Voice of a mother: The bereaved and traumatised mind

By Jess Clasby-Monk on 25 May 2018 Midwives Magazine Bereavement Care

Jess Clasby-Monk describes how she felt during her pregnancy following the loss of her son Leo.

Pregnancy after loss for me was the extreme of the most extremes. I would describe it as placing yourself at the epicentre of trauma, your own trauma, and staying there 24/7, for nine months - there are no breaks, no respite, no times to breathe deeply. You are there, right in the centre of it, when you are awake, and when you are asleep. It is exhausting, relentless, terrifying yet full of this quiet hope that sits in the background, and slowly, very slowly pushes you forward.

Even your dreams don’t allow you to rest. You are constantly wrestling with sleep, preoccupied with waiting for movements, while drifting in and out of dreams of it all unravelling on you again. These are vivid dreams, filtered with the reality of emotions that have already been felt before. It’s a feeling that is almost impossible to shake the next day.

Personally for me, understanding is the key to being able to deliver appropriate care to women and their families throughout a pregnancy after loss. And that requirement really does start right from the beginning - from the moment you find out you are pregnant again, or even before. The trauma never leaves, so neither does the need to be cared for compassionately, with true understanding.

The bereaved and traumatised mind is incredibly black and white when it comes to the fragility of life. The moment the mind allows itself to think that something is wrong, the mind tells you that your baby is dead. There is no in-between, and there is rarely any catching yourself before you fall, powerless to your new mindset. A mindset that you hate, that you try to resist, that takes control without warning, and without permission.

It is understanding this that is key. This isn’t just anxiety. This is the inability to see fact from fiction. The inability to recognise instinct from anxiousness. The inability to separate grief from trauma. The inability to believe you just felt them kick. The inability to see the difference between the future and the past. The inability to press pause on the replay of what has happened, in order to press play on the good that could happen.

Reassurance is fragile. It’s so delicate, that it will break far quicker than we’d like, and probably far quicker than you’d expect. A scan or a listen-in can settle the mind for a few days at most, but probably a few hours at norm. The soundtrack to loss plays on a loop, just some days it’s quieter, but most days it’s deafening.

The problem is, none of this really stops when they are born screaming either.

Jess Clasby-Monk is mum to Leo and his little brother Eli and blogs on thelegacyofleo.com