in the first few weeks to get me through the night feeds!

If you eat healthily and exercise then you will lose weight. Mums that are still carrying baby weight must just be greedy and lazy

No. Just no. The best way to lose weight is to burn off more calories than you take in, but when it comes to postnatal weight loss, it’s not that simple. Just ask Serena Williams.

Hormones in the body and other factors make it very difficult to lose weight even if you’re eating healthily and exercising. The stress hormone Cortisol increases our blood sugar level temporarily which then leads to a blood sugar crash, this crash leads to us feeling lethargic and hungry and craving high sugar foods. Stress along with lack of sleep and dehydration can all lead to our bodies clinging on to fat.

Hmm…stress, no sleep, no time to drink enough water, grabbing quick high sugar snacks, sound familiar mamas? It can be very difficult to eat healthily while getting to grips with a newborn and beyond. Babies present new challenges as they grow and contrary to popular belief, they don’t just give you sleepless nights for the first month!

Having a new baby is exhausting and finding the time and energy to exercise while you’re not getting much sleep can be extremely difficult. This does NOT mean that you’re greedy and lazy, it means that you’re surviving the best way you can while nurturing your baby.

Why did you mention Serena Williams?

In a world full of Kardashians and social media ‘influencers’, be a Serena Williams. Hidden amongst the magazine covers and Instagram posts showing postnatal celebrities half naked with six packs, you will find Serena’s story of breastfeeding. In a nutshell, it is reported that despite being on a strict vegan diet and training intensely in preparation to return to work as an athlete, Serena struggled to lose weight while breastfeeding.

Like many of us, her story says that she was led to believe that breastfeeding made you skinny and found that her body reacted very differently. It seems that it wasn’t until she stopped breastfeeding that she lost weight and when she did, she lost weight instantly. Was Serena just greedy and lazy? I don’t think so!

A lot of the people that you see on Instagram have a lot of experience in how to make themselves look their best. Whether that’s lighting, angles, fliters, clothing, make up or good old-fashioned Barbie foot, they know how to tilt themselves in the perfect way to look good. Good on them, they have perfected their craft and we all like to look good in public. The point is not to compare the best versions of them to what you see as the worst version of you. It’s not a fair match.

So, what’s my story?

I’m currently nearly 12 months postpartum. I gained weight in pregnancy as I could only exercise in the second trimester, the first was out due to sickness and the third was out due to pelvic instability. I was surprised how flat my tummy was after birth, but it didn’t stay that way!

For the first 3 months after I had Sienna, I didn’t think about my weight or size at all, it just wasn’t on my priority list. Sienna had bad reflux and couldn’t lie on her back without being in pain, this meant that in the first four weeks we slept a total of around 24 hours. We would often go 48 hours plus without any sleep at all. So, we were exhausted.

Anyway, at 3 months postnatal I realised I’d piled on a lot of weight. I had survived the first 4 weeks on pasta and sauce packets and biscuits and then when Sienna started to settle a bit, I was out and about meeting friends for cake and lunch and epic NCT fuddles.

My focus in the beginning had been getting to know my baby and carving out a social life for us both. I hadn’t given much thought about the way I looked. Now things were more settled, I was ready to tackle the bulge! I joined a mum and baby fitness class in the next village, had my abs checked for separation to make sure I was safe, and got in to a routine of attending classes. I wasn’t seeing any changes so I made an effort to make my diet healthier. I still wasn’t seeing any changes so I switched to a more intense fitness class which was designed for new mums.

At 6 months postnatal, I was feeling seriously disheartened. I hadn’t made a dent in the weight that I’d gained and I’d been trying so hard. I was doing online workouts 4-5 times a week and counting calories. I wouldn’t advocate calorie counting while breastfeeding without medical advice as it can have a detrimental effect on your milk supply.

I spoke to the trainer of my fitness classes and she asked me if I was breastfeeding. I told her I was and she told me that could be the reason why I wasn’t losing weight. This blew my mind as it was exactly the opposite of what I believed. She went on to tell me her own account of how she struggled to lose weight while breastfeeding and lost it afterwards and she told me about Serena Williams, so I set about Googling and found it’s common to struggle to lose weight while breastfeeding. My trainer was in no way encouraging me to stop breastfeeding and that’s not what I’m saying either. I would never suggest to sacrifice breastfeeding for your figure, I’d suggest sacrificing your figure to breastfeed.

At 6 months, Sienna started to sleep through the night, which meant that I was no longer doing two breastfeeds in the night. Within about a week I shed a noticeable amount of weight. I felt boosted and continued with my diet and exercise but hit another plateau. It wasn’t until I dropped another feed that I lost another chunk of weight and this continued.

Now I’m nearly at 12 months and this was the point that I had planned to reveal my flat tummy and pre-baby body. Didn’t pan out. In total, I’ve lost around a stone. I’m still breastfeeding and still carrying more weight than I’d like to be, but I know it’ll come off eventually.

The message that I want to get across here is that this time with your newborn is precious and you don’t need to feel guilty about how you spend that time. You certainly don’t need to compare yourself to celebrities or anyone who has a flat tummy within weeks of giving birth. If there is ever a time when you can get away with spending days in your PJs eating biscuits, this is it! Cut yourself some slack.

On the other hand, exercising is great for mental health and If you are in a position to exercise then that’s only going to benefit you and your baby as long as you are doing it safely with medical guidance. The main important thing is that you stay safe and healthy. Whether you choose to spend your time exercising or not, you’re doing what’s right for you as long as you’re staying safe.

This time is precious and you don’t get it back. It’s okay if your progress photos don’t show your end goal yet, it’s okay not to have an end goal and it’s okay not to give a flying fish what you look like. We only ever see progress photos that show someone looking thin at the end, why? All progress should be celebrated. You have plenty of time to lose weight if you want to Mama, you’re not alone, you are enough, you are beautiful and you are worthy.

Rainbow

I decided to name this post Rainbow, not just because Sienna is my rainbow baby but because I had my maternity leave through the Coronavirus lockdown of 2020, of which the rainbow became symbolic. For those that aren’t familiar with the terminology, a rainbow baby is a baby conceived after miscarriage, stillbirth or baby loss. It’s the rainbow after a storm. This is my account of pregnancy after loss and maternity leave during lockdown, however, I’m sure some of it would resonate with any new mums or mums to be. This is a very honest account and may include some triggers for people, I don’t aim to offend or upset so please read this cautiously.

The Pregnancy

I knew I was pregnant before I took the test. I’d only had one period in between my miscarriage and the new pregnancy so I recognised the symptoms. I can’t even remember telling my husband, this makes me really sad. I know that when I did, it was uneventful and we both just kind of half acknowledged it. This is in stark contrast to my previous pregnancy. I waited hours, full of excitement, for my husband to come home so I could tell him. When he came home, I told him and he was so excited he high-fived the cat! It hurts that we will never celebrate a pregnancy like that again, with the innocence and naivety of never having lost. There was too much fear, too much knowledge and too little hope to celebrate a pregnancy so early on for us. I didn’t want to neglect the new baby by not being excited but I was still grieving my twins. I had reinstalled the pregnancy apps on my phone which had remembered my old data. So instantly, it flashed up how many weeks pregnant I would be with the twins. A new pregnancy doesn’t override the grief, it adds a whole new layer to it.

