DAY 56: The crazy lady

Yesterday we had a scan and saw the heartbeat for the first time. I’m 8 weeks today.

This is my third pregnancy this year, and the other two didn’t stick. 8 weeks was when the heart stopped beating for the baby we lost in May.

I’m perched somewhere between anxiety and excitement, and I’m constantly holding myself back from any feelings of joy possible… just in case.

But honestly what difference would it make? Do I really think that by stopping myself from being happy now will somehow make a miscarriage easier? That I wouldn’t fall as hard. That it wouldn’t hurt.

A miscarriage now would be devastating. Attempting to protect myself by ‘thinking the worst’ isn’t going to make it any easier, it’s just making each day right now a living hell.

baby clothes
Image by Memphis CVB at https://www.flickr.com/photos/ilovememphis/5595415449

So my goal this week (linking in with my values of mindfulness) is to be happy about the pregnancy. To dream unabashedly about the future. To make plans for the baby, even if it’s just in my own mind.

When I was a teenager, I watched a documentary about infertility and I remember one woman had been trying to fall pregnant for over 10 years with no success, but she’d bought so many baby clothes she’d literally filled the wardrobe in her spare bedroom. I remember thinking, what an absolute crazy lady! Who does that?

Yesterday, to celebrate getting to 8 weeks and seeing that little flicker of a backbone, I bought a winter onesie size 0000 for my little baby to put in the cupboard of the spare bedroom.

I had become that crazy lady.

But now I get it. I’m horrified that I judged that lady from the documentary so harshly. Who cares if there’s wardrobes of baby clothes all over the world that never get worn? We need hope. We need joy.

Having the clothes or not having the clothes will not make any difference to the grief if something goes wrong. But it will make me smile today, and that’s something.

xx Eloise

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DAY 43: The far more interesting story

We decided to start trying for a baby at the beginning of 2015, so I also decided I’d keep a journal and write in it every day. My plan was to hand it over to my daughter one day to show her what pregnancy and birth was like and how she first entered the world.

When I fell pregnant in March with an early December due date, the dream had become a reality. I could document every step of the way, ending with the fantastic December birth day finale. How neat is that?

But life doesn’t always go to plan. At a routine 9 week scan we were told the baby no longer had a heartbeat and that I was going to miscarry.

On Mothers Day in May I mourned the loss of my baby and bared all to the pages of my journal.

journal cover
Image by Mary-Frances Main at https://www.flickr.com/photos/rexandsharkey/2859714730

In September I found out I was pregnant again. This one was going to be the one! I wrote all about it in my journal, the hopes and the dreams. There’d been a setback but this time we were ready.

Then at just 5 weeks pregnant, on Fathers Day, I started to bleed. And we lost that baby too.

I fell into a depression. Some days I found it hard to move. Every day I wrote about it in my journal. I wrote about the pain and the negative thoughts and the inability to see any joy in the world.

The very next month, I discovered I was pregnant again. And here I am. Pregnant and terrified, but stronger and more resilient. Whatever the outcome I know I will manage through it.

It’s almost the end of the year, and I’m getting close to the end of my journal. The original dream to have my full pregnancy and birth documented is no longer an option, and the chance of miscarriage again is high.

But, what I realised this week is that the story in my journal, the story of hurt and grief and disappointment, is far more interesting that the ‘perfect pregnancy’. This is the story people will actually read. The story that truly reflects the ups and downs of every day life and death.

xx Eloise

DAY 40: Physical impacting emotional

I’m giving myself permission to feel what I’m feeling. I’m not trying to avoid it. I’m not feeling guilty about it. I’m just feeling it.

It’s not sadness, but it’s not joy. It’s not numbness, but it’s still. Very still.

And I’m crying a lot. Usually at anything related to children. Photos of children, children at the beach, movies of my son. They make me cry because they’re simply so beautiful.

Image by Pink Sherbet Photography at https://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/233228813
Image by Pink Sherbet Photography at https://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/233228813

This pregnancy is making me feel sore overnight, nauseous in the morning and tired in the afternoons. These physical things are impacting my emotional health.

