When I first found out I was pregnant I decided I wanted to write a blog about staying active during pregnancy. When we lost the baby this was another part of life that wasn’t going to happen. But I realised that didn’t mean I couldn’t still write. This was the start of This Vet Runs, and it was completely anonymous. I wrote about my experiences of pregnancy loss, and how running helped me deal with it. Writing allowed me to process what I was feeling when it still felt like something we couldn’t talk about.
Gradually it grew and grew and became less anonymous. Women from across the world started contacting me to share their experiences and say how much what I’d written had helped them. I was invited to write articles, be interviewed on podcasts, and speak at events about my experiences. Realising I wasn’t alone and feeling like I was helping others was a huge part of my recovery.
But for some reason, I didn’t feel brave enough to talk about anything I was doing within the vet world – somehow the entire internet feels a lot less scary than your professional peers! In fact, when my senior vet at work found my blog and followed it I deleted the whole thing for about a week.
I felt like a bit of a fraud. There I was on my soap box in a corner of the internet saying how important it was to break the silence around baby loss, but totally freaking out when one person from work stumbles across it.
Over time, I began to realise that baby loss is a lot like loneliness: you can be in a room full of people yet feel totally alone – until one person shares how they feel, and suddenly everyone else does too. Before you know it you all realise that none of you are alone, and you have a huge support network sat right next to you. But it takes a few people to start.
So, one year on, I decided to share my story in the veterinary community for the first time. The response was overwhelming. Given that we are a female dominated profession, and all a certain age by the time we qualify maybe it should be such a surprise. It became clear not just how many of us are affected, but what an incredible support network we can offer each other. It was here, that with the support of Emily Gregson, the idea for a support group for veterinary professionals was born.
The Vet MINDS group (which stands for Miscarriage, Infertility, Neonatal Death and Stillbirth) is a closed facebook group for veterinary professionals affected by baby loss and infertility. It offers a private space for friendship, support and understanding from people who understand the specific challenges of facing these issues as a veterinary professional. As well as providing support, the group serves to create a voice and a platform to start breaking down the silence around babyloss and work together towards positive change.
We have already created a wonderful community, and I’ve been overwhelmed by how many people have felt able to share their own stories. These are such personal and complicated issues and talking about them with your peers is a huge deal, but also offers a very unique support network.
Being a vet is a wonderful job, but it’s also a really tough job and I think as a group we tend to have very high (and often unrealistic) expectations of ourselves – particularly in relation to emotional things. We’re all scientists, and I knew the statistic that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss. But I was young, slim and marathon fit; despite my evidence-based approach to life, it never occurred to me that anything might go wrong. It hit me like an absolute ton of bricks.
My miscarriage was absolutely devastating, but the silence surrounding it made it even harder. I went back to work after my surgery, and nobody knew that anything had happened. In fact, without my knowledge they’d been told that I’d been off with tonsillitis. When I wasn’t myself, colleagues and clients started to complain. As a veterinary surgeon, you cannot go back to work and keep your head down for a few weeks. Our job demands too much of us emotionally.
This is why we created the Vet MINDS group. Sharing the specific challenges of facing baby loss and infertility as a veterinary professional with other veterinary professionals is something really special. Because other members of your profession “get it” in a way that others don’t. So whilst your proessional peer group might seem like the last place you want to share something so personal, it can be incredibly helpful. Who else will have experienced going back to work after loss and finding yourself in a Caesarean section on your first day?
We have already created a wonderful community, and I’ve been overwhelmed by how many people have felt able to share their own stories. As a group, we also want to raise awareness and break the silence around pregnancy loss in the wider veterinary community. So we created a Vet MINDS pin badge for Baby Loss Awareness Week (9th – 15th October). We hope the badge will stand as a symbol that, as a profession, we are ready to talk about the tough stuff, and show support to our colleagues during a week that may be tough for some of us.
I found going back to life as a vet incredibly tough after my loss, and I’m still finding my way. I hope that by starting these conversations and creating a support network, that future colleagues affected by these issues might find it just a tiny bit easier. If you see someone wearing a Vet MINDS pin badge this week, try talking to them about it. It can be really hard to know the right words, but with tough topics like this, you can’t go wrong with a little kindness. As they say, it can go a long way.
Let’s break the silence around baby loss and infertility in the veterinary community.
You can find the Vet MINDS group here: Vet MINDS Group
The Vet MINDS Group will be hosting a mastermind session at the London Vet Show in November 2019 to start the process of creating a set of guidelines for employers helping veterinary professionals return to work after baby loss or infertility. We would love to invite individuals with a range of experiences to join us, from those who have experienced loss, to senior staff, counsellors, managers, and anyone with experience in writing or publishing resources. To register your interest, click here: https://london.vetshow.com/community-masterminds
For more information about Baby Loss Awareness Week: https://babyloss-awareness.org/