Tag Archives: family

Follow up to “We need to talk… about MISCARRIAGE”

15 Feb

It would seem I was on to something when I said we need to talk. I am overwhelmed by the number of emails I have received about yesterday’s post on miscarriage. It’s amazing how many people out there have experienced the pain of the loss of a pregnancy.

Quite a few of you recommended a book by Zoe Taylor called Pregnancy Loss: Surviving miscarriage and stillbirth. I thought I’d mention it here in case it can help anyone else. It’s an invaluable resource for anyone dealing with pregnancy loss, both from a medical and an emotional aspect. Find out more about it at:

http://www.pregnancylossbook.com/zoetaylor/Surviving_miscarriage_stillbirth._Home.html

A huge thanks to each and every person who shared their story with me. I am humbled by your strength and courage.

Thanks also for your kind words and support.

X

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We need to talk… about MISCARRIAGE

14 Feb

Love it or loathe it, it’s here again: Valentine’s Day. Ah, the day of love. A day of long-stemmed roses, boxed chocolate and greeting cards inscribed with prose. A day of old flames, new flames, sparks that will become the flames of tomorrow and the embers of loves past. A day of love hearts, broken hearts and lonely hearts. While the cynic in me scoffs at the commercialism of the day, the romantic in me loves the notion that there is one day each year devoted to love. But for me Valentine’s Day has become a time to reflect on a love that never came to be. On Valentine’s Day 2010, I had a miscarriage.

The year 2010 was shaping up to be a stellar one for Mr Wonderful and I. I had just turned 30 and Mr Wonderful was about to turn 40. We had recently returned home from a whirlwind trip to New York where Mr Wonderful had popped the question (and in the most romantic of ways I might add). Wedding planning had begun in fervour, and after only a few months of ‘trying’, I had fallen pregnant to the most wonderful man in the world (forgive the schmaltz, it’s Valentine’s Day after all).

I was so excited to be pregnant. I felt blessed and amazed that Mr Wonderful and I had created a new life out of our love for one another. And as is so often the case when good things happen to us, we wanted to share our joy with our nearest and dearest. Although our family and friends were thrilled by our news, many were shocked that we had let them know so early in the pregnancy. “You shouldn’t talk about it,” we were told. “It’s bad luck to tell people before 12 weeks,” some said. “What if something bad happens?”

Well, something bad did happen. I had cramps and started bleeding. We rushed off to the hospital hoping against hope that all was okay and that this was just a minor hiccup. But an ultrasound confirmed our greatest fear – the heartbeat we had watched and heard with such exhilaration just days ago was nowhere to be found. I had suffered a miscarriage at 10 weeks. I was absolutely devastated. So many questions swirled through my mind. Why had this happened? Had I done something to cause the miscarriage? What effect would this have on mine and Mr Wonderful’s relationship? Would these overwhelming feelings of emptiness, loss and grief ever go away?

Through the haze of my grief I had a realisation. Yes, this sad event had occurred, but the most important people in our lives, our family, our friends knew of my pregnancy. So surely they would also understand our distress and sorrow at losing this pregnancy. When something bad happens it is important to ensure that you have a support system around you. Someone to lend an ear; a shoulder to cry on; a constant presence in the background of your life. What I discovered though is that unfortunately miscarriage remains an uncomfortable subject in our society. Talk of miscarriage is taboo and is often avoided. Editor and author Irma Gold summed it up beautifully in a recent blog post on MamaMia:

“…women grieve alone, misunderstood by those closest to them. We are expected to move on – quickly, quietly – to get over what was just a biological glitch. Life goes on.

And it does go on. But many women silently carry the wound of a miscarriage with them. The problem is, if we don’t talk openly about miscarriage then it will always remain this secret unspeakable thing. A hidden wound.”

And so dear reader, that is why we need to talk about miscarriage…

What is a miscarriage?

In Australia, a miscarriage is defined as a pregnancy that ends before 20 weeks gestation. A miscarriage within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is called ‘early miscarriage’. Those that occur in the weeks after are ‘late miscarriages’. Approximately 80% of miscarriages occur before 12 weeks.

How common is miscarriage?

It is estimated that 15 to 20% of known pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Results from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health show that for every three women who have given birth by their early 30s, one has had a miscarriage. These figures are often received with surprise – given the high prevalence of miscarriage it is amazing how little it is acknowledged and talked about openly.

