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I had panic attacks after losing my daughter Luna in the second trimester

Hayley talks about her experience of losing her daughter at 19 weeks of pregnancy.

All of this grief, the loss of Luna, made me panic. I realised nothing was safe.

We lost Luna at 19 weeks, she had Turner’s Syndrome, we knew this from 12 weeks. We had been giving her time to see if the complications she was suffering from may stabilise to a point where she could be born live with a chance of a relatively ‘good’ life. Sadly, this wasn’t the case. I’d already had 3 previous miscarriages, all different experiences in their own right, but losing Luna was like a bomb going off.

I delivered Luna on the 25th January 2017. Those first few days and weeks were a haze of shock, guilt and grief. We had amazing support through the hospital bereavement midwife, she was our saving grace. Both my parents are dead, so I didn’t have this type of support to rely on, which just made my grief even more seismic.

Losing Luna cracked open all of these previous griefs, including the previous miscarriages. It was so completely overwhelming. I lost my voice for the first few days after returning home from hospital. My body hurt all over, for months afterwards, especially in my hips and legs. I was grinding my teeth at night, waking up with a sore jaw and headaches. And then the waking nightmares. All of this grief, the loss of Luna, made me panic. I realised nothing was safe. Anything can and does happen. I have no control. I would imagine our son crossing the road on his scooter and getting hit by a bus. I would see it in technicolour. I would dream about this sort of thing too, or him going missing. I began to have panic attacks, usually in crowded places, but they could happen anywhere. I felt like I was dying or going completely crazy.

I was having therapy by this time, I was trying mindfulness meditation to try and calm my nerves. I was trying to eat properly and sleep as best I could. I didn’t want to take pills, as I thought (and still do think) that this was relatively normal. I was experiencing a high level of grief. Anxiety and depression are normal in these circumstances. I forced myself outside, but I also took care to listen to myself. I chose my interactions carefully, made sure that I was either with people I felt safe with or that the environment wouldn’t trigger me (not an easy thing to do when it comes to pregnant women and babies).

The GP referred me to have CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) group sessions. I tried these, but the group situation just freaked me out, I had to leave part way through the second session. They switched me to 1:1 sessions, this was better, although I’m not sure the actual CBT helped, or if it was just having another therapy outlet, someone to talk to. Most of our sessions just became talking, rather than the prescriptive CBT lines. I was on a waiting list to be assessed for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I was probably suffering from this, but it’s so tangled up with the grief response that it’s a difficult one to detangle. By the time they eventually called me for the assessment, my scores for these things had come down significantly.

I haven’t had a panic attack for over a year now. My imagination can still get a little overexcited about possible tragedy, but I’ve learnt how to manage it better. I’ve stopped grinding my teeth at night, my legs don’t hurt anymore. I had another miscarriage in July 2018. I was really worried that this might throw me back to the grief wolves. But it didn’t. I think that has a lot to do with what we’ve learned from Luna and about grief and trauma. We handled this pregnancy and the subsequent miscarriage in a very different way from before. It’s still heart breaking and I don’t know whether we have the strength to risk trying again, but one thing I can say for certain is that we are better people for what we have experienced. That may sound like a really strange thing to say, but ALL of my baby losses have had a deep and meaningful impact on my life and who I am as a person. And I think mostly for the better.

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