I was raised in a typical coloured household. You don’t complain about the hand you have been dealt and you make do with what you have. Even though my parents got divorced when I was 8, my mom tried to uphold some sort of normality for my sister and my sake. This I believe had a huge impact on how I dealt with disappointment and loss. You don’t bother others with your sob stories, everyone has something that they have to deal with.
Therefor when I miscarried in 2009 I didn’t really want to talk or know how to. All I knew was that it was utterly painful. But you don’t have advertise your sorrow so carry your cross and continue with life. Nobody told me this, but that voice of societal influences kept shouting. You brought this upon yourself!
The pregnancy was a result of a lack of dealing with the truth. I was on the wrong meds without therapy. I was permanently drugged up and partying just as hard. The pregnancy was a shock and an initial problem that could be dealt with without people ever knowing. But I couldn’t ever do that. It would go against the fibre of my being. So I made peace and came out with it. 6 weeks pregnant and still a zombie. When my GP contacted the psychiatrist who has been treating me, she referred me to another psychiatrist as she was on holiday. So this man who has never even met me, suggested that I go off all my meds immediately. Cold turkey. Withdrawal and anxiety and the thought of an unplanned human being growing inside of me was constant.
I never questioned the doctors. They are doctors. They should know what they are doing…
A few days after I had my first scan with the gynae, I started bleeding. I slept next to my mom that night, googling the symptoms of miscarriage. The next day I was booked into the materminity ward with all the expectant mommies. My head was so noisy and I had no idea what to do or how to be. So I was silent and ‘okay’. Finally the nurses took me for my ultra sound and low and behold… a heartbeat. I’m gonna be a mom again. Happy and content I was sent home but a few days later the bleeding started again. Back to the maternity ward and game over.
I was barely awake after surgery when the gynae came to tell me that the fetus was black already and they couldn’t find any cause for the miscarriage… oh and also see you next time round!! I was confused and still waking up. I just lost my first baby and this man is telling me, see you next time? I was so hurt that I still carry those words with me. I forgot so much detail but those words I will never forget.
I was off the meds for 3 years after that. I just couldn’t go back to my psychiatrist and she still hasn’t contacted me to hear if I am alive. This is the doctor that diagnosed me initially and treated me during my first breakdown. Now my question to you the reader is, when does ethics play a role in such circumstances? Does the oath not state first do no harm? A year after my baby died, I realised that the group of doctors failed me miserably. Women who are on drugs aren’t told to go cold turkey. An entire year of feeling like I wasn’t good enough to be a mom, of thinking that it was my fault. I was never bitter and I felt extreme guilt when I thought about that doctors and how I was treated. After all, they were just doing their job.
It is 8 years later and I am a few weeks away from giving birth to a little boy. Why bring this up now you might wonder. This is a little ode to my first promise of a child. His/her death was not in vain. I am happily married and blessed to be able to bring a life into the world. A life which I believe was chosen by God and known by his sibling in heaven. God doesn’t make mistakes and I was protected from so many things. My baby’s death brought me to my true life. And for that I am forever thankful.
I do however want to caution all women who has ever been diagnosed with a mental illness and might be expecting. Know your rights. Question the physicians and therapists. Your body stays your body and you always have a say.
I was treated like an afterthought because I was unmarried and drugged up. I wasn’t offered any therapy, it wasn’t even recommended. I was a quick in and out patient.
Now realistically speaking, there has been improvements in the health care world in SA regarding maternal mental illness and prenatal mental illness etc. This is on paper of course. I have found various governmental frameworks and amended patient rights that should prevent cases like mine to happen. I hope and pray that this type of discrimination and negligence does not still happen.
I have never gone back to the health care professionals that dealt with my first pregnancy and my mental state during that time. I am so thankful for our GP who supported me during the entire journey.
We have someone smiling down on us now. Bittersweet but rich with lessons. I plead with all expectant parents, seek solid advice and support. Be very sure of the team of health care professionals who will be taking care of you and your baby. We have rights.