Angela writes about how her mental health deteriorated after her second and third miscarriages.
I have come to the understanding that it is because I am punishing my body for not doing what it was supposed to. But by punishing my body, I am also punishing my mind.
When I had my first miscarriage in 2008, I don’t think my mental health was affected by it. Although it was a missed miscarriage and I felt so betrayed and confused that my body could think it was still pregnant even though the baby had died, I coped. Or at least I did until I fell pregnant again and convinced myself that a rainbow baby meant a perfect pregnancy with a perfect birth, immediate bond and an amazing breastfeeding relationship. I thought that it was what I deserved. And of course, that didn’t happen. Although I can’t prove the link, I think my post-natal depression was a result of the miscarriage and the fact that I wasn’t prepared for all the things that could go wrong even when you stayed pregnant and had a baby.
My second and third miscarriages (in 2016 and 2017) came after two healthy pregnancies. They were so different to my first as well in that they started naturally, I took the tablets to induce the miscarriage and ended up in surgery, required blood transfusions and antibiotics for infections. I was also a healthy weight with those two pregnancies whereas I was overweight with the two pregnancies I carried to term.
My mental health deteriorated after those two losses. I needed medication to get through my periods when they returned. I couldn’t go to the GP or the hospital without having a panic attack. I had horrible flashbacks of the miscarriages themselves. And although these subsided over time, I can still have a panic attack at the GPs without warning. It also started to affect me at work and in my personal life because my self-esteem and self-confidence plummeted and I lost the ability to believe that I could do anything right. It was almost like when I lost the babies, I also lost some of myself.
I saw a bereavement midwife at the hospital and I found ways of coping with my losses. I wrote poems and blog entries which detailed how I felt, and I was very open about some of the harder feelings. Even though I didn’t share these at first, it at least helped as a way of getting those thoughts out of my system.
However, it was only earlier this year that I realised how badly my mental health was and continues to be, affected. I have struggled with binge eating over the years and this has increased a lot since the miscarriages. Although there will be times where I can control my eating, it never lasts long. I also started to self-harm and I didn’t understand why. I googled and apparently this can happen after a miscarriage but I just felt so alone with it. Especially because I still couldn’t understand what I was doing to myself.
Gradually, I have come to the understanding that it is because I am punishing my body for not doing what it was supposed to – for betraying me. But by punishing my body, I am also punishing my mind. It has taken me a long time to come to this realisation and it wasn’t until I spoke to someone at the Miscarriage Association that I realised how common these feelings and behaviours are. I felt so alone, confused and ashamed by it and I need not have.
I am by no means ‘better’ and it is still a work in progress to learn to live with my losses (I don’t believe that I will ever get over them, they will just become a part of me and who I am) but I am committed to sharing my story in case it helps someone else feel less alone.
I am hopeful that one day my mental health does improve and I don’t need these behaviours to cope but until it does, I am learning to accept that this is what I need right now, as I wouldn’t do it otherwise.
I have also confided in a few close friends and that helps too. I still struggle asking for help, it is not something that comes easily to me, but when I do, I am always grateful that I tried. It’s hard to break the silence around miscarriage and even harder to break it around mental health and miscarriage combined but I think we should try. Even if it just helps one person feel a little less alone.