The past 2 years have been the hardest of my life. Stews accident knocked me for six and yet, I had the boys to look after so I continued to put one foot in front of the other. I continued to live each day with a strained look on my face, but not one tear shed in front of others. The crying I did was done in the privacy of my own home once I had settled in bed. I refused to put any extra responsibility on anyone else to look after me. So, I sat by my husbands bedside and waited patiently for him to come back to me. I sat and held his hand and I watched helplessly as he slowly came back round. Each step he took was agonising and frustrating to see; he had to learn to do everything again. From talking to walking; eating to speaking, everything was a struggle and everyday tasks which we do without thinking were hard for him. 5 Months later after a lot of rehabilitation and stress, Stew finally came home. But this wasn't without its limitations. He was no longer able to play the same with the boys, not able to read and for a long time he was so frustrated with how life had threw us this curve ball. I changed my hours at work and was all of a sudden responsible for everything from the boys to housework to driving to doctors or hospital appointments. I love taking care of my family but after a while the strain begins to feel obvious, especially when work and finances are thrown into the mix.
All of a sudden I was the only 'bread-winner' and I was solely responsible for bringing money in. It was me that did all the housework, me that did all the school runs and me that made sure shopping was always brought. I was the one who knew how much money we had and where it could be spent and when. I was the one who paid the bills and made sure we had enough for the boys for replacement uniforms, etc. I cant say that I minded doing this; I have always loved looking after my family but after a while the strain starts to show. And yet, I continued to rush around from school run, to job, to school run, to shop, to home - where I would sort tea, cleaning away, showering boys, putting them to bed, etc. By the end of the day I was exhausted and hardly had any time for myself at all.
In November 2017, almost a year since Stew had come out of hospital I went to my routine scan for my 3rd pregnancy. This was my 5 month scan and I was excited about seeing our baby again. We were due to find out the sex of the baby; and yet I had a feeling that something wasn't quite right. I hadn't felt much movement in a while and I felt like I was walking to my doom as I went into the scan room with the sonographer. They say Mothers Instinct is a powerful thing to possess. The instant the sonographer started scanning me, I just knew that something wasn't right. I knew that it had died before the lady told me. I could see her fighting to find a heartbeat; the strain apparent on her face. Losing my baby was maybe one of the hardest things that I have ever experienced. The days and months afterwards felt like I was living in a bubble. I struggled to comprehend how this happened. At the 3 month scan the baby was happily swirling around in my tummy; and now I had lost it. Did I do something wrong?
Grief I had was replaced with anger, then denial, then guilt. Every emotion ran through me. The day I had to go in to give birth to my baby was one of the most horrifying memories I have. I had not had any bleeding, my baby was still in there and as morbid as it sounds, I wanted to keep it. I wanted to keep it in there and not ever let it go. Up until that moment, I could deny that this was even happening. I could pretend that it wasn't happening; I could walk around and carry my baby inside me and half-pretend that it was still alive.
But how long would that have lasted?
I gave birth on the 13th November 2017 to a baby that I was too scared to look at. A baby that was carried away in a 'sick-bowl'. A baby that should have been going home with me.
I watched as they carried it out of the room and I beat myself up for not wanting to see it.
I wanted to hold it, but I was frightened. Part of me was scared that I would be horrified by how it looked; what type of mother would I be if I felt like that? Even for a moment?
But mostly? Mostly I was scared that I was going to not want to let go. I knew I loved it from the moment I saw it at the 3 month scan....No, I think I loved it from when I saw the red line on the pee stick.....and I was scared that I would never want to let it go and I hated the thought of having to hand it back over.
I walked out of the hospital feeling lost and empty and I have pretty much felt like that all the way up until now. Days went by in the beginning where I was forcing myself to wake up; I was crying most of the time when the boys couldn't see and felt lost most days. Almost like when you lose an item and you don't know where you left it....even after the baby's funeral service, I didn't feel like I had closure. I collected the babies ashes and they sit inside the memory box on top of my wardrobe with mittens and bibs and first outfits that He/she never got to wear. I had a lot of bad days in the beginning. I wanted to hide myself away and not face anyone. I hated going up the school in case people wanted to talk about it; I hated seeing someone who didn't know in case they asked how long I had left, unknowing.
And I hated knowing that the due date would be coming round and that I would have nothing to show for it.
My grief was all consuming and I felt like I was drowning in it. It was difficult to speak to other people about how I was feeling....I didn't want to be seen as though I was dwelling on it all, so I tried to bury it continuously and tried to not talk about how I was feeling. I went back to work after a month and just got back into the daily routine I lived. I wiped away threatening tears if there was any triggers and I cried at home most days. I thought I was coping; I thought I was moving forward.
Then sadly, in January 2018 we lost my Father in Law which was a huge shock and upset to everyone involved. The change of events distracted me from the grief I had about the baby and I felt the grief with the family of my Father in Laws passing. As time passed, I started to feel more like my old self and felt that I was starting to move forward from all of the 'crap' we had all gone through. And then in November with work pressures, school pressures, home, pressures, finances pressures and all of the buried stress and grief from the past 2 years, I started to feel less like myself. It started small with me having a few down days; not really knowing why I was feeling low...and then the anxiety started and I felt like I was drowning nearly everyday. Work became increasingly difficult and the pressures made me feel anxious and sick. I would sit at my desk and feel like crying; listening to the office chatter, trying to drone it out as I concentrated on NOT crying and looking like a fool. I haven't been much better since then. I have days where I can smile and laugh, but then I feel low again. I start to feel anxious and sick. My head hurts and I find myself crying over almost nothing. Maybe I didn't do myself any favours in the past by pushing away how I felt during some of the hardest times. I have been signed off work and that alone makes me feel guilty, which again causes me to feel anxious....and which makes me feel sick....which makes me cry....I find I am in a constant battle with myself to keep moving forward.
I know what some may say when they read this....pull yourself out of it! Get over it! Move forward! I would have said the same in the past when I didn't understand how mental health can affect a person. I tell myself everyday to shake it off and let go but I cant. I really do wish I could....
So, my aim for this year is to chip away at parts that I am unhappy with. I want to end 2019 with a smile on my face and to say I did what I could to be happy. Not just for me, but for my boys too.
Tiny steps but I hope to chip away at my 'low moods' and bring out the hidden-away, smiley Steph.
First step, lose weight, stick to slimming world and help to improve my self esteem. This alone should help with how I see myself, because at the moment I don't like myself very much.
Maybe I wont be sleeping through the night soon; Maybe I will be low most days for a while; Maybe I will suffer anxiety attacks and maybe I will struggle to get myself through each day....but I am hoping that with every step I take moving forward then I can start to feel happy again. Because really that's all I want.
'Just a little note to say that I am not unhappy with anyone in my life; I love my boys and Stew and our extending families. I have some amazing friends who I see as family....the person I am unhappy with is myself. I have to find a way to like myself.'