A very powerful film about stillbirth.
WARNING for those with PTSD this might provide triggers.
A very powerful film about stillbirth.
WARNING for those with PTSD this might provide triggers.
Many women who go through difficult births, can also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Often this is untreated, and undiagnosed.
I wanted to write my own journey through PTSD. What has happened to me, and different stages of recovery. I was diagnosed severe chronic ptsd. My brain was frozen in shock for more than 3 years. I refer to this time as being the sleeping woman. To everyone I was awake. But really I was asleep. Like being in an awake coma. I lost more than 3 years of my life with my brain frozen in shock and the cognitive processing in my brain just frozen and not working. For more than 3 years I felt I was living life behind a glass wall. I had no comprehension or connection of the outside world, or anything other than my own intimate world. What happened was my world. Anything outside of this didn’t exist. This is my journey.
In the beginning, January 2010
As the year of 2010 went on, each month I did the same thing, I went through what happened as if it had just happened
I had returned to work 16 weeks after my daughter died, but kept having time off of work (I was having constant triggers at work, as my office was based in a hostel, where there were pregnant women, and babies crying), but i coped – like on auto pilot (like how you drive a car without thinking).
The rest of 2011
November to Feb 12-13
UPDATE – November 2013
If you recognise any of these signs, please do go to see your doctor. PTSD is a serious thing to go through, and likely you might not realise just how ill you are, until you are moving towards recovery. Even then, you might think you are well, it is only when parts of YOU start to come back, do you realise what parts of you were missing.
Serious damage can happen to peoples lives who are experiencing PTSD. You will be more vulnerable than you realise. People with Ptsd can be dominated by it. Living their lives avoiding what triggers them (I still do this today). Worst, is that many health care professionals do not truly understand what PTSD is. What it looks like, how it works, or how it really feels.
Having PTSD is like living life behind a glass wall. This is how I felt. Like I was on one side of the glass wall, everyone else was on the other. The more serious that someones PTSD is, the less likely they are to recognise that there is anything wrong with them. It has been almost 4 years, and as you can see, it only recently that I am starting to FEEL emotionally again, to normal things (like my other children). I hope that the severe triggers have stopped. But…. until, or if It happens again, I will not know.
It is the uncertainty, and the lack of understanding of PTSD that can make things considerably worse. I am lucky, in that I had an excellent professional who was able to help me to make sense of what was happening to me, but, realistically, because I was unable to take in new information, I didn’t really process this either.
Please see a health professional if you recognise you, or any of the symptoms in this post.
Just waking in the morning can be a difficult experience for a mother that has experienced a stillbirth. Sleep can be disturbed, as we find it difficult to switch off. Perhaps our sleeping patterns had adjusted towards the end of pregnancy, being awake feeling uncomfortable, or our baby kicking us at night kept us awake. We look forward to the time when our baby is born, we know that there will be more sleepless nights ahead of us, but we look forward to being woken at night, and to hold and feed our baby.
For most of us, it never occurs, that stillbirth might happen. Most of us were never told that it existed in modern times. We never think that towards the end of pregnancy our baby might just die and when it does happen, it is beyond what is even reasonably comprehensible.
Waking first thing
It is unknown what happens during our sleep. I was once told, that whilst we sleep we go home to spirit. As this is our spiritual home. Numerous women recall how they felt in the early days as they woke first thing. At night before sleep, we often fall asleep with tears down our face. Tears of sadness, as we know that tonight, we will not be woken by our baby kicking, and neither will we wake to feed our baby during the night. It is at night, when all is quiet, that we feel that sense of ‘nothingness’, and it is very lonely isolating experience.
When we wake first thing, just for a minute or two, we wake just as we always did, as we had every other day for the rest of our lives. Or at least how we did before we learned that our baby had died. It can take a minute or two for our body to come back to reality. And when reality hits,the grief and the pain can feel overwhelming.
Immediately upon awakening, it is as if it had never happened, we forget, and we can wake up cheerfully. But suddenly, as we become full awake a few minutes later, the nightmare of our worst reality, is remembered. Not only is our baby not a part of us, but he or she is not sleeping in the bedroom next door either. And we remember, that he or she never will be. Our hearts ache as this horrible realisation sinks in. We feel a sense of panic. It sinks in slowly like the weight of a brick weighing down our heart. Often, unlike other grief, our bodies are still programmed to be taking care of our baby, and so, we have this longing searching feeling for our baby. It is the most awful feeling in the world. A feeling like you are searching for something. A searching and a longing, but the reality of knowing that it is something that you will never find.
Grief comes in waves, but stillborn grief, when we wake first thing, just for a few minutes, we forget. Just for a few minutes we are awake, but we have forgotten. Just for a few minutes, we feel that our baby is still a part of us and that it hasn’t happened. Then we stretch, wake fully and harsh reality hits. Like a bolt of lightening, it hits us, pain washing over us over us, as if we had just been told ‘I am sorry there is no heartbeat’… and our heart pounds, and we feel desperately sick.