The difficulty with telling people is that some people assume that this must mean that you are fixed, better, over it

I vowed after last time not to keep this pregnancy a big secret. I shared it with a few people, friends, family and colleagues that supported us through our loss. If this pregnancy was to end in miscarriage, I wouldn’t keep that to myself so I wanted people to already know that I was pregnant. When I lost the twins, I found it much harder to tell the people that didn’t know I had been pregnant. The difficulty with telling people is that some people assume that this must mean that you are fixed, better, over it. They don’t see you as grieving anymore and many can’t understand why you’re not overjoyed.

Something I really struggled with was other people’s pregnancy announcements. It was a big fear for me. Although I was happy for them, it made me more scared for me. I didn’t want constant reminders of my loss if baby didn’t survive and theirs did. I didn’t want to get attached to their babies. I couldn’t be excited for my own pregnancy and I couldn’t be excited for theirs. I was jealous of those who were happily pregnant, planning their pregnancy and their birth and their living child like it’s a given. I was crippled with anxiety and didn’t dare to think further than the following week. All I could think was that their baby would survive and mine wouldn’t. I didn’t like thinking this way and you may think I’m a bad person for it but these were my feelings and this is my story and what would be the point if I wasn’t honest? I had to remind myself that every successful pregnancy, every living child was sticking two fingers up at miscarriage and baby loss and that should always be celebrated. Having family and friends of child bearing age meant I was bound to be pregnant alongside some of them. It was really hard and felt like an immense pressure. If anything goes wrong with my pregnancy, their child would be constant reminder of someone the same age that my child should have been. I didn’t even know if I could have a successful pregnancy. I wanted to feel overjoyed and excited at having pregnancy buddies and think about our babies playing together and all the rest of the things that normal parents can think about. Mutual friends would say “How exciting that you’re pregnant together!” and I really wouldn’t know how to respond. One of the mums who had told me that she was pregnant too has had previous losses and unfortunately lost this pregnancy too. When she told me, I was distraught and cried in to my husband’s arms.

I was adamant that I would not have any early scans in this pregnancy. Mainly because last time I had several early scans and each one gave me a new thing to worry about. I wanted to be really strong and have a ‘what will be will be’ attitude. It didn’t go that way, twice I spoke to the Early Pregnancy Unit about pains that I was having and twice I had scans, at 6 weeks and again at 9 weeks. The 6 week scan did bring relief because it ruled out ectopic pregnancy and chemical pregnancy, which were fears that I had. It also made me anxious because of something they found on the scan, which turned out not to be a problem but of course I set about Googling and convinced myself there was no way this pregnancy will survive. The 9 week scan was amazing. All the way though the twin’s pregnancy, I had to have internal scans as they were measuring so small. This time I got to have an abdominal scan and the baby was bigger than the twins had ever been. There was a strong heartbeat and nothing to worry about in the notes. Initially I was so happy. It was the first point that I was able to refer to ‘the baby’ rather than ‘the pregnancy’. That said, I was still very detached. I felt guilty for that. I felt guilty for being proud that this baby has got further than the twins because I didn’t want the twins to feel like they let me down. I felt guilty for thinking about what the twins scan would have looked like at 9 weeks if they hadn’t stopped growing. How far apart would they be? Would they be the same size? Would they be facing each other?

I kept telling myself that I’d feel better at certain milestones but I never did

Anyone that’s had more than one pregnancy will tell you that no pregnancy is the same. That’s really difficult because there is comfort in recognition. With this pregnancy, I panicked when the symptoms were different, I panicked when they were the same. I was basically a ball of panic, how I functioned in everyday life was an absolute miracle. When I was laughing with people and talking about what I did at the weekend, there was a boatload of anxiety underneath.

I kept telling myself that I’d feel better at certain milestones but I never did. I think I just needed those short-term goals to see me through. My anxiety wasn’t helped by the fact that I needed regular growth scans as the baby would often have long periods of reduced movements. Truth be told I never believed that Sienna would be here. I left it as late as possible to buy things because I didn’t want to have to look at a nursery full of things that wouldn’t be getting used by my baby. I firmly believed that if I didn’t lose her during pregnancy then I’d lose her at the birth.

The Birth

All in all, Sienna’s birth was pretty straightforward. The growth scans started to show that she wasn’t growing as she should and blood wasn’t flowing to and from the placenta as it should, so I was told at 38 weeks that I would have to be induced.  I was told I wouldn’t be able to have the water birth that I had hoped for and that I would be attached to monitors throughout. I was induced at 2pm on the Sunday afternoon, contractions started around 5pm, waters broke around 2am Monday morning and she arrived at 8.25am. I wasn’t in active labour for very long, I went from 5cm to pushing her out very quickly and wasn’t measured in between. When I got to the point where I wanted pain relief I couldn’t have it as Sienna’s heartrate had dropped so I was put on a drip and it was too dangerous to have anything that crossed the placenta and too late for an epidural, the gas and air made me vomit so it was a case of keep calm and carry on, without the calm bit.

I was in complete and utter shock

When they said she was here and my body stopped pushing I lay back in relief. I was just gathering myself when I heard a baby crying. I was in complete and utter shock. I knew I was a pregnant person giving birth but I never expected there to be a baby. I know that makes no sense but maybe some of you reading this will understand. Sienna was placed in my arms and I was in complete disbelief. That feeling of instant love that you get when you’re handed your baby, yeah I didn’t get that. I was in awe and I was obsessed but I wasn’t in love, not yet. I felt guilty about this for a long time but I’ve since met many mums who were the same. Sienna was so fragile, I didn’t want to hold her, I didn’t want to touch her, she wasn’t safe with me. I was desperate to hand her over to her dad and did so at the first opportunity. I did have my power hour with her at first where we delayed cord clamping and did her first feed. Then I passed her over to her dad while I had my checks. I couldn’t take my eyes off them together, I wanted to know her but I didn’t want to break her. I wanted to love her but I still felt like I would lose her.

Some time had passed, I’d had a bath and something to eat and drink and I sat down to give Sienna another feed. The midwives left and it was just the three of us. Sienna had a feed then settled in to a snooze on my chest. I can’t explain it now but when I looked down at her something didn’t seem right, she looked different and felt different in my arms, something was wrong. I picked her up to get a better look at her and she went blue and flopped forwards, completely limp in my arms. We panicked, my husband went to get someone to help, loads of doctors rushed in and grabbed her off me and took her to the other side of the room. I was still sitting up in the bed and my husband was pacing the room behind the crowds trying to see what was happening, every so often he would look over at me with fear and desperation in his eyes. I was frozen, it was like watching a film. Then I realised that I was sitting there watching this film while sipping on a cup of tea, feeling the most calm that I’d felt in a year. The guilt of this moment sickens me to this day but I actually felt relief. I no longer had to be anxious as this was the end, I’d expected this. I don’t know how long it actually took but it felt like a long time before they gave her back to me. They’d cleared her airways and brought her round but she had a low temperature and had to be under a special lamp for a while before we could take her to the ward. Eventually we were all good to go to the ward. Following that we had to stay in for three days as Sienna’s blood sugar was low and she had to have blood tests every three hours. Something had clicked at this point and my mindset completely changed, I was besotted with her and I knew she would be fine and I wanted to take her home and begin life as a family. We were told to stay in until she had three successful blood tests in a row and because her blood sugar was low she was a very sleepy baby and wasn’t feeding often enough which meant her blood sugars weren’t increasing so we spent those days going around in circles until the hospital gave her some formula and some glucose to give her a boost and this gave her the kickstart that she needed. The time came and we got to bring our little miracle home. It was the most surreal car journey I’ve ever done.

