Why is it so hard to ask for help? 

  I feel like saying I’m having a rough time right now is pretty obvious but also that it needs to be said. 

I’ve been feeling really sad. I’m thinking about Isobel a lot – going over and over my Isobel memories. My pregnancy with her, finding out she had died, labour, my time with her and the funeral. I find myself looking at her pictures more again in recent weeks. I wonder if I’m trying to understand how this tragedy happened as if that might stop it from happening again. 

Which leads me to the anxiety about the baby I’m carrying now. As his movements have become stronger, I feel this huge weight of responsibility to be aware of him at all times and be vigilant of his every move. I’ve read every piece of advice on tracking movement and I’m more confused than ever and terrified that I will get it wrong and he will die and it will be my fault. I feel so in love with him, I feel so needy and desperate for him. The force of it scares me. I’m mostly holding it together during the day but my nights are filled with the most insane of nightmares, waking up in a panic and then being too sad or tearful to get back to sleep. I’m exhausted! 

I don’t think it helps that after working all week, most of our weekends have been spent with Simon’s mum. The supportive wife/daughter-in-law part of me knows that Simon needs to be with her as much as possible and that he needs me to be there for him. The exhausted and vulnerable bereaved and pregnant woman part of me wishes for once a weekend would be about looking after me and tending to my every need! 

Although I must say that Simon has been a real sweetheart, a complete tower of strength and is considerate of my needs as much as he can be right now, I feel that it’s only right to get support from other people too as he has so much on his mind. As much as I think about how to let people (I’m mostly thinking of one particular group of friends here) know that I’m really struggling, I’m finding it really hard to just be open and ask for help right now. 

 For some reason instead of being explicit, I find myself so tempted to post sad or needy social media posts on Facebook or Instagram! “This will remind everyone how much I’m suffering” I think to myself as I word these attention seeking statuses in my head. I have resisted posting anything like this so far! It’s even crossed my mind to ask Simon to contact them saying I’m not doing so well and he is worried about me. Again, I haven’t actually done this. Drama queen in my mind but not in reality! If I’m honest, I’m annoyed that my friends aren’t asking me how I am and I seem to want to provoke a reaction from them. Normally them not necessarily asking wouldn’t stop me from posting in the Whatsapp group that I’m having a hard time, but I think maybe now I’m feeling like if they really cared they would ask, and if they don’t really care then what’s the point of me telling them? I’m trying to be a good friend and keep track of things in their lives and be interested in their important events. I’m so aware the world hasn’t stopped for other people and that everyone has their own challenges just as significant to them as mine are to me. I just don’t feel I’m getting the same interest in return. Here I am, going through the hardest time of my life, remembering (for example) to text my friend wishing her a happy one year anniversary with her boyfriend, and not getting a ‘how are you coping?’ in response. 

A few weeks ago, I messaged the group after not seeing my friends since Christmas and explained that time was going really slowly and it helped me to have things planned to look forward to. We arranged a Friday night dinner which happened just over two weeks ago and was lovely but that’s the last I’ve seen of them and we have no current plans to meet until a lunch date three weeks from now. Is seeing my supposedly best friends once every five or six weeks normal? Bearing in mind none of these friends have kids, and all live within the same city as me. One actually lives about five minutes drive away and is also dating my husband’s friend. This is the most I’ve ever needed my friends and I’m just not feeling their presence as much as I would like. 

As I’m writing this, I fully recognise that I could directly ask them again to make other plans to meet up or do something together. I know I was better at this a few months ago and felt happier for doing things regardless of the fact that it was always me organising them. I suppose at the minute I’m just feeling resentful that every text interaction I have with these friends is started by me and that none of them ever call me, or suggest meeting up.  

I started this post with the title about why is it so hard to ask for help. I think as I’ve written more I’ve realised that it’s not just my ability to ask for help that’s the issue. Partly there is a resentment that support is not forthcoming without the need to ask for it and maybe I don’t even necessarily know what form of support I really want. I don’t know if I’m being fair on my friends or if I’m expecting too much for them to know what I want and when I want it, if I can’t be more explicit about that myself. 

Maybe I should just send them this 👇🏻 ! 
Feel free to comment with thoughts, advice, calling me a passive aggressive drama queen etc! 

How many psychologists does it take to say “I’m sorry for your loss”?!

  
I’ve mentioned before that I work as a psychologist. Im a Clinical Psychologist which means I work with mental health. I’m actually the only psychologist in my team which works with young people. My colleagues are psychiatrists, mental health nurses, social workers and other types of therapists. I meet with the other psychologists in the trust about once a month though for various meetings and supervision. Since going back to work I’ve so far avoided these meetings as the thought of talking to people and having everyone be sympathetic or ask how I’m doing was too overwhelming. Today though we had an away day and although I deliberated about going, I felt that it would be unprofessional of me to avoid it,  and so I went. 

Oh the awkwardness! So many people in one room who did not know what to say to me! Most people who I don’t know well just smiled and said hello. I had about ten interactions where people said it was nice to see me back in work and asked how I was settling back in and so forth. Several people congratulated me on my pregnancy which is now blatantly obvious. (Incidentally I never know how to respond to enthusiastic congratulations, especially when they come with no mention of Isobel. How can I hope to communicate the world of emotions about this pregnancy and the fact that I wish I wasn’t pregnant because I wish that Isobel was here?! “Thanks, it’s been a rollercoaster” or something to that effect is usually my response.) 

