This guest post landed at exactly the right moment for me. I’ve been feeling a bit low – perhaps because we’re into the run-up to Mother’s Day here in the UK – and I’ve found myself dwelling on what I don’t have and what I haven’t done. After miscarriage and baby loss (and to a certain extent while trying to conceive) it can be very difficult to live properly in the here and now. Instead, you spend a lot of time living inside ‘what ifs’, torturing yourself with what could have been, and scanning the horizon for what the future holds. Here, Sarah, who writes the blog The Joys Of Now and, like me, has had four miscarriages, shares what helped her deal with this particular problem…
October 2017 and I am staring at my fifth positive pregnancy test and I couldn’t have been more unexcited. Yes, a positive test, but after four miscarriages.
It took my husband and I five years to finally have a baby and during this time my mental well-being truly suffered so I wanted to share how I have managed to stay sane.
When I found out about my first miscarriage in May 2014, I found the whole thing quite shocking if I am brutally honest. I’d gone through those first 12 weeks thinking everything was absolutely fine, only to start bleeding a couple of days before the first scan. Having already told close friends and family I was pregnant, the thought of ‘untelling’ them felt mortifying.
It turned out I had what they call a ‘blighted ovum’ – which I had never even heard about until it was happening to me. It is basically just an empty pregnancy sac, without an embryo, and my body just hadn’t worked out I was never really carrying a baby. To then have to have an operation to get everything surgically removed was devastating.
Over the following few years I went on to have two more blighted ovums/missed miscarriages and then another natural miscarriage (where I didn’t need the surgery).
After my last miscarriage in November 2015, I said to my husband we have to stop as I couldn’t go through another one. By January 2016 I was not in a good place. I had lost a lot of my closest friends (who had gone on to have beautiful, healthy babies), I had drifted apart from my family as they all had children and I had turned down far too many invites to christenings and weddings where I just couldn’t put on a brave face.
I had totally lost my confidence at work and in pretty much all social situations. I had become so isolated that it felt like I barely left the house unless I went to work. I kept saying to myself, ‘why me?’ and ‘I will pull myself out of this when I have a baby in my arms’. My father was also severely ill around this time and I just couldn’t cope.
It was at this point that a friend suggested I come to a course with her on self-compassion. I didn’t really know what that even meant, but she said it was a mindfulness type course.
I had heard so much about mindfulness and its benefits (as I’m sure everyone has by now) and had already tried a little bit via a few apps, but had never been taught it properly.
The only way I can describe self-compassion is, if you have a friend who was struggling, your response to that person would most probably be along the lines of ‘I am sorry to hear that, it’s OK, I am here if you need me’. Self-compassion is about being able to say that to yourself – and trying not to be hard on ourselves (which we so often are).
To cut a long story short, mindfulness, meditation and self-compassion have been a life-changer for me. I did an 8-week self-compassion course, one night a week, followed by an 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course a year later. I now use it every day. It helped me cope with my treatment for recurrent miscarriage and got me through the pregnancy that eventually gave me my baby girl, who was born last summer. (You can read about the treatments I had to get there in more detail over on my blog www.thejoysofnow.com if you’re interested).
Mindfulness taught me to live life in the now. What I mean by this is rather than striving for happiness at the prospect of being a mum, it taught me to be OK with what I have now, in this moment, right now. It got me out of limbo land and the feeling my life was on hold. I began to appreciate things I had never even noticed before. Really simple things like the feeling of fresh air when out walking my dog, the cosiness of being in bed with a cup of tea in the morning, listening to the birds singing. I started to feel lighter and felt a sense of peace.
I have learnt that it is OK not to be OK
It has also taught me that, when things are tough, rather than get myself worked up, just to notice these feelings and acknowledge that things are really hard right now. I have learnt that it is OK not to be OK.
I am so grateful to my friend for introducing mindfulness to me.
During the years of grief and disappointment during my miscarriages, I longed to find people who were going through the same. There is no right or wrong way to deal with it. I used to beat myself up for not being OK, for not wanting to go to another christening, for not joining in at family occasions, but the more we talk about the realities of miscarriage and share our feelings, the more we find out that these feelings are normal. Hopefully there is comfort to take from that. And I think this blog, The Uterus Monologues, is a perfect space to do just this.
For further information about mindfulness and self-compassion courses, see here and also Talking Heads, here, which is an invaluable resource, run by clinical psychologist Michelle, for anything therapy-related.
I also wrote this a while back about trying to shake off the sense that life after miscarriage is like living a really shit version of the film Sliding Doors…