My Story… So Far
Siân describes the impact of her miscarriages on her mental health.
I want to help to start breaking down the barriers of mental health, just as much as I want to feel I can be open about miscarriage too.
It baffles me that both miscarriage and mental health are two very real and very significant issues but are often seen as just numbers on a page in the form of statistics.
Research highlights that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage and according to the World Health Organisation, 1 in 5 people will suffer clinical depression in their lifetime. I have been affected by both of these but I don’t want to be just another statistic. I believe these areas are very much linked, so I have decided to open up and tell my story.
My name is Siân Green, I am 36 and single and until 18 months ago when I first started trying for a baby through IVF the only ‘M’ words I was focused on were Maternity and Motherhood. As a child growing up I thought that being a mum was what would easily come after getting married and buying a home. It’s what everyone does, it’s ‘normal’. But my path took a turn when teenage years struck and I began struggling with my mental health.
For years I had very low self-esteem and the belief that I’m not good enough, other people are more ‘normal’, happier and fit into this world better than me. For a time, no one noticed from the outside how much I was struggling with these negative thoughts. But that’s the problem with mental health (as with miscarriage), that if people can’t see any physical problems like a broken arm or leg, they assume you are well. But as I listened more and more to the punishing thoughts about myself, they became too much and I would want to rid them as quickly as possible. To help me cope I started to restrict my food intake and over-exercise. My inner troubles became clear and soon this meant a loss of my periods and the chances of becoming a mum were diminishing.
Fast forward a number of years – after getting intense help – I was able to go travelling. It may seem strange for me to talk about a farmer in the outback of Australia, but he said something that I will always remember. He said that wherever I go and whatever I do I should take the word ‘Beautiful’ with me. He then explained, “Be you to the full”. So with a lot of hard work I managed to get my periods back and this spurred me to think seriously about fulfilling my dreams of becoming a mum.
As a single woman full of hope in entering the world of motherhood, I embarked on IVF using donor sperm and I also became an egg donor. This really felt like I was being myself to the full and although it was very hard, I knew it was right for me and I was motivated. Whether it was my naivety or because no one talks about, it never crossed my mind that I would experience a miscarriage and the impact it would have on me. But that’s exactly what happened in each of my 3 cycles. To see a tiny heartbeat and for it then to stop felt like utter torture and an overpowering force took over.
Depression is not about feeling sad, but is an intense energy sapping illness that crushes, blinds and destroys all hope. My life stopped at the same time as my baby’s did. I felt there was no point in anything and pure darkness filled my days. If I wasn’t crying through the night, I would wake up in the morning feeling that I just couldn’t face another day. I’d constantly question myself and feel angry whilst the deep pain and sorrow never left me.
Despite people doing their best to reassure me, I blamed myself for losing my baby and not being good enough to give it life. I had dreamed of life together with my son or daughter and what we would do, where we would go, what adventures we’d share, but in truth I had failed at the most pivotal part of my life. I felt so alone and empty. Everyone around me seemed to be pregnant, all my friends seemed to be able to grow a family and I was distraught because I couldn’t enter their world – the world of motherhood.
I would get so angry at people telling me how difficult being a mum is and that it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. I felt by saying this they thought that I wouldn’t be able to cope and I was stupid to think I could ever be a mum. This would set me off into a haze of punishing thoughts and feelings again and like all those years ago, the only way I knew how to cope with such overwhelming emotions was to control them. I led myself into another spiral of self destruction as I hated myself so much. It got to a point where I felt life wasn’t worth living and any day I could have acted on those thoughts. I felt desperate.
I was lucky (and still am) to have a very caring and supportive psychologist, who I was able to open up to about how I felt and what I was going through. I then had the courage to talk to other people around me who began sharing their experiences with me too. There was something very powerful and comforting about not only knowing, but feeling that I was not alone in my experiences of miscarriage.
There came a time, and it was quite recently, that I realised that I wanted to do something positive to break free from the chaos my life had turned into – both of self destruction and depression. I knew that if I was to continue like I was, my chances of getting pregnant and sustaining it full term were decreasing twofold, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone and needed more intense support. With a professional team around me and the support from close friends and family, I was admitted into a mental health clinic.
For many people I perhaps should be keeping this as a secret and I shouldn’t talk about it in fear of being stigmatised. But in fact I want to help to start breaking down the barriers of mental health, just as much as I want to feel I can be open about miscarriage too. I believe that losing a baby at whatever stage in pregnancy has an impact on a woman and her mental health to some level and the link between the two has not been properly explored. I hope by sharing my story so far, I am making a step into doing this.