The Newborn bit

Even the word newborn makes me shudder. I’m well aware that a lot of mums love the newborn bit, settle in to it well, have babies that sleep, walk with a spring in their step and a full face of make up, born to be mums blah blah blah etc etc. This was not me. If it’s not you, I’m with you sister.

“the whole thing felt relentless”

Sienna is wonderful and I love her to pieces, but she was not an easy newborn, by any stretch. I was not a calm and collected mum so we were quite the chaotic combination. Sienna did not sleep at night time. She slept a lot in the day and was awake all night. Not just lying awake loving life, screaming full pelt as if she was in pain, constantly, I mean constantly. I have recently found texts sent to my friend at 7am saying that I hadn’t been to sleep yet. I remember it vividly, my husband and I would be up all night trying anything we could think of to get this baby to stop crying and it was absolute hell.  She was inconsolable and the whole thing felt relentless. My husband’s alarm would go off and it was time for him to go to work and we hadn’t been to sleep. I felt resentful that he was getting a break, he felt resentful of having to work having had no sleep and this would continue for weeks. We lived off cake and super noodles for that first month, we had to get people to bring us things like food, washing powder, basic essentials. We would go hours where we forgot to eat, drink, wash. At one point my midwife demanded that I are a hot meal, had something to drink and went to sleep and that someone gave Sienna formula for a few feeds to give me some rest. I thought all this was completely normal until my friends started having their babies and this wasn’t happening to them, they coped, they slept a bit, they ate, they were clean. Where was I going wrong? After 5 weeks or so she started to sleep for two hours at a time so we were able to get some rest, this continued until she was 6 months old. Whenever someone I know announces their birth of their baby, I think about them constantly and let them know I’m here for them in case they are going through anything as dramatic as we did. So far, I don’t know anyone who has found it as hard as I did and have had people tell me that they never found being a mum a struggle, so I don’t know where we went wrong and it terrifies me to think of having any more children as I’m clearly not very good at the newborn bit! But if anyone reading this is going through similar things then you’re not alone, I too was that mama!

We found out at about 4 weeks old that Sienna had pretty bad reflux. She would be sick all day every day, sometimes as much as 5 times in half an hour. I’d spend the day repeatedly dressing and undressing her. This explained why the first 4 weeks had been so difficult for us, she was in a lot of pain when she was lying on her back so sleep was impossible. At about 8 weeks old I started taking Sienna to mum and baby classes, her reflux was still pretty bad at this point and she would often cry loudly and inconsolably and be sick everywhere. I spent a lot of time feeling like such an incompetent mum looking at these other mums who looked great and their babies were calm and quiet and not covered in sick. My hair smelt like sick permanently for 6 months.

We started weaning Sienna at 5 months as it’s recommended to do it earlier for reflux and moved her in to her own room shortly before she turned 6 months. The weaning made the reflux worse at first but then settled it and since she started eating three meals a day the reflux went away. She much preferred sleeping in her own room so she stopped waking us up through the night and we all slept much better. If somebody had told me that I would barely sleep for 6 months I wouldn’t have believed them! Living a sleep deprived life is really really hard, your brain is working on the absolute minimum and you’ve got to keep a tiny human alive, it’s a lot of pressure! Your hormones are already all over the place yet sleep deprivation makes you so emotional and delicate. It can give you anxiety or make your anxiety worse. It can make you somewhat irrational. It can be such a tough time going through the newborn stage.

Lockdown

I feel incredibly lucky that I got to have 4 months of normal maternity leave before lockdown. I could have people come and visit and help out with the baby, I could go to mum and baby classes, I could and often did go out for lunch or coffee or cake with my mum pals. It was great, I really enjoyed that time and got to spend it with a lovely bunch of people.

When lockdown hit, I became incredibly lonely. I had already felt a bit lonely after giving birth because Sienna was so different to other babies and I was so stressed and sleep deprived and felt very alone. I had a lot of guilt and grief that I was still processing and all in all I felt like a really shit mum. I couldn’t do it and I wasn’t coping. The only thing keeping me going was getting out and spending time with other mums and that wasn’t an option anymore. People were doing online quizzes and zoom calls and creating new communities online and I didn’t have the time or energy so felt even more isolated. Maternity leave is a difficult time because your old life carries on without you and your new life is very new and you’re still getting your head around it and your social life is with a lot of people that you don’t know and they don’t know you and then with lockdown all your communication goes digital and you lose that personal touch.

“There have been some really good things that have come from lockdown”

I did everything I could to make the most of it, I tried a lot of online baby classes and threw myself in to creating themed sensory play areas for Sienna. I don’t know how much of it she took in at that age but I really enjoyed it and it gave me a sense of purpose and routine. I joined Mummyfit to do online fitness classes which was good for a sense of achievement and again routine. There have been some really good things that have come from lockdown. Although it took some adjusting working out how to share the space, having daddy work from home has been brilliant for us all. I’ve been able to get help and Sienna has seen lots of daddy. It’s a bit torturous at times to spend the day alone with a baby and have your husband sit opposite you but not speak to you all day as he’s in meetings. Like being able to see what you could have won. Also, when you’re having one of those days where the baby is super clingy and needy and you’re desperate for a break and your husband is right there but again in meetings all day. It’s tough. That said, when he finishes work he is instantly at home and we love that. He gets to do breakfast with Sienna every morning and bath time every night and that’s their special time together.

I really feel for the women who have been pregnant and given birth during lockdown. To attend scans on your own must be incredibly daunting. Not to mention those that go to scans alone and find out that they’ve miscarried, without their partner by their side. I can’t even think about that. Going through the majority of labour on your own to have your partner flash in for the main bit and then flash back out again after. It’s sad and it feels so wrong when people can still go to pubs in groups of six.

The end of maternity leave

I can’t believe I’m writing about the end of maternity leave. Everyone tells you how fast it goes but it really does go incredibly fast. Here we are transitioning in to our new life, again. Sienna has had a few settling in days at nursery and is having her first full day today, hence why I’ve had time to write something so long! I’m back at work full time next week. It’s a big change and I feel her slipping through my fingers. She’s already showing much more independence after a few settling in sessions at nursery and I feel like I hardly see her anymore. It’s such a change going from being with someone 24/7 for 10 months to barely seeing them. I feel like half of me has been ripped out. That said, she is thriving and absolutely loves nursery which makes me feel really proud. I’m looking forward to working again, thinking about things other than weaning and naps and feeling a bit more like a person and not just a mum. I really hope my account has been of some comfort to someone somewhere! If you recognise yourself in any of this then do drop me a line, it would be nice to know that it wasn’t just me, a floundering fish surrounded by natural mums! Whatever your situation, if you’re reading this and you’re a parent, I’m sure you’re doing a great job. Just make sure you have a decent stash of gin. Especially when baby is teething.

What is Success?

A year ago, I would have said that success to me looks like a big house in an affluent area, a posh car, a high-level job, a family, kids in good schools and a home that looks like a Barker and Stonehouse showroom. I assessed my life, I owned a 3-bedroom house, in an affluent area, in the catchment for outstanding schools. I had a job, a car and a Barker and Stonehouse dining tale that I love, halfway there I thought.

‘Is that how I should be measuring my life?’