I noticed the nausea makes me feel anxious, or increases my anxiety. In my attempts to be more mindful, I’m observing the physical impacts of my emotions and I’ve been noticing that anxiety sits as a painful knot in my stomach and makes me curl my toes. The knot in my stomach is very similar to pregnancy nausea, which is why I feel more anxious even though I’m probably not.

My emotions (anxiety) impacts my physical (knot in stomach / curl of toes) and my physical (pregnancy nausea) impacts my emotions (makes me feel more anxious).

xx Eloise

DAY 37: Resilience and reflection

I’m just over a third of my way through the time I’ve set aside to get my balance back. Time for a review.

Right now. Right this very minute I feel good. Really good. And it’s not because things are finally going well for me (they’re not) and I have so much more to smile about (not really), it seems to be that despite bad things happening this week I feel more stable and grounded than I have in months.

Months.

Image by Alexander Mueller at https://www.flickr.com/photos/alexander_mueller_photolover/18051322873
Image by Alexander Mueller at https://www.flickr.com/photos/alexander_mueller_photolover/18051322873

My depressive cycle is over. Of course depression may – and probably will – come back at some stage in my life but at the moment it has been lifted and I can see clearly. Those negative thoughts running through my head constantly have gone. My dreaming of the past and wishing I could get my old self back has stopped. Even the feelings of guilt for putting myself first has dissipated. This is excellent.

This week I’ve had a sick child in hospital, a fetus threatening to up and leave and very little sleep. I’ve had morning sickness, jabbing pain from an ovarian cyst and an insatiable hunger. I’ve had medical appointment after medical appointment and very little spare time.

But you know what? I’ve survived. And that’s called resilience.

xx Eloise

DAY 36: Positive thinking to avoid pain

Daring greatly talks about the common ways people avoid feelings of being vulnerable. There’s things like drinking, drug-taking and other addictions and foreboding joy, which is where you always think the worst is going to happen.

So I decided to observe what I do.

Something pretty scary happened to me this week. I’m just a few weeks into my fourth pregnancy and I started to bleed. You’d probably say I’m, well, experienced in miscarriages so I called it. I told myself that I’d lost the baby.

Image by Leland Francisco at https://www.flickr.com/photos/lel4nd/5455224577
Image by Leland Francisco at https://www.flickr.com/photos/lel4nd/5455224577

It was devastating, and for a moment I felt quite vulnerable. But vulnerable is uncomfortable and I quickly numbed the pain. But I didn’t numb it with drinking or gambling or anything else that Brené Brown gives as examples, I numbed it by turning the negative into positive.

Having a baby now is a bad idea anyway, I’m way too busy

If I lose this baby, then maybe I’ll have a summer baby next, which is much better

My pelvic floor needs more recovery, so this is a good thing

I’ve always been known as a positive person. Always the optimist. I can always see the good in a bad situation.

But by doing this, am I actually numbing the pain and avoiding this necessary state of vulnerability?

As for the miscarriage, I’m still not sure either way whether I’ve lost the baby. I have a scan on Tuesday that will answer my question. But in the meantime I’m trying to open myself to the possibility (and the painful vulnerability that is exposed in the process) that maybe this pregnancy is not to be.

xx Eloise

DAY 32: She knows what I’ve been through

I’m lucky to have a lot of people around that care for me greatly. They all say nice things, ask how I’m going, make all the right noises when I tell them how hard it’s been.

But nothing really beats sharing your story with someone who’s been through the same thing.

I ran into a friend yesterday at a school fair. When I first told her about my miscarriages and depression, she opened up and told me about hers. I connected with her instantly. She was always someone I admired in general but to hear that she’d been through the same thing and survived gave me hope and inspiration.

Image by Onnola at https://www.flickr.com/photos/30845644@N04/7293558028
Image by Onnola at https://www.flickr.com/photos/30845644@N04/7293558028

At the school fair, we didn’t even have to get into detail for both of us to understand:

My friend said, ‘It’s so good to see you. How are you?’ (this is not just general chit-chat, she’s asking about something specific without needing to say it, and she genuinely cares)

‘I’m going really well. Focusing on myself was a really good decision.’ (I’m not putting on a brave face at all)

‘That’s great. Wonderful.’ (my friend knows I’m not putting on a brave face, so things must actually be going well and she is genuinely happy about it)

‘See you later.’ (and we mean it)

I ran into others at the fair and had very similar conversations, but they just weren’t as meaningful as this one.

xx Eloise

DAY 26: Good news and bad news

‘I’ve got good news and bad news.’