No longer are we protected by the hospital, no longer are we surrounded by people, family and friends. We are alone, alone in our bed, with our grief, and the awful realisation of what has happened. The desperate longing feeling once again hits us, and we long to go back to sleep, or even back to a few minutes earlier, when just for a while, our minds, bodies and hearts tricked us and everything felt normal.
I like to think that it is true, that when we sleep we return home to spirit, and just for a while, we spend time with our babies in heaven whilst we sleep. I think that this is why it is such a terrible shock, when we finally wake fully, and reality sinks in. Just for a while we had that initial feeling of disillusionment and just for a while…. for a few minutes of the day, we had forgotten, and life was just as it should be.
I had wondered, whether it was just me? As I was pregnant with my daughter, it felt surreal. I found it difficult to connect with my pregnancy, for it to ‘feel real’. I knew of course that she was real. After all, I felt her kick, I saw the scans, she was real.
At first, I thought perhaps, this was because I had so much to do. I needed to sell my house to support her, maybe when I moved things would feel better. Moving house, I didn’t want to buy too much, before I moved. So, when I did, I bought everything. I put the cot up, and started shopping. But it still didn’t feel ‘real’. The end of pregnancy loomed near. I knew that there was now only 2 weeks left to go. Yet, I couldn’t foresee me having a baby in my life in two weeks. I had had 2 babies before, and never felt this way. So, I put it down to me being an older mother and therefore more relaxed. But, it wasn’t really like this. I felt like I was ‘going through the motions’ …. If felt if I bought more, it would feel more real. But it didn’t.
This is something that i rarely talked about. When my daughter died, I felt a sense of guilt. I had worried, that perhaps it was my own thinking, that had made my daughter die (and her not want to be with me anymore).
So, I asked other women in the group. How did they feel? And I was surprised, it was something that was a common feeling, and that many of us had never talked about. At least not after our baby died.
A full term mum (40 weeks) GW wrote:
I remember standing over her moses basket & thinking I couldn’t imagine her in there
A mum who lost her baby to SIDs at 4 months wrote:
With my son when he died I did not have one item for anything above the age he died, i stopped myself buying stuff like weaning bowls and a Halloween outfit i would take it to the till then something would stop me buying it, he died at 4 months and I remember a few weeks after going through his things thinking, I had nothing for a baby above the age of 4 months.
Another mother wrote:
I blamed myself cos I felt from the very start that I couldn’t see myself with a baby and I had bought all the little clothes and stuff and even had the buggy aside but it was “going through the motions”
Another woman joined in the discussion who lost at 40 weeks, and said:
Wow I think I knew too. I never really felt ‘connected’ to the pregnancy. Amazing to learn now that other women have felt the same I honestly thought it was just me and certain life issues I was also dealing with.
Another mother added:
I have only spoken about this to 1 other person. Jade was my first born – I didn’t expect or think I wouldn’t get to keep her but the idea of having a baby at home was surreal to me also. The night before she was born I was laying in a bath talking on phone to my niece whom is 9 months younger than me & had 1 child. I said to her. ” I’m due tomorrow & I just cannot imagine bringing a baby home”. It was true. She reminded me if that conversation about a year later.
Another mother wrote:
I thought I was the only one… I had a deep feeling that Id not be having this baby, even when i was at term. When I was told at 39 weeks he had died, I said to myself “I knew it”.
Just as there are judgements in pregnancy for older and younger mothers, there are also insensitive comments made, and assumptions related to someone’s age when a mother has experienced a stillbirth.
A younger mother, who experiences a stillbirth, can have the following things said to her, as a young mother recalls
I was 21 yes very young to deal with a death let own the loss of my child and grief but you bloody grow up quick as you have no choice in the matter! I was the youngest mum at all groups clinics & the hospital people looked at me like I was a teen mum or something! The things said to me were:
Your only young you can have more, it wasn’t meant to be,
At your age you probably wasn’t ready anyway, just think of them sleepless nights & changing nappies(haha i would love a sleepless night or screaming baby to be honest id be grateful if i had one that took a breath)
Now you can live your live still plenty to do at your age. I was young, healthy and problems low risk but really a low risk mum is high risk because we get ignored and less attention in&out job!
Many young mums reported how difficult they found it when others assumed that they were young, and could have plenty more babies. Maybe it was for the best, another time. Women said how hurtful this was, and also insensitive. They loved their child, who was a part of their life, very much loved and very wanted.
An older mother can experience some similar types of attitudes. As an older mother who lost what would have been her only child at home expressed
I found it difficult losing my daughter at an older age. It was also quite an isolating experience. Because of my age 41, I felt alienated from everyone. Even other mothers who had lost a baby. Initially, we didn’t seem too different, especially in early parts of grief, but later it felt our differences were obvious.
I watched other mothers who had lost, go on to have more children. I was happy for them. I enjoyed seeing their children grow, but it was a sadness, as I felt that I was stuck. I also knew that time trying for another child would make me a mother that was even older. And I also knew that realistically, this would make me higher risk, and a if I did get pregnant, a higher risk of having a child with health related problems.
