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The Sound of Silence : Investigating The Emotional Pain of Multiple Miscarriages

Say the word ‘miscarriage’ to a crowded room and you will hear a penny drop. It’s a reality that Tamsin Oxford explores as she investigates the emotional pain of multiple miscarriages.

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Miscarriage

Say the word ‘miscarriage’ to a crowded room and you will hear a penny drop. It’s a reality that Tamsin Oxford explores as she investigates the emotional pain of multiple miscarriages.

My name is Lucy and I’ve had eight miscarriages since I started trying for a baby in 2007. Sometimes I can’t remember why I’m putting myself through this or even who I used to be. Every time I fall pregnant I wonder, ‘is this also going to end? Can I really go through this again?’”

Miscarriage is a place that only those who have felt such a loss can see, where your heart mourns for a life that could have been and around it sits an invisible wall that makes you feel as if everybody else is on the other side. You can leap right out and say that you’ve just had root canal or a stomach ulcer, but saying you’ve experienced a recent miscarriage leaves a room silent, awkward and grasping at conversational straws.

“Our last miscarriage was just after Christmas and we bumped into a friend in the street who asked us how our Christmas had been,” says Annabelle Danton. “We both lied and said it had been fine, because if we’d actually said what had really happened, they wouldn’t have known how to cope with it and inadvertently made us feel bad for being so honest.”

Annabelle’s been trying for a baby since 2009 and experienced more than five miscarriages; her journey has been difficult to say the least. Multiple miscarriages produce scars that grow increasingly difficult to heal with each loss, and leave many feeling incredibly lonely. Almost every woman who stepped forward with their multiple miscarriage stories felt that they couldn’t talk about the pain they were going through, or open up about how scared they were about their chances of having another baby.

“Trying again was so difficult. All I could think about was that I wanted to be pregnant and how unfair it was that I wasn’t, yet as soon as I did get pregnant again I was petrified it would be taken away from me,” says Cathryn Scott. “That feeling has remained with me through all my pregnancies.”

Melissa MacKenzie agrees, “I remained completely paranoid throughout my eventual successful pregnancy. I thought that once I got to certain milestones I would relax, but I never did.” Some were as wounded by the physical act of miscarriage as they were by not knowing how to deal with how they felt, and the often callous attitudes of the medical professionals they met afterwards.

“I remember the first miscarriage so clearly and the worst part was that I had no idea what to expect; I didn’t know that foetus would fall into my hand with that last cramp and that I would literally fall onto my knees with the grief and horror,” says Lucy. “Then, when I went to the hospital for a check-up scan the next day I was expected to walk through rooms of newborn babies and pregnant mothers as if my ordeal was nothing more than a biological accident.”

Loneliness, isolation, grief, shame – these are the emotions tacked onto the end of a miscarriage as if the experience itself wasn’t quite enough. What can people do to overcome these in a way that is healthy and allows them to pick themselves up and carry on trying for a baby?

Susie Gower, the Becoming a Mama coach and founder (becomingmama.com), says, “It is important to acknowledge that this is a loss, a loss of not being pregnant, not having a bump and not having a baby like your friends. It is hugely important for you to talk and share how you feel, firstly to your partner and then possibly to family and friends.”

It is very easy as well to forget the partner in the miscarriage equation. Many feel as if they are left behind and don’t know what part they must play or how to react. Some, like Greg Marthwell, felt that it was incredibly selfish to be upset when his wife was going through a very physical and emotional ordeal.

“I pushed everything I felt to one side because I had this belief that it all about my wife, and that it was my job to be tough and strong,” says Greg. “Finally, months later, I cracked and told her how much it had affected me. I wish I had done it sooner. Instead of her seeing me as selfish and demanding, she felt less like she was doing it alone.”

Melissa adds, “My partner felt it very keenly; we were both equally upset when I had the miscarriage and I wasn’t afraid to share my feelings with him. I would definitely advocate talking about it with your partner. You might find your other half is trying to be strong for you but is glad of the opportunity to talk about his feelings of loss too.”

Sarah Bateup is an accredited cognitive behaviour specialist and clinical lead of PsychologyOnline, and believes that talking about the way you feel with people can really help.

“There are many reasons for feeling like you cannot or should not talk about a miscarriage,” she says. “Generally it’s normal to avoid talking about something that’s distressing – you might worry about getting tearful in front of people or seeming to lose control. Sometimes women are concerned that other people may not understand or will feel awkward or uncomfortable and should be encouraged to talk to other women or a healthcare professional.”