‘Tell me both.’

‘You’re pregnant.’

I spent most of my life trying to avoid getting pregnant. All up, I’ve spent about 12 months trying to get pregnant. Two recent miscarriages and then yesterday I got the news that yes, I’m pregnant again.

Image by Elliott Brown at https://www.flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown/5773845034
Image by Elliott Brown at https://www.flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown/5773845034

I want another baby, I really do. But the instant I saw that second line appear on the pregnancy test, I didn’t get a wave of excitement or happiness or joy… I felt dread.

Here we go again.

‘Try not to worry about it, that’s the worse thing you can do.’

These are the voices in my head.

But how can I not worry? How can I not think about the terrible year I’ve had with anxiety and depression and my life spiralling to a place that I never want to go back to? How can I not be afraid of that place?

Those close to me understand. They didn’t congratulate me. They just gave me a hug.

But all the others who don’t know my history also don’t realise the harm they’re doing. At the moment it’s just medical staff and doctors (‘Congratulations! Great news!’ or even ‘I’ll cross my fingers for you’) but the more time that passes the more people will comment. It’s the way of society. A pregnancy is always a good thing, right?

People are just being nice. They think that crossing their fingers will give me the hope I need.

But I know that hope doesn’t help. I hoped the last time and that didn’t help. In fact it only made the fall worse.

This is not the way I should be feeling at the news of something I want so badly, but unfortunately that’s just the way it is.

xx Eloise

DAY 22: If you’re happy and you know it… what’s so terribly wrong with these lyrics

Living with a toddler, we do a lot of singing. But one song that’s been bothering me lately is ‘If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands’.

Are we teaching our children that:

  1. You can only join in if you’re happy.
  2. If you’re not actually happy, you should pretend to be happy just so you can clap along.
  3. Happiness is the ‘normal’ state and anything else is bad.

I’ve been sharing my emotional journey with my toddler and find that he’s very receptive and empathetic about what’s going on. When he’s sad he cries, when Mummy’s sad she cries. There’s really no other way to think about it. He gives me cuddles and spends time with me when I’m sad, just like I do with him. When he falls over and scrapes his knee, his goal isn’t to ‘get happy’, it’s to talk about what hurts and feel comfort. Then usually a side effect of that is that he can stand up and go back to what he was doing.

Image by Adrigu at https://www.flickr.com/photos/97793800@N00/3202240991
Image by Adrigu at https://www.flickr.com/photos/97793800@N00/3202240991

I wouldn’t say he ever really ‘gets happy’ in the moments after falling over.

At a very young age we are conditioning our children to try to ‘be happy’ and stop the other emotions they might be feeling. I know this has had implications in my adult life with me forever seeking perfection and being quite uncomfortable with emotions such as sadness, fear or anger. We can’t continue this way with future generations.

So I’d like to propose new lyrics to the song:

If you’re happy sometimes clap your hands.

If you’re sad sometimes clap your hands.

If you’re happy or sad or afraid or mad,

It’s OK to feel like that, clap your hands.

At least this is what I’ll be singing in my household.

xx Eloise

DAY 21: Twelve breaths to recover

I’d had a tough day yesterday but I didn’t realise it had been so tough until everything hit me at once.

It was something quite minor that triggered it. It was so minor I almost missed it. I was looking at group exercise options for the following day and saw that a group offered a ‘Mums and bubs’ class.

I instantly felt anxious and stressed. I couldn’t manage simple tasks. I started pacing around the house and complaining to my husband that things really weren’t going well. Then I burst into tears.

You see, I’ve had two miscarriages this year. It’s very rare that I have moments of ‘that should be me’ when I look at mothers with newborn babies, so this one really took me by surprise. I so desperately wanted to be able to go to a ‘Mums and bubs’ class… and it had nothing to do with exercise.