What causes a miscarriage?

Miscarriages usually occur because a pregnancy is not developing properly from the start. Often a miscarriage is the result of chromosomal abnormalities or a failure of the embryo to implant properly into the uterus. The chance of having a miscarriage increases with age and with carrying more than one baby (i.e. twins, triplets, etc). Smoking during pregnancy and drinking alcohol may also increase the risk of miscarriage. However, usually no treatable cause is found for a miscarriage.

An important point to remember is that it is very rare for a miscarriage to occur because of something the mother may or may not have done. This can be hard to accept when coming to terms with the loss of a pregnancy. It is so common for women to search for reasons as to why they may have miscarried.

What about future pregnancies?

One of the most common concerns following a miscarriage is that it might happen again. The good news is that up to 97% of women who experience one miscarriage will go on to have a healthy baby with a subsequent pregnancy. Also, up to 75% of women who have had three or more miscarriages will have a subsequent normal pregnancy.

How might I feel after a miscarriage?

There is no ‘right’ way to feel after a miscarriage. According to the Royal Women’s Hospital some people experience a range of physical or emotional reactions, while others feel quite indifferent. Some degree of grief is quite common, and the pain of the grief experienced after a miscarriage often comes as a shock. Feelings of guilt, anger, denial, shock and depression are perfectly normal. Even after dealing with these feelings they can recur, especially around the date of the expected birth or the anniversary of the miscarriage. The important thing is to take it one day at a time. Acknowledge your feelings and reactions as they arise. It is healthy to grieve following a pregnancy loss. Grieving is an essential step in the healing process and paves the way to emotional preparation for your next pregnancy should you choose to follow this path.

How might my partner feel after a miscarriage?

Of course it’s not just mothers who are affected by the grief of miscarriage. It is also vital to acknowledge the loss experienced by their partners. So often it’s the partner’s “job” to tend to the physical and emotional needs of the mother, usually at the expense of their own needs and their own grief. Blogger Clint Greagen expressed his frustration with this very issue in an article describing a man’s perspective on dealing with the loss of a baby. He explained how the questions and concerns he received were “generally directed towards me but in nearly all cases were about Tania” and went on to say “I began to feel as if I wasn’t entirely involved”. We must recognise that miscarriage is likely to affect the expecting partner as well as the mother, even though it may be in different ways. The partner’s emotions and needs are equally important and valid, whatever they may be.

There is a weight of silence that hangs over the subject of miscarriage. We need to lift the taboo surrounding miscarriage and acknowledge all those babies that never quite came to be. The fact of the matter is that miscarriage happens, and it happens more often than we realise. No matter how common miscarriage is, the pain and sadness experienced by many is real and needs to be openly acknowledged and honoured. And that is why we need to talk about miscarriage.

Happy Valentine’s Day xoxo

Useful resources

Related articles:

Royal Women’s Hospital fact sheet: Miscarriage: After a miscarriage

Huggies Australia: Miscarriage and loss

Better Health Channel: Miscarriage explained

General contact options:

  • Your GP
  • Community Health Centre
  • Nearest emergency department
  • Nurse on Call 1300 60 60 24

The following organisations offer support and information:

SANDS Australia – miscarriage, stillbirth & neonatal death support

Website: http://www.sands.org.au/

Ph: 13 000 72637

Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement – bereavement counselling & support service

Website: http://www.grief.org.au/

Ph: 1800 642 066

Good, better, breast. What happens when breast isn’t best?

10 Jan
breastfeeding

“You are starving your child.” Five words no parent ever wants to hear. Five words that can shake you to your very core. Five words that transform you from a confident, stable being into an irrational, blubbering mess. Well at least that is what those five words did to me…

