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

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On being brave

This post is dedicated to all of us brave women who struggle with infertility and pregnancy loss.

Someone said to me recently, “you must be very brave, you’ve dealt with cancer, fertility treatment and miscarriages and yet you are prepared to keep going”. I don’t think I’m brave. In fact I am scared and anxious and unconvinced most of the time when it comes to my fertility struggles.  

But it got me thinking (adopts a Carrie Bradshaw voice) what is bravery? Can you still be brave and scared? I read a quote once from Bear Grylls, the Mount Everest climber and star of Born Survivor, who should know a thing or two about bravery.

“I’ve seen extreme bravery from the least likely of people” he said, “Life is about the moments when it’s all gone wrong. That’s when we define ourselves.”

Those of us struggling with infertility and pregnancy loss know all about those moments when it’s all gone wrong – and yes, it does ultimately define us. Do we go under or do we keep on pushing forward towards our dreams of motherhood?

Today I heard another quote (via freeingforty.blogspot.com) which really resonated with me:

“What is important is not to be defeated, to forge ahead bravely. If we do this, a path will open before us.” ~ Daisaku Ikeda

So let’s not be defeated, let’s forge ahead bravely, trusting that the path will open before us, and most of all let’s continue to support each other along the way.

Yours in hope

Marie xxx

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day is a day of remembrance for pregnancy loss and infant death which includes but is not limited to miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, or the death of a newborn.

The day is observed with remembrance ceremonies and candle-lighting vigils, concluding with the International Wave of Light, a worldwide lighting of candles at 7:00 p.m.

Tonight the International Wave of Light is starting at 7pm, light a candle for at least one hour and with everybody else lighting their candles it means there will be a continuous wave of light around the world and we will all be united in remembering our lost babies. 
 
The world may never notice if a rosebud doesn’t bloom
or even pause to wonder if the petals falls too soon
But every life that ever forms or ever comes to be
touches the world for all eternity.
The little one we longed for was quickly here and gone
…but the love that was then planted still shines on.
And though our arms are empty
our hearts know what to do
every beating of our hearts say
we will remember you
Anon
 

Home again

Thanks again everyone for all your comments and your texts and e-mails. Your kindness and concern have helped me more than you will ever know. I got home from the hospital this morning. It was supposed to be a day procedure on Wednesday, but low blood pressure, heavy bleeding and dehydration meant I was kept in until now. 

I know we always think what we have just been through has been the worst or the hardest experience, but of all the 3 miscarriages in the past 12 months this has been the most bruising experience, due to what I have been through at the hospital. Stop reading now if you don’t want to witness a rant against the HSE. I need to vent and it is not going to be pretty.

I have been through the Irish hospital system more times than I would ever have wished for over the past six years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. Last year’s miscarriage at this same hospital was a horrendous experience, taking place over the scorching May bank holiday weekend with limited staff available and no sonographers on duty. I thought I had experienced pretty much the worst of the system, but the last two days have been a revelation to me. I have read all the letters to the newspapers, heard the complaints in the media about the system and now I’ve found myself on the receiving end of it, I am feeling shocked and traumatised in a way that I didn’t expect when I set off for the D&C on Wednesday morning. I think part of my shock is that I always was part of the public health system – I didn’t have private health insurance and so I always thought private and public patients were treated differently.  I of course believe this to be a disgraceful situation and think we are all entitled to the same level of care and treatment regardless of socio-economics. Two years ago, after we got married, my husband put me on his insurance, primarily because we knew our fertility path was not going to be a straight forward one and he wanted to make it as painless for me as he could. I was so grateful on Wednesday that I would be able to get a private room and go through this experience as painlessly as possible under the circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am being some kind of pampered princess about this, but for the first time in my life I thought that the oh so expensive health insurance we have paid into was about to make life a little easier for us. I don’t believe that I am any more entitled to this than anyone else – quite the opposite. I believe that we should all have the same access to treatment and there should be no discrimination and as a point of principle I always championed the public system, but the reality of the health care system in this country is that you have to pay if you want any say in your treatment – at least that is what I thought up until this week.

Still want to keep reading?