Initially there may be that all too familiar silence, but that is as much to do with your opening up about something that’s very painful as it is to do with friends and family not knowing how to react.

“I believe that unless someone has had a miscarriage they won’t be able to really get what you’re going through,” says Lucy. “That said, when I staggered through my first conversation about it, even apologising for it, my friend was amazing. She didn’t get it and she said some things that we all know shouldn’t be said, but it was obvious that she was completely on my side.”

Melissa agrees, “I actually never minded telling people I’d had a miscarriage. I know it’s a shocking word for some, but the more I told people the more women said to me ‘Oh no, I had one too!’ It might seem taboo, but it is one of those things that nobody talks about for whatever reason and, if you do, you’ll find many women who have been there as well and are happy to share their experiences and listen to yours.”

No matter how often or how badly a woman has miscarried she has something in common with others who have been through it, and it is in this grief that there is solace. What have other women done to cope; what are their mechanisms for getting through the day?

“For me it is about finding a way to live with the sorrow, accepting that it is part of my story,” says Annabelle. “That doesn’t mean I don’t live life and it doesn’t mean I no longer have dreams, it’s just saying that my experiences are what make me who I am today. Immediately after a miscarriage, when I’m feeling at my most raw and vulnerable, I have learned that I need to give myself enough space to grieve. You have to find a way to put one foot in front of the other – don’t expect anything else from yourself and don’t let others tell you when you should start feeling better. As an introvert I draw strength from the quietness around me, so in the early days I avoid social contact.”

She also suggests that women experiencing a miscarriage should focus on doing things that ground them like cooking bacon butties or gardening or going for a run.

“I want myself back, the woman I was before all the miscarriages started, so I’ve made a Living Bucket List of all the things I love doing that I’ve not been able to do over the past few years because I was trying for a baby or recovering from a miscarriage,” she adds. “At the centre of this is my husband. Recurring miscarriage really tests a relationship and we’ve learned to keep talking to each other.”

Ingrid Lotze experienced three miscarriageson the way to having her first child and she adopted a very philosophical approach; “The trick is to be in the moment; stay in the moment all the time and try not to dwell on what could have been, what should have been and what must be. Focus on getting well, focus on getting on with your life, focus on making another baby.

“Having a miscarriage is traumatic and sad,” she adds. “The experience is filled with horror, disappointment and ‘no!’ Every fibre of a woman’s being says ‘no’. Finding the ‘yes’ is how you heal and everyone’s ‘yes’ is different.”

Melissa thinks that it is vital to be honest and to not subvert your feelings, although she did find it helped to research the issue and discover more about the causes of miscarriage, as it reassured her that it wasn’t anything she had done.

Cathryn adds, “When people ask how you are feeling, the phrase ‘I’m bearing up okay’ really helps. Some people expect you to be alright a couple of weeks later, which was definitely not the case for me. Bearing up acknowledges that you are still struggling without having to go into great detail about how you are actually feeling.”

For many women the journey to having a baby, whether it’s their first or their last, can be peppered with the losses of unborn children, and it can be hard to pick yourself up and get back onto the baby making train. Susie Gower recommends a 30-second coping strategy that she devised for women to help them heal.

“With closed eyes, imagine you are holding a beautiful piece of ribbon attached to a large balloon. It can be any colour and size. Place inside this balloon your immediate worries such as ‘the train is late’, ‘I’m ovulating tomorrow’, ‘I hope this will work’, and then release the ribbon. Watch the wind sweep the balloon into the sky until it looks like a tiny full stop in the distance and keep looking until it has gone, along with the emotions you placed inside it.”

Remember, people may not always say the right things or give the right support, but they usually do hold your situation in their hearts.

“My parents told me a couple of months after my miscarriage that they had lit a candle that night in memory of what would have been their grandchild,” concludes Cathryn. “I was so touched by that. I thought it was beautiful.”

Seek the advice of women who’ve been through it ahead of you and use what you need to get through the days ahead. It isn’t easy, but you need never feel alone.

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Good, Good, Good, Good Vibrations

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Good, Good, Good, Good Vibrations

Hi future mama,

We are coming up on the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. and though many of you are tuning in from all over the world and may not be celebrating this holiday; it’s still a good time to take stock of the things we are thankful for.

