Halfway through my second pregnancy, my baby daughter died. And I didn’t even know. My husband and I found out unexpectedly at the 19 week scan. She was there on the monitor and yet she was gone. Among the tsunami of emotions that knocked me off my feet over the ensuing days and months and years, the feeling of failure was pervasive, punching its way up through my grief. I couldn’t wash it off. It clung to my most fundamental identity as a woman in a way that shocked me, making me feel hopeless and helpless and deeply, overwhelmingly ashamed. Mia Freeman, Blog post 13 Aug 2014.
In the process of having a baby and dealing with fertility problems, many of us are brought face to face with issues of life and death, grief, trauma and loss. Every family’s story is different. Perhaps you are struggling with:
- The emotional rollercoaster ride of IVF treatment, with its many hopes and disappointments.
- Sadness and distress following a miscarriage or still birth.
- A very difficult decision regarding termination of a pregnancy.
- A yearning to become a parent, when (for whatever reason) that is not possible.
- The expectations and pressures of other people in your life regarding fertility.
- A terrifying or traumatic birth experience where your life and/or your baby’s life was in danger.
We need to recognize that these kinds of difficult, life or death experiences can sometimes have a lasting effect on our lives. Perhaps your experience has changed your view of the world. Perhaps you no longer feel safe, or have nightmares about what has happened. Perhaps you find that you are continuing to grieve for what you have lost, although everyone is telling you that you should move on. Perhaps you are feeling like a failure, and blaming yourself for your fertility issues. Or perhaps you are torturing yourself as you second-guess the decisions you have made. We also need to acknowledge that both mums and dads can be deeply affected by these experiences. Dads aren’t immune to feelings of grief, loss and trauma, especially when it involves the people dearest to us. Of course, the additional challenge for us is that society expects that we will be strong, silent and stoic, making it even more difficult for us to seek support.
When should I seek help?
Grief, sadness and distress are normal and appropriate reactions when you’ve been through a difficult time, and afterwards the feelings can be very intense. Then what usually happens is that you gradually start to feel better. So, if you find that it has been a while and you’re still not starting to feel better, this can indicate that it is time to talk to someone about it. Another indicator is if you are finding that your work, relationships or family life are continuing to be affected by what happened.
Things you can do
- The path to change always starts with acknowledging that things aren’t OK. Rather than keep it inside, talk about it with someone you trust. Sometimes support and understanding from friends or loved ones can make all the difference.
- Realize that you are not alone – these are tough experiences, and many others also struggle to cope. You may find it helpful to link in with a support group or online forum.
- Get some help. Talk to your GP or psychologist. We have treatments that can help you to change things, lighten the burden, relinquish the guilt or shame.