One person, one single person, only one mentioned Isobel. This wonderful woman said “I’m so sorry about what happened to your wee girl, it’s just awful”. This is not a magic combination of words. It is not particularly profound or groundbreaking. And still it meant the world to me. I thanked her for what she said and she replied that she hadn’t been sure acknowledging my loss was the right thing to do as she didn’t want to upset me in a work environment, but she felt she couldn’t ignore it. This was not the person in the room I knew the best or who I’d spent the most time with talking excitedly about my pregnancy but she was the only one who was comfortable enough to talk about Isobel. 

This is not going to be a post about how people get it wrong or don’t say the things they really should. Well it sort of is. But my point is, out of a group of around 50 psychologists (all of whom are trained to Doctorate level to work with high levels of emotional distress and psychological need) only one person knew enough to realise that it was appropriate – even in a work setting – to acknowledge the loss of such magnitude as the loss of my child. If this is the case, how can we possibly expect the average, non-psychologically trained person to know how to interact with parents who have lost a baby? Why does the myth that talking about our babies will upset us persist? How can people still think that we would prefer them to ignore the fact that we were pregnant, to ignore that we left work to have a baby and then came back to work leaving no baby at home? I can only assume this is part of the whole societal stigma about pregnancy loss and stillbirth where unless you or someone close to you has experienced this kind of loss, you just have no idea how to comprehend it, or how to be with a grieving parent. 

It makes me more determined than ever to talk about stillbirth, to talk about Isobel and to refer to my first pregnancy when appropriate, despite the unhappy ending. The impact of this might be small, one person at a time, but it’s better than being silent and letting other people believe that ignorance is the right way to deal with loss. 

Updates all round 

I thought I’d update on things from my past few posts that have developed or not as the case may be!

 

Firstly and best of all, our little one is still with us and growing well at 22 weeks. We found out that we’re going to have a little boy this time! (I do have quite a spectacular penis picture but thought best not to start sharing that on the internet lest Social Services become concerned!). 

It was a strange piece of news. Mostly I just want a healthy, live baby! However I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. I have always wanted a little girl and pictured myself as a mummy to a girl. Finding out we were having a boy made me grieve a little harder for Isobel and the little girl experience and daughter that I’m not going to have, at least for now and maybe never will. I still feel that way a little but am coming around to the idea of a son and have no doubt that when he is here, heart beating, all of my gender disappointment will vanish. 

We are still being seen and scanned weekly and know growth could still become restricted at any time or like with Isobel the placenta could just stop working without a sign. It’s still terrifying but I am stating to feel little flickers of hope that this might be the baby we get to raise. We are starting to have tentative conversations where we allow ourselves to consider that that baby might live. We are enjoying feeling his movement as it gets stronger and just hoping it all continues to go well. The plan is to have an elective section (recommended so as not to put the baby under any stress) at 37 weeks so we just have 15 weeks to go. It still seems like a long way to me but all we can do is put one foot in front of the other and hope we’ll get there. 

  

Now for an update on my Dad situation! Since thinking and talking about it I felt a lot more understanding towards him. As hurtful as his words were, I know he would never hurt me on purpose and he just doesn’t have the emotional literacy to deal with grief in a helpful way. How he raised a child who grew up to be psychologist I’ll never know!!! Especially with the situation with Simon’s mum I just think life is too short and precious to hold on to conflict, unless of course someone has been deliberately hurtful or abusive. My sister tells me that he is genuinely devastated about what happened to Isobel and he just doesn’t know how to show it. You have to feel sorry for someone like that. 

In the spirit of reconciliation I sent my Dad an email, basically saying I understood it must be hard for him to see me hurting and be unable to help and that might make him want to pretend the whole thing never happened. But that for us that was not a helpful way of coping and really if he disagreed with how we were coping he should stay quiet about it. I also sent a link to this article. I talked about how he’d always been supportive to me and I didn’t want our relationship to be damaged now. I ended it with a question about my taxes and said if he wanted to do something practical he could work that out. His response to all of that?! Two words and a question mark: “tax code?”. It actually make me laugh out loud. A whole email baring my emotions, and that’s the response! 

I still feel good that I said what I needed to and he will have listened to it, although he didn’t feel able to respond in an emotional way, that’s really not surprising as that’s the heart of the problem. So I’ve moved on from that, let it go and hopefully he just won’t say anything about Isobel in future. 

  

As for Simon’s Mum, it’s been confirmed that her cancer will be terminal and the timescale will be a matter of months rather than years. Her poor liver has 8 tumours and really will not be functioning at all. She also has tumours on her pelvis and spine. She has been offered chemo if she wants it but told that it is likely to extend her time only by a month or so. It seems like it might not be worth facing the side effects of the chemo and the impact on her quality of life for the small beneficial effect it might have, but she still needs to decide this. 

Simon talked to the doctors about the baby and they seemed confident that his Mum would be here in May for the baby (hopefully) arriving and that having something to look forward to might actually help her. Simon so wants his mum to pass away knowing that things have improved for us and knowing that he will be happy. We feel even more terrified now – if that’s possible – that something will go wrong with the pregnancy and then the remainder of her time with us will be nothing but negativity and sadness. We’re just trying to stay in the present though and not get carried away thinking about what might happen next. Once we know if she is having treatment or not, we can make plans for some nice family things over the next few months. I’m really proud of Simon and how he is being there to support his Mum and sister, and dealing with all of it on top of everything else. He’s definitely a keeper 💕 

So that’s everything! I am really enjoying being back at work, it is my oasis of calm in a crazy life! Which when said by a psychologist who works with suicidal teens, is a real statement about how crazy the rest of life is!!!!