Halfway where? Was I halfway happy? Is that how I should be measuring my life? Myself? Was my glass half full or half empty? In truth, my glass had been thrown at the wall and smashed to smithereens. My ideals of life weren’t quite working out and I was far from happy. My ‘perfect home’, my first-time buy wasn’t what I expected. The qualifications that I had completed at work had done nothing to further my career. My checklist of ‘happy’ was an endless list of unticked boxes. How was I ever going to be happy when I am so unlucky, so unsuccessful?

Several things happened this year, I was put at risk of redundancy, my husband was put at risk of redundancy, we both had to fight to keep jobs and we endured a gruelling 12-month process of selling our house with plenty of twists and turns along the way. We made 5 offers on new houses to buy, one offer was 7 thousand pounds over the asking price and yet they all got rejected. We eventually got offer number 6 accepted but we lost our buyer and therefore lost our purchase and we were back to square one. My self-esteem took a hammering. I felt far from successful and everything we had built was starting to fall apart. I started to doubt myself a lot, where I was going, where I had been. I had always seen myself as a strong person who had endured a lot in life but I was crumbling. I had no idea who I was and that took me to some dark places.

You know the saying sink or swim? Well I was putting my all in to treading water. I couldn’t swim, I had no direction to swim in and there was no chance I was letting myself sink. I’ve beaten bigger things than this. So, I decided to cut all my expectations and be open to what came my way, be that obstacles or opportunities.

‘It sounds dramatic but I genuinely believed that, I couldn’t take anymore’

During my darker points, I would tell myself, “If X doesn’t happen then that’s the end of me, I won’t cope, I’m giving in”. It sounds dramatic but I genuinely believed that, I couldn’t take anymore, I had nothing left, all my strength and resilience had been used up and I was running on reserves. Each time I set these targets and deadlines for myself, the worst happened and I had to set a new deadline, “OK well if X happens, then I’m really done”. This kept happening and each time I survived. It was horrible having to recover after each ordeal and I couldn’t be bothered doing it over and over again but I had to if I was going to keep treading water. What this constant starting again told me was that I could survive, I could cope. But, to do that, I had to let go of my expectations and go with the flow. Looking back, I had to survive those ordeals to gain the confidence to let those expectations go.

One opportunity that came my way was writing food reviews for a publication. A huge dream of mine! I did my first review and absolutely loved it! I got a couple more invitations to review and a couple more and then a couple more. Each time thinking, if this all ends here, I’ve had a fantastic time. But they keep on coming!

‘I uncovered the ridiculous rules and standards that I had set myself to live by’

Another opportunity that came my way was to engage in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Well to be fair it was more of a necessity at the time but I now can see it for the opportunity that it was. To be able to consider, understand and tackle years of unhelpful thinking that had been contributing to the lack of success that I felt in life. I uncovered the ridiculous rules and standards that I had set myself to live by. Once I had uncovered them, I was able to address each one and assess the validity of it.

I was feeling bored in my career, I needed to reignite the passion that brought me to that kind of work. So, I took on extra responsibility which enabled me to work closer with the people that we support. This immediately lifted my spirits, I was going above and beyond, I was doing more meaningful work and I was using my brain again. The wonderful by-product of this was that it reignited spark in my role and I was getting new ideas and appreciating my work a lot more.

‘I had no idea how strong my marriage was’

As you can probably tell, I spent all this year feeling very stressed and unhappy. I didn’t like myself at all and I looked for things, evidence, to prove to myself that I was an unworthy person. When your brain is looking for these things, it makes anything fit the theory so I had a continual stream of reasons to beat myself up. Now doesn’t that sound like a fun person to live with? Which takes me to my next opportunity. Many things test a marriage and one of those things is depression. I had no idea how strong my marriage was until this year and I saw skills and talents in my husband that I hadn’t really noticed before, despite being together for ten years. I knew he was calm in a crisis and he’s always been a good listener, but he had to get both of us through a tsunami of crises because I had completely given up. He had to listen to me saying some pretty uncomfortable things for a husband to hear and yet he still would stay up all night listening to me, wiping my tears and offering words of wisdom. He could see things that I couldn’t and he helped me to look through a different lens.

Fast forward to the end of the year. We sold the house but we couldn’t find anywhere to buy. We are living in a two-bedroom bungalow that we are renting. I’m off the property ladder. My career doesn’t really have any potential for promotion. Do I feel successful? Yes.

‘I had felt trapped in a life that I didn’t want and couldn’t see a way out of’

Yes, I do. I had felt trapped in a life that I didn’t want and couldn’t see a way out of. Now I sit in my peaceful little home surrounded by fields, with my husband by my side and two beautiful cats at my feet and I think of all the opportunity that lies ahead. The house we might buy in the future, what opportunities my review writing will bring, where I might choose to take my career. I think how lucky I am for the husband and friends that supported me over the last year. Difficult times really do show you who your true friends are. It also shows you which friends to turn to for certain things. I know who to go to if I need a deep conversation about how I’m feeling with someone who can understand or at least empathise. I also know who to go to if I want to have some fun and let my hair down. That’s the beauty of a varied set of friends.

‘Imagine if I had been ‘successful’ in one of those interviews and missed out on all these opportunities’

Success and opportunities are often hidden. When I was 19 I was desperate to become a team leader where I worked. I felt confident that I could do that job and that was the level that I should be working at. I had a few interviews but was never chosen as ‘successful’, despite getting good feedback. I was gutted, I felt the heavy weight of those ‘unsuccessful’ interviews. In the end, I couldn’t see myself progressing with that company and so I left to pursue something I’d always wanted to do and went to work in a prison. Now I look back and I am so glad that I never got a team leader job. I know I would have been stuck there, constantly chasing the next promotion in a career that I had no passion for. Instead that job in a prison was the first step in a career working in rehabilitating those who have committed offences. Something that I am very passionate about. The skills that I have learned in this career have been incredible and I use them in many aspects of life. I have even used them in a private life coaching role that I do in my spare time. Imagine if I had been ‘successful’ in one of those interviews and missed out on all these opportunities.

I am still ambitious, I always will be but my ambitions are different now. They are more in tune with my values and how I want to live my life and not driven by money and status. Success no longer looks like how I thought it did. Success to me isn’t the big shiny things anymore. It’s the stories that you have to tell, the battle scars that nobody else can see, the peace and love inside your home, the opportunities that you grab and the learning that you do and the skills that you develop every single day in life. Don’t get me wrong, many people who own big houses and fancy cars have worked really hard to get where they are and have their own battle scars. They’ve built their careers and put in the hours and earned the finer things in life. What I’ve learned is the pride that I’ve felt when being promoted pales in comparison to the pride I felt when having my first review published. Success is what each individual defines it as but what I have come to decide for myself is that success does not equal happiness, rather happiness equals success.

The short version
• Success is more than fancy things
• Success is dependent on your expectations
• You can survive more than you think
• You never know the strengths of your relationships until they are tested
• Failure is often success in disguise
• Happiness equals success, success does not equal happiness

1 in 4: An experience of miscarriage in the first trimester

Introduction

According to statistics online, 1 in 2 people will get cancer. 1 in 4 people will experience mental health problems each year and 1 in 4 recognised pregnancies will end in miscarriage. I’m not convinced that this is reflected in our conversations as a society.

I am terrified to share this but the reasons behind my fear are also my motivation for doing it.

