Mentioning the unmentionable…

… Miscarriage. It’s not something we talk about often is it? Or hear about, dispite the fact that 1 in 4 of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. We have talked before about people admitting they are trying and why you may or may not keep that to yourselves. Miscarriage is the inevitable fear of early pregnancy. Tell people early on and you may have to break bad news later at a time when you feel most vulnerable. Keep it quiet and you have to shoulder the sorrow alone. It’s a catch 22 situation.

Before you all leap to conclusions, this post was sent into me by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous but wanted the support of the Florence Finds community in this time of isolation. It’s a huge compliment to you all that she felt she could find comfort here. Although I have never been in the same situation, it’s certainly something I have seen through family and work and I know how much heartache it causes. I know amongst many of you there will be women who can identify and offer support and I know our anonymous contributor will be grateful for your advice.


image credit: mindful mum

That little blue line.

The overwhelming excitement, fear and happiness floods my body all at once. This is something we’ve been wanting for some time. Working towards, never really knowing when or if it would happen, trying not to make a big deal of it each month when it didn’t happen. And now it was here, it was real. It’s so strange the emotions and thoughts you have… is it really happening? Can we be sure? Let’s do another test. Yep it’s really happening. Let’s see the doctor and get them to confirm. THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!

The days that followed those tests went by in a blur of pure elation. The closeness we felt to each other was like nothing I’d experienced before, like we were now truly one, totally in sync and blissfully happy at what our future was to hold.

We reminded ourselves it was early, that the rules tell us not to get too excited, to wait to tell anyone until we’ve seen that little scan that tells us this is real, this IS really happening.

It felt nice to have this little secret to ourselves; at the same time it felt painful to not be able to share our good news, to shout it from the rooftops like we wanted to. We’ve had a lot of bad news recently, times of upset and despair for both our families. This is what I was looking forward to the most, delivering the most amazing news ever to our unsuspecting family. We grew more and more excited, chatting into the small hours about how life was going to drastically change, how we thought we’d cope, how we’d tell our families, how we’d tell his little girl and help her to understand what it meant, ensuring she felt loved and cared for, not left out and overlooked for something and someone new. We worked out dates, marked them up in code on our calendars, figured out how we’d get through the forthcoming social events in the diary without giving the game away, and we gave our growing child a nickname that only we would understand. We watched my belly begin to grow, filled the fridge with super-healthy foods and waited for the sickness to begin, knowing we were doing everything we could to ensure a healthy, happy pregnancy for both of us.

Blood.

It’s a scary sight at the best of times, but when it’s not supposed to be there it’s the most frightening sight of all. Just spotting at first, we chat it through, we google the hell out of it and convince ourselves, it’s normal, it’s implantation bleeding, it’s getting settled in.

Red blood.

It’s not normal. This should not be happening.


image credit: universal blueprint

I think I knew the second I saw it, it’s hard to explain really, call it instinct, call it intuition, call it what you want. I wish I didn’t have it, I wish I hadn’t known in that very second that my baby had died. That my baby who hadn’t even formed properly yet had already left this world. Of course, you hope you are wrong but deep down you know. We call the doctors, it’s a Saturday and we get little support, we’re told to ride it out and if it gets worse go to A&E. More googling, I find an early pregnancy unit nearby and call them. The advice is clear, sensible and compassionate without being patronising. Bleeding can be normal, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is something wrong but get some sanitary pads, monitor the blood for clots and if they start then call them back and we take it from there. A pensive few hours pass, thoughts swim around our heads like sharks waiting to eat us alive. We convince ourselves it could be okay, the voice inside me screams it’s not okay, its over.

Blood clots. This is really happening.

And then the tears flow, my body convulses as I fall into my partners arms and sob and sob. We call the unit, they tell us to go down there. Hours later and the feelings of loss are replaced by confusion, I’ve had my urine tested, twice, the results are negative. We’re told this is common and doesn’t really mean anything. They take blood to test my hormone levels, the results will take 24 hours. They do an internal examination, my cervix is closed. They tell me this means I haven’t miscarried and that I am pregnant. But they need to do a scan to know for sure what is happening. It’s all so terrifying and so confusing. Deep down I still know, I no longer feel pregnant, it’s hard to explain this feeling, I guess you do just know.

They can’t scan until the morning as the sonographer has gone home. We have a long and sleepless night, another round of convincing ourselves things could be okay, but inside I know it’s over. I feel calm, I know what’s coming, I know this is just clarification.

We arrive for the scan, we stare at the screen, we hear the sonographer say the words ‘early miscarriage, normal, nothing you have done, try again’. They float around the air like daggers waiting to sink deep into our hearts, remaining there forever. I don’t cry, I had already played this scene out in my head, I was expecting it, I already knew.

