“Should I be worried about you?”

The title of this post is a question my husband asked me as we were falling asleep the other day.  I don’t really know how to answer it, because I’m not sure what a normal response is to giving birth to a dead baby 4.5 months into your first pregnancy.  I’ve never met (in person) anyone else who’s been through it.  And I’m sure even if I had, their experience would have differed from mine in important ways.  So how do you know what’s normal, and what’s something to be worried about?

More than six months after her death, I still think about our daughter every day, multiple times a day.  I tear up most days, and sob outright once every week or two.  There are still days when I can’t concentrate on work, and spend hours thinking about her or looking up information about pregnancy loss and various medical conditions on the internet. Pregnancy loss, and our lack of a living baby, is constantly on my brain.

I have trouble dealing with even oblique references to pregnancy — tonight at dinner out with our colloquium speaker, one of my colleagues was ribbing a postdoc about taking advantage of an amazing benefit that my university has for college-age kids of staff.  The postdoc is getting married next fall, so this sort of ribbing is natural, but as the conversation went on and on and ended with “Well, it’ll only take, what, 19 years for your kid to be college age?  And it’ll only take 9 months to get started — what are you waiting for?” and I couldn’t handle it anymore — tears welled up in my eyes and I had to surreptitiously blink them away.  For some people, it does only take nine months.  And for me, after two years, all I’ve got to show for it is one very beautiful but very dead baby.  Earlier this week, I ducked out of a conference organization telecon early because we’d been discussing conference childcare, and the conversation derailed a little while several of the organizing committee members chirped about bringing their babies to the conference.  It was too painful for me to listen to (I’d been planning to bring my baby to the conference this summer), so I just hung up early.  It seems like every few days, something sets me off in a way that is disruptive to my friendships and work relationships.  This is not like me — or at least, it’s not like the person I was before our baby died.  But six months after her death, I’m starting to think that maybe this is just the new me.

These days I find myself wondering when things will get better.  I definitely want to be pregnant again, and I know that would help in some ways (for example, removing my anxiety about whether or not I’ll even be able to get pregnant again), but it would also introduce a whole basketload of other issues — not to mention my uncertainty about whether I could handle another loss.  Holding a living, breathing baby in my arms has been a goal for a long time now, but will things be better then?  Probably, but I imagine that for a while at least I’ll be terrified that the baby will die.  Maybe a few months after the baby is born things will be better?  I just don’t know anymore.  At any rate, “better” sure seems a long way off.

I’ve been worried about my reaction for a while.  A couple months ago, at the suggestion of the MFM specialist, I went so far as to track down a therapist who takes my insurance (I’ve never been to a therapist before).  I went to her for a couple of sessions, but it didn’t seem very useful.  I was very clear about what I wanted to get out of therapy: I wanted help reducing the most disruptive of my grief and anxiety symptoms, including my early-morning awakenings that have been disrupting my sleep, and my inability to concentrate at work.  And I wanted stress reduction techniques to help me manage the stress of dealing with my daughter’s death and trying to get pregnant again.

The therapist did not seem particularly insightful, and some of the suggestions she gave me felt kind of strange.  For example, she told me that I should start holding lots of babies, because maybe my body would just recognize that it felt right and that would help me get pregnant again.  Or maybe I should ask my doctors for things to read about my medical issues instead of seeking things out on the internet — fine, but more reading material is not likely to help me curtail or circumscribe the amount of time I spend reading.  After two sessions, she gave me a little pep talk about how she didn’t think there was anything wrong with me, that I seemed like an intelligent and sensitive person who was responding normally to a really terrible experience, that I wasn’t minimizing or distorting any of what had happened to me, and that she didn’t think I needed to be seen regularly (she did tell me to check in after a month had passed, but I didn’t bother).  At the time, that felt good, because it was nice to have a professional tell me that I wasn’t crazy.  Now, when I’m still having trouble more than six months after my daughter’s death, I’m confused about whether I can or should seek out another opinion.  It was really hard to ask for help the first time, and now that I’ve kindly been turned away I feel like it would be pushy to look for someone else.  And maybe counterproductive.  After all, it’s not as though I want to seek out medical care that I don’t need, and part of me thinks that I should stop looking for opportunities to dwell on my loss and just try to move on with life.  I think I can cope… most of the time I’m more or less OK.  But I do wonder if someone else might be able to help me more than the first woman I went to… and I do feel like I can use all the help I can get.

So, after all that… I’m not sure how I should answer my husband’s question.  Of course, I reassured him that I was doing OK, and that we’d get through this.  Part of the problem is that with so few people to talk about our daughter with, I bring it up a lot more with my husband than I would if I had other outlets, so he hears more about it than he otherwise would.  But how do you know what’s a normal part of the grieving process, and what’s something to be worried about?  When will things start to get better?

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5 thoughts on ““Should I be worried about you?”

  1. TryTryAgain

    Bless you, I’m so sad for you reading this post.

    I would definitely recommend finding another therapist and having a session with them. It might take you a while to find one that you work well with, but the one you saw doesn’t sound like the right one for you.

    I haven’t been through such a harrowing loss as yours, but in my experience you don’t get ‘fixed’, you just learn to cope and move forward in a new way, a new you, as you’ve said. Some of this is down to time – your loss is still very recent – some of it is from professional help from a therapist, and some from the hope of moving forwards and being pregnant again. I don’t think there’s any magic solution, just a slow, steady combination of these in my experience.

    I understand that constant pain and longing for a baby, and again that doesn’t go away in my experience, you just learn how to manage it in a better way.

