Tommys: Big Give Christmas Challenge

Did you know that 1 in 5 women develop mental health problems during pregnancy?

This week Tommy’s, a charity very close to my heart, has launched the Big Give campaign where they are fundraising to create an online tool to help all pregnant women manage their mental wellbeing. With information, advice and features to help women throughout their pregnancy, pregnant women will be able to request a personal call-back from a Tommy’s midwife which could prove invaluable.

My story of mental health in pregnancy is complicated – a mixture of existing mental health issues and the relentless fear that I would lose a baby, in the same way that I had so many times before.

When I fell pregnant with Eva after fifteen losses, including the death of our beautiful boy Joseph, there wasn’t a single part of me believed that she would arrive safely into my arms. During those early days my pregnancy seemed futile, just waiting for the moment I would feel those familiar cramps, see those angry red spots on the toilet tissue, hear the sympathetic words from a sonographer that our baby hadn’t made it.

With every scan, as they showed us that beautiful flickering heartbeat, rather than provide me with comfort, it simply felt like the cruellest blow to allow me to get my hopes week after week, only for them to be shattered further down the line when the flicker was nowhere to be seen.

When we finally announced our news at 16 weeks and told Lewis that I was pregnant with a baby sister, what should have been one of the most amazing moments of my life was clouded by grief. I can still remember sitting there, choking on my own words, telling him about the baby, showing him scan photos and allowing him to finally believe that his dreams for a sibling had come true.

And it felt like torture.

I had cried that night, angry, scared tears into my pillow, thinking about the look on his face when we had told him. It killed me to imagine how happy he had been, how sure he was in that moment that it would all be okay. And I berated myself for allowing him to feel that excitement, knowing that, when the worst happened, it would be even harder for him to process that loss than six years earlier, just two years old.

When others congratulated us on our news, asked us about names, about my labour plans, about how excited we must be to have a daughter, I felt as though I was drowning in my own sadness. I was painfully aware of how ungrateful I was not to be cherishing this time and I loathed myself for becoming everything I had promised I would never be, should we ever be blessed with a baby after all of these years.

During hospital appointments, as my consultant held my hand and promised me that they were doing everything they could to bring our daughter home safely, I would nod along in agreement, screaming inside that I had heard those words before. When I was reassured that I was being monitored as carefully as was possible, I wanted to tell them it wasn’t enough, that I wanted to be admitted to hospital, wired up to monitors and allowed to stay there every moment of every day, until she made it here safely.

But instead I said nothing, just blankly stared into the distance, that feeling of dread churning in my stomach, waiting, and waiting, for the moment it would be too late. Because I truly believed, with absolute certainty, that it wasn’t a case of if the worst should happen, but when.

And of course alongside all of those emotions, I felt such gut wrenching guilt that I had ruined the whole experience for Gaz, a first time Daddy, a moment he had waited for all his life. It breaks my heart that I hadn’t allowed him to experience the joy of shopping for a new baby, choosing a pram, building a cot, picking out little cotton babygro’s and first teddy bears to cherish. It pains me to remember all of those days I left the room when he spoke about the future, all of those conversations I refused to hear, all of those moments when I wanted to tell him that the only plans we should make were for our baby girls funeral.

I was completely and utterly consumed with fear and grief, every kick a reminder of the last little one who had wriggled in my tummy, every appointment a reminder of the last time I had been there, hearing the words that no parent wants to hear.

And I felt completely and utterly alone, will all of those thoughts, and all of those feelings.

But, as we all know, Eva finally came screaming into the world, safe, healthy, and breathtakingly beautiful, and she healed my heart absolutely. But afterwards, when I held her in my arms, I felt overcome with fear that perhaps now would be the time she was taken from us, perhaps now would be the moment when our dreams would be shattered. And of course, as post-natal depression kicked in again, and later diagnosed with post traumatic stress, I very soon spiralled into a dangerously low place.

It is only now, looking back, that I can see that I was seriously struggling with my mental health at that time. And I can’t help but wonder had I received the help I needed during my pregnancy whether things would have been different. Whether, armed with the right tools and the right support, I could have enjoyed even a handful of moments during those eight long months. Whether actually, if all of those things had been available to me, those first few months with my little rainbow would have been far less fraught with fear and anxiety.

Because the truth is, pregnancy is hard work, both physically and mentally. It’s the most incredible, terrifying, life changing, rollercoaster of emotions and it’s no surprise that it impacts so many women’s mental health. I think far too many of us chastise ourselves for struggling with something which, in all sense and purposes, is supposed to be the most natural act of all. And yet we do struggle, and it is tough, and there is no shame whatsoever in holding our hands up and admitting that.