But as we begin to drive home, the tears start to flow once again, the uncontrollable sobs, the convulsing body. It’s all so alien to me, I am the together one, I am the strong one, I’m the one who reasons everything, supports everyone else through their troubles and traumas. What do I know!


image credit: saying goodbye

The feeling of emptiness is overwhelming.

Mourning the loss of something that never was is a strange concept to wrap your head around. It’s not like losing someone you know, someone who has lived a life. That’s a concept I understand and as painful as it is, it’s a natural process and one we feel equipped to deal with. This, it feels different. It’s mourning for the what could have been, grieving for the lives we thought we were going to have, for the life we had pictured, imagined and wanted so badly. It’s bewildering and the pain is physical, not the pain of the miscarriage, the pain of loss.

And what was our beautiful little secret that only the two of us shared has now become our never-ending nightmare that we cannot escape from. No-one knows, our family are unaware and we’ve decided not to share the grief with them as they’ve had enough to deal with recently. Work don’t know, I’ve managed to juggle some annual leave days around to take a week off with a little explanation provided that I have some women’s problems to deal with. Our friends don’t know, it’s just us and the medical team who know.

The thought of ploughing on, of getting back to normal, of pretending like nothing is wrong makes my heart ache. I feel ill-equipped and incapable right now of putting on that brave face and getting through it. So I’m hoping that time really does heal and this week will give me what I need to wrap my head around this situation. That it will be just enough time to find that strength I know I have somewhere deep inside to put on the smile and carry on, despite my silent tears.

Please remember readers, if you would like to leave a comment anonymously, your gravatar is associated with your email address, not your name, so please use a fake email and pseudonym or simply ‘anon’.

My heart goes out to our writer today and any of you who have been through similar pregnancy related traumas.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

The Last Taboo

Last month there was a flurry of baby announcements in my circles, (4 ladies bearing good news, including one set of twins!) after a bumper baby year in 2012. Although often when one hears of a friend expecting it’s wonderful news but not a surprise, amongst the growing number of professional women I know (and readers here,) and pressure to live life to the full these days, it seems more the fashion to be ‘not ready yet’ (as I have heard from so many of you here,) making baby announcements are all the more surprising and unexpected. As we all grow older it’s inevitable that many of us will start to change our feelings towards starting a family and it’s got me thinking, are the least heard words (around the dinner party table, in the blogosphere, between friends even,) ‘we’re trying‘?


Image Credit

Deciding to try for a baby is an intensely personal thing, there may be doubts, wobbles, high hopes, disappointments and surprises along the way, but it’s a stage we all go through, and one that more than likely we go through at the same time as our friends, so why do we keep it secret?

Is it the very real fear that there may not be an end in sight – after all, nobody really knows what will happen until they try… do we want to spare ourselves the gut-aching reminder of another month’s failure when a friend asks if there’s any news, or is it the fear of over sharing and that too-much-information factor of knowing the inevitable result of your friends contraceptive choices hitting the bin?! Perhaps we want to dodge enquiring glances from aunts, cousins, even the nice lady next door?

I can see the appeal of a secret, after all, what could be more special (apart from perhaps that elusive positive test,) than taking a giant leap into the unknown, hand tightly holding the one person who will experience it so acutely with you. And should the worst happen, by keeping the problem between the two of you, no-one has to fear idle gossip about who is the ‘responsible’ party.

I wonder though, is it not easier to have it out in the open? To have a reason to decline that second glass of wine, or not know what your plans are in 6 months time? To have someone to talk to if things are not happening as you expected, someone outside your marriage where tensions and expectations may be high? Perhaps it is my medical background coming to the fore. I see women at all stages of motherhood from contraception to pre-conception, through sub-fertility to conception and talk about it openly. Whatever the news, whether it be a got-it-in-one result or months of nothing happening, I’m never surprised and that naturally extends to my personal life. All of that said, if the time were to come, I doubt I could be so honest here as to share something that remains very much the unknown. Maybe people do share these things with their closest friends and I just haven’t yet been privvy to such an exciting development in my friends lives?

So today I thought I would turn it over to you guys. Would you, (or did you) tell a trusted friend that you were trying to get pregnant, or did you keep it secret? Would you do it differently in hindsight or do you have plans for what you will do when it’s your turn? Perhaps you have friends who handled it in an unexpected way?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS! As with all personal posts, please feel free to comment anonymously by using Anon or a made up name when filling in the comments box and a fake email address. If you have a Gravatar, remember, your Gravatar is attached to your email address not your name, so if you forget to use a fake email, your picture will still show, even if you use a fake name.

