Jo lends an ear to grieving mothers

JO Seale can still remember the day she learnt the appalling news.Staring out the hospital window, she watched the thunder and lightning of a summer's storm encapsulate the emotions inside her.

By Debbie Watson

JO Seale can still remember the day she learnt the appalling news.

Staring out the hospital window, she watched the thunder and lightning of a summer's storm encapsulate the

emotions inside her. Her baby, her long-awaited first born, had breathed its last.

That was the early summer of 1999 and the day that Jo's world fell from jubilation to despair.

"I haven't forgotten a minute of what happened that day. I was already fearing the worst because I'd started bleeding and had been referred to the hospital by my GP.

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"I knew it was a potential problem – but we never expected that. We never expected to walk out of the hospital minus a pregnancy, minus our baby."

The experiences of Jo and David Seale are not uncommon – one in five pregnancies ends in a miscarriage and a first pregnancy is more prone to problems.

For Jo, 27, the tragedy came to her just as hard as to any other expectant mum.

Despite being a nurse and aware of likely complications, she was devastated to find herself in a position of such trauma.

"You hear about mother's tragedies of this kind all the time – particularly in my job.

"I actually work in recovery so I nurse those who have just had a D and C (post-miscarriage operation)," she said.

"But even with all that experience, you never imagine it's going to happen to you. When it does, you're just in pieces." From her home in Kesgrave, Jo admits there were plenty of tears, plenty of angry moments and plenty of searching questions.

"It's a really hard time because you go so quickly from being ecstatic about the planned arrival of your child to suddenly having absolutely nothing," she said.

"You find yourself walking through the street looking at women with bumps with a certain envy.

"You hear them talking about pregnancy, birth or children and it makes you desperately sad.

"To make matters worse, you can't seem to articulate that grief to people because it was the loss of a child that they never knew or saw you with."

For Jo, her tragedy soon turned back into a sense of absolute joy when she fell pregnant again.

This time she experienced a perfectly healthy pregnancy that eventually gave her a son, Edward, now two.

She had convinced herself that the awful days were well and truly over until, with her young son just 15 months old, she found herself facing those days of unprecedented gloom once more.

"When I fell pregnant again after Edward I never even contemplated things going wrong," she admitted. "I'd been on edge and cautious throughout the days of my pregnancy with Edward but I decided that, after carrying him full term, my bad luck was over.

"I passed the ten week point which had been the point of my first miscarriage, then when we went for the 12-week scan we were so excited – and confident – that we took Edward along with us."

The ensuing silence told Jo and David everything they didn't want to hear.

"The heart-beat had stopped," Jo sighed. "It was all over and we felt that terrible sense of despair once again.

"It was so much worse for having felt so sure that we were okay this time – we just couldn't believe it could happen to us twice."

With the second loss, Jo's grief turned into a determination to share that experience and to gain help for her own sense of sorrow.

Just as she had done after the first miscarriage, she picked up the phone to the Miscarriage Association and found a listening ear.

It was the association that then became the turning point in her ability to fight on.

Instead of being consumed by grief, she sent for literature and read up on the experiences of thousands of other women just like her. Then, this May, she took matters a stage further.

"It became a subject really close to my heart," she said. "As I read more and talked to more people I realised how common this is and how many women like me have been suffering.

"Although I had a very strong support network of friends and family, I understood there would be other women who wouldn't have that asset in their lives – and they would need a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on."

So Jo attended a Miscarriage Association seminar in May.

"Suddenly I just knew that's what I should be doing, I felt really strongly about the subject, knew that I could offer something and also knew very well that there wasn't a lot of post-miscarriage help in the Suffolk area.

"Hospitals just don't have the time to provide the ongoing service a lot of devastated mothers could really do with. Many mums who've been through it also need someone to talk to at the stage of subsequent pregnancies.

"These are all the kinds of things that a local branch of the Miscarriage Association can provide – by bringing women together, perhaps for one meeting a month, and also by providing a close and caring network."

Jo has already put a lot of time, effort and thought into planning her Suffolk branch and is intent on running the first meeting late next month or early October.

She plans to run the unit with the help of another nursing colleague and has already begun giving out fliers to women with whom she comes into contact at Ipswich Hospital.

"Suffolk very much needs a branch through which to encourage women to talk and share their feelings. I feel pleased I've found the one way that I can turn my suffering to a very positive and important use."