As always I commend Tommy’s for paving the way to help all mothers manage their mental well being. Because it’s important to remember that it’s not just for Mothers like me, with pre-existing mental health issues or navigating pregnancy after loss. It’s for Mother’s facing this journey alone, or missing a loved one at such a momentous time in their lives. It’s for Mother’s who are feeling a little scared at the responsibility which awaits them, for Mother’s who are worried how they will juggle a family alongside a career, or love a second child in the way they love their first. It’s for Mothers who need a little reassurance, a little support, a little pick me up on the days they are finding it particularly tough.

And it’s for Mother’s who, perhaps un-explicably at times, feel a little overwhelmed with the fact that they are growing a real life human being and their entire world is about to change in an instant. Because for all Mother’s, your mental well-being is paramount, and having that support at a time you need it the most can make all the difference.

This Christmas we will be donating to Tommy’s Big Give Campaign instead of sending christmas cards, and I urge others to do the same.

You can donate here.

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54 Comments

  1. November 30, 2018 / 9:12 am

    Pregnancy is certainly most beautiful but tough phase in woman’s life. The rate of mental illness during pregnancy is alarming. We need to make woman feel better during pregnancy and provide them all the mental support they need.

  2. candy
    November 30, 2018 / 11:44 am

    Every woman experiences something different when carrying a baby. Think we all worry about loosing our baby. We are very tough individuals.

  3. November 30, 2018 / 12:33 pm

    I can’t begin to imagine the fear after going through 15 losses! I lost one before having my first child and one afterwards so I do know the fear of seeing blood on the toilet tissue or having a small cramp and expecting it to grow worse. Tommy’s seems like a great charity to give to and is making a difference in the world by helping pregnant women.

  4. November 30, 2018 / 1:19 pm

    I can’t even imagine. I will check this out and see about donating. I think it’s important to do. I always want to help other mother’s.

  5. November 30, 2018 / 2:00 pm

    Wow, 15 loses. You are incredibly strong. Thank you for your bravery in sharing your story and donating to help mom’s this holiday season.

  6. November 30, 2018 / 2:08 pm

    I am always astounded by everything you have gone through and I know you struggle with mental health issues and I always applaud you for being so honest and open about it. Well done for putting your money where your mouth is by donating to their drive instead of giving Christmas cards very admirable indeed lovely x

  7. November 30, 2018 / 2:54 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I think that so often we can feel alone when we are struggling; but your vulnerability will help others realize that they are not alone- and that challenges are real.

  8. November 30, 2018 / 3:01 pm

    I am 8 months pregnant right now and thankfully my mindset never changed. I mean, that could be bad because I am 100% not ready to have a kid, but hey, I will make it work. In terms of feeling negative about myself, I never did throughout this entire pregnancy! I just made everyday work for me – living one day at a time!

  9. Monidipa Dutta
    November 30, 2018 / 3:25 pm

    I will check this out and see about donating because it is important. I have no idea about pregnancy but you certainly have left me at the loss of words.

  10. November 30, 2018 / 3:46 pm

    Our mental health is so important. Great to see a charity dedicated to the mental health of pregnant moms. I struggled with fertility issues for nearly a decade and sadly I can relate to this experience far too well.

  11. November 30, 2018 / 3:56 pm

    I have a lot of the same worries when I was pregnant. Instead of enjoying the pregnancy I was worried about every little thing. It is definitely something that is real and it is something that should be talked about more often. I’m glad you posted this.

  12. November 30, 2018 / 5:07 pm

    I never been pregnant but i saw my sister from the beginning of her pregnancy till she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. I can say its not easy but at the end its worth it! 🙂

  13. Samantha
    November 30, 2018 / 6:07 pm

    Thank you for sharing this and being honest. Pregnancy can be tough but it will always be worth it

  14. November 30, 2018 / 6:29 pm

    I remember these types of fears after I became pregnant after a loss. I too was afraid of another loss and needed those scan reassurances.

  15. November 30, 2018 / 7:34 pm

    What a lovely thing to be doing instead of sending cards. I really should do something similar myself and Tommy’s are such a great charity to get behind as well.

  16. November 30, 2018 / 7:41 pm

    what a great cause to do for the holidays! I do not have any kids but I heard the pregnancy changes everything, it almost scares me!

  17. November 30, 2018 / 7:48 pm

    I never knew any of this, what a great Christmas challenge to get behind. Having had three children I understand, pregnancy is stressful!

