We are now in a point in Magpie’s pregnancy where I feel we have a good team around us, to support us both physically and mentally. A few people have asked on Instagram what that team looks like, so I thought a dedicated blog post might be helpful to some people embarking on a pregnancy after loss.
It’s not to say either that just because I feel confident in our team and the support networks we have in place, it means that this is easy. It really really isn’t. It would however be harder without some people being involved.
Mental Health Support
Before even falling pregnant, I discovered a local charity called Reading Lifeline. They are a dedicated Baby Loss and Infertility counselling service. At the time, I was part way through counselling through Cruse Bereavement, who only offered individual counselling. I was really pleased to hear that not only do Reading Lifeline offer couples counselling, they also had just started a Rainbow Baby Antenatal Support Group. Our local SANDS don’t run any Rainbow Baby groups, and it just felt the perfect balance to get us through this next phase.
The day we found out that we were pregnant again, I called them and chatted through our history and put ourselves on the waiting list. It really helped to make me feel as though we were taking control. At this point, I didn’t know what support may or may not be offered by our local maternity services, but with waiting lists understandably at 8-10 weeks – it felt like a sensible move, on day one. I just knew it was gonna get hard, and just making a step towards help is help itself.
We have so far had two counselling sessions and attended one support group. Both work in different ways and I’m so glad we have them. The support group is rather unique, and I haven’t heard of that many happening around the country. It is run by our counsellor and the Bereavement Midwife for the hospital in Reading. It’s user led, but supported. It’s so helpful to know we have those two people as support, as well as the others who are sharing this experience with us. By having a Bereavement Midwife with us – we are able to access the full understanding of our past experiences, and at the same time be supported in finding appropriate and manageable strategies for our pregnancies / births that are reasonable requests for the maternity services to work with us on. It’s also helpful for us, to have a slightly outside view – it’s a safe space, and an independent voice in our care package.
I think in particular this is a key example of needing to go out and seek your own support network. I wish at booking in, we were placed in to a well crafted pregnancy after loss pathway that tackled both mental and physical health care with experts in bereavement and maternity services – but we aren’t quite there yet. Bereavement services alone are inconsistent across the country, so there is an element of DIY when it comes to finding support in a subsequent pregnancy. Sadly, you can’t sit back and let the help come to you because more often than not, it won’t happen. But it’s worth making the difficult phone calls and asking the difficult questions. As Reading Lifeline is outside of our area (although closer to us than our actual hospital!) no one else in our team had heard of them. Without us hunting (or more specifically, without me blogging and being on twitter), I wouldn’t have ever heard of them.
Midwife and Consultant Support
I feel lucky to have a midwife clinic at our local doctors surgery that gives us continuity of care in regards to our community midwife. This is something that I know the maternity services nationally are working on and is a clear indicator of families feeling safe, supported and well in their pregnancies. Leo’s midwife is herself on maternity leave, so we have a new midwife who is equally very understanding of our history and the layers that it creates. At booking, we were very reassured that we can attend the clinic weekly if we so wish, even it’s for a chat or check up. Sadly, due to illness, we haven’t actually seen her since but I have already taken her up on the offer and planned fortnightly appointments to sit inbetween our consultant appointments and scan.
Our consultant is part of the Fetal Medicine team and attended the scan when we discovered that Leo had died. Whilst her involvement that day was brief, it gives us a sense of her investment in this pregnancy as she has journeyed with us since that day. Leo’s notes were referred to her for a second opinion and she has been beyond excellent at taking her time to be open, honest and thorough in her communication with us both for Leo and Magpie. I have every faith that she won’t shy away from helping us make the big decisions and that she will deliver care with the upmost professionalism and importantly, humanity. She is also very supportive of the involvement that Tommys has in this pregnancy, is happy to see us in addition to our monthly scans should we need to, and has on more than one occasion, moved us into a side room and out of the waiting room whilst waiting for an appointment. She is wonderful.
Specialist support from Tommy’s and St Mary’s
This aspect is key for me. Really key. Having Dr Alexander Heazell review Leo’s file was such a game changer in my understanding of his death and my ability to put anger aside, and feel safe and comfortable that Leo had been able to tell us all he could about why he died. I needed, desperately, to know that we had turned over every stone in that quest. I saw no other way to do that that to access the support of the team that are nationally and internationally recognised in their stillbirth research.
He explained that in a subsequent pregnancy, a 17 week scan of the placenta was recommended to ensure that it’s size and structure looks good. He and his team are beyond responsive to our contact, and make every effort to give you individualised, expert care – we can see them as much or as little as wish to do the journey from Oxford to Manchester. After our recent appointment, The Wife was quite happy to relocate us there should we want so we could see them all the time! Thats how safe they make you feel.
We also, through the Rainbow Clinic, have access to another Bereavement midwife, Louise. She is fully involved in our care and I really value the partnership that she has with the doctors. Maternity services clearly operates with some division between Midwife’s and doctors, to no benefit from what I have seen. Having them sat next to each other, both in harmony utilising their own skills was incredibly refreshing.
I will write more about Tommy’s no doubt but you can read more about our most recent appointment here.
The Trusty “You Are Not Alone” Club
Straight away, I started messaging a few others than I knew going through or who had gone through pregnancy after loss at different stages. Blogging has given us access to some wonderful families who fight daily, just like us. Pregnancy after Loss is hard, very hard. It’s not the usual pregnancy that you can get support from others who haven’t walked our path. Knowing there are people who can say “yep, I feel friggin crazy too, and it’s hard, but you’ve got this” is magical.
We know quite a few people at different stages and it’s nice to have people just a few weeks ahead as it makes the pregnancy stages feel far more achieveable.
If you are going through pregnancy after loss I would massively recommend fighting for the care package that works for you – mentally and physically. First and foremost, put emotional support in place. Plan ahead and work early so that support options are in place when you need them, as opposed to asking for them when you are at your darkest ebb, and talk, talk, talk. Be open, be honest. People often shy away from me saying “this is hard” or “if this baby breathes…” or “it’s all a big mindfuck…” because it’s not the joyous rhetoric they are used to hearing, but it’s reality, it’s the truth and it needs to be said.
We aren’t horror stories. We are mothers. And our voice is worthy. Talk, share and find a good, humourous and honest tribe.
– J x