I’m going to speak to my therapist about that…

The title is something I’d only heard in films or in TV, so part of me finds it mildly amusing that I do indeed have a therapist (and a very nice one at that!).

A few months ago as I stood in the playground surrounded by bumps and babies feeling the usual sense of dread in my stomach I realised that I needed to take charge of my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder triggers. 

The bumps and babies will always be there – at school, at work, in our friendship circle, in our family, at Sainsbury’s, on days out, the list is endless. I can’t spend my life avoiding and ignoring the things that trigger me so it was time to do something about it. 


In our area we have a self referral service, I called up and registered my details and within the week I had a telephone assessment. During the call I mentioned that I’d heard good things about EMDR therapy, told the lady I had no interest in more counselling or going back on medication. I said I was safe but my normal daily activities were becoming difficult and full of triggers. In short I needed help beyond that of my family and friends could offer. I’m rubbish at asking for help, so this was a big thing for me!

A few days later I had a call back to say that I was being treated as a priority and an appointment was booked with the peri-natal psychotherapist covering the area.

Two gruelling sessions later where I told my story from start to finish* I was deemed suitable for EMDR therapy.

*everything was in there my childhood, the hip operations, school, meeting Matt, work, our infertility, my fear of flying, Toby, Rory, Henry – EVERYTHING.

In the third session I was prepared for the treatment by trying out some things to calm me down and desensitise things when I was triggered outside of the sessions as well as helping me to leave a session in good mental shape – grounding, visualising a safe place, distraction techniques – all useful and weirdly counting things to distract me was my favourite! I also had to consider my first, worst and last traumatic memory (in my case twice over as there’s Rory trauma and Henry trauma).

So, what is EMDR therapy? Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing is a form of treatment for PTSD, I’m not a medical professional but the next couple of paragraphs hopefully explain things… 

PTSD happens because of misfiled and uncategorised memories – imagine a desk covered in papers next to a filing cabinet with papers shoved in randomly and spilling out of the drawers – that ladies and gents is my brain. When Rory and Henry died there were too many traumatic memories to process so my brain dumped them wherever there was space, it is an untidy disorganised place at the moment! 

PTSD can happen to anyone who has experienced some sort of trauma.

When I am triggered my poor brain rummages through the messy desk and filing cabinet and throws up the first traumatic memory it can find and off we go with the dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, zoning in on the thing causing the trigger and an overwhelming wish to run for the hills. 

EMDR will help my brain to organise and file the memories – liken it to a good sort out, filing, and archiving session!

The process itself is interesting, the therapist (a lovely Swedish lady) moves two fingers from side to side really fast and I follow them with my eyes whilst reliving a traumatic memory (yes, I know it sounds ridiculous), EMDR mimics rapid eye movement in sleep which is the time when our brain categorises and processes information, the therapy essentially allows my brain to have a sort out.

I’ve had one full session of EMDR so far and it was exhausting. I had to relive the same memory over and over, I cried a lot, big fat snotty tears in fact. I remembered things I’d forgotten (this was good and bad). Sometimes I lost my train of thought completely just like she said I would. I had to think about my feelings at the time and talk through them. My brain hurt a lot.

I was told not to drink alcohol for two days so as not to interfere with the process (my little face fell a bit when she said that!) and the therapist said to note down anything that sprung to mind in the time before the next session. 

The one thing I’ve noticed that I’m hyper sensitive to noise at the moment, everything seems too loud, too annoying. I have fairly low tolerance levels anyway and find lots of things annoying but this has increased tenfold at present. But I’m hopeful the negatives will be short term and I’ll start reaping the benefits over the next 16 sessions. 

The therapist said I’d come to hate the sessions and love them all at the same time. I think she might be right! 

31st May

I knew this day was coming, I knew it was coming when the flashbacks to the scanning room started way back in April. On this day last year we had Henry’s 20 week scan, it was the day after bank holiday Monday. Matt was late stuck in traffic so I was in a panic and entered the room crying. Perhaps deep down I knew it was going to be bad news.

The scan commenced and they promised to take it slowly to give Matt time to arrive, he came not long after I’d gone in. 

As soon as there was more poking than normal and questions about dates I wondered. We were told baby was in a bad position, to go for a walk and come back. In hindsight that was their delaying tactic. 

We wandered about for 10 minutes and went back to the ultrasound department. The ladies carried on with the scan and told us that Henry was measuring small (2 weeks behind). Some photos were hurriedly printed off and we were told it was a boy (of course it was a boy, it is always baby boys). The lady gently told us she was referring us to the fetal medicine team for a more detailed scan a couple of days later. She gave us a letter and if we went in shock that it was going wrong again.

In that moment we knew we’d probably be saying goodbye before we said hello for a second time.

I don’t think I’ve shared many of Henry’s scan photos, mainly as we were trying to protect our wounded hearts and latterly as his final three scans were not happy events. How can you share such painful pictures? 

But today a year later I need to share his scan photo. In that moment he was small but we still had a tiny bit of hope, he was alive and I was well. Henry lived and this is the proof. 

Celebrate

Celebrate. There’s not been much of this the past two years. Yes, we celebrate Toby’s successes and there are happy times but the shadow of what has happened looms over us. Every moment is tinged with sadness, something is missing and things just feel off. 

At the end of 2015 I decided that Matt was going to have the best 40th ever and that included a surprise party. I figured that if the frozen embryo transfer booked for January 2016 didn’t work, then we needed something to look forward to, a chance to celebrate. 

As it turned out Henry was born still on Matt’s 40th birthday (it was also Father’s Day – double yay!).