    This might sound odd, but I’ve found that doing something which brings you joy – however daft it might seem – really helps too. Whether it’s reading, dancing, walking in the countryside, a new class, or anything which you really enjoy, this can help enormously. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, just something which makes you happy and takes your mind off all of this, even for a short time. If you don’t have anything in mind, look for something new that’s local to you. It will definitely help.

    I’d definitely start with the therapist, you’ve been through a tremendous amount and finding the right therapist will really help you to process all of this and be strong to move forwards. If you need to talk at all my email is tryagainbloglady@hotmail.com. Sending lots of love xxxx

    Reply
    1. lyra211 Post author

      Thank you so very much — how lucky I am to have found you here!

      You’re right about finding things to add fun to my life. Volunteering at the barn has been doing that for me to some extent, but I only really have time to do it once a week and sometimes the relief I get from it is short-lived — I’ll feel great when I’m there, but then a few hours later I’m back in the dumps. Today was better — I’ve realized that days that I do a lot of teaching and interacting with students are often good days. Part of it is that I need to be “on” for them, so I fake it, and somehow faking it actually helps me feel more normal on a deeper level… and part of it is that they’re so young and full of energy and optimism (sometimes they’re full of other things too, but in general my students are really great, really thoughtful kids).

      Thanks for the nudge to look for a new therapist. I’ve been thinking about it, and will probably follow through. I’m lucky to have mental health coverage through my insurance (throughout all of this I’ve been amazed at how excellent my university’s health insurance is, thankfully — I know you have different issues with NHS, but the whole insurance system here is awful), but it’s really hard to find good people in network. When the MFM recommended I seek out a therapist, she put me in touch with a social worker who put me in touch with a therapist who specializes in reproductive issues. I talked with him on the phone, and he sounded great — he and his wife had even been through a loss at 5 months, many years ago. But he does not take my health insurance. So I asked him for recommendations, and he recommended a few people, none of whom take my insurance. In the end, I found my first therapist through my university’s web site, not through a recommendation. So maybe I need to make a list of therapists in my area who accept my insurance, and then ask the first guy if he’d be kind enough to look it over and let me know if he can recommend anyone. We’ve also got an amazing support group for pregnancy and infant loss in the area — I went to one meeting early on and never went back, but maybe it’s time to give that another try as well.

      Anyway, I’m rambling, but it’s awfully helpful to have you to bounce these ideas at me and encourage me to take action. Thank you so, so much. Thinking of you, and looking forward to more updates as the month goes on. xo

      Reply
      1. TryTryAgain

        You’re very welcome 🙂 I’m pleased that you’re looking into new options – just taking positive steps forward always makes you feel better I think. Please keep us posted on how you get on, lots of love xxx

  2. sewingbutterfly

    I haven’t been through the same kind loss as you and my heart breaks for you, but I have known grief. Everyone has their own way of passing through it, learning to live with it and everyone’s timeline is different. 6 months isn’t a long time at all in the grand scheme of grief. You are working, you are blogging and you’re planning for a future. All that is very healthy. It is natural to be upset, cry, scream, tear up and feel not yourself. I still tear up a little when I hear people talk about their fathers in a loving way, or about dancing with them at their wedding etc (and I lost my Dad nearly 15 years ago when I was 13). Occasionally I cry, on special anniversarys or when I visit his memorial. However, as more time passes, it gets easier, little by little.

    What you’re going through is hard, possibly one of the hardest things a mother ever has to go through. I can see the sadness in my mother’s eyes when she talks about my brother, the pain is still there (he lived 13 days). But she has also lived a full life, raising a family, working, traveling and doing hobbies.

    The therapist you went to see doesn’t sound very good. Perhaps there is one in your area that specialises in grief or baby loss?

    I find great help in dancing. If I am having a particularly tough week or day, a ballet class can just refresh my whole outlook. Eventually, you may find something similar. It can be anything. But for now, I think you’re doing well only 6 months on! I also think your husband is so sweet. One thing that made me feel, I won’t say better, but like I was doing something worthwhile, is that on special anniversary’s etc I do something for charity, whether it is a monetary donation or a donation of food or clothes etc. Not sure why it helps, but it did for me.

    I wish you all the luck in the world. I really do.

    Reply
    1. lyra211 Post author

      Thank you so much for all your thoughts — I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it! It sounds like you’ve been through a lot as well, and I certainly value your wisdom in learning how to deal with loss over time. You’re right that I’m still a relative newbie. 🙂 It’s really nice to hear that your brother is still a valued part of your family, as devastating as his loss must have been for your mother in particular. Maybe I’ll feel differently later, but for now, I do plan to tell our eventual children about their big sister who died (in low-key and age-appropriate ways of course!).

      It does seem like a theme that there’s something healing in finding an activity to do just for fun. I wonder if dance in particular also helps because it has such an intense physical component. I miss my tae kwon do classes, which I stopped doing when we moved here and started trying to get pregnant (keeping up with an activity that involved getting kicked in the belly a lot did not seem like a good idea!). I’ll try to keep an eye out for some sort of physical activity I can get excited about again — it’s a really good idea.

      And yes, I think I need to work harder to find a therapist who is experienced with pregnancy loss. I reached such a level of frustration with being passed around and recommended to all sorts of different people, none of whom accepted my health insurance, that I finally just chose a therapist essentially at random off my university’s mental health services web page, which was probably a mistake. Thanks for giving me a nudge to put in a little more effort to find someone who’s a better fit.

      And thank you so much for your thoughtful comments here — it makes a huge difference on days that I’m feeling down in the dumps. 🙂

      Reply

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