This is my story of losing my twins at 11 weeks pregnant. I’m sharing it because I had no idea how common miscarriage was and due to social rules and taboos, nobody seems to talk about it. I think if I had been more aware of how common miscarriage is, I would have blamed myself less. This is my experience and is personal to me. It’s raw and unedited, some of it might be uncomfortable but it’s very real and describes what I felt, as I felt it. I wrote this diary each day to keep myself sane and I am now publishing it, in the hope that it makes even just one woman feel less alone when it happens to her.

It’s a long and sometimes difficult read so you may want to dip in and out.

Day 1

“I’m sorry”, the sonographer says as she removes the internal scanning probe. I stare back at her. ‘sorry for what?’ my eyes plead. I know why she’s sorry but I need to hear her say it. “I couldn’t find either heartbeat”. World shattered. I expected this, kind of. I think I expected one baby to have failed or maybe some internal bleeding but the babies are safe. I wasn’t ready to lose them both, not so soon, not at the same time. It was all over. A man was called to confirm what she had seen, I had to be scanned again for the cold, emotionless man to watch and say “I’ve seen enough, I confirm what she says” and then hurriedly scuttle out the door. She asked if I wanted to see what she had found. I hesitated as I wasn’t sure, but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t look. She showed us how the babies were measuring smaller, how there was no longer a heartbeat and how the sac had gone a weird shape. She explained that the babies and sac had already begun to decompose. It made it all feel very real, but I think this will help with closure in the long run. The sonographer had been so nice and sensitive and I wanted to tell her and thank her but I couldn’t speak.
We were led to a private room where we had to wait for a nurse. It was very typical of what you would expect for a hospital bereavement type room. There were sofas, tissues, probably a plant, I can’t really remember. I only remember thinking that I don’t want to be in this death room. I want to be in the reception. That’s where we normally go, we have the scan, we feel relief, we wait in the crowded and uncomfortable reception for a nurse to confirm all is well. This is what has happened at the previous 3 scans and I don’t want to do anything different, I don’t want this.

A nurse arrives and says some standard stuff that I assume is meant to make us feel better. She explains that we have some options about managing the miscarriage. We are a bit confused. “How do you want to manage your miscarriage?” she asks. Tears, PJ’s, Gin? Apparently, there is more to it than that. We are given some options, wait and see, take tablets to encourage miscarriage, surgery under anaesthetic and surgery without anaesthetic. I decide on the tablets and get booked in for two days’ time to come back and take them. She gives me a leaflet titled “Miscarriage” to take home. I thought, this isn’t me, I’m not having a miscarriage. I do not want to be someone who has had a miscarriage. I am having twins, I’m pregnant, I don’t deserve this.

We walk out, composed and quiet, stoic. We wait for the lift. I go to the chemist and my husband goes to the toilet. We check that each other is okay to drive, we kiss and we go to our separate vehicles. When I get in my car, I break down. It seemed to come out of nowhere, rolling tears at first but then full on guttural wailing, unable to breathe, making sounds that I didn’t recognise. I typed out a text to send to friends and family who had been asking me how the scan had gone. As I typed out the words, it began to hit home, I couldn’t believe what I was saying. I cried all the way home, wailing and sobbing, blinking tears away to be able to see the road in front of me.

When I got home, My husband arrived not long after. We didn’t know what to do. I don’t think we even turned the TV on for a few hours. I had told everyone that knew about the pregnancy on my side. My husband was yet to tell his mum and sister and we hadn’t even been able to tell his dad about the pregnancy yet. I couldn’t bear anyone thinking they were alive anymore, when they weren’t alive in me. After a while, he told his sister but wasn’t strong enough to tell his mum and dad yet.
After I had told people what had happened, I went quite numb. People were texting me and asking if I was okay but I didn’t know what to say. I just kept thinking why me? Why did I deserve this? Was it some kind of karma? Why does everything go wrong for me?

My body still thinks it’s pregnant and I feel sick. I had always seen the sickness as a good sign, that’s what everyone told me. I would often tell the babies to keep making me as sick as they want, as long as it meant they were okay. I would take comfort in the sickness. Now I knew that it wasn’t a good sign at all. Now I am just sick and there is no positive to it, it’s just a painful reminder of what I no longer have. Everything on TV is baby related.

“What did I do wrong?”

Day 2

I woke up and it wasn’t a dream. My phone is full of text notifications, it definitely happened. I didn’t get much sleep, at first my head was so full of questions, then my body started with contractions and the pain kept me awake. When the contractions stopped, the pain went to my back and then back round to the contractions again, so it was hard to get a break. I remember the contractions getting less intense and knowing that they were coming to an end and then I must have fallen asleep.

I didn’t know what to do when I woke up. My husband was still asleep. I looked at my phone, I couldn’t face the texts yet so I ignored those and went straight to Google. ‘Why did I miscarry both twins?’, ‘grief after miscarriage’, ‘what causes miscarriage’ and other such things. I felt so angry still, why me? Why us? I looked at the text messages, one of them was a big pulsating love heart and instantly all I could think of was the last time I had a scan, when everything was okay and we saw two pulsating heartbeats for the first time. That was two weeks ago, how could everything have gone so wrong since then? What did I do wrong?

We are living hour by hour, My husband and I. We only got out of bed because we had to eat, sometimes we don’t speak, sometimes we talk about it, sometimes we talk about something else, we even manage to laugh! and sometimes my husband holds me while I sob.

I haven’t got dressed. I’m moving between bed, sofa and toilet only. The pain is getting worse and the contractions are back. The bleeding (and the rest) is getting heavier. At one point, I go to the toilet and I’m 95% sure I have passed a baby. I felt it and I heard it. The other baby was too small to be seen so I’m not expecting to have that happen again.

My relationship with my phone is weird now. My habits want to look at Facebook and Instagram but I can’t bear to see it. People having fun, getting on with life, uploading photos of their meals and their make up like any of that matters. When I get texts from my friends, I’m overwhelmed and I cry. The support is amazing. Sometimes I reply, but mostly I just don’t know what to say. When I don’t get texts, I feel so alone.

The worst thing is the ‘morning’ sickness. Once an annoying but reassuring sign that my babies were in there. Now a painful and mocking reminder that they’re not. It’s weird, I would beg and plead with nobody in particular to make sure my babies are okay, no matter how poorly it makes me feel. That motherly instinct kicked in right from the get go, I don’t care what happens to me, as long as they are okay. I took pleasure in the sickness because it told me the pregnancy hormone was strong. I took pleasure in the pulling and stretching because it told me that they were growing. In reality, these things meant nothing. They were no longer alive and in fact measured half the size in the end that they had two weeks ago.

TV is unbearable. Every soap has at least one pregnancy related storyline. The adverts are littered with nappies, follow on milk and other baby related torture.
My husband still hasn’t told his mum. He can’t bear to say it out loud and I’m not sure I could bear to hear him say it out loud. Putting it down in text has been painful enough.

“The next thing I knew I was lying on the bathroom floor”

Day 3

There was a slight change of plan. Last night I had a gush of blood and I started bleeding very, very heavily. It was like a blood tap that you can’t switch off. After sitting on the toilet for 15 minutes with none stop bleeding we were concerned and rang the pregnancy unit for advice. They said to wait and see if the bleeding stopped. Around 10 minutes later I hadn’t stopped bleeding and I felt dizzy. At one point, I went hot and sweaty and I could hear my voice sounding further and further away as I spoke. I then came over with chills and went back to normal but my husband said I looked very pale. After 45 minutes of sitting on the toilet and bleeding constantly, I felt like I had to stand up. My husband helped me to stand up and pull my underwear back on, but when I stood up I felt faint again. I held on to my husband and said I didn’t feel right. The next thing I knew I was lying on the bathroom floor and my husband was saying are you okay? Are you okay?. I told him that I was fine and he said, “you are not fine, I’m ringing an ambulance”. I was trying to work out what had happened as I felt like I’d been dreaming and he woke me up but I wasn’t sure why I was in the bathroom. My husband said that as I was telling him that I felt unwell when I stood up, my eyes rolled in to the back of my head and I was asking “where am I? where am I?”, then my legs went from under me and my husband held on to me as I went limp and fell to the floor.