Unfortunately it’s our innate human survival response to focus on what’s going wrong versus what’s going right. The fight-or-flight response in our brains want to make sure we stay alive and so it is on heightened alert when we worry about the magical, “what if?”

What if it’s too late?
What if there’s something wrong with me?
What if we don’t have enough money?
What if I can’t heal my …. ?
What if IVF doesn’t work?
What if I can’t “figure it out?”

If you’ve been on this journey for any length of time, I’m sure you’re not a stranger to some of these thoughts. It sucks because they’re involuntary. Obviously we don’t WANT to think them, but we do.

Oddly enough if we worry it feels like we are doing something active; but of course from a Law of Attraction perspective, worrying only brings a match to more worrying. It’s so easy to go down the rabbit hole of worry and project our deepest fears into a future that hasn’t happened yet.

We aren’t really taught to focus on things going right. It feels irresponsible to the fight-or-flight part of the brain because- what if something falls through the cracks and we miss our chance? Or we just plain forget that there are things in our lives that ARE going right, because we are so consumed with the fear of ‘what if’.

The problem is that we can be looped in a cycle of fear and it can be really hard to pull yourself out of it. The more we try to force our way out of the loop, the more forcing it brings- and we can’t get out of it.

What does this mean for our bodies from a physiological perspective?

Thanks to the Law of Psychophysical Response, every positive thought creates a positive physical/chemical reaction in the body, and every negative thought creates a negative physical/chemical response in the body. So every time we replay a fear or past trauma, the body can’t tell if the trauma is happening in real time or is just being replayed mentally so the body responds as if it’s happening now. This keeps our fight or flight switch on because the brain perceives danger, and if the switch is on, the uterus is off. Not only is it not good for your mental state to keep replaying these fears and traumas, but it’s literally affecting your body too. This is not for you to go crazy being fearful that every thought you think is messing up your chances, it’s to bring awareness to your thoughts- awareness that despite what it feels like there is choice in what you think and what you become a match to. So just as with every negative thought, there’s a negative reaction in the body; so too with every positive thought there’s a positive reaction in the body. So your power is in choosing thoughts that feel better and being compassionate with your brain as it is rewired to think this way. It’s going to take time for it to be consistent, and we can’t go from gloom and doom to euphoria because we aren’t an energetic match to that.

A good way to begin to turn the tide and become more of a vibrational match to the energy and outcome you want is to establish some sort of gratitude practice.

Now let me be clear– being grateful for what IS going right now, is by no means a resignation that this is your life forever, that you don’t get to have your dream and you’re just going to have to deal with the scraps you feel life has given you.

On the contrary!

We cannot be in gratitude and fear at the same time. The energetic vibrations are too far apart. So being in gratitude at least momentarily lets us spend some time away from fear and feeling more peaceful.

Many of us think, “I’ll be so grateful when I get pregnant.” It sounds like a positive thought on the surface, but remember the universe doesn’t care what you’re saying– it’s hearing the energy that you’re putting out. So how that statement actually reads energetically is, “I’m not okay and I can’t be grateful until I’m pregnant, and I’m not pregnant so I can’t be grateful.”

When we are truly in the energy of gratitude for what is going right, we become an energetic match to being more grateful for more things going right. And truly, more things will start to go right- hence more gratitude!

When we are so consumed with Mission Baby, it’s hard to feel like anything is going right, but SO much is! From the epic, to the mundane, we all have things in our every day lives to be grateful for like:

  • supportive spouse
  • still getting a cycle
  • have a place to live
  • ate today
  • supportive family
  • have a job
  • it was nice out today

It’s so important for us to direct energy and awareness to what is going right so that we literally become a match to receiving more of it. Focusing on what you DON’T have, brings more of a match to you not having it. Focus on what you DO have and watch things change.

So what kind of gratitude practice are we talking about here?

