Heard a newborn today for the first time during my stay. I’m on the Maternal Special Care floor of my hospital- it houses people like me, still pregnant and high risk in some way. It is also home to high risk patients that just delivered who need special attention for a medical issue. And there are a number of rooms to one side of mine that are postpartum rooms, used mostly for overflow (there is another whole floor for postpartum patients). So newborns on this floor are a possibility.
In all this uncertainty, babies, especially newborns have been the hardest part of reality to adjust to. While I was seeing patients, the only restriction I asked for was to not see postpartum patients. It’s just so hard to coo over someone else’s baby when I’m unsure if I’ll have one to take to my 6 week postpartum visit. It’s especially hard to coo when people have even greater expectations for me to coo- expected because I’m a midwife and expected because I’m expecting!
I don’t think this part of reality will get any easier to deal with after the baby’s born. If I lose the baby, I know it will be hard to be around other’s young children. If my baby lives and is very sick, I anticipate it being hard in a different way. It’s jealousy, I know. I want what they have. I have no bad feelings towards new moms and their babies, it’s just a reminder of what I am not expecting. I actually hate this part of me right now. I want to be happy for others. Some place deep inside me is happy, but I am having trouble expressing it. I’ve had to hide those with babies on facebook (sorry, friends). It’s longing- for whatever normalcy they have. I know everyone has their own battles, and this is mine. We do what we need to in order to survive. Even being around pregnant women is a mixed blessing- we can totally share some experiences (discomforts- though I have had very little), but not others (shopping for baby stuff). I feel the same may be true after I labor- I wonder how I’ll feel bonding over labor experiences, because mine will not be at all how I pictured.
I recently read a fascinatingly moving book, deserving of another entire blog post. “An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination” by Elizabeth McCracken. It’s a memoir of a woman who had a full term stillbirth and then went on to have another living child. A different scenario from mine, but so many shared experiences and feelings. She puts it well: “If human reproduction has to carry on, I want it to work out for other people I like…. Still I wouldn’t mind a pause in the whole business. A sudden harmless moratorium on babies being born.”
Since a moratorium is impossible, I’ve been learning to deal with others who don’t know the struggles I face. I remember one day, two people said “just wait, you’ll see.” Kind, well intended words, meaning to create a bond with me, but did nothing but make me feel more distant. There was a woman at bootcamp who I knew was postpartum. I had forgotten her name, so I reintroduced myself to her. “ I can’t remember anything” I remarked. “Just wait, after the baby, with kids it worse!.” She said with some camaraderie. If I could be so lucky.
Later that day, a patient had her annual exam with me and brought her two year old, who as most two year olds are, was into everything. Couldn’t sit still. I tried to entertain her with a balloon made out of a glove, some scopettes (aka giant q-tips), purrell, all while taking mom’s history. “Just wait, you’ll be doing this in two years.” This time I said quickly “may I be so lucky” before changing the subject.
Just wait….Just wait…. I hope I can share the experiences of having a child that saps my memory and of chasing a two year old around. May I be so lucky to have the opportunity to deal with such everyday struggles. But these are uncertain and hopeful images- not the sure thing these women pictured for me.
Responding to these kinds of comments and interacting in general with pregnant women and women with babies, has helped me develop some skills so I don’t appear rude or uncaring. There is a part of me that is hopeful I won’t need them anymore because maybe the baby will be fine (“fine” defined in a whole new way- “fine” meaning I take the baby home and s/he lives for years and years and is happy). There is part of me that knows that I’ll need these skills no matter what. For now I’ll consider it all as good practice.