He called an ambulance and they came quickly. They put me on a bed that they had wheeled to my front door and they wheeled that in to the ambulance. I could still feel the blood and clots rushing out of me. The ambulance man and my husband both stayed by my side in the ambulance. I was in shock and couldn’t stop shaking. The ambulance man wanted to put me straight on a drip but he couldn’t get a needle in to my veins as they were drained of blood. They took me straight to resus when we got to hospital. I had lost so much blood that they couldn’t get needles in any of my veins either. When they did find veins, they couldn’t get the needles in because my veins wouldn’t bleed. I had people crouched at either side of me, stabbing away at both arms while a woman paced up and down asking them if they had managed to get in. They continued to struggle but eventually got in and filled a variety of tubes with what they could get out of me. I was put on a drip and hooked up to the monitors.

“I was sobbing in between sucks on the gas and air”

They spent about 4 hours in total trying to look in to my cervix using a speculum to see what was happening. This was very uncomfortable but I had gas and air which was so helpful and I always had someone holding my hand. At first, they didn’t let my husband in while they got me stable and hooked up to the monitors. During the first time that they looked in my cervix, my husband was outside the curtain without a clue what was happening to me and must have been so scared hearing all the sounds but not seeing what was happening. Once they had taken the speculum out to give me a rest, a nurse told me she was going to see my husband and let him know that I was okay as he had looked close to tears. I asked her if she could bring him back with her and she did. He then stayed by my side as they continued to put the speculum back in to have a look around. After a few tries, they found that one of the twins had got stuck in my cervix which was preventing it from being able to close, which is why I wouldn’t stop bleeding. They had to take it out with forceps which was scary and painful. Until this point I had been very quiet, I hadn’t spoken or shown any emotion. It must have hit me all at once because I was exhausted and in pain but I began to cry. I was sobbing in between sucks on the gas and air. All I could think of was that all this pain and discomfort would be fine if they were doing it to save my babies, but they weren’t. They were trying to save me. Once they had cleared my cervix, I was given morphine and put on a ward at about 2am.

“She was concerned about my hydration as staff were still struggling to get needles in my veins”

They kept me in overnight as I waited for a scan to show that my womb was clear. I needed the toilet but felt a little unsteady so two nurses took me to the toilet. The toilet was about five steps away. It was soon clear that I was nowhere near strong enough as I became very dizzy and lost my sight and almost passed out again. I was wheel-chaired back to my bed and had to use a commode by my bed until I felt more stable. The nurse put me straight back on a drip and said I may need to have a catheter put in if I wasn’t able to urinate after this bag of fluids. She was concerned about my hydration as staff were still struggling to get needles in my veins to do my blood tests and I was still very light headed. There was no way I was going to be having a catheter put in so I drank a whole jug of water and went to sleep, knowing that when I woke up I’d be able to urinate.

They were unable to do my scan due to some emergencies so I was allowed to get some sleep and my husband was able to stay the night with me. The next day I wasn’t able to eat until I’d had my scan in case I needed surgery. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to have my scan and was told at midday that I’d have to have it the next day so I requested some toast as I hadn’t eaten in about 17 hours by that point. As I wasn’t having my scan, I could have the blood transfusion needed to top me back up. I had been told in resus that I’d need a transfusion so this wasn’t a shock. It is quite scary when they read out the consent form detailing everything that can go wrong with a blood transfusion. I was told that I needed two units, which would take 6 hours. I really wanted to go home that day so we agreed that I could do one unit and see how I felt. If I felt well enough I could go home after and come back the next day for my scan and have another transfusion if I needed it.

A nurse brought some more forms for me to sign. This time it was a form to give consent for the twin that they pulled out to be tested and then cremated afterwards. This is a bit of a blur, they might have asked me if I wanted a separate cremation or take it home with me to make my own arrangements. I can’t really remember, it was a horrible thing to think about and I think I just made my decision and then blocked that bit out.

My transfusion went really well and staff kept checking on me and commenting on how my colour had improved. Which was nice as I had been hearing about how pale and strangely coloured I looked from the ambulance man, the resus staff and the ward staff.

So, after my transfusion I went home, it felt nice to be in my own space again. I had a bath and put my PJs on and rested.

Day 4

I woke up with dread. I do not want to go to the Early Pregnancy Unit and wait in that same waiting room that I’ve been to 4 times before, sitting amongst the pregnant people. 3 times before we have come away with positive news, this time there is no positive available. Either the womb is empty and they are completely gone or the womb isn’t empty and I need surgery. I don’t want to go.

I had to go. Walking down the corridor I decided that if the receptionist gives me the usual form to complete with all the pregnancy questions on, I will rip it up and throw it back at her. We get there ten minutes late, I’m not apologetic, I don’t want to be there. The receptionist takes my name and asks me to take a seat, no stupid form, no lecture. Luckily, it’s really quiet in reception too. The nurse who told us about the miscarriage three days ago walks past, recognises us and smiles excitedly, asking us if we are okay. We just stare back in amazement, my husband turns to me and says “what reaction was she expecting?”.

“I’m so sorry that you’re having to go through this”

We go in to the ultrasound room, the sonographer asks me what has happened since our ultrasound on Friday, where we found out the pregnancies had failed. I didn’t know where to start. I began to tell the story of what had happened, the blood, the ambulance, the forceps but I broke down in tears and my voice reached a pitch only dogs could hear. I gave up and my husband had to finish for me. I had to have the internal scan to make sure that she could have a good look. I’m used to lying on that bed, staring up at the white ceiling tiles and breathing through the agonising wait while they look around. I’m used to trying to keep my mind as blank as possible until she tells me what she sees. I’m not used to having zero hope, feeling completely numb. She tells me that there is some ‘product’ left and the doctor will tell me what needs to happen next. I’m instantly reminded of when I had a scan a few weeks prior, when they found ‘debris’ in the womb alongside my baby with a beating heart. A follow up scan the next week revealed that the ‘debris’ had grown to be another baby with a beating heart. I then realised it was the same woman who had done both scans.

We wait in the reception area again. My husband looks completely gutted. He turns to me and says “I’m so sorry that you’re having to go through this, it’s like you can’t catch a break”. He puts one arm around me and holds my hand. I feel so much love for him and so sorry that my body is dragging this out for us both, making it so much more dramatic than we need it to be. We are called in to a room by a nurse. She did her job, she confirmed that the womb wasn’t empty. My husband and I were devastated that I was going to need surgery after everything we had been through but the nurse said that as it was a small amount it can pass on its own. Which was a relief but at the same time filled me with nerves as waiting for things to pass naturally hadn’t worked out so well for me. I was given my discharge papers from the hospital and bag full of iron tablets for my anaemia and that was it, the hospital bit was over.