#JanuaryJoy – Family Planning

A while back, following one of the medical posts I have written, a reader who shall remain nameless ;) wrote to me and asked me to do a pre-conception post. I think a lot of women skip that pre-natal trip to the GP to ask advice before they get pregnant as so much is freely available on the internet and they feel they might be wasting our time. In fact nothing is more important than staying healthy and never more so than when creating a new life.


Image Credit: Baby Space

This isn’t intended to freak anybody out, nor to make those who simply got on with it and got pregnant feel bad. I figured that 2013 might well be the year that many of you have decided will be the year you’ll try to get pregnant, so thought this might be useful to stash away and read when the time comes. I won’t be covering getting pregnant as if you’re struggling that’s definitely one for your GP, and if you’re not then, well, I guess you knew what to do ;)

So here’s my check list of things to think about both from a health and sensible point of view.

1. Take Folic Acid
Number One on any pre-conception list has to be Folic Acid. Taking 400mcg of Folic Acid daily from the day you decide to start trying (all pregnancy vitamins contain the correct amount, or you can buy it alone,) will help prevent neural tube defects, or Spina Bifida. You might not think it’s important, but Scotland saw a nasty rise in Spina Bifida births in recent years when folic acid usage took a dip. The neural tube is the part of the baby that forms the spinal cord and surrounding structures and as the foetus develops it arises from the cells folding around the developing cord. This takes place from conception to 12 weeks, and if it doesn’t happen properly can cause problems below the level of the defect (with the bladder, bowels or legs for example) and babies born with deformities in their back. All these things can often be corrected but prevention is better than cure, especially as most people don’t know they’re pregnant until 4-6 weeks. It’s never too late to start taking folic acid if you find out you’re pregnant and haven’t been taking it, but it’s better even if you think there’s an outside chance of an accident happening to be covered all the same. (NB! Women with some conditions such as epilepsy are recommended to take a higher dose of 5mg daily – check with your GP if you are unsure.)

Now we have covered my number one issue, onto the other stuff.

2. Get in shape.
To give yourself the best possible chance of pregnancy you need to be fit and healthy, which also gives you a head start on enjoying your pregnancy. If you’re overweight, think about trying to shift a few pounds as obesity makes a pregnancy higher risk and can affect your chances of getting pregnant in the first place too. Whether you stop drinking entirely is up to you, but reducing your alcohol intake to an occasional glass won’t hurt and if you smoke it goes without saying, just stop.

3. Review your medications.
Plenty of medications are fine to take in pregnancy and often we have to weigh up the pro’s of mum being happy and healthy against the possible risks to the baby, but some are not, including anti-depressants, anti-epileptics and acne treatments. Unsurprisingly there is always a lack of evidence for drug use in pregnancy as nobody tests drugs on pregnant women, so the advice will often be to stop if you can. In the case of essential drugs however like anti-epileptics, it’s often just a matter of switching to a baby friendly variety in good time before you get pregnant. Diabetics should also see their GP prior to trying to concieve.

4. Get your cervical smear.
You can’t have a smear early, (and don’t forget you’re due one every three years from the age of 25,) but you also can’t have one when you’re pregnant, or for 3 months after having a baby as the cells the test samples are different due to the hormones of pregnancy. If you’re trying and a reminder comes through, don’t delay!

5. Lastly, check you are up to date with your jabs.
Once pregnant you will be offered (correct at time of posting, Jan 2013,) a flu jab and whooping cough vaccine. However your immune system is slightly suppressed whilst pregnant and catching some diseases like rubella or measles can seriously damage an unborn baby. We’re seeing a big risk in incidence of these diseases due to the fear over MMR vaccines some years ago now. If you aren’t sure if you have been vaccinated, check with your GP and get up to date.

One last thing. You may not be ready to try for a baby yet but if it’s on the cards in the next few years you might want to re-think your contraceptive choices. Especially if you’re a little older, it pays to be able to start trying as soon as possible from when you discontinue your chosen contraceptive, so you want one that’s immediately reversible rather than taking ages for your fertility to return. The main one to watch out for is the Depo Provera contraceptive injection. This can take several months to fully leave the system before your fertility comes back and you start ovulating again, so I don’t recommend it for women thinking of having a family in the next 12-24 months, or even between babies, unless you’re happy to deal with a long wait. When coming off the pill your periods can take a few months to settle into a normal pattern but it’s not a widely recognised problem. The coil, Mirena or IUS and implant are all immediately reversible.

Do let me know if this was useful and of course, remember, reading this is no substitute for a chat with your GP – we really enjoy seeing people for chats like this – it’s our job! Now I’d love to hear if any of you have been thinking about getting ready for trying, or if you’re already a mum or pregnant, how did you prepare? (Feel free to write anonymously if you want to stay private.)

Happy weekend readers!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

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