About a month ago Boy Wonder and I ventured out to our local Maternal and Child Health Centre for his 4-month check-up. Over the weeks, Mr Wonderful and I had come to look forward to having our little boy weighed and measured so that we could track his growth and marvel in the miracle of what we created. During this visit, I discovered that my baby had dropped a percentile for weight. I was shocked by the news. How could this have happened? What have I done wrong? Will my baby be okay? The nurse’s response to my questions, “YOU ARE STARVING YOUR CHILD!”
I left my appointment that day a broken woman. What sort of mother starves her baby? I had done everything that was expected of me hadn’t I? For 17 long weeks I acted as a 24-hour milkbar for my baby, breastfeeding him on demand. I had been terrified about breastfeeding throughout my pregnancy. I wasn’t sure I’d be both physically and emotionally capable of doing it. After extensive reading of available literature, interrogating my friends and family members and lengthy discussions with Mr Wonderful, I decided I would give breastfeeding a red-hot go for either the first six months, or until Boy Wonder’s first teeth showed up – whichever came first.
Well as it turned out, Boy Wonder fed well from the moment he was born and I took to breastfeeding like a duck to water. I absolutely loved it! The closeness, the cuddling, the feeling that I was the only one in the world who could do this for him. I was so proud of myself and Mr Wonderful was so supportive. As the weeks went by though, I discovered that breastfeeding was making me feel exhausted. I was constantly hungry and always on call. To be perfectly honest, sometimes I wished I wasn’t the only one who could feed Boy Wonder. I was too scared to ask for help with my growing feelings of exhaustion and resentment, because when you are a ‘good breastfeeder’ you get put on a pedestal. I thought I would get fed the same old line of “keep up the good work” and “breast is best”. These were in fact the very same words the nurse said to me right after telling me that I was starving my baby. So while we all know that breast is best, what happens when things don’t work out?
A few days after my incident with the nurse, a news story caught my eye.

“BREASTFEEDING figures are in steady decline, even though national health guidelines recommend feeding infants the old-fashioned way.

A report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found only 40 per cent of mothers still exclusively breastfeed their babies at three months and 15 per cent of mothers are still breastfeeding at five months.

This is despite health guidelines that recommend breastfeeding for the first six months.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare surveyed more than 28,000 parents, with the data to be fed into the national breastfeeding strategy.

According to the survey, the biggest reasons for using formula were a previously unsuccessful experience (38 per cent), wanting to share feeding with a partner (28.5 per cent) and the belief that it was as good as breast milk (26 per cent).

Only 7.8 per cent of mothers said they used formula because they wanted to return to work.”

As a pharmacist I was astounded that only 15 per cent of babies were exclusively breastfed by 5 months. As a mother though, I totally understand. Most women want to breastfeed. According to this report breastfeeding was initiated in 96 per cent of children. Unfortunately, despite our greatest efforts and wishes, sometimes breastfeeding just doesn’t work out.
Breastfeeding is an exceptionally emotive topic. Breast milk is obviously designed for babies, but sometimes women find it difficult or impossible to breastfeed. Sometimes, women don’t even try, because it’s painful, incompatible with family life or they simply don’t want to. Who are we to judge? I know many lovely ladies who have struggled with breastfeeding for differing periods of time and then moved on to bottle-feeding because it just didn’t work out for them. A lot of these lovely ladies were left feeling like they’d failed. Many mothers feel a deep sense of loss when they are unable to breastfeed, either at all or for as long as they had planned. Once you become a parent it’s amazing how much guilt you can feel over a huge range of things. But instead of feeling guilty, perhaps we should be feeling indignant. If ‘the powers that be’ recommend breastfeeding exclusively until 6 months, why is it that less than half of babies in Australia are exclusively breastfed at 4 months? In many cases, I believe that it is because their mothers did not receive the right support and/or information at the right time. Being told by a nurse that breastfeeding is best is just not good enough.
There are plenty of resources available to parents seeking information and support:
  • The Australian Breastfeeding Association has a great article “When breastfeeding doesn’t work out”
  • The Maternal and Child Health Line (13 22 29) is a 24-hour telephone service staffed by maternal and child health nurses for families of children aged from birth to school age
  • Your GP or paediatrician
  • Your friendly, local pharmacist

After lengthy discussions with my GP, a nurse from the Maternal and Child Health Line, and a consultant from the ABA, I decided to continue breastfeeding and supplement with one formula-feed every night. I found that I was able to receive the support that I needed to make the decision that was right for me and my baby rather than feeling pressured into following the guidelines. As a side note, Boy Wonder gained 600 grams the following week and continues to thrive.

So, while I do believe that from a medical and scientific perspective breast is best, I also recognise that there are a host of other factors at play. My advice to expectant mothers is to give breastfeeding a shot. If it works out, good for you. If you switch to formula, good for you. You cannot fail your child when you have given all that you could give.

