Don’t forget to remember

If you know someone who has lost a child, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died ~ you’re not reminding them … they didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift.

~ Elizabeth Edwards

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The black dog that keeps on biting me

Churchill called his bouts of depression, the black dog . I think of it like a heavy oppressive cloud which descends and blocks out all the light. Everything turns dark and meaningless. Whichever metaphor you use to describe it, depression seems to dog my footsteps each month that I try and fail to get pregnant.

This past month, the cloud that descended hasn’t lifted. It was the month that my baby boy was due and as the date came and went, the cloud seemed to settle itself more permanently around me. This was also the month that I made the decision not to continue with fertility treatment. After the last failed attempt, I found that I couldn’t face another month of injections, scans, procedures, waiting, hoping, and then, nothing.

I’ve had it said to me that you will know when you are ready to make the decision to stop treatment. I’ve had two years of TTC and three miscarriages in that time and I thought perhaps this decision might bring with it some acceptance, an end to the turmoil each month. Instead I am left with an aching emptiness and overwhelming grief and sadness. I don’t feel any certainty either that I have made the right decision. But I do know that I can’t keep riding this rollercoaster of emotions each month, so it is time to step off the ride.

My husband doesn’t agree with any of this. He thinks I am making a mistake and that I will regret my decision. We can’t seem to talk about it anymore without it ending in an argument and tears, so we’ve stopped talking about it.  

I feel like such a  failure – a failure for the months I haven’t been able to conceive, a failure for not being able to carry my babies full-term, and now a failure for giving up on my fertility treatment.

Miscarriage and Depression

A miscarriage can cause depression and anxiety that continues even after the birth of a healthy baby, research has shown.

Women who have lost a baby are significantly more at risk of mental distress during a subsequent pregnancy, a study found.

The symptoms carried on for nearly three years, on average, after they successfully gave birth.

Professor Jean Golding, from the University of Bristol, one of the researchers whose findings are reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry, said: “This study is important to the families of women who have lost a baby, since it is so often assumed that they get over the event quickly, yet as shown here, many do not. This has implications for the medical profession as well as the woman and her family.”

British and American scientists questioned more than 13,000 pregnant women enrolled into the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (Alspac).

They were asked about their previous experience of miscarriage and stillbirth, and assessed for symptoms of depression and anxiety. The assessments took place twice during pregnancy and four times after giving birth.

In total, 21pc of the women reported having had one or more previous miscarriages. Only 0.5pc had experienced a previous stillbirth and just three women had suffered two stillbirths.

Dr Emma Robertson Blackmore, from the University of Rochester Medical Centre in the US, said: “Our study clearly shows that the birth of a healthy baby does not resolve the mental health problems that many women experience after a miscarriage or stillbirth. This finding is important because, when assessing if a woman is at risk of antenatal or postnatal depression, previous pregnancy loss is usually not taken into account in the same way as other risk factors such as a family history of depression, stressful life events or a lack of social support.”

“We know that maternal depression can have adverse impacts on children and families. If we offer targeted support during pregnancy to women who have previously lost a baby, we may be able to improve health outcomes for both the women and their children.”

Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This is a welcome report that makes an important contribution to our knowledge in this area. It underlines the need for midwives to be able to spend time with women to discuss their pregnancy and their worries and fears. This is so that they can spot signs of depression when it is happening, offer timely advice and give these women the best possible care.

“I worry that the because of the significant time pressures on midwives and the fact that we do not have enough of them, this may mean that women suffering from perinatal depression will not get the help they need.

Press Association

Meet Martine

Martine Brennan

Today I want to introduce you to a very special person.

Martine Brennan is a qualified Counsellor and Psychotherapist (Metanoia Psychotherapy Training Institute, Ealing, London, UK ’91 and ’93) She is a London born Irish woman with a background in Community work. Martine is the proud mother of three daughters. Hannah, her middle daughter, was born still, April 1st 2004. Martine now runs an online coaching programme for parents who are seeking to rebuild their lives following the death of a beloved baby through miscarriage or stillbirth.

Martine has been there for me over the past few months while trying to come to terms with losing my own baby boy last August. She is a truly compassionate, wise and warm woman, and I count myself very blessed to have met her. Martine has recently written an e-book, After Your Baby Dies.

Today I interview Martine about her work and why she wrote her book.

Martine, tell us a little about the work that you do

“Though my life, as I knew it, ended when Hannah died, I have found a way to live with her absence and experience joy again. I have rebuilt my life. I want to share this knowledge with other parents. There are so many of us..too many who struggle alone. I believe the first step for most of us is to come out of the isolation we all experienced, especially in the beginning. Then we need to be met with compassion and understanding. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. So the focus of my work is to meet bereaved parents with sincere compassion and a real understanding of the pain, the anger, the despair and the loneliness, the profound not knowing how to live anymore. I help people to rebuild their lives. No-one can bring our babies back but together we can rebuild our lives.”

Do you think the stage at which we lose a baby makes a difference to the grieving process?

