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For Paul and Marc – second trimester miscarriage and mental health

Kathryn miscarried her twin boys 18 weeks into her pregnancy.

I’d wake up and for a blissful moment, all seemed right with the world. Until I remembered.

I knew. I knew the second I stood up. I just knew it had gone wrong again.

Eighteen weeks into my second pregnancy. A mere six months since I had miscarried our first baby. We thought we were okay. We’d made it nearly halfway. We had just two weeks to go before the anomaly scan, where we would find out if all was okay and if the baby was a boy or girl. This pregnancy had already been tinged with sadness: A small bleed. An ultrasound. The news I was pregnant with twins but only one was alive in my womb. I had to keep positive for the baby that was continuing to grow inside me.

Then the day of my brother’s 40th birthday dawned. It was a lovely, warm August day. A normal day. I went to work as usual, but while I was dealing with a complaint, I felt cramps. Only slight, but I worried of course. It’s what you do when you’ve miscarried previously. The cramps got worse through the morning but I shrugged them off as normal pregnancy pains. Then at lunchtime I stood up to leave the office and I knew something wasn’t right. I half ran to the toilet. Blood. A lot. Cramps. A lot. Terrified, I ran back to the office and told my boss, in between hysterical sobs. I went to hospital and waited for an ultrasound. I didn’t want to go in as I just knew it wouldn’t be the news I was desperately hoping for. I wanted the sonographer to prove me wrong. But she couldn’t. My baby was still. There was no heartbeat.

And I shut down.

The next day I laboured. I delivered two perfect little boys in hospital.

And I shut down further.

Lying in the hospital bed. My babies gone. I refused to eat. I ached to be with my boys.

“Why me?”

 “It’s not fair”

“Why is this happening?”

“What did I do wrong AGAIN?”

At night I would sleep. Then I’d wake up and for a blissful moment, all seemed right with the world. Until I remembered. Then the pain would wash over me once more. Day in day out.

Physically, I healed. I thought I had mentally too. I went back to work after six weeks away. A gradual introduction back into the mundane working day. However, mentally, things were not healed at all. A darkness was creeping in. Slowly. So very slowly, I barely noticed it. Others couldn’t help but notice my moodiness. My paranoia. My anger.

Two months after we lost the twins, my father-in-law died after a relatively long illness. At his funeral, I looked at his coffin and said goodbye as the curtains closed. At that moment, I realised I hadn’t said goodbye to my babies. Guilt washed over me. I had to do something. Anything. I thought it would help me heal. We went to the coast and released three balloons – one white for our first baby, then two blue, joined together as twins should be. But it didn’t help.

Christmas came. My anger and disdain for all celebrations grew. New Year. Maybe this one will be better. Maybe this one will give us a baby. Maybe. Just maybe. But the blackness was creeping further and further in. I could get up in the morning, go to work, come home and cook dinner, go to bed. But I was hurting. And angry. Oh so very angry at the whole world. I would scowl at pregnant women. Turn my head from happy mums pushing THEIR babies. I felt they were gloating. Taunting me.

“Look at me. I can carry a baby. I can give birth. You can’t. You can’t. You can’t”

And the anger and pain came to the surface and I made life hell for those closest to me. My poor husband. He was also grieving the loss of his children. Then his father. But I thought he didn’t know what the pain was like for me. As a mother. As a mother without her children. My pain was all I could focus on.

Then one day, I was making lunch. A cheese sandwich. Nothing out of the ordinary. As I cut the sandwich in half, my hand stopped. I looked at the large knife for a few minutes. Then the thought in my head…

“If I push this knife into my stomach now, I can go and be with my babies”

I began to cry and put the knife down. I immediately rang the surgery for an emergency GP appointment. That thought of ending my life frightened me. It was a calm thought. Not one fuelled by an emotional outburst. Just calm and collected. Like it was the right thing to do. But I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do. How could I leave my husband? My parents? My mother would lose her child. What right did I have to do that to her?

And so the next morning I spent 20 minutes sitting in front of my GP, sobbing. I was truthful and honest. I told him I wanted to take my own life. I filled in a questionnaire which advised I was in the grip of depression. I walked away with a prescription for anti-depressants and a telephone number for pregnancy-loss counselling.

The medication helped. The counselling was incredible. Every feeling and thought of anger, hate, fear, worry and pain poured out of me while this woman listened. Just listened. To this day I know I said some really awful things to her. But they were my thoughts and my feelings and they had to have a voice. I couldn’t keep them buried. They were part of me. Part of my grief. I told her I was wrong to say those things, but she told me: “Grief is personal. There is no right way. There is no wrong way.”

Dealing with grief after miscarriage is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. And I’ve had to do it four times. Four pregnancies. Five babies. All loved from the moment the test turned positive. However, the grief and depression after the late second trimester miscarriage was the worst. It took a long time to recover. To feel ready to try for a baby once again. Support, sympathy and understanding helped me through it.

It was a road I never chose to travel, but the journey led me to my rainbow. A wonderful, amazing and incredible little girl whose mother never gave up.