To Grandma’s house we go… Is it ok to sedate your baby for travel?

20 Dec

A few weeks ago Mr Wonderful announced that his work Christmas party was coming up and he would be flying to Sydney to attend. Since his parents live in Sydney, I thought why not kill two birds with one stone? While Mr Wonderful was off having a ball with his colleagues, I would take Boy Wonder up to spend some quality time with his grandparents. So, to Grandma’s house we went…

I was overcome by a feeling of calm and serenity. We had successfully completed our maiden voyage to Sydney and back with Boy Wonder when he was just eleven weeks old. He was a perfect specimen of baby back then. About three hours of air travel in total, and not a peep out of him the entire time. Surely travel with a twenty week old would be just as easy? Oh how wrong we were! Yes that’s right folks, my baby had the audacity to cry on the plane. My usually placid, happy child turned into a screaming, crying demon child! I broke into a sweat as I felt all eyes lock on us and saw people nudging each other then pointing in our direction. “Oh my goodness,” I said turning to Mr Wonderful. “It’s happened! We’ve become ‘one of them’. We have the screaming baby on the plane!”

Many parents dread taking their baby on a plane or other public transportation for extended periods. How on earth are you going to change your baby’s nappy in the awkward confines of an aeroplane toilet? What is the nicely dressed man sitting next to you going to do when he gets off the plane and realises he has a little baby vomit on his suit? Will your baby scream the whole way? Are your fellow passengers going to give you dirty looks and try to chase you off the plane with pitchforks and torches?

It’s not unusual for parents to consider avoiding such potential problems by medicating their baby to sleep. A recent survey by NBC’s Today Show and Parenting.com uncovered a startling finding. Of the 26,000 mothers asked about their deepest, darkest secrets, one in five admitted to medicating their child to get through a special event such as a plane flight. One in twelve mums does it just to get some peace and quiet on a regular night. Dr Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s medical expert, said she believes the one in five number is actually low.

Medication is a tempting way to keep your baby quiet for a few hours on a plane.  Truth be told, the idea of sedating Boy Wonder during this short trip to Sydney did briefly cross my mind. So is it ever ok to give your baby medication to get through a flight or even so that you as a parent can get some sleep? This very question caused an uproar on channel 7’s Sunrise earlier this year. Sunrise GP Dr Ginni Mansberg weighed in on the debate stating that sleep deprived parents “need our compassion and not our judgement”. She advocates the use of some over-the-counter medicine every now and then for parents requiring a decent night’s sleep.

While I both sympathise and empathise with parents who are sleep deprived, I believe both as a pharmacist and a new mum that any potential benefits are not worth the possible health risks. According to Australia’s drug regulatory body the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), there have been a number of overseas reports of serious adverse effects among infants and children given over-the-counter medicines containing sedating antihistamines. “These things are not ok for under two-year olds” says Dr Ginni, “because their metabolism is still developing and there have been some severe reactions even at the correct doses”. In fact, as of September 2008 medicines containing sedating antihistamines became ‘prescription only’ for children less than two years in Australia.

With Christmas and summer holidays upon us here in Australia, I get bombarded at the pharmacy with requests from parents for sedating antihistamines for their babies. I try to counsel parents about ways to make travel with a baby a little easier without medicating. Some handy hints include:

  • scheduling flights during baby’s sleep times;
  • choosing an airline that has bassinettes in the bulkhead which allow your baby to sleep well in something other than your arms;
  • trying to feed your baby during take-off and landing to help equalise their ears and for comfort;
  • bringing a goody bag of new books, toys and favourite snacks to keep baby occupied while they are awake;
  • trying to stay relaxed yourself because baby can sense when you are feeling tense and will most likely stress out too.

If you do decide to try sedating your baby for travel, be sure to follow these tips:

  • Discuss your plan with your child’s doctor or pharmacist. Some medications are unsafe if your baby has certain health conditions or is taking other medications.
  • Ensure you understand the correct dosage by discussing with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Do a test run of the medication before you travel, and monitor your baby for side effects.