I also knew that the last pregnancy, which I carried to term, was already difficult on my body.And honestly I didn’t think that my body would cope with another pregnancy. I felt stuck with my grief. Whilst no other child, can replace the child that I had lost, it felt that it was permanent. Just a permanent empty space and void of loss. Each Christmas that passed there was no child in my home to open Christmas presents with. Each day, the deafening silence never went away.
I felt that I had changed so much from the person I was prior to my pregnancy with my child, and it was difficult to know who I was anymore. I couldn’t go back to my old life, with my old friends. And I couldn’t be a mother to my child. And I couldn’t plan for another child either. It really felt like a ocean of space, that should be my life, had vanished. It was gone, forever.
I also experienced comments, which really hurt. Even from my own family members. Comments such as:
Comments like this, made me feel like I should be grateful or happy that my daughter was dead. I also found peer support difficult. None of my friends had small babies to appreciate what it was that I had lost. In fact my friends, were either people whose children had grown up, or people who had never had children at all. It was a very lonely isolating experience.
As mums add their babies, I will add them here. This is the roll call of our children. Dob, gestation in pregnancy. This blog is called Ukstillbirth (as I couldn’t get stillbirth) but it is for people who have experienced it wherever you are) We have people in UK, Ireland, USA, Australia,Canada, If you would like to help us, please join our Facebook group Help us to write this book and get the message out there! https://www.facebook.com/groups/203684409769278/?fref=ts I will add to the list as I get names.
Maya Nicole Gillett – Dale 19.01.10 – 38 weeks Bristol UK
Charlie George Scrivener 03.01.11 – 41 weeks 3 days York UK
George Lyons 06.08.09 – 38 weeks 3 days, Rugeley, UK
Loui James Eastwood DOB 08.04.10, 37 weeks, 6 days, Leicestershire UK
Hallie Belle Lauren DOB Hallie Belle 31.08.10 41wks, London, UK
Jasmine Rose Williams DOB 02/12/11 34 weeks Chester, Cheshire UK
Alice Sambidge DOB 04.03.12, 20 weeks 6 days, Essex, UK
Ava Lily Talbot DOB 29.11.12, 28 weeks 2 days, from Bristol, UK
Blake Alexander Bryan Hatley, 21/10/2012, Clackmannanshire (Scotland) and 34 weeks and 1 day
Joshua Peter Russell, 17.09.09 40 weeks and 4 days from Harpenden, Herts, UK
Katie cook 14/07/07. 40 weeks. Lancashire, UK
Amelia Isabella Grace Duerden, 21.9.11 Lytham St Annes, Lancs UK,. 39 weeks
Isabella Grace Warwick, 14.1.2010 – 41 weeks – Somerset, UK
Crimson loriana Froelich, 02.03.2010 36 weeks cleveland ohio, USA
Ben Pendleton DOB 3/9/10 18 weeks, UK
Theo Crosthwaite 11/11/12 33 weeks +4 days, Cheshire, UK
Bethany mia Dyball, 16.01.10 at 23 weeks biggleswade uk
Ethan Roberts Williams, 18.05.04 36weeks, Oswestry Shropshire
Charlie Daniel Sanderson-Knott, july 24th 2011, and 24 weeks. Blackpool, Lancashire, England
Althea Phylice Griffin 29/01/2012 36+5 Southampton UK
Thomas and Daniel Sheerin, born 19/9/11 @ 24+2 weeks, kived for 2,Lancaster, Lancashire, England
Sian Obrien, 19/05/99 40 weeks Kent, UK
Grace Isobel Elliott DOB 23/03/2010. 40 weeks. Billericay Essex, UK
Willow Bryanna Broughton-Dickie 19/02/2011, 40 weeks. Cleveleys, Lancashire, UK
Joseph Christopher davison-church 12/10/2012 at 21 weeks, York,UK
Ciara Cronin 29/3/2010 26 weeks… Cork Ireland
Amelia Linda Elms~ born 12 /30 /2009 – ‚ Whitby Ontario Canada 39 weeks
Jade Louise 9th July 1998, . Sydney Australia 40 weeks
Sky Davies Chadwick, DOB 27.05.11, England 24 weeks
Harry David Readman; 27/1/2012;; Cheltenham, Glos UK 35+4
Ellie Mai Kathleen Upton, 24/3/12 , Cambridge, UK 38 weeks and 4 days
Can you remember when you were a child, and the things that you received always cost less? We were happy with a bucket and spade to sit on the beach, or a cheap cricket set or football to play with.
This is how it is with buying a gift for someone who has experienced the loss of their baby. You could buy something really small with their child’s name on. Or a small gift of angels, or butterflies. Or simply a small garden ornament for the grave, a child’s windmill would be fine. These kind of things, do not cost a lot, but can mean so very much.
We miss people coming to visit, to bring presents to visit the baby. When you come and bring something either for or from her, it really does mean so much. I recall my father bringing me some flowers with a butterfly in the bouquet a friend gave me a silver heart shaped box to keep white feathers in, as I saw them everywhere, it wasn’t expensive, or real silver. But it meant the world to me. These small things can often make all the difference.
Sometimes, if you struggle for the right words to say, bringing a gift can say all what you need to say without saying a word.