We arrived at 9 as we were instructed and I went to admissions. My details were taken and I was told to go wait in the reception area and my name would be called. One hour passed, two and then three hours and still I wasn’t called. I went in several times to admissions and was told I would be called shortly. In the meantime, I sat, getting more and more agitated as I watched a parade of pregnant bumps, big bunches of flowers, pink and blue balloons coming in and out of the main door in front of me. It was like torture, but nothing compared to the heartrending pain of watching the proud parents carrying their newborns out the door and tenderly placing them into waiting cars and taxis. By the time, my name was called at 12.30, I was distraught and the registrar who came to see me in admissions was the most insensitive, the rudest and most uncaring doctor I have ever come across in all my time attending hospitals. The consultant was in another hospital that morning – so much for a private consultant. I appreciate that the system is a tough one for registrars but this is not the patient’s fault and not the time or place to take it out on them. She was angry and frustrated with me because I was shaking and sobbing so much she said I was making it difficult for her to take the bloods she needed to take. Now blood tests are traumatic enough for me at the best of times. My veins are pretty much non existent after chemotherapy and they can only be taken on one arm. This means I have to endure a round of hopeless and extremely painful poking around by doctors looking for a vein. I explained this to her and asked to be seen by a phlebotomist who are better at finding a vein, but her answer was if I stopped shaking and crying so much and calmed down it would make her job easier. She jabbed away with no success – called in another registrar to try, actually shouted at that regsistrar and sent her away. I was getting more and more upset and she sent me back out into reception in a state of shock, I was shaking so much, my teeth were chattering.  My husband, who is not an agressive man by any means, had enough at this stage – marched into admissions and asked to speak to the registrar. There followed a dreadful scene with me trying to calm him down, and praying that security wouldn’t be called.  I’ve never seen my husband act this way and I know it was down to his upset and anger at being made to wait so long with no explanation as to why we had to wait and the attitude of the registrar. He also asked her if we could have a second scan and she looked blankly at us and said but you already know the result of your scan. The previous day after the scan, we had been told we could have another one today if we wanted to. We were told it was now standard procedure which had been put in place  following the misdiagnosis scandal which emerged earlier this year, when it was revealed that many Irish women were told that their babies had died in their wombs and they would miscarry.  These women went home to miscarry naturally only to find out a few weeks later that their babies were still alive after all. We were so shocked to read and listen to the stories of these women at the time and so we  felt we were justified in asking for a second scan before the procedure. The consultant had agreed this would be done the next day but now the registrar was saying there was nothing in my notes about this. DH said ring the consultant and ask him and she sighed and said ” fine, if that’s what you want”, like we were really inconveniencing her. And we were inconveniencing her so much, that she thrust my chart into my hands and said well you know where the scan room is and turned her back on us and walked away. This was like a red rag to a bull, and I had to beg my husband to not go after her for round two. We made our way back to the sonographer, explained the situation and she said she would scan us again. I prayed for a miracle, that there would be a heart beat, but  of course there was nothing there – my baby had died and there was nothing to be done anymore except get this day over with.

Back up to admissions, and I had to find a nurse and ask her what was going to happen now, because obviously we had been left to fend for ourselves at this stage, after my husband’s performance. The nurse went off to find the registrar, who wouldn’t speak to us and  so the nurse sent us back out to the reception area yet again. Another half hour of not knowing what was happening, more bumps, more balloons, more babies.  DH went back into admissions to find out what was happening and the nurse said she was taking me up to the ward. This was now 1.30 – I was weak from fasting, I was still shaking and I was feeling very weak and afraid at this stage, and I didn’t know what was going to happen next. This nurse then said that she was afraid the private room was no longer available because I was so late getting up to the ward, they had given it away. None of this was our fault and I thought this was the last straw. We had been made to wait all morning because our consultant whom we had spoken to and booked the previous day was not available. We had to wait with everyone else for a registrar who I appreciate was overworked and frustrated, but again this wasn’t our fault. I don’t understand why I couldn’t have been admitted to the ward first thing and waited there instead of in the reception area while nothing happend for a full morning.  As a public patient in Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, having had a previous D&C done there, the standard procedure is you are admitted through the ward and I can’t see how having booked this procedure previously and the room and the consultant, this system could not be put in place.  I thought DH was going to go off on a rant again, but looking at me, he realised it was best not to. She deposited us in the corridor of the ward and my husband went off to find a nurse. He came back and gently said I’ve sorted it – you are getting the private room. I don’t want to be paranoid here, but he was of the belief that that my not getting the private room was a punishment for him standing up to the registrar. I would like to believe that isn’t true, but then mysteriously the room was available after all.

We were shown to the room, and never having had the luxury of a private room before, I had different expectations of what I was being led to. Now I am grateful that I got the room, don’t get me wrong, but this room which costs over a grand a night was as grim as a prison cell, with peeling paint, a TV which we couldn’t switch on with a remote control held together with celloptape. TV turned out to be broken – not that it matters, because I didn’t want to watch TV, but it was a disgrace of a room.  Where is all our money going in the hospitals? Certainly not to the patient experience. Having said all that,  I am still so grateful that I had a room to myself, one that I very nearly didn’t have.