My husband told me to breathe. He told me again. It wasn’t until I was sobbing in the shower that I realised I needed to lift myself out of it.

Image by Steven Depolo at https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/3762676524
Image by Steven Depolo at https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/3762676738

I took one deep breath, then followed it with a breathing exercise I’d learned from The Happiness Trap.

The idea is to take 12 deep breaths, and work through some areas of focus while you’re doing it: 3 breaths for breathing, 3 breaths for thoughts, 3 breaths for feelings and 3 breaths for connecting with you environment.

  • I closed my eyes and focused on slow breathing for the first 3 breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. As slowly and deeply as I could.
  • I then listened to my thoughts: ‘Without a baby you’re worthless’, ‘Everyone else has a baby’, ‘Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if you turned up to that class without a baby?’ – none of these thoughts were helpful so I acknowledged them and sent them on their way, thanking my mind for such a contribution.
  • I then focused on my feelings. My chest was tight, my head was throbbing, my face was tense. I didn’t try to stop the feelings, I just let them be (I found this particularly interesting, because it’s the first time ever I’ve thought about the physical sensations of sadness).
  • I then opened my eyes an connected with the world around me. I felt the water falling down my body, I heard the sounds of it running down the drain. I smelled the soap and tasted the water. I continued to breathe.

And you know what? 12 breaths was all it took to stop me from crying and bring me back to reality. My husband looked in at me and asked ‘Are you OK now?’. And I could honestly answer ‘Yes’.

xx Eloise

DAY 18: Negative and uncomfortable emotions

As I work through The Happiness Trap, I’m learning more and more about my emotions. Chapter 12 asked me about my childhood programming.

Up until now, I’d always assumed that negative emotions are uncomfortable and positive emotions are comfortable. And that most people around the world would agree on what was what.

But when I analysed the list of nine basic human emotions, and considered my childhood programming, my opinions changed.

Image by David Berry  at https://www.flickr.com/photos/dberry/1112736240
Image by David Berry at https://www.flickr.com/photos/dberry/1112736240

Here are the basic human emotions as per The Happiness Trap:

  1. Fear
  2. Anger
  3. Shock
  4. Disgust
  5. Sadness
  6. Guilt
  7. Love
  8. Joy
  9. Curiosity

Thinking of my family, I could quickly distinguish the emotions that were negative and the emotions that were positive:

  • Negative: fear, anger, shock, disgust, sadness, guilt
  • Positive: love, joy, curiosity

But when reviewing the list to determine what my family would determine as uncomfortable compared to comfortable, the lists surprisingly did not align:

  • Uncomfortable: fear, anger, sadness, love
  • Comfortable: shock, disgust, guilt, joy, curiosity

Now this was an interesting realisation. And particularly interesting were those negative emotions that my family is comfortable with (shock, disgust, guilt) and the positive emotion that we are uncomfortable with (love).

For example, my family knows that guilt is a bad thing, but we are very comfortable with using it as a technique to change our behaviour (‘Dear Aunt Molly is going to be so upset if you can’t make it to the picnic…’). We know that love is a positive thing, but I wouldn’t say we’re always comfortable in showing it (a birthday card message that includes a loving message will usually have a clarifying remark added like ‘sorry for getting so emotional’).

The negative emotions that we are uncomfortable with have caused me problems throughout my life too. Being brought up to think that anger is both negative and uncomfortable has made me unable to handle conflict, especially with those close to me who are quite comfortable with angry emotions.

Being uncomfortable with sadness has led me to feel anxious whenever a sad thought comes my way, causing me to feel somewhat defective for even feeling sad in the first place (‘I have no reason to feel this sad…’). And the opposite: thinking that joy is both a positive and comfortable emotion, I feel defective whenever I can’t naturally feel it (‘Cheer up! It’s a beautiful day and you should be happy with what you’ve got…’).

Dr Russ Harris wants me to accept all of my emotions and stop struggling with them. I’m curious (both positive and comfortable) about how we’re going to achieve this.

xx Eloise