Over the last 3 days I have been reading the most incredible book. I know that is a strong statement to say but I say it for a number of reasons.
- It is brutally honest
- It is an accurate portrayal of loss and grief
- It is the bravest story I have ever read
“Ask Me His Name” tells the story of the beautiful Teddy, a boy who only lived 3 days. It tells of his life and the effect his death has had on his parents, his extended family and friends, and complete strangers. His devoted mummy, and in turn him, have affected my life as well.
Today marks 503 days since I found out that my baby had no heartbeat and 499 days since I went into hospital to be administered the medication to remove my baby from me. My life has changed so dramatically in that time, much like Elle Wright’s changed. Now, I am the last person to compare a missed miscarriage to neonatal death but, my personal experience and recovery is similar to that which Elle Wright went through. My miscarriage destroyed my mental health in multiple ways and I see those exact same traits in Elle Wright. I related so much to this book that I bookmarked certain pages because the similarities were uncanny and it made me feel validated.
I felt compelled to share this book so that it can be more widely known. However, I am sharing small snippets of the book alongside my own story related to that snippet which I hope will help people understand that there is no wrong or right way to feel, that you need to allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you naturally feel at such a time of loss. I have written lots since my miscarriage – songs, poems, a journal (which I will share one day, when I am feeling particularly brave), plays – but Elle Wright was brave enough to share her world with the rest of the world and show people like me that it is ok to be how you are.
- “It gave me the courage to start to try and be myself again.”
Such. Powerful. Words. My husband will be the first person to say that I am not the girl I was 500 days ago. I never will be. But there was a turning point in my mental recovery where I began to have the courage to start to try and be myself again. It was an evolved me – a beta version if you must – but it was me returning to me. My music and my writing gave me that courage and, although I still keep it hidden from most of my world, that’s no different to how I was before and it gave me courage.
- “It wasn’t their fault that I felt a lurch in my stomach every time I saw one of them holding their baby or pushing their child in a pram.”
I think one of the reasons I struggled so much with recovering mentally from my miscarriage was the fact that I knew two people who were pregnant at the same time as me. I fell pregnant around the time my sister announced that she was pregnant – she was about 6 weeks ahead of me. All talk in my family revolved around my sister being pregnant: discussions about pushchairs, baby’s first Christmas, how tired my sister was. I couldn’t cope. It was like having it rubbed in my face that she was still pregnant and I had failed, and all the while it felt that nobody cared. They did care but I am very closed off about my honest feelings and so I didn’t divulge how much pain I was in.
A friend of mine had her positive test within a day of mine; our 12 week scans were actually on the same day. She had had a miscarriage a few months before which was my first proper experience of miscarriage but we both had remained optimistic until our scans. I’m ashamed to admit it but I found it painful to be around her, knowing that she was going to have her child whilst mine had given up. I maintained as much strength as I could but she was a constant reminder of my failure.
My sister gave birth in the October and, although I made it to the hospital that same day to see my beautiful nephew, I had to stop and cry on my drive home because it hurt so much. I ended up messaging her to say that I didn’t know how much I could be around her in the near future as it was too hard and she was incredibly sympathetic to me. Eleven months on and my nephew is one of my lifelines and the complete light in my life, although it also still breaks me a little that I don’t have a child of my own. I still find it difficult when people announce their pregnancy and refuse to buy anything for the child until it actually arrives, but that is so much progress from a year ago still that I think I will stick with it.
- “I found myself consciously making time to ensure I did something for myself each day, to make myself feel better.”
Earlier on in this chapter Elle talks about the challenge of even going out for a walk. I love walking – it always provided me with an opportunity to get some fresh air and listen to some music, maybe passing some animals on the way. After the miscarriage, I couldn’t face much, especially walking. The concept of going out for a walk made me shy away from the door. When I started writing again, getting my voice back, I started feeling better. I made sure I sat down with pen and paper each day to write and get it all out. I was then able to start getting myself walking, my husband by my side. I asked for a FitBit for my birthday and started creating my own targets. I’d end the day with a walk around my area, listening to music to just get myself up to those 10,000 steps. The more I walked, the better I felt. When I had a panic attack at a work event and walked out, I got my husband to drive me to a nearby lake and walk with me in silence until I felt I could speak again. An hour later I uttered the words “thank you”. I hadn’t been able to walk as much in the build up to that event and it had affected me. I now make the conscious effort when there is a potentially difficult situation to ensure I can go off for a walk and give myself “me time”. Finding your key to feeling better is what will get you through.
- “Can you feel guilty forever?”
I have always carried guilt like a lead balloon. I still feel guilty about my miscarriage, my demons convincing me that I did something to cause it. But I have accepted it and try not to let the guilt drown me. As I have mentioned in other posts, I’ve felt incredible guilt at going on and living a life since the miscarriage. I’ve made some of the most incredible friends and had unbelievable opportunities, all because I haven’t been tied to a baby. My conscience has fought with me on multiple occasions about that but I decided to look at it that I have to make the most of my situation. I kept myself alive and kicking through these friends and experiences and, one day (hopefully), I will be granted the opportunity to have a child again.
- “Some days I can do it; I can get up, be an adult, do life, endure situations that are stressful and I don’t so much as flinch at any of it.”
This line made me laugh. My mum forever tells me off for calling more senior people at work grown-ups or adults, telling me that I am an adult myself. I usually respond with some comment that will cause a “when will you grow up?” which leaves me with the opportunity to wittily respond “adults don’t need to grow up, therefore I can’t be an adult.” I know it sounds silly but that humour is a key part of me and there was a period of time that I couldn’t make that joke. Like most people I have a stressful job. Unlike many, they were very understanding of my situation and helped provide me with as much support as I wanted on my return. I quickly discovered that I could not handle stress/confrontation and often had to leave situations to compose myself: that was the depression. I had many days where I just couldn’t deal with facing the world. Luckily, I was able to work from home for some of those days whilst on others, my colleagues (the ones who knew) recognised that I just needed to be left to it on my own, that I would talk if needed. I’ve become a lot more capable at having “adulting” days since I underwent CBT but I still have the minor blips. I used to thrive on stress; now I accept that it is a part of life but I would rather not have it.
I hope any of you who have made it through this rather lengthy post (apologies) have found it useful and insightful. I also hope that you choose to buy the book following this post as it is worth reading whether you have directly experienced loss (and if you have I send my love to you) or just want to understand loss (for which I commend you). If you choose not to buy the book, please consider donating in Teddy’s legacy at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/teddyslegacy. The money raised here will go towards equipment to help save babies at the hospital Teddy was born in to try and stop more parents suffering the heartache of neonatal death.
Thank you x