When you have lost a baby the grief can seem like a very private thing. People don’t want to mention it in case they upset you and it can sometimes seem like the world has forgotten or dismissed what has happened. I still find it therapeutic to discuss our loss and the baby we were never able to have. Recently I came across an organisation called Footprints on the Heart, whose aim is to provide hope and healing to those who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss. They organise a 5K Run and Memorial Balloon Release to provide families an opportunity to honour their loved ones. Events like this show how meaningful it is to mark the life of the babies that were lost and openly share their memory with the world.
After we lost our baby I did not want to face the world and resume real life for some time. I wanted to hide away and shut out everything that represented normality. That included work. I deliberated about whether it would be best to go back so that I could take my mind off our loss or whether I needed time to return to my usual self. At the time those around me kept insisting I went back. I felt a lot of pressure. It resulted in me going back too soon and having to postpone my return for a while. I learned that you have to trust your own instincts and that other peoples advice, while well-meaning, is not always right. When I did go back I found it to be a very positive distraction, but I had to be strong enough to manage it. I was extremely fortunate as my boss and all my colleagues (many of which I consider friends) were endlessly supportive and understanding. Their kindness made all the difference.
During this pregnancy, which has been fraught with worry, work has been the best thing. The summer break I had from work was awful as I was bored and had too much time to think about everything. Having a busy, productive day is far better than letting the situation consume me. I like to be busy and feel like I have a purpose to my day. Who knew work could be such good therapy!
Painting is such a relaxing distraction from the anxiety and sadness of IVF and pregnancy loss. It doesn’t matter what the finished piece is, just get those paints out and enjoy some creative therapy. It will take your mind off all your worries. Express yourself. Here are two of my creations!
When we lost the baby everyone was insistent that we, particularly me, should go see a psychologist or therapist to deal with the trauma and loss. Previously I had never had any desire or reason to do such a thing. In fact I felt it was a fairly self-indulgent past-time for the LA celebrity kids and the real crazies of the world. However I also realised that it couldn’t hurt and it would reassure my worrier of a Dad. I decided to be open-minded.
I began weekly sessions with a lovely woman. Never one to be the ‘feelingsy’ type I found it surprisingly easy to talk about everything. I had a lot to say. However, in retrospect, I don’t think I ever got emotional. I don’t like to cry in front of others or show vulnerability. She listened and told me reassuring things which I constantly challenged. I didn’t want to hear clichés. She told me all my emotions and the way I was coping was entirely normal considering the emotional roller coaster. We agreed that my depression, anxiety and fears were a direct result of the circumstances, rather than due to a pre-existing disposition for mental health issues. We eventually agreed that I didn’t need to continue to see her as I basically had something shit happen which I was dealing with. And that was that.
The thing is I am so lucky to have the very best of friends, and husband, who I got better therapy from. One of them is an actual psychologist! They know me, they are available when I need them, they feel emotionally connected to me and they don’t charge! Who needs a therapist when you are blessed with such great friends! I hope I never need to be there for them in this way, but if I do I will stand beside them like they have for me. Never will I take for granted the support, kindness and love they have given me.
My lovely friend received a 2,000 piece puzzle for her birthday. On one of my many visits to her home I got involved. It was a great distraction and before we knew it we 3 hours had passed. Over the weeks we did more and more of it and it was a great focus while we chatted about everything and nothing. I was hooked!
I did a bit of googling and found studies that suggest that jigsaw puzzles can actually lead to a longer life expectancy, a better quality of life, and reduce our chances of developing certain types of mental illness by an amazing third. Apparently it is due to the simultaneous use of both sides of the brain. In addition, completing a puzzle, or even just the successful placement of one piece, encourages the production of dopamine. Jigsaw puzzles are a unique activity that allows us to achieve a state of creative meditation, while imparting a sense of accomplishment.
Gardening is good for the soul. Maybe it’s the fresh air. Maybe it’s the feel of the earth between your fingers. Maybe it’s the pleasure of seeing things grow. Either way we have been spending lots of time in the garden and it’s been great. I even painted some pretty colours on our ordinary terracotta pots to use as a herb garden.
Some find yoga and massages relaxing. I do not. I find it far more relaxing to keep busy and active. I don’t like having too much time to obsess think about everything.