“I feel drained, physically and emotionally”

We drive home feeling mixed emotions. I had lots of texts on my phone from friends checking to see how I’d got on, I update everyone in the car on the way back. I put my pjs on when I get home and lay down on the sofa. It had been a lot of movement for me so soon after my blood loss and transfusion. I had gone back to needing my husband to take me to the toilet which was frustrating as I had managed to go on my own in the hospital yesterday.

I feel drained, physically and emotionally. I’m sore and tired and feel empty. My friends and family text me to say how proud they are of me. I ring my mum for the first time since finding out the pregnancies had failed and explain what had happened over the weekend. Friends are suggesting having some wine or gin. I just can’t, it’s too soon, it would feel so wrong, almost like we were celebrating something. I talk to my husband about this and he feels the same, it didn’t seem right for either of us to be drinking. Neither of us are ready to accept that I’m not pregnant anymore. My husband tells me that it is hard for him as his brain is still in the mode to want to look after me and the babies. He’s a dad, I’m a mum, we are parents without the pregnancy. Life has fallen completely out of sync, or we are out of sync with life.

“I genuinely felt like she understood all my pain in that moment”

I find myself reliving the moments in hospital. I remember during one of the times that they were trying to pull the tissue out from my cervix with the forceps and I was overcome with emotion because it was uncomfortable, painful and traumatic and all I could think of was that I wasn’t getting a baby at the end of this. I remember a woman holding my hand and as she heard me sob, she squeezed my hand and I looked at her and she said, “I know”. I genuinely felt like she understood all my pain in that moment. I can’t fault the staff that looked after me when I was in hospital, I don’t know how I would have got through it all without the little things like someone holding my hand and taking me to the toilet.

All I can think of is that I must have made this happen. I believed so intently that I would miscarry and that something was wrong, what if my thoughts were so strong that they made it happen? Everything that I read on forums ended up happening to me, I had even commented during my contractions about reading about someone miscarrying twins and one getting stuck on the way out. I said to my husband sods law that will happen to me, then it did. If I didn’t cause it with my beliefs then I must have caused it by not drinking enough water or not checking myself out with the doctor enough when I felt unwell. I must have done something. I’ve let them down.

Day 5

My husband has gone back to work. I miss him so much.
Everything seems to be baby related. Pregnancy is everywhere and I feel so sad that I’m not part of that world anymore. I want to go back to that scan on Friday and tell them that they got it wrong. My babies are alive. I don’t deserve this, their dad doesn’t deserve this.
I feel a bit angry with my husband going to work and leaving me. My mum came round and brought me lunch and vitamins and sat with me so I wasn’t alone all day.

Day 6

I’ve received more flowers and gifts today. It’s so nice that people care and have gone to such trouble. I just wish they were celebratory gifts and not for this.
I said to my husband that I wanted the twins back. He said he did too. I hate that I’ve taken them away from him. I want my children back and I want to give him his children back. I want us to be having the family that we deserve. We are parents without the children and it’s so uncomfortable.

Day 7

My bleeding seems to have stopped. I’m concerned about this because it appears to have stopped quite suddenly, which makes me worry that something is blocked somewhere and I’m going to end up in hospital again. I’m also scared for the bleeding to stop and the pains to go. Once my body feels normal, it’s all over. My body hasn’t felt normal since before I got pregnant and I think rather than normal, I’ll just feel very unpregnant. I know that’s not a word.

I have been doing more Googling, trying to work out why it happened, convinced I’ve made a mistake somewhere.

Less than two months ago, I didn’t even know I was pregnant. It’s been such a small amount of time in the grand scheme of things. So why does it feel like my whole life has changed? I shouldn’t feel so bothered about this. I feel weak in every single way. I see my husband getting on with things, going to work etc and I feel left behind. I wonder if he resents me for being at home, dragging this out and not just getting back to normal. I’m going to talk to him about this when he gets home, I don’t want to be one of those couples torn apart by miscarriage.

Day 8

I spoke to my husband last night. I told him that I was feeling resentful about him being at work and I didn’t want him to feel resentful of me for being at home. We both understand each other and I respect that he has to do what’s right for him. I’m just frustrated that my body is so weak and I can’t do anything.

It feels weird that it was a week ago today that we found out that the twins no longer had heartbeats. It feels like a million years ago and yesterday at the same time. I have written thank you cards to send to the ward and resus team at the hospital.

“I feel a bit in limbo”

Day 9

My bleeding is near enough stopped and my bruises are healing. It feels weird and bittersweet. I want to recover but it feels like the twins are slipping further and further away from me.

I feel a bit in limbo. I went from being a sexy fun-loving wife to a sicky pregnant wife seemingly overnight and I found that hard to adapt to. I had managed to get my head around that and now I’m not pregnant anymore. But I’m far from the sexy fun-loving wife I was. I don’t have a clue who I am or what I’m doing. I hated being pregnant, I felt so poorly all the time and I hated having to give up so much. Now I want to go back in time and give myself a slap because I was so lucky to have the twins in there.

Today it’s been a week since I went in to hospital. I’ve managed to get dressed, put make up on and go outside for the first time since being discharged. I put lipstick on and thought, is that a bit much? Should I be putting lipstick on? Should a grieving mother look a certain way? Then I realised that was bollocks. I have spent the week in my PJs with no make-up on and now I am dressed and wearing highlighter, I am not grieving any less.

So, my first trip out and about is to the supermarket to do the food shopping. I get in the car and the radio is playing Daniel Bedingfield, “Gotta get through this”. That song is like a million years old, of all the songs to be playing at that moment. It was weird seeing the outside world, I’d spent the week in my lounge, staring out the windows at the fields that surround my house. Here I was driving past houses and people, people with lives, people with children. Tears started to roll down my cheeks, I don’t really know why. Maybe it was all a bit overwhelming, life just carrying on, I don’t know.

I had set myself goals for today, to shower, get dressed, put make up on and go out to do the shopping. So, I’m pretty chuffed that I can mentally tick all those off.

Day 10

Today I feel absolutely fine, physically and mentally. I’m not feeling dizzy at all and I feel different emotionally. I feel like I’ve overcome a milestone, I feel a sense of renewal or rather a desire for renewal. I’m thinking about new skills and hobbies that I want to take up. I feel a bit guilty for this but at the same time I’m thinking it’s a good thing that they are inspiring me to do something positive.

“I’m not ready to move on just yet”

I had a gin and tonic last night. I was in two minds about it because a big part of me doesn’t want to embrace being unpregnant. I don’t want to be able to drink alcohol, I want to be growing my babies safely. It feels a bit like moving on and I’m not ready to move on just yet. However, things are different now and I want to try to enjoy things again. Gin was a massive part of my life before I got pregnant, being in a gin club and trying gin bars was part of who I was. When I became pregnant I found it hard to adjust to not being able to go about my usual foodie ways. Anyway, I had one and it was fine, I didn’t feel guilty and I didn’t feel a sense of calm or pleasure. It just was.

Day 11

Today is the day that should have been our 12 week scan. This is the day that we were working towards and looking forward to, a milestone of safety. I was so anxious to get to this day and now it means something so different. My husband has taken the day off so we can spend the day together.

“It just feels like miscarriage is swept under the carpet”

We start by going to the doctors to renew my sick note. It’s the first time I’ve spoken to my GP since I had started bleeding when I was pregnant. After being discharged from hospital, I was told that my notes would be sent to my GP. I was quite surprised that neither my GP or midwife had made contact with me since I miscarried. You’re just kind of left to get on with it. It just feels like miscarriage is brushed under the carpet. Don’t tell anyone you’re pregnant in the first 12 weeks, in case you miscarry. That’s what society tells us. Why? To protect us from having to talk about it if we miscarry? Who is that protecting? The doctor gave me a sick note and away I went. No follow up appointment. No talk of support or counselling going forward.