The bottom line is, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I guarantee you that someone else feels overwhelmed by the prospect of travelling with a screaming child (lots of people actually). Someone else will medicate their child, or question their decision to medicate or brave it with no sedation at all. Just remember that no matter what you decide to do, be safe, be smart and be confident in your decision. Ultimately all any of us want as parents is to do our best for our children. Sometimes that means spending four days in a foreign city with our in-laws, but that is a story for another time…

Happy holidays to all xoxo

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A mother’s right to choose – when is the right time to return to work post baby?

13 Dec

During my pregnancy I suddenly sensed a shift in the force. Being a shy and somewhat reserved person, I found this shift both intriguing and unnerving. You see, it turns out that when you have a baby your every decision becomes fodder for discussion and debate. Family, friends and strangers alike bombard you with questions and advice ranging from what haemorrhoid cream is best during pregnancy to what parenting style should be followed. Being a fairly career-focused woman, the question I was asked most often was, “When will you be returning to work?”.

I couldn’t believe the controversy I created when I told people I would most likely be back at work within a couple of months of having Boy Wonder. “No way,” they said. “You’ll see, once you have that little baby you’ll never want to work again!” This wasn’t everyone’s view mind you. Those people who know me well understand that my work is a big part of who I am. And with that feeling in my heart, I left 18 week old Boy Wonder in the care of his grandmother last Monday and spent the day at work. I thought just talking about an “early” return to work was controversial, but actually carrying through with it caused quite a furore. Everyone had an opinion. I was told that I would ruin my relationship with my son, that I would no longer be able to breastfeed, that my son may resent me when he’s older, that 18 weeks is not the right time to return to work.

So when is the right time to return to work after having a baby? According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2007 the average length of maternity leave taken by Australian women was 34 weeks for those taking a combination of paid and unpaid leave. On average, those taking only paid leave were back at work after 17 weeks. Perhaps the introduction of the federally funded Paid Parental Leave scheme which provides up to 18 weeks paid leave at the national minimum wage will change the average length of maternity leave. However, are finances the only factor considered when deciding when to return to work?

My answer to that question is a resounding NO! Many people assume that I have chosen to return to work for financial reasons. Why else would you leave your precious, defenseless baby in the care of someone other than yourself, the parent? Now I’m not suggesting that Mr Wonderful and I are rolling in it. Our finances were certainly one reason I decided to return to work. But there were many other reasons as well.

As a new mum and a Jewish woman, I was wracked with guilt when pondering the maternity leave question. Will my baby suffer if I’m not with him all the time? Will I still be able to breastfeed if I return to work? What if something happens and I’m not there? Will our bond be strong enough to withstand our not spending every waking moment together? Will people judge me for returning to work and not being a stay-at-home mum? How will I cope with the judgement? At the same time I was also worrying about my job. How much leave would my boss find acceptable? Will my replacement do a better job than me? Based on the answer to the last question, will I have a job to go back to? Phew, all this pondering, guilt and paranoia was exhausting!

I spent a significant amount of time thinking about what was best for Boy Wonder and what was best for my employer, but I also had to consider what was best for me. I like to think I know myself pretty well. I have suffered a form of depression in the past. I am also an introvert and could easily spend my days in isolation, just me, Boy Wonder and Mr Wonderful. However, as a pharmacist I also know that the risk factors for postnatal depression include a past history of depression, isolation and not having time out from caring for baby. According to Beyond Blue, some new mothers may find the change in lifestyle associated with having a new baby hard to deal with. Adjustments such as spending less time with work colleagues, having little time to go out with friends and other social and psychological risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing depression in some women.

Although I worship and adore my Boy Wonder, I sometimes felt isolated and alone at home with him. I craved the stimulation and social contact of my paid work. I needed some adult conversation and some structure. So I exercised my right to choose and have returned to the pharmacy. I’m only working one day a week at the moment, but it’s enough to make me feel like me again.

The key message I would like you take away from this post, is that choosing to return to work post baby is a very personal decision. Instead of criticising, questioning and debating the reasons our fellow mothers choose to return to work or stay at home, let’s just support a mother’s right to choose…

Some useful links related to returning to work after baby:

1. Raising Children Network: Returning to work – a guide

http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/returning_to_work.html

2. Body & Soul: Back to work after baby

http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/parenting+pregnancy/pregnancy/back+to+work+after+baby,15031

3. Family Vie: 10 tips for returning to work after maternity leave

http://www.familyvie.com/2010/09/22/10-tips-for-returning-to-work-after-maternity-leave/

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