“Whether a baby died in “medical terms” by miscarriage stillbirth or neo natal death or by a failed fertility treatment (I hate those terms) does not signify anything in terms of the degree of the loss/pain. “

Can you tell us a little more about this grieving process?

“The grief is real and can only be measured by the person feeling it. When I worked in London, I mainly worked with people who had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And now what I see is that many bereaved parents have PTSD. So when I work with parents I can’t “fix’ the fact that their baby’s are gone but I can help them to learn to take care of themselves, accept the changes inside themselves, deal with their PTSD symptoms and learn to allow pleasure and joy back into their lives while still living with the absence of their babies. Even though I am a counsellor, I don’t believe that everyone who is bereaved needs counselling. (I could be shot for that) Grief just takes time and compassion and understanding. But if someone is really struggling, has used up all their own resources and feels the need themselves then it is time for counseling. People themselves usually know if they are stuck. (Apart from writing there is nothing like the joy I feel when that light comes back on inside someone.)”

What do you believe is needed to help grieving parents cope with the loss of their baby?

“I  think that advocacy is needed. The medical profession (with some exceptions) want us to accept the death of babies (as once they accepted the many deaths of mothers in pregnancy and childbirth) and this has to change. Unfortunately our babies are invisible to the outside world, so broken as we are, we have to speak for them. The rate of SIDS has gone down worldwide since parents forced the medical profession to sit up and do something. I believe that we will do the same.”

You recently published an e-book,  After Your Baby Dies. Can you tell us a little more about this and where it is available?

The first year after a beloved baby dies is an especially painful one.There were so many things I didn’t know after Hannah died, things that would have helped me cope better. I have written those things in the e-book and it is available free from Stillbirth Help.

Any final thoughts you would like to share with readers?

“Some people work in this field to honour their babies but in my heart I believe that Hannah is well in whatever the next place is. My hope is that someday we will be reunited. I do this because I don’t want my living daughters to go through what we have been through.”

Visit Martine’s website at http://www.martinebrennan.com

A poem for pregnancy loss and stillbirth

The world may never notice
If a Snowdrop doesn’t bloom,
Or even pause to wonder
…If the petals fall too soon.

But every life that ever forms,
Or ever comes to be,
Touches the world in some small way
For all eternity.

The little one we longed for
Was swiftly here and gone.
But the love that was then planted
Is a light that still shines on.

And though our arms are empty,
Our hearts know what to do.
For every beating of our hearts
Says that we love you.

Author Unknown

This beautiful poem was posted by Feileacain  (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Association of Ireland),  a newly formed not for profit organisation. Find out more at http://www.feileacain.ie/

New hope for women at risk of miscarriage

Great to read this latest piece of news in today’s Irish Times:

WOMEN AT risk of miscarriage are becoming pregnant following treatment with an inexpensive intravenous infusion, a major fertility conference in Dublin has heard.

A new study carried out by Care Fertility in the UK has shown that use of the special infusion resulted in 50 per cent positive pregnancy tests in a group of women with recurrent embryo implantation failure following IVF.

Dr George Ndukwe, medical director of Care Fertility, told the Fertility 2011 conference in Dublin that 20-25 per cent of women trying to have a baby could have faulty immune systems.

“Every day in my clinic, I see women who have endured numerous IVF cycles, all with the same negative outcome,” said Dr Ndukwe. “I also regularly see couples who have suffered the misery of repeated miscarriage.

“We are devoting our attention to finding answers when nature goes wrong. This infusion is inexpensive, well tolerated and easy to administer.”

The average age of the 50 women in the study was 37 and the mean number of failed cycles was six. A matched cohort of 46 women who had no therapy had a clinical pregnancy rate of just 8.7 per cent compared with 50 per cent.

“Previous studies had treated the condition with Humira, a drug used in the management of rheumatoid arthritis. Humira is expensive [a prescription costs up to £2,000], it has risks and is unsuccessful in about 20 per cent of patients, ” Dr Ndukwe said.

He found that intravenous Intralipid was more effective, and cheaper at £200. Intralipid is a fat emulsion containing egg extract and soya oil, used for patients requiring intravenous feeding

Miscarriage Annual Service of Remembrance

The Miscarriage Association of Ireland annual service of remembrance takes place on Sunday 14 November 2010 at 3pm in St Teresa’s Church, Donore Avenue, off South Circular Road, Dublin 8. All parents, siblings, grandparents and others affected by the loss of a baby are  welcome to attend.

This is a very special occasion and a chance to share an experience with others who have suffered the loss of a child. It is a time to remember and if possible come to terms with our own personal loss.It is also a time to recognise that for a time, however short; we had the privilege of sharing a relationship with our child. This little life had a meaning and it is necessary for us to give attention to this existence. We may not always understand the “why” but for those of us who have been able to move on, I believe that our lives have been enriched by this painful but hugely significant time of our life. A Book of Remembrance will also be available on the day if you wish to make an entry.

Tel: 01-8735702 or see miscarriage.ie.

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