The party was booked for a date 5 days later (on a Friday to accommodate the cricket season). I had to tell Matt that there was a party when we found that Henry was poorly, it only seemed fair. I didn’t tell him the details so there was still a small element of surprise!

After Henry was born (and died) we thought long and hard about the party and what to do. We both agreed that we needed something to keep us busy, a chance to come together with family and friends. Also the prospect of sitting there on the Friday evening thinking about another ‘what might have been’ moment would be worse than actually going to the party.

The first hurdle was telling everyone the party was still going ahead. Most seemed to get why we had to carry on, I’m sure others thought ‘what the fuck are they doing’.

The second was finding a dress, the sequinned maternity dress I’d bought was no longer appropriate so John Lewis mail order came to the rescue and I settled on a green dress and sparky shoes.

The third was attending the party. It was a weird, happy, sad party but ultimately it was a celebration of our little family, our biggest boy, our two stars in the sky, and a celebration of Matt who has quietly soldiered on and cared for me and Toby for the past two years. 

To those who attended – thank you for joining our celebration, thank you for getting it and thank you for being there for us when we needed you. 


Yes, Toby is wearing my shoes in the photo… 

Fragile

I’m fragile, I’ve always been a bit fragile, but more so since March 2015. It’s expected, it is generally manageable. Some days I am strong, some days I just want to cry all day. 

What I forget is that Toby is fragile. I’ve shielded him from the news this week, I don’t want him to know that horrible stupid men blow themselves up and kill innocent people. 

I had a message from Toby’s teacher tonight saying that a classmate was talking about his new baby brother (it had to be another baby boy to avoid in the playground didn’t it?!). Toby then told some of his friends about Rory and Henry, he was apparently a bit sad afterwards but ok by the time after school club came to collect him. 

He didn’t really want to talk about it at home, Toby’s reposne to his Daddy was that he wasn’t sad or happy. 

I’m sad this evening that Toby won’t ever be able to boast about his new baby brother who came home, who lived. But I am SO proud of him having the confidence to talk about his baby brothers. He is only 5 – so young, so fragile, yet so strong, so brave and all ours.

Sky

The sky used to simply tell me what the weather was up to or create a pretty sunset. At our old house we were high up on a hill which overlooked the woods. The sunsets from the window in Toby’s old bedroom were amazing. 

These days I find myself searching the sky for signs. Kisses in the clouds, the brightest stars at night, pink and blue skies, blazing sunshine on a crisp morning. Anything that reminds me of my boys. 

At the gym tonight the sunset was amazing, the sky was painted pink and blue, the picture doesn’t do it justice at all.

Communicate

This one is easy today as I had a shit storm in a teacup happen this morning. All because I shared an event post with a comment about going but avoiding the happy ending babies. 

Another loss mama took exception to this and my use of the term ‘happy ending baby’ and with messages back and forth made me feel like I was being horrible for just wanting to sit in the corner and not have people bring their babies over to say hello. 

It is clear we had both misinterpreted what each other was saying and we no doubt both had a shit day because of it. 

I spent 40 minutes sat in the lounge at the gym responding to messages regarding the incident, all whilst tears of sadness and frustration rolled down my cheeks. I probably looked like a crazy person crying into my coffee but I don’t really care, there are worst places to be seen crying (work for example!).

There have been numerous occasions these past two years when things I have said have been misinterpreted, usually resulting in a massive fall out and emotions running high. 

I tend to keep things in and then they just explode, I should learn, I know I should not do this.

Part of me thinks I should shut up and keep quiet to the outside world in order to avoid miscommunication and to avoid hurt but the militant part of me wants to speak out, wants to challenge the norm and wants to change things. 

So even if my words are misconstrued or might make people feel uncomfortable I’m going to keep communicating, keep challenging, keep sharing my story. I know the fallout will hurt, but if I can make things better for just one person in future then it is worth it.

Distance 

Every day adds distance between the present day and the time my boys were still alive.

As the distance in time grows life is getting slightly more tolerable each day. This is good but I have a long way to go.

There is a flip side, as the days move forward it feels more and more like the boys were a dream, they are just a memory, a box of belongings and a little urn on a shelf. 

The bad memories are blurring and fading, this scares me. Not remembering, not feeling the pain means my babies are on the way to being forgotten. I’m their mummy and it is my job NOT to forget them, to keep their memory alive, to involve them in our everyday lives.

There is also of course the physical distance aspect. I cannot stand to be around bumps and babies. My skin crawls, I want to tell them to fuck off, if it’s a really bad day I feel dizzy and my palms sweat – thank you PTSD for this! 

Tonight at the theatre a pregnant lady had to get along the row we were sat in. Her bump nearly touched me *vom*. I squeezed back as far as possible as she went by. I’m so glad she sat further down the row.

The thing with this sort of need for distance is that every day I’m navigating around these triggers. I walk a longer route around the playground so as not to walk near the fertile breeders, I keep my head down and walk fast. I panic before Toby goes to a party wondering if there will be a bump or baby there. I wonder if I should ask in advance but then I’m just drawing attention to my issues. So I go, I keep my distance, I keep my head down and I hope for the best. 

I am constantly on alert and it is quite frankly exhausting. I have had counselling which helped to a point. I’m never going back on medication, I refuse to be a zombie again. So, I am making plans to desensitise myself by accessing EMDR therapy which has good outcomes for PTSD. I have absolutely no idea if it will work for me but I have to try something. I cannot spend the rest of my life on high alert, I cannot keep avoiding bumps and babies. 

I hope also, the therapy will help me to remember the good bits about my pregnancies rather than trying to forget everything.