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#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek2024

Updated: May 19

Trigger Warning: Miscarriage


I feel a special connection to magpies. It’s difficult to explain. Or is it? Perhaps it’s more of a slight embarrassment.


Thirteen years ago, I became pregnant. After a few years of trying, my husband and I were so excited. I remember looking in the mirror, holding my belly, and imagining holding our baby, pushing them on the swings, and so much more.


Two days before I was twelve weeks pregnant, I woke up bleeding. What happened over the next twenty-four hours was pretty horrific. I remember telling the nurse about the awful pain that came and went. When she asked how often, I replied, "About every fifteen minutes." The look on her face told me I was going through labour. Not only did I have the pain of losing the baby, but I was also experiencing childbirth without the child at the end.


My body spent the next twenty-four hours ejecting all physical remnants of our child. Every four hours, I needed at least three shots of morphine for the pain to subside. But they couldn’t just give me morphine. They had to administer paracetamol first, then codeine an hour later. When my screaming didn’t stop, they eventually gave me morphine, and then another shot, and another. When I was allowed home, I was a physical and emotional wreck.


One day, sitting alone in my living room, feeling bereft and all cried out, I felt like a failure, as if I’d let my husband down. I blamed myself for running for the bus. I felt grief but was confused by this, as I’d never met this little person - this group of cells that hadn’t quite become a person yet. I felt exhausted and quite hopeless.


Then something odd happened. A magpie came and sat on my windowsill, right next to me. It stood there, beautiful and still, fully aware of my presence. A sense of calmness washed over me, and I knew that despite the pain, I would survive this.


A month later, I went back to work. I was physically much better, but I didn’t realise I had deep mental scars. I was missed at work, which was nice, yet when faced with the question, "How are you?" it took all my strength not to cry. Instead, I’d ask how the school production went or if the building work had finished on their extension.


One weekend we went to visit friends in the countryside. I felt devoid of emotion. Detached from myself. The misery was overwhelming and all consuming. My husband felt helpless. He was suffering too. Ag work he had a daily reminder as 2 of his colleagues were pregnant at the same time as me. They carried their babies to term.


We went for a walk in the woods. It was November and Autumn was in full swing. It was bracing yet the kaleidoscope of colours was stunning. It was the first time I'd physically exerted myself in a while and a rush of dopamine washed over me. By the time we came back to our friends' cottage, I felt like a different person.



After that, I kept seeing magpies. They made me smile, gave me hope, and kept me moving forward.


Six months later, I became pregnant again. I was leaving work to go to the twelve-week scan. The last scan I’d had showed an empty womb. So, you’d think I’d be trembling with fear, yet I wasn’t. I just knew it would be okay. Then, as though confirming my gut feeling, I saw two magpies flying across the sky, then settling on a branch. The branch had more magpies, and so did the other branches. In fact, there were two trees covered in magpies. I lost count. I’d walked past those trees every day for five years and had never seen this phenomenon before.


Looking back, I had quite an easy pregnancy. I wasn’t sick, and there were no complications. But we were terrified. Psychologically, it was an awful pregnancy. The only way I can describe it is ‘muted happiness’. Some people just didn’t understand why we weren’t making a song and dance about being pregnant. I felt our previous experience had taken the innocence and joy of being pregnant away from us.


When I was in labour and the doctor told me to push, it suddenly occurred to me that I was going to have this baby. It may sound ridiculous, seeing as I was forty-two weeks pregnant and had already been in labour for twenty-four hours, but I’d spent so long being careful and trying to stay pregnant that I hadn’t thought about the baby actually coming out.


We had a beautiful boy, who arrived looking like Elvis with his full head of hair. I couldn’t believe it. As it was an emergency c-section, they were checking him, cleaning him up, doing all sorts and I couldn’t see him. I kept asking, "Is he okay?" When they handed him to me, he was perfect.


Due to the array of drugs I’d been given, I was numb. I remember texting everyone I knew with photos, but I wasn’t really feeling it. Then, around 3 a.m., when I was feeding him, I had this sudden rush of love. It’s indescribable. I felt as though we had been mother and son in previous lives, in all our previous lives. It was a real Kunta Kinte moment.


All in all, I've had three miscarriages. That first one was the worst, both physically and mentally. But I know we were lucky, as we now have two gorgeous boys.


When we moved to Spain, I was sad that I wouldn’t see magpies again. I’d read there were Spanish magpies, but they didn’t look the same. In our first year here, I didn’t see any magpies at all. But now, I see them everywhere. They are exactly the same as the UK magpies. I get excited, elated—a sense of joy, a sense that whatever the issue is, I’ll be able to deal with it.


Magpies are beautiful birds. They have become my totem. They have helped my mental health immensely.


And in every encounter, they remind me that even through the most difficult times, there is hope and resilience within us all.



Tips for Supporting Someone After a Miscarriage:

  • Listen and Offer Comfort: Sometimes, just being there to listen can provide immense comfort. Avoid offering unsolicited advice or trying to explain away their pain.

  • Acknowledge Their Loss: Validate their grief by acknowledging the loss and expressing your sympathy. Simple phrases like, "I'm so sorry for your loss," can mean a lot.

  • Avoid Clichés: Refrain from using clichés like "It wasn't meant to be" or "You'll have another one." These can feel dismissive and hurtful.

  • Offer Practical Help: Everyday tasks can feel overwhelming. Offering to help with chores, cook meals, or run errands can be incredibly supportive.

  • Respect Their Space: Everyone grieves differently. Respect their need for space and understand if they are not ready to talk.

  • Stay in Touch: Check in regularly, even after the initial weeks have passed. Grief can be long-lasting, and continued support is important.

  • Encourage Professional Help: If they seem to be struggling significantly, gently suggest they speak with a counsellor or therapist who specialises in grief and loss.

  • Be Patient: Healing takes time. Be patient and understanding as they navigate their emotions.



Support:





[The Dos and Don’ts of Supporting Women After a Miscarriage](https://theconversation.com/the-dos-and-donts-of-supporting-women-after-a-miscarriage-98163)




[Dad Still Standing Podcast](https://www.dadstillstanding.com/podcast)



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What a moving, courageous, inspirational story Mal. Thank you for sharing. I love Magpies❤️

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