Opening Up the Conversations for Men through Research | Lucy, Trainee Clinical Psychologist for the #ItStillTakesAVillageBlogSeries

Welcome to the latest addition to the It Still Takes a Village – Working in Baby Loss Interview Series where we take a closer look at those who dedicate their day to day to preventing baby loss and supporting those affected. You can read more interviews, here.

I’m a big advocate for research – its why we support charities like Tommy’s so much. I understand its power in influencing change in care and maternity practices, and it can only ever be a good thing to understand more carefully the different layers involved in something like baby loss. I was really pleased to hear from Lucy, who is currently training as a Clinical Psychologist and focusing on the psychological impact of miscarriage for men as part of her research. Meet Lucy… 

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So, to start us off, please can you let us know a little about your current role? 

I am currently in my third year of training to be a Clinical Psychologist. I spend half the week on placement in Infant Mental Health services and the other half studying/doing research.

 

“I was motivated to carry out the research as I feel the pregnancy loss is often a taboo subject to talk about in society and I wanted to open up those conversations a bit more, in particular for men.”

 

What are you currently working on? Is there a particular project or aim that you’d like to share with people.

I am currently working on my thesis research which is exploring the psychological impact of miscarriage (pregnancy loss up to 24 weeks) on men. There are two strands to this research. Firstly I am asking men who have experienced miscarriage to complete a short online questionnaire. As well as this I am also asking for men to come and share their experiences of miscarriage with me in an informal interview. The aim is to get more of an insight into how miscarriage affects men and if they seek support, as there is little research available.

 

What motivated you to do the job/role that you are doing now?

I have wanted to be a clinical psychologist since I shadowed one in work experience when I was 16. Since starting the doctorate I have become more passionate about maternal/paternal and infant mental health which is why I chose my current placement as my specialist placement. I was motivated to carry out the research as I feel the pregnancy loss is often a taboo subject to talk about in society and I wanted to open up those conversations a bit more, in particular for men.

 

In what ways does your current job/role allow you to get involved in the baby loss cause? 

My entire research is around pregnancy loss which although is only half of my week, does consume most of my days as I try to read blogs/Instagram posts/tweets daily as I find it helpful to remind me why I am doing this research when I read such powerful posts from people. My research is more around the support side of pregnancy loss, I want to see how men are coping after pregnancy loss and if they were supported. The results of the research could potentially guide service practice in supporting both men and women after the loss of their baby.

 

“People of older generations often say that miscarriage was something that they never spoke about ‘in their day’ but how they wished they had.”

 

What are the biggest frustrations or constraints that you face in supporting those affected by baby loss or preventing baby loss in the first place?

As my role revolves around research I don’t have many frustrations. At times it is difficult to recruit the number of people you want for the research. I just hope that people see the value in the research I (and others) do rather than see it as a nuisance.

 

Do you think that Baby Loss is still a taboo, and if so, why? Do you encounter issues with it being a taboo in your day to day work?

Yes I very much so think that talking about baby loss is a taboo subject. I try to talk about my research as much as I can to share what I am doing as I think it is important. It is interesting to see people’s reactions to me talking about pregnancy loss all the time. In particular people of older generations often say that miscarriage was something that they never spoke about ‘in their day’ but how they wished they had. This just encourages me to speak about it more openly.

I would always want to give people the space to talk about their experiences without feeling that they were being judged, equally if people aren’t comfortable speaking about their experiences that is fine with me. I think that living in the UK there is a societal norm that people do not discuss pregnancy before their 12 week scan and this is part of the reason that people don’t disclose and discuss early miscarriages.

For loss after the 12 week mark I think it’s a taboo because most people feel awkward and just don’t know what to say and therefore don’t speak about it; I actually think this is true for all loss and grief, but in particular for baby loss.  

 

“I would always want to give people the space to talk about their experiences without feeling that they were being judged, equally if people aren’t comfortable speaking about their experiences that is fine with me.”

 

Who else do you work alongside in terms of baby loss support or prevention? Are there any charities that support you, or perhaps a colleague/volunteer that you couldn’t manage without?

My supervisor for my research is also very invested in this research and he is very supportive. Similarly Tommy’s have supported my research which has been helpful and I hope that the outcome of the research will be of use to them.

 

When the job/role is hard, what one thing reminds you to keep on keeping on?

Although at times I find some things difficult to digest when reading/talking about pregnancy/baby loss I remind myself that this isn’t meant to be easy. Grief and loss is incredibly painful for those experiencing it and I want to try and shape services to ease that pain in any way possible, even if only slightly.

 

We are in a shift change with the understanding and awareness of baby loss. What would you say to someone just starting out in a job/role associated to baby loss?

I guess this is a hard one for me to answer as I’m only just starting out really as I’ve only been researching around this area for the past year. The more I research and the more I speak to people, the more I feel the importance of research around pregnancy/baby loss. At times it can be upsetting to hear the stories but I would say seek supervision and look after yourself to keep going as it’s so important to hear these stories.

 

It’s likely that a newly bereaved parent is reading this. What would you like to say to them?

I’m sorry for your loss. I hope you are able to seek support to talk about your loss and share your grief, whatever avenue you choose to go down (support from family and friends, counselling, online support, organisations that specialise in baby loss etc).

And also, when you feel ready please get involved in research – it is how we are able to change services in the future.

 

“Grief and loss is incredibly painful for those experiencing it and I want to try and shape services to ease that pain in any way possible, even if only slightly.”

 

We have some ambitious targets for baby loss currently in the UK. What are your specific hopes for the future in terms of maternity and baby loss?

The real ambition would be around prevention. However, as I am not in any way versed in that side of things I would say my hopes would be that all parents are able to receive the support they need following the loss of a baby. Knowing that everyone responds differently to loss and that grief manifests in a number of ways, there is no right way of dealing with the loss of a baby and therefore there is no right way of seeking support. I just hope that there are enough services available for people, and that people are offered them at their time of need rather than feeling alone.

 

Thank you so much for taking part in this interview series. Lastly, before we finish – Is there anything else about you or your job/role that you’d like to let people know about?

I really love what I do. This is only the start of my career and I hope to carry on working in maternity/paternity/infant mental health services and hope that I can continue working with pregnancy/baby loss within this. I really value hearing from people who have experienced pregnancy loss as I think it’s helpful in shaping my practice and my research so I am always open to have those conversations.

To take take part in Lucy’s research, you can read more here.

 


 

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This blog post is part of an ongoing spotlight on those working in baby loss. To read more from It Still Takes a Village series, visit the hub page here.

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