My husband and I leave and go for a walk in our local town. We had only moved there in the last month and with everything that had happened we hadn’t had chance to explore yet. This was nice, it felt nice to be discovering new things. To see that maybe we could have a life afterwards getting to know our local area better going forward. It was difficult not to see it through my pregnant eyes. As soon as I had my positive pregnancy test result, I saw things differently, where could I take the pram for a stroll? Which cafes were big enough to accommodate a pram? Where could I get local baby related things from?

We go for lunch at Nandos. It was probably a stupid choice to go on a Monday afternoon. Of course, it was full of pregnant people, families, prams, children. There was a woman who had a massive pregnant belly and she was everywhere I turned, the tills, the sauces, the toilets. It was like she was mocking me. She left holding a child’s hand and carrying another child in her other arm. Three children. I can’t even get to 12 weeks. I hated her but then I hated myself for hating her. Each of those children was a win for women against the monster that is miscarriage and I should really have been mentally high fiving her. By the time our food came, I was exhausted. I really just wanted to go to bed and I couldn’t finish my lunch, which I assure you is unlike me. We had booked cinema tickets as a distraction so we went next door to the cinema and watched a film. I was so grateful to be sitting in the dark, although my blood flow is still dodgy and I kept getting pins and needles.

When we get home, my mood has dropped considerably. I feel tired, sad, angry, confused, heartbroken, numb, guilty – all at the same time. I want to fight the world, to make things different for all the women who miscarry, to reverse some injustice. However, I also just want to go to bed and cry. I snapped at my husband because he had the audacity to suggest Indian when I wanted pizza. Then he was hurt by my attitude so I cried. I go to bed petrified, terrified to try and get pregnant again in case I have to go through all this again.

Day 12

Today I am so annoyed with my body. I know there are things that will help my heart and soul to move on but I can’t get there because my body doesn’t have the energy to do it. I feel betrayed by my body in every way. I’m bleeding again.

“the silly 12 weeks of silence rule”

Day 13

I’ve had my first visit today from non-family members. A friend that comes to your house, brings you a meal, sits with you, laughs with you, cries with you and talks utter rubbish with you is just invaluable. I honestly feel so lucky to have the people around me that I do. Also, this is another point in favour of not adhering to the silly 12 weeks of silence rule. If my friends didn’t know that I was pregnant and that I’d miscarried, they wouldn’t know to look after me. Yes, I could have managed on my own but it’s a whole lot easier when you have support.

Today I feel so much like I want to be pregnant again and have a baby. I want it so much that it almost hurts. I know the twins would want me to be happy and would want to see me move on. At the same time, I’m terrified of having to go through miscarriage again, the pain, physically and emotionally, the blood, the fear. I’m going to have to just brave it, go for it and hope for the best. When we do have a baby, I just hope it’s prepared for the amount of love coming its way.

Day 14

Tomorrow it will be two weeks since we heard those words, “I’m sorry”, and everything that came with it. It feels like yesterday and years ago at the same time. I feel like a completely different person, I’m not sure who yet, I’m still getting to know her.
I’m not ‘over it’ by any means and I never will be but I’m on my way to accepting it. I can even identify some positives that have come from it, which I could never have done before now. I know this will be a journey that I will continue on for the rest of my life. The path will open and close, loop around, get blocked, go around in circles and go forward. I’m prepared for that. I’m grateful for the short amount of time that I had with them. I’m grateful for the moments of sheer joy that they brought us, joy that we hadn’t felt in a long time. I’m grateful for all the help and support that I’ve received. I’m so proud to have been their mum.

1 month on……

I took five weeks off work in total. It took that long for my body to be anywhere near normal and for my emotions to be stable enough to manage at work.
After three weeks, the hospital asked me to take a pregnancy test to check that everything has passed. I took the test and it was positive. This really knocked me back. Physically, I was unable to move on until the pregnancy hormones left. Mentally, I was all over the place. It was so strange wanting to see a negative test when all you want is to be pregnant. Similarly, I wanted to get my first period over and done with so that I could feel reset and then think about trying again. A couple of days later I took a digital pregnancy test and it said ‘not pregnant’. So, there it was. I was officially no longer pregnant. Even though I knew this already, seeing it written there on the digital screen felt so final.

Four weeks after the miscarriage, my period started. It was heavy and painful and full of all sorts of unsightly things. The worst bit though was the crash in my emotions. I cried for hours, anything and everything made me cry and once I started I couldn’t stop. I felt like I’d gone backwards, I was thinking all the thoughts that I did in the beginning, why me? Why can’t they come back? I hated that I was missing out on events that I planned to go to. Events where I had pictured myself glowing as I spoke about my pregnancy and how I was looking forward to life with twins. I felt like someone had cut me open, stolen my babies and not bothered to stitch me back up again. I had a gaping wound that would never ever heal.

“My hormones were all over the place”

My period lasted Five days and then I immediately started to get symptoms of ovulation. I did an ovulation test and there was a faint line. Within Nine days, I’d had a positive pregnancy test, negative pregnancy test, period and ovulation symptoms. I was a mess. My hormones were all over the place. A single word would set me off. I put some music on and the Adele song ‘Hello’ came on. That single word, hello, had me break down in uncontrollable wailing.

Five weeks after the miscarriage, I started bleeding again. This made no sense, I had already had my period, I was gearing up for ovulation, thinking about trying to conceive again. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I felt confused, frustrated, angry, upset, stressed and scared. I was petrified that I was going to haemorrhage again. I had felt the same when my period started the week before. Both times I felt terrified as it was a Friday and if I haemorrhaged on a weekend I’d have no early pregnancy unit to contact and A&E would be really busy. I know this because it was a weekend that I haemorrhaged in the first place. All I could think of was my husband telling me that when he was sitting in resus and they wouldn’t let him in, he thought I might die.

Reflections (6/7 weeks after miscarriage)

I still wake up some days and for a few seconds I think I’m still pregnant and then I remember that I’m not. I think about the twins all the time. I’m back at work on phased return but it’s difficult. I want things to be some kind of normal but at the same time everything is so different. I find it hard to listen to people complaining about problems that can be solved or hearing others feel sorry for those with solvable problems. I get that other people have problems and I do empathise with them also, but they can change their situations, I’m never getting my twins back. It’s hard to see people getting on with their lives like nothing has happened, I feel jealous of that.

The good side of this is that I worry about things less. Not a lot matters in comparison, I only worry now about being able to have a child. I have realised how strong I am and how strong my friendships and relationships are. I’ve seen such kindness and compassion from friends and colleagues. I can tell when someone truly understands my pain.

I’ve been really open and vocal about my experience with my friends and at work. I’ve had several people come forward and tell me that they have experienced miscarriage. I’ve enjoyed talking to them and they tell me they’ve enjoyed talking to me. Moments like this make me feel like I’m doing the right thing.

I’ve found comfort in joining the Facebook page for The Miscarriage Association and speaking to others who have been through miscarriage. I feel passionate about bringing the subject out of the dark and taking the taboo out of talking about it.
I find myself attracted to positive quotes on social media. One that has really stuck with me is one that says “She was brave and strong and broken…all at once”.