  18. November 30, 2018 / 7:53 pm

    You’re an inspiration Laura! To see how much you have been through, managing to charge through the darkest of times and out into the sunshine with your beautiful family. Now that’s real courage. Your generous idea to give to Tommy’s instead of Christmas card is a really lovely thing to do. I hadn’t realised they were working on a new tool to help pregnant ladies xxx

  19. November 30, 2018 / 8:40 pm

    Women are so strong! To go through pregnancy, childbirth and then some dealing with postpartum depression… it is so much to deal with and overcome. I think it is important to talk about mental health and let others know that they are not alone and to seek help. I love this idea instead of Christmas cards!

  20. November 30, 2018 / 8:50 pm

    What an amazing cause! Mental health is important even throughout a pregnancy! We must all help, support, and love others who are going though silent battles.

  21. Pam
    November 30, 2018 / 9:21 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story and promoting the Big Give. Pregnancy is so hard, and so dangerous. So many women suffer in silence.

  22. November 30, 2018 / 10:02 pm

    I remember it well. One minute you’re ecstatic and talling one to the dozen about the new baby, the next doubts creep in about your ability to parent/ability to do any of it … and the raging hormones don’t help one little bit. It was 9 months of living on the knife edge, both times, for me.

  23. December 1, 2018 / 2:06 am

    What an amazing story. Thank you for sharing. And what a great cause. Motherhood is so difficult at all stages. It’s great to have support.

  24. December 1, 2018 / 5:36 am

    an online tool to help all pregnant women manage their mental wellbeing is an awesome resource. Thanks for making us aware.

  25. December 1, 2018 / 5:49 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. What an amazing example of strength you have shown! It’s such a great idea to donate instead of sending cards. People can always send e-cards instead and support a great cause!

  26. Kristine Nicole Alessandra
    December 1, 2018 / 6:13 am

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. Pregnancy and childbirth is difficult! I remember during my first pregnancy, my grandmother took extra care of me. She said women who are about to give birth has one of their legs in the grave. I think it is true, after 28 hours in labor, I could not think of anything else. I will share your post with others as I feel women do not only need physical help during the duration of their pregnancy and immediately after childbirth, they also need to have good mental and emotional support to prepare them for the task of motherhood.

  27. December 1, 2018 / 11:00 am

    Thank you for writing such a vulnerable piece. Keep writing because the world needs to hear your story.

  28. December 1, 2018 / 11:50 am

    I love this! How you have actually took actions and are focusing on putting donations to the cause rather than having Christmas cards. I know what you mean about fear of loss and keep strong, you are doing fab xx

  29. December 1, 2018 / 1:52 pm

    It is great you are donating instead of sending cards. That is a lovely thing to do.

  30. December 1, 2018 / 7:30 pm

    very powerful words Laura. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can’t begin to know what that fear must have been like after so many losses – I have friend’s who have rainbow babies too – You’re right Good mental health support in pregnancy and afterwards is so so important – too many women fall through the gaps. I’m very fortunate to work with theTommy’s researchers at St Mary’s in Manchester who do such great work supporting women, especially those needing extra support in rainbow baby clinics. I’ve shared and donated (and my Women’s Institute will be supporting their work in 2019. I hope Tommy’s raise the £90k for this really vital online mental health support service. Much love Bec xx

  31. December 1, 2018 / 7:39 pm

    Pregnancy caused all sorts of mental health issues for myself too, it’s awful feeling so low. I love the idea of donating rather than sending cards.

  32. Eugenia
    December 1, 2018 / 8:32 pm

    oh, I am so sorry to hear about your 15 loses and so happy that Eva finally came screaming into the world! That’s amazing that Tommy really support and helps mothers to manage their mental health. That’s so kind you decided to donate to Tommy’s initiative!

  33. Ronnie
    December 1, 2018 / 8:43 pm

    Thank you for sharing such a personal story. It’s easy to believe that we should feel so joyful and happy about pregnancy… but really it’s challenging, both physically and emotionally. I felt so guilty about how I felt when I was pregnant but it’s comforting to know I’m not alone.

  34. December 1, 2018 / 10:34 pm

    I was really superstitutious when I was pregnant, I was convinced I would jinx it and we only told a bare minimum of people. Everyone else was majorly surprised when we eventually announced the birth. Looking back, I wish I’d allowed myself to enjoy the pregnancy more.

  35. December 1, 2018 / 10:37 pm

    Gosh that must have been so awful for you, I can’t imagine. Pregnancy is a really tough time for women, both physically and mentally and posts like this are great as it is okay to admit that things can be tough as it might help someone else who feels the same way.

