Learning to hope- things that help me through pregnancy 

This is an ongoing piece of work in which I’ll share anything that I find helps me to stay positive through this pregnancy.

#1 Statistics. Statistics shouldn’t really comfort me since I’ve been that one in 200 of pregnancies to have a stillbirth.  Baby loss is a 100% of my experience. However, statistics do help me to keep a bit of perspective. This site is a little morbid but it gives me a little comfort to see my daily odds of miscarrriage going down. http://spacefem.com/pregnant/mc

#2 Affirmations. I use an app called ‘Think Up’, which allows me to record my own affirmations in my own voice and then play them back with a musical track of my choice. These are some of the affirmations I’m using:

  • I choose to direct my energy into constructive endeavours.
  • I will not be beaten down by pointless negative thinking
  • Today I am pregnant
  • This is a different pregnancy, a different baby, a different experience, a different outcome
  • I choose to release the past and look forward to the future.
  • In this moment, I choose to feel calm and peaceful. Everything is unfolding as it should
  • I’m learning to trust that things will work out as they need to
  • There are no mistakes, only lessons to be learned. I do the best I can.
  • It’s ok for me to feel safe, calm and at peace
  • I Am releasing my concerns and breathing slowly and deeply.

#3 challenging negative thoughts. I’ve been working with my counsellor on how to deal with the worries associated with this new pregnancy. The first stratergy she taught me was to acknowledge the thoughts you are having by writing them down. I was surprised at just how often these negative thoughts were polluting my mind, but also by how their impact was greatly reduced just by ‘bringing them into the light’. The second strategy she taught me was how to create counter arguments or alternative statements for each worry. The idea is that over time I’ll become more skilled at countering negative thoughts and I’ll begin to do it automatically. I compared it to that advert for Smart Energy with those characters ‘Gaz and Leccy’ (representing gas and electricity) running riot in our homes until they are taken control of by a smart meter. In my analogy Gaz and Leccy are the negative thoughts running riot in your head using up energy but taken under control by becoming thought-smart (your own personal smart meter if you will)  It’s a work in progress for me at the moment but I’m already feeling more in control of my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes saying the worries out loud to someone else, or even just in front of a mirror can really reduce their power too.

#4 letting it go. I’m learning I need to pick my battles. There are some negative thoughts that are productive because they make you take action. Others are just pointless worries which wear you down because you cannot control them. I need to learn not to enter the battle in the first place.

grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I’m using this song to help me (as cheesy as it may be). I’ve started singing it really loudly in the car when my mind goes into overdrive!

Let it go, let it go, Turn away and slam the door, I don’t care, what they’re going to say, Let the storm rage on. The cold never bothered me anyway

It’s funny how some distance, Makes everything seem small, And the fears that once controlled me, Can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do, To test the limits and break through, No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I’m free

#5 Quotes. Here are some of my favourite anti-worrying quotes:

“Worry does nothing to empty tomorrow if its troubles. It only empties today of its strength”

“Worry is like walking round with an umbrella waiting for rain.” 

“Worry gives a small thing a big shadow”

#6 redirecting the energy used for worrying into a constructive endeavour. For me, jigsaws and colouring have worked. My counsellor recommended colouring books by Johanna Basford. Another loss mum I know recommended this: Dr Sarah Jane Arnold, The Mindfulness Companion: A Creative Journal to Bring Calm to Your Day (Colouring Books). Other  people I know have  said gardening, cooking or crocheting engage them in the same way. It’s more than just distraction it’s about taking that tendency to ‘meticulously’ worry and using it to ‘meticulously’ do something else.

#7 try to stay in the now. I’m trying hard not to race ahead with predictions about the future, what might happen and how I might feel. When I start racing ahead, Matthew says “These thoughts are not for now.” And he’s right- today is exhausting enough without worrying about tomorrow too.

#8 milestones. At the moment I’m not looking at this pregnancy as nine months, I’m looking at it as today. I haven’t actually thought much about the 12 week scan as it feels to far away to even contemplate. At the moment I’m just focusing on getting through today.

I’ve downloaded an app which allows me to count up the days instead of down as it feels like everyday is an achievement to acknowledge. I titled it hope blossoming. I’m using an app called HowManyDays

I’m also making a charm bracelet and adding a new charm for every month of pregnancy to celebrate getting though each month.
#9 research. I love facts and figures. You can’t argue with them! Here’s a list of all the positive ones I find:

  • About 85% of the things we worry about will never happen.
  • If what we worry about does happen, 80% of us said we handled the outcome better than we thought we would.
  • 50-70% of miscarriages happen before women even know they are pregnant.
  • After the first missed period to week 6 rates are down to an average of only 10% and only 5% from weeks 6-12.
  • heartbeat detection dramatically lowers the chances of a miscarriage.
  • “most pregnancies following a stillbirth will progress normally and end in the birth of a healthy baby,” said lead researcher Dr. Sohinee
  • There is no evidence to reflect that stillbirth is hereditary.
  • 98% of all pregnancies result in the live birth of a healthy baby.
  • “We conclude that a woman who has had an unexplained stillbirth at term has no greater risk of recurrence than a matched control.”Onwude JL, et al. J Obstet Gynaecol. 2006.
  •  The majority of pregnancies after an unexplained stillbirth will be uncomplicated. – Dr Charlotte Paull
  • “There is no increase in perinatal death rates in subsequent pregnancies after an unexplained stillbirth.” Faculty of medicine
  • try not to stress about stress. Stress might stop you ovulating but once baby is bedded in the research shows it won’t dislodge it, and it would have to be really severe stress to affect the foetus. Think about the stress our cavewoman ancestors would have been under daily – if stress could end pregnancies the human race would never have continued

#10 mantras. Since monitoring my negative thinking, I’ve realised I spend a lot of time worrying whilst I’m in the car. It’s like a wide open space for my thoughts to go crazy, so I’m thinking of creating a playlist of songs with positive messages to try to counteract some of the negative ones. Here’s the songs I’ve come up with so far:

  • keeping your head up (birdy)
  • Don’t you worry child (Marilyn Bailey acoustic version)
  • hope- twista
  • Timshell- Mumford and son
  • Hope- Natasha Beddingfield
  • Falling slowly-the frames
  • Battle scars- paradise fears 

#11 mindfulness. This is something I want to explore further. I contacted a mindfulness tutor and she recommended the following books;

– This is a great book with lots of exercises to do yourself, there’s actually over a hundred of them so it’s really great to explore what fits for you. It is very extensive though and absorbing so if you think think you may find it overwhelming then it may not be the best choice.

– This is possibly more suitable to your specific issues, I have not read it myself but have heard great things about other books in the series.

– It’s also worth searching youtube for some stuff. I honestly don’t feel that Mindfulness is something that necessarily needs a teacher but sometimes we can feel like we need an extra bit of motivation that can come from a group so just see how you get on. There also tend to be a lot of Mindfulness retreats, some are purely Mindfulness and some sway towards more Buddhist teachings, which I personally find fascinating.

-my counsellor also recommended  this book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/s//ref=mw_dp_a_s?ie=UTF8&i=books&k=Ruby+Wax

#12 my positivity journal. Since the beginning of my loss I kept anything which I read which inspired me, helped me cope or gave me hope. I found a book in the works and then copied them in.

#13 sleep. Night time my negative thoughts seem to come alive so to stop myself getting wrapped up in them I play simple games. These have been working for me for months – they force me to occupy my brain with other stuff

  • A-Z game. I basically aim to think of 1-5 items for each letter in the said category. I’ve done every category you can think of-animals, insects, countries, towns, clothing, sports/ games, herbs, medical ailments, medication names, foods, drinks, song names, celebrities.
  • Categories- I give myself a category then think up 50/100 things linked to it.
  • Go through the alphabet thinking of a one-syllable word beginning with each letter. Then do 2-syllable words, then 3-syllable words. You probably won’t stay awake long enough to get to 4 syllables.

#14 Doing ‘normal’ pregnancy things. I’ve downloaded the ovia pregnancy app which helps me to see the ‘progress’ I’m making though pregnancy. I’ve also joined a due date club so I can chat to other women at the same stage as me. It does help to ground me when I worry about particular symptoms.

#15 books: books that have helped me through this pregnancy:

  • Pregnancy after loss, carol Lanham (lots of useful tips and stories of women who’ve been through it)
  • Amanda Holdens autobiography (I love her optimism and positivity about her subsequent pregnancy after stillbirth)

#16 support- if at any time you find your anxiety overwhelming, call the doctor’s office and go for a check up (advice from pregnancy after loss)

Ive also had amazing support from the Tommy’s helpline. It’s manned by qualified midwives who are available to answer and pregnancy related questions. They are specifically knowledgable about stillbirth and have been an incredible source of support though this pregnancy. Sometimes I know I’m being irrational about a particular aspect of pregnancy but just need to hear it from someone with the medical knowledge.

#17 positivity- one thing I’m insisting on is that my friends and family give me nothing but positivity. I will have enough doubts of my own so I won’t tolerate any negativity from others. 

#18 restoring positive thinking

my counsellor taught me to write down all my worries and the outcomes so that I could begin to build a more realistic view of how things transpire. Here’s my list:

worry/ implications/ outcome:

– lack of sickness/has baby died?/ baby fine

-severe sickness/has baby died?/ baby fine

-spotting x3/ has baby died?/ baby fine

-lack of movement/ has baby died?/ baby fine

#19 monitoring movements. I use an app called ‘kick counter’ to record his movements. This ap uses the data I put in and compiles them into charts where I can see how many times he moves each hour and each day.  It’s helped me to recognise his most active periods.

In my job as a teacher I can’t have my phone on hand, so I’ve bought a click counter which I will attach to my lanyard and press each time he moves. I’m often so busy at work that I can’t remember if I’ve felt him or not so hopefully this will offer some reassurance.