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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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
 

Gone but not forgotten…

My friend Lorna posted this on her Facebook status yesterday:

In memory of all babies born sleeping or whom we have carried but never met, or held in our arms. Make this your profile status if you or someone you know has suffered the loss of a baby. The majority won’t do it, because unlike cancer, baby loss is still a taboo subject. Break the silence, In Memory of all Angel Babies gone too soon but never forgotten! xxx

How beautiful! It brought tears to my eyes, but then it brought me a sense of comfort and peace. I hope by posting it here, it helps someone else today.

Thank you Lorna  for your courage in breaking the taboo and for posting such a beautiful message of comfort.

Stillbirth Remembrance Day

candle

Today, September 6,  in some states of the USA  and Canada is a day set aside to honor and remember babies that have been stillborn. In many cases, this definition is expanded to include babies lost to miscarriage, SIDS, and complications of pregnancy, including ectopic pregnancies, among others. In light of this latter definition, Stillbirth Remembrance Day is sometimes known as Stillbirth and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

The idea of an annual day to remember stillborns followed perhaps the most notable stillbirth in recent years, that of Breanna Lynn Bartlett-Stewart in September 2000. In Breanna Lynn’s home state of Arkansas, widespread media coverage following her stillbirth sparked an unprecedented public awareness of the seemingly random and largely unknown killer of more than 26,000 babies each year in the United States alone. In response to public lobbying, the state legislature of Arkansas passed a law proclaiming Breanna Lynn’s birthday, September 6, to be Arkansas Stillbirth Remembrance Day; the day was first observed on what would have been Breanna Lynn’s first birthday, September 6, 2001. This proclamation was warmly welcomed by most Arkansans, even if they had no personal connection to a stillborn baby. On this day, the noon news in Little Rock showed motorists on Interstate 30 traveling with their lights on in memory of the stillborn.

Following Arkansas’ example, several other Southeastern U.S. states passed laws enacting September 6 to be Stillbirth Remembrance Day in time for Breanna Lynn’s second birthday in 2002. With each passing year, more U. S. states issued similar proclamations; on September 6, 2005, Breanna Lynn Bartlett-Stewart’s fifth birthday, 39 U.S. states officially paused to remember babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death.

For all those who are grieving the loss of their precious babies, I am lighting a candle of solidarity today, a tiny flicker of light in the darkness of our grief and I offer up a prayer for healing and peace of heart for us all.

Good Grief

I posted recently on the subject of grief and the importance of honouring our losses and following on from this, I came across an excellent post by Claudia at Soundwaves Perinatal Bereavement Support  detailing the different stages of grief and how to move through them, and with her permission, I will share it with you here.

Good Grief

Can there be such a thing? Not sure, but I know that there is a  way of grieving well that can bring you out on the other side with acceptance and some sense of peace.

New grief is strong, unrelenting, and can be completely incapacitating. When you first lose a baby you are still very much attached to your child emotionally, even physically. Hormones wreak havoc, milk comes in (if your loss was later), our bodies can still “look” pregnant and we can certainly still “feel” pregnant. Some people akin losing a baby to losing a limb. Even though your baby is gone, he or she can still very much be felt with the heart, body and soul. 

I believe the care we receive and how we move through the grieving process when we experience a loss can make or break how we fare with our grief. When I had my first miscarriage the care I received was marginal. The doctor was almost flippant about telling me there was no heartbeat, and when I ended up in the emergency room because of a reaction to a drug prescribed for excessive bleeding, the doctor never even bothered to show up. My grief over that miscarriage was intense. I felt as if I couldn’t talk about it to anyone about it. Because of all of those factors my emotional recovery was slow, painful and not very “healthy.”

After I gave birth to my stillborn twin sons, in many ways I was fortunate. The care I received from the nurses, doctors and other hospital personnel was phenomenal. I believe that that truly mitigated my healing process. I was able to express and release my pain, and didn’t bottle it in. I grieved loudly, and for a long time. But in some strange way I was made to feel that some how, some way I would be O.K.

At the time I wasn’t aware of the phases of bereavement, or of some of the physical symptoms I would experience caused by of the intense grief I was feeling. I am listing those phases and some signs and symptoms you may experience if you are going through this below, in the hopes that you might understand there is a natural order to the grieving process, and that your grief will eventually soften with time. You may also find with time that you incorporate the loss of your baby into your life, you ”adjust” to your loss and your memories of your pregnancy and baby become bittersweet. 

The following  “tasks of grieving” were taken from the California SIDS Alliance and based on phases of grieving as outlined by the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and  J.W. Worden on understanding the grieving process:

  • Shock and Numbness/Accepting the reality of the loss- This is the initial phase of grief where you may feel stunned, have emotional outbursts, functioning is impeded (not eating or sleeping well for example) and you have difficulty making judgements. You can’t believe this is happening and have difficulty accepting that your baby has died.
  • Searching and Yearning/Experiencing the pain of grief- In this phase you may be very angry or guilty, restless, sensitive to stimuli and you may test what is real. You realize your baby isn’t coming back and at this point you find yourself feeling really intense pain over your loss. It has been found that people who allow themselves to succumb to this intense pain are better able to move forward through their grief later on. 
  • Disorientation/Adjusting to life without your baby- You may feel disorganized, depressed, guilty, and have an awareness of reality. Your intense grief pain begins to subside a bit, and you begin to think about your life- what to do with your baby’s things,  going back to work, getting pregnant again. 
  • Reorganization/Moving On-  You have a sense of release, renewed energy, make judgements better and return to normal sleeping and eating habits, adjusting to life without your baby. You may feel some sense of guilt during this phase- thinking, ‘how can I be happy when my baby has died?’ But you do allow yourself time to feel happy again, knowing that you will never forget your baby and that your baby will always hold a special place in your heart and in your life.

The ideal goal of “good grief” is to move through these phases over time (you may move back and forth through certain phases, but overall your grief is forward moving). If you start feeling “stuck”, please seek help either from your doctor or a grief counselor.

Some signs and symptoms you may experience throughout this time are: exhaustion/fatigue, loss of appetite, aching arms, blurred vision, restlessness, shortness of breath, irritability, resentment, overwhelming sadness, preoccupation with the child who died, mood swings, isolation (you don’t do the things you did before), anger with spouse and/or God,  and the list goes on.

Good grief is hard work, and while you may feel bits of normalcy early on, it will take a while (a year or two, sometimes even longer) before you really feel “normal” on a day to day basis. 

And I’ve said this before, but please know you are not alone in your grief. There are so many of us out here remembering our babies with heartache and love. Until next time…hang in there.

Related Post: Honoring Loss