Suffering a perinatal mental illness is difficult enough as it is, without experiencing an event which causes heartache and stress. During the last 3 1/2 years there has been two events which have caused me great sorrow. The passing of my beloved Nan and suffering a miscarriage.
My Nan was diagnosed with cancer during my second pregnancy, and she passed away just 11 days before my son was born. I was heart broken that she didn’t get to meet her great grandson, and one of the last things she said to me was that she hoped she could see him. My nan adored my first child, it was her first great grandchild, and she was over the moon when I told her I was pregnant. She was just as delighted when I told her I was expecting our second. My cousin then shortly announced she was due a baby two months after me, another boy so my nan was really pleased she was getting two great grandsons, she adored her family.
It was a massive blow to my family when she was diagnosed, and we knew early on it was terminal. It was really difficult to cope with a 1 year old, be heavily pregnant and suffering depression during my pregnancy, then to have this awful news added into the mix, it was a terrible time. I felt great guilt because I felt I really wanted/needed support but I knew I couldn’t put the burden onto my parents as they, along with my uncle were looking after my nan. I felt very guilty and selfish at the time, as although, of course I never for one moment begrudged them spending the precious time they had left with her, I really longed for their help. I didn’t want to open up about how low I was feeling because all I kept thinking was there were much worse things going on.
Looking back, I feel huge amounts of guilt and regret, as during my Nan’s illness I was suffering terribly with my anxiety. I struggled to leave my home, and although I would chat to my nan on the phone a lot, I wish the anxiety didn’t have the hold it did on me so I could have gone to her home more and spent time with her. I think I will always feel cheated of those last months because of what my illness stole from me.
Over Christmas 2013 I discovered I was pregnant with my third baby. We were thrilled, but just 6/7 weeks into my pregnancy I had a miscarriage. I had a bleed during my first pregnancy and all was ok, but this time I just knew in my heart this pregnancy wasn’t to be. I held onto hope but after three days I had pain on one side and needed to be checked at hospital. Thinking I would be told yes you are having a miscarriage and be sent home, I had my scan and was shocked to be suddenly admitted with suspected ectopic pregnancy and put on the emergency operation list to potentially have my ovary and Fallopian tube removed. I was distraught, it was such a shock. I felt a huge sense of loss, part of me felt I wasn’t entitled to feel such heartbreak as it was so early on in my pregnancy but to me, that was still my baby and my pain was still real. I was fortunate to come around from surgery to discover I hadn’t needed my ovary or tube removed and the mass they had seen on my scan was a build up of endometriosis.
I felt a huge sense of grief in the coming weeks, and although I was blessed enough to fall pregnant again quickly, my anxiety was extremely high throughout my whole pregnancy. My miscarriage had a big impact on my mental health and the effects of this set me up to suffer depression and strong anxiety throughout my third pregnancy. Miscarriage seems to still be a slight taboo subject and again it was something I kept to myself, I told a few people but not many. Why I felt I couldn’t be open about it is sad, because having the support of friends and family around me would have helped greatly, instead of struggling on my own.
Struggling with heartache during a mental health illness adds a great deal of stress, and speaking to those around you will give you the support you need. I struggled alone, if I could go back and give myself advice I would tell myself to reach out to those around me for support during those tough times. I would have encouraged myself to get more help from my midwife during my second pregnancy regarding my anxiety. But most of all I would tell myself to speak to my friends and close family. In truth those who care about you are always more than happy to be there for you, just as you would be for them – after all its what friends and family are for.