Rewind to 2003. I am 12 with no idea of what I want to do when I get older. I am still young, so that's okay but when we receive the exciting news that my sister is pregnant, suddenly that 'no idea' turns into a spiraling desire and interest into the world of midwifery. I am fascinated by her pregnancy and by the welcoming of my (now not so little) nephew into the world.
Anyone who know's me will know that once I put my mind to something then that is it. I will set out, work hard and achieve my goal. And so it began, GCSE choices based on midwifery, A-Level choices based on midwifery, shadowing at the local maternity ward, watching my baby brother being born and doing anything that I could to best 'prepare' me.
A gap year and three years later, I had somehow made it through the difficult degree. I was a midwife. It was suppose to be everything I wanted but yet it started to go wrong. I was poorly, ALL the time. I felt sick, my tummy hurt, I couldn't sleep. I started taking sleeping tablets and setting myself strict bedtime routines but nothing helped. My immune system was forever letting me down. I didn't understand how I could do such an important job based on only a few hours sleep. I was terrified of missing something and being responsible for something serious. I just wasn't coping.
I HATED letting people down but almost every day was a struggle. I lost my confidence and became withdrawn. Almost every week another illness followed by a further lack of sleep and exhaustion. I felt like an absolute failure, the worst midwife. I loved looking after the couples at work but somewhere in my brain and immunity there was a deep block and how do you explain to someone what's wrong when you don't even really know yourself? Was it the long shifts or the naturally stressful environment? Was I just being pathetic and not 'getting on' with it? Was it the short staff shifts (of which I was partially to blame) or was I just rubbish? I really didn't know.
It wasn't until I had my eldest daughter that it started to come out. Anxiety. Was it caused by the job or just a chemical imbalance in my brain? I didn't know but cue the anti anxiety medication that not only started to help my professional life but also my personal life too. Brilliant, I thought, fresh start, maybe I can actually do this now.
Then my world crashed as I had Holly and the final part to the puzzle was solved. Sjogren's syndrome, the reason for my compromised immunity. It was bittersweet that I could now understand my body better and understand how to manage it. I understood why I had struggled previously.
But there was a new problem. How can I go back to being a midwife and caring for other couples and babies when my own little Holly is no longer here? Every day would be a reminder. Every day would be hard. Every day would be a slap in the face. How do you cope when people complain that they haven't been discharged yet or haven't yet been seen by a doctor when they have their healthy baby? How do you stop yourself from screaming at them 'AT LEAST YOU HAVE YOUR BABY?'
I don't know. I still don't know that answer. It feels bittersweet that I finally understand how to best look after my body, be a better midwife, colleague and what medications will help to be replaced by the reality of 'can I even do this now?' I don't know if I will ever be ready.
For those of you who have read my past blogs, you will know that back in February I was honoured to ask to speak at a baby loss conference at Bradford University, as a midwife and as Holly's mummy (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NPESa7vHBcA) Following on from that I have been asked to speak at Surrey University in July on baby loss too. It is an absolute pleasure to tell Holly's story to anyone and equally this unexpected path has lead me to a new passion, baby loss. A topic (which requires its own post as I can't go on about it enough) which is just so bloody important.
I know where I 'belong' in this midwifery world now. Despite the stress, anxieties and hours spent crying over why am I doing this, I now know why. This path (albeit bittersweet) has lead me to my passion and my midwifery degree will no doubt help me in doing what I need to do (whether it be bereavement midwifery or something related). There was no 'reason' for my daughter to have to die but there was a reason I chose midwifery and a reason why I didn't give up.
In Holly's memory, out of my love for her and from this burning desire in my heart, I WILL support bereavement care. I WILL help bereaved parents and I WILL do what needs to be done to improve the services.
And anyone who know's me will know that once I put my mind to something then that is it.
On the 7th September 2016 at 25 weeks gestation, Holly was born sleeping after a battle with complete heart block.