    1. A gratitude journal. Get a cool looking journal that speaks to you (mine is leather with a Celtic tree of life embossed on it). Have it somewhere where you’ll see it every day. Each day write three things you’re grateful for/ or that went right today. It’s okay to have the same things on the list for several days, but really dig deep to some of the little or forgotten reasons. We all have so many. Commit to doing it for at least a month (preferably three months). Daily attention to gratitude and acknowledging support from the universe makes you a match to receiving more of it.
    2. If your spouse/partner is open to it, have a peak & valley discussion every night over dinner of before you go to bed. The valley is where you let your brain vent the thing that upsets you, and then the peak is the high point of your day. What happened that made you feel good today. It’s okay to start with things like – it was nice outside today, someone gave me their seat on the subway, I found a parking spot right away, a stranger complimented me, I had a really good sandwich for lunch, etc. Sometimes we have to start here first. That’s okay. The important thing is that we remind our brains that there are things going right all around us. Sometimes it helps our accountability to do this with our partner. If they’re not open, find a friend who you can text your peak and valley to- and maybe they’ll join you.
    3. A mini gratitude meditation. This is much simpler than it sounds and there’s no wrong way to do it. For example, you may want to sit with your eyes closed burning some sage or listen to soothing music. Take a few deep breaths, put one hand on your heart and begin to visualise one thing you’re grateful for. Deep inhale as you think of the thing you’re grateful for, and exhale as you say in out loud. Say each thing three times. Then sit in the feeling of gratitude (versus thinking gratitude), thank whatever your higher power is, and you’re done. This is something that can be done every day and doesn’t take more than five minutes but can be instrumental in shifting your energy.

Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate it and even if it’s not that holiday where you are in the world, take some time to sit in gratitude for the abundance and blessings you do have. There are so many. It’s a necessary step to move forward. Lots of love!

A’ndrea is a Reiki Master and Holistic Fertility Specialist and more information can be found on her website fusionfertility.com

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Rainbow Babies: Tips To Move Through The Joys, Fears And Tears Of Pregnancy After Loss

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Rainbow Babies

Congratulations! You’re pregnant! Everyone around you is excited except, perhaps, for you. Last time this happened and/or the time before that and/or the time before that, the pregnancy didn’t continue. You may have had a miscarriage, a stillbirth or a neonatal loss. You may have felt isolation, grief, anger.

In fact, you may have thought this pregnancy would resolve these feelings when, in fact, you’ve been noticing lately that they’re all still lurking in the background. To make matters worse, you may now be feeling petrified you’ll lose this baby too. Worry, fear and uncertainty are very commonly felt by pregnant people who’ve experienced a loss.

Here are some suggestions to help you move through the challenges and enjoy pregnancy again.

1) It was not your fault
Whatever happened last time, it was not your fault. Not all pregnancies are perfect. Not all births end up in live babies. You did your best. Shitty things happen. It was not your fault.

2) Choose the right health care provider
It’s normal to be emotionally vulnerable. It’s normal to feel anxiety. It’s normal to want a million extra appointments but then simultaneously feel like that high after your fourth ultrasound was too short-lived. It’s also normal to be happy.

Research suggests that pregnant people following a loss do better with care providers that respect their unique experiences. Most often, this can be found in a care provider that provides strong continuity. For some this is someone they’ve worked with in a previous pregnancy. Others prefer to start afresh. Good, consistent professional support that honours your individual experiences is not only important for your personal wellbeing but it also improves pregnancy outcomes.

3) Ask for what you need
After a loss, many people find the need for more personalised care to support them through their pregnancy and birth. If you think you need a more frequent schedule of visits for your own wellbeing, ask. If you want to know how to get reassurance in the middle of the night, ask. If you need them to start the appointment with a fetal heart rate check, ask. If you want an additional ultrasound for reassurance, ask. Take an active role in planning your pregnancy and birth. If you’re not finding your care providers responsive, ask to change to someone else. Research suggests that feeling a sense of control in your journey can help you enjoy your pregnancy again.

4) Build your community
After experiencing loss, it’s not uncommon to delay emotional involvement in a subsequent pregnancy and that’s okay. This is your pregnancy and your baby. You get to decide when you announce your pregnancy to the world. You get to decide how you feel about your baby. However, sometimes this valuable protective mechanism also deprives us of seeking necessary support. Many woman do not get adequate emotional and psychological support to deal with their feelings.

While you may be turning to your partner, he or she may also be processing the pregnancy differently, particularly at triggering times, for they are on their own journey of isolation, grief, anger. Bring those into your community who will be there for you when things are tough. Ask your care provider to connect you with someone who’s experienced loss. Consider seeing if there are any support groups in your area for folks who’ve had similar experiences to your own. Research suggests group support helps diminish feelings of isolation and allows for stronger relationships between partners moving forward.

5) Prepare for your rainbow baby
The vast majority of people who’ve experienced losses do go on to have healthy babies. We call them rainbow babies. For, they are the beautiful babies we welcome into the world after the storm that is loss. Just think: you’re pregnant with your rainbow baby! Find ways for you and your support people to celebrate milestones, even when you’re feeling fears to the contrary. Find ways to do the things that normalise, even if a bit of adaptation is necessary.