  36. Aia
    December 2, 2018 / 1:25 am

    Thanks for sharing your story. Being pregnant is hard. Pregnant women needs a lot of support and understanding.

  37. December 2, 2018 / 2:47 am

    This is such a powerful post and I’m so glad you are brave enough to share! Thank you for this!

  38. December 2, 2018 / 3:37 am

    Pregnancy is one of the toughest times for women. I know I’ve never experienced the losses that you have, but I know I’ve had many periods of doubt. Thank you so much for sharing this post. <3

  39. Wendy
    December 2, 2018 / 9:53 am

    Tommy’s is such an amazing charity and this new campaign is so important. Pregnancy is hard and it can really impact our mental health, to have a someone to talk to can be invaluable for those who need extra support xx

  40. December 2, 2018 / 1:45 pm

    Thank you, Laura, for being so transparent with what you have endured. Pregnancy is such a scary time let alone having to worry about the things that you had to worry about during the whole 9 months. I am sorry you have had to experience all of this, but applaud you for sharing your story so others may not feel so alone.

  41. December 2, 2018 / 4:49 pm

    That’s so great when it comes to what they are doing for women going through depression and pregnancy. I remember my ex-wife suffered greatly from it even though we never had your previous experiences. It was an emotional and difficult period. It’s so good they are willing to help in this area.

  42. December 2, 2018 / 9:40 pm

    I’m so sorry about all of your loses, of course this has an impact on your mental health, you are a human how much loss can one person take! I’m so happy you have Eva to give all that love to!

  43. December 3, 2018 / 12:06 am

    Yes hormone during pregnancy make both mental and health wise changes Thanks for sharing your story. Yes I had to do IVF to get my kids.

  44. December 3, 2018 / 3:05 am

    Pregnancy is tough and it can change you a lot I’m so proud to all of women who survived for giving birth.What a great story from you! I would love to share this!

  45. December 3, 2018 / 3:24 am

    Thanks for sharing your story. I didn’t know that! I am glad that there are agencies and programs to help. Blessings.

  46. Kay
    December 3, 2018 / 4:56 am

    I felt depressed during my 1st pregnancy but when I had my son I felt like myself again

  47. December 3, 2018 / 12:00 pm

    Tommy’s charity sounds like a great support network and the Big Give campaign is something worth highlighting. Can’t even imagine what your pregnancy journey and fourth trimester was like. It must be so painful to remember 🙁 hope you are ok x

  48. December 3, 2018 / 12:01 pm

    What a wonderful and insightful post! Pregnancy can be tough for a lot of women, I remember ‘all’ of the mood swings I had. I thought it was normal to have felt like crap all of the time, which is why I was in complete shock at how easy my sister had it. She barely had any morning sickness. I guess she just got it lucky. Thanks for spreading awareness, love the blog! 🙂

  49. December 3, 2018 / 3:58 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I was born early because my twin had passed away in the womb. I know my mom never had it easy, having a baby and also losing one at the age of 17. My dad hadn’t been helpful because he was a teenage alcoholic at that time. I couldn’t imagine the grief, heartache, and strength that she must have had to raise me at that time. Until recently, I never realized how much the loss of my twin had even affected her until she we both talked one day. The feeling of loss never goes away, but it gets easier. I only got bluesy, but never really very depressed with my babies. It was still enough to cause strife and unnecessary arguments in the house, but I still know that what Tommy’s is doing is a great thing. I get set off emotionally when it rains for too long and I’m not a bag of hormones anymore, it’s much worse with sleep deprivation and hormones crash into each other.

  50. December 3, 2018 / 8:30 pm

    You said it so well that pregnancy is hard work, both physically and mentally. Raising awareness is so important. Something maybe partners or relatives without kids don`t realise how important is to check on new mamas out there to make sure they are really ok.

  51. chichi
    December 5, 2018 / 7:45 am

    I haven’t been pregnant and i certainly have certain fears like the ones you experienced, just hope talking with family helps!

  52. December 5, 2018 / 2:04 pm

    Such a great cause to support, Tommy’s have helped several friends so are a charity that is close to my heart

  53. Kiwi
    December 6, 2018 / 1:58 am

    I know of postpartum depression but I didnt know it was 1 in 5 pregnant women get depressed as well. It can be stressful, lonely and fearful of the future so I can see how it needs to be more mental help for pregnant women for support.

  54. December 10, 2018 / 7:47 pm

    This is such a great cause to support! The amount of losses you went through is heartbreaking, you are such a strong woman! Thank you for sharing and spreading awareness!

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