Next trauma was the bloods still needed to be taken. I was very dehydrated at this stage and my veins had completely collapsed as a result.  The phlebotomist came and she tried three times to get a vein – the standard procedure is they can try three times. The veins defeated her and after 20 minutes of trying, she gave up. Next the anesthetist was called – he had no luck either,and spent another 20 minutes poking and prodding,  until he used a local anesthetic to freeze my arm and then cut in under the skin to find a vein. The relief when he managed it was just incredible, although it turned out later that he mislabeled the full blood count bottle and so we never got that done – incompetence rides again.

Coming to the end now for those of you who have stuck with me..thank you!

I can speed through the rest. It was 2.30 by now and I told my husband to go get himself something to eat, as they weren’t going to operate until 6 or 7 that evening. He was gone about 10 minutes when the nurse came and said you are going to theatre now  – a slot has opened up. No time to think or even call my husband – I was walked to the theatre through the labour ward past the women about to give birth – a slow painful, heartbreaking walk to the operating theatre at the end of the labour ward.

Woke up from the D&C in the recovery room and the first thought in my head was it’s gone – my baby is gone and I felt a wave of grief and despair wash over me.

Back to ward, my lovely husband waiting for me, and I was told I could go home in a few hours. I just wanted to get home to my own bed and put the trauma of this day behind me. But it wasn’t over yet. My blood pressure was very low, my bleeding heavy and I was severely dehydrated. They decided to keep me in. I sent poor tired husband home around 9 pm and I spent a fitful night hooked up to the drip and relieving the day. Next day, same thing, no change in BP or dehydration levels, despite 6 bags of IV fluid and kept in for another day.

Finally get to leave hospital this morning, emotionally and physically battered and bruised by my experience. And now the hard work begins – going through the grief and the pain, the emptiness and the loneliness of pregnancy loss. I’ve been here before and I’ve survived, but each time it happens, it takes longer to haul myself back out again of the pit of despair and emptiness. I have a long road ahead of me again and I am thinking of all of the women out there who also have to walk this path. It is a hard road to walk, made harder by how much of it we have to keep hidden from the outside world. Thank goodness for this blog, for being able to write about this experience, to be able to listen to the stories of others, to know that I am understood and listened to in a way that others who haven’t gone through this can never do. Please continue to walk this journey with me, and I will walk with you. Our miracle still waits for us. We have to continue to believe and hold onto our dream. And yes, I will definitely need reminding of that myself in the coming days and weeks.

The loneliness of pregnancy loss

“In many ways we are all lonely. Deep inside all of us exists a well of emptiness, which can be filled only with the love and friendship of those encountered on our journey through life and beyond.”

This is the first sentence from an article on the link between loneliness and depression, written by Dr H. Barry and published in the Irish Times  last month. The article is not about pregnancy loss, but I think parts of it are very relevant to the sense of loneliness and isolation that can happen to those of us who experience miscarriage.

“Life can be very cruel to some – with tragedy, loss, bullying, relationship breakdowns and broken dreams confining them to mere spectators – enviously observing those more fortunate, surrounded by love, affection and acceptance.

For those going through a bout of depression, loneliness can present in a different but equally destructive manner. When we are very down, our thinking can become so negative that we may find ourselves feeling totally isolated and lonely. We become worthless; of no value to ourselves or others; not worth talking to; a burden on those closest to us; walled off in a world of pain and emptiness. Because they find it so hard to communicate the way they feel, many with depression feel isolated from even those closest to them – a particularly distressing state for both.”

Dr Barry concludes with a powerful question – “If all of us realised our immense capacity to transform the lives of others with a kind word and open heart and were prepared to do so – how many lives could be transformed?”

As I feel myself start to emerge from the depression, loneliness and sense of isolation which engulfed me following my miscarriage, I reflect back on those kind words and open hearts which I encountered through the comments on this blog. Your words truly helped dissolve the wall of loneliness and despair that surrounded me.

For those who may be reading this and find themselves living in the isolated world of pain and loss for whatever reason, who may be  longing for somebody to break the wall of silence and pain, for we know that miscarriage is a hidden grief, my message is simple – you are not alone.  There are many out there who understand what you are going through. Apart from profesional organisations and therapists, the empathy, advice and support you will find on many discussion forums and blogs can help you through this period of sadness and loss.  My wish for you, is that you find the friendship, support and love to carry you through which you deserve during this difficult time.

Related Posts:

Miscarriage – the hidden grief

Why do you blog?

How long before HCG level drops?

I am wondering how long it takes the pregnancy hormone level to drop? I have had three blood tests and it still hasn’t dropped to 0 yet. I am being monitored at the hospital and getting weekly blood tests. I have read that depending on when the pregnancy loss occurred, it can take anything from days to weeks. Also the bumps around the nipples called montgomery’s tubercles have not disappeared yet. What has anyone else’s experience been of this? I would love to know….