If you think you’d feel isolated attending a regular childbirth education class, sign up for a private one instead. Read positive books about pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. Do the silly things you always imagined you’d do. Be determined to maintain hope: your rainbow baby is on the horizon!

If you want to find more support you can contact Rishma via her website www.rishmawalji.com

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Mental Health

We Asked A Former IVF Patient What Is It Really Like To Go Through IVF?

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What's it really like to go through IVF

“What Is It Really Like To Go Through IVF…?” As a former IVF patient, it’s a question I have been asked frequently.

It’s a loaded question. Almost everyone knows that it can be a dark place for some, and a miracle for others. For me, there is no straightforward answer. So I decided to write my journey down in a metaphoric story as a way of explaining it…

Imagine you’re standing at the foot of a huge snowy mountain. The kind with jagged rocks and impenetrable inclines that makes you feel queasy looking up. It will take you months to climb and if you make it, the duration will take you through the seasons, changing you as a person along the way.

You’re prepared for the journey, it’s all you’ve thought about for months. You hold your personalised three-month plan in your hand. It’s oddly exciting. Milestones will have to be met along the way and you will need to pass all of them in order to progress. It’s all about you now, everyone who knows seems still, waiting for news.

Your positivity gets you going. You feel all zen-like with motherly instincts kicking in already. There’s baggage you have to carry uphill – let’s call it a 15-kilo backpack representing the weight of your parents’ dreams to become grandparents. You are weighted down by drugs too, brown paper bags filled with hormone pills, vitamins and vails for injections.

You crack on, shield up, sword outwards prepared to battle anyone who tries to knock you off the baby path to utopia. Thousands of woman have walked this trail before, and they made it just fine.

Let’s think about that utopia for a moment; imagine on the other side of this mountain is a life with a family. You catch a glimpse of another you. In this imaginary place, you are holding a tiny delicate version of yourself. You become someone else entirely responsible and in the process form a love that only real mothers can understand.

You have a mild sense of that, but it’s only imaginable at this stage. You aren’t quite there yet…

The climb begins and you stop for breaks, telling yourself that you are still strong, healthy, in control and age doesn’t mean a thing – even at 40 you feel 29. A routine begins to form and as you make progress you begin to allow yourself small treats of wonderings. You have a photocopy in your back pocket of the blastocyst – your baby in its most primitive form. What might my future look like if this works? Boy or girl?

The mountain gets snowy, some days it seems impassable. You wonder why you have to go to such lengths when others don’t have to. It’s unfair.

Climb, climb, climb…stab with needles.

Weariness takes over and your mood changes. You want to be alone. You don’t want to be alone. But you are alone. You fight yourself and enter into a new kind of torture, the torture of hope.

The control you thought you had is now out of your hands.

You are more than halfway there and have reached a critical stage. You feel like you’re winning. Everything is on schedule, you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. But it has become all-consuming and it’s taking its toll on your body.

Months pass by as you climb, climb, climb. “It will be worth it” is a mantra you find yourself saying over and over again the rockier it gets.

The path evens out, and even the weather casts a bright ray of sunshine on you. The top is nearing and it seems that unwavering positivity is driving you to the top. Mummy club here I come. You congratulate yourself and sit on a smooth rock to look at the utopia below before descending.

In an instant, you are cast from that sunny rock to your bathroom toilet peering at the pregnancy stick you just peed on. Three months to get to here.

It feels like all your efforts have been for nothing and with it, you tumble backwards, down the mountain. All the energy and drugs it has taken for your body to get this far has been wasted. You are a shell of who you were and as you tumble backwards your heart detaches from your chest.

At the bottom you sit bruised and exhausted, you feel you are a complete and utter failure. The grieving process for an embryo that never fully formed, begins. Why did my embryo not stick? Did I do something wrong? How do I tell the others?

This pilgrimage can only truly be understood by those who have hiked this mountain. When I meet other IVF couples there’s a silence that says it all. We’ve been there, our own silent war. But for some, the end goal is still worth persisting, no matter what it takes.

Personally – I have endured this journey five times and each time, I never made it even close to my utopia. The reality is that IVF is a lottery – almost impossible to win. I just hope that the next girl going up there is going to make it back down the other side.

Written by G.C.P

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