I wanted her to ask

Today I was at bootcamp at my new mid-morning time.  We had to get into pairs and I ended up with a woman with a friendly looking face, who was standing next to me.  She introduced herself and I did too.  After our exchange, she said questioningly, “I’ve met you before? I don’t usually come to this class.”  I asked her if she usually went to the 6:30 class and when she said yes, I told her I usually go to that one too but have been going to this one lately.  She said she would have gone for the 6:30 class but she has a relatively new baby- 4 months old- at home and couldn’t get up in time this morning.

When we were talking about the earlier class, I could see some recognition in her face.  I wondered if she remembered me as being pregnant in that class.  I remembered she and another women telling me that they were recently postpartum, because they were doing modifications of some of the exercises too.  I wanted her to ask.  To say “weren’t you pregnant?” or “didn’t you just have a baby?”  I know it would force me to say the words, but then I would have gotten credit.  Yes, it would have been hard, but then she’d know and I’d be seen with new eyes.  My Mabel would have been acknowledged and I would be seen as a mother.

In another world I would have asked her about her 4 month old and share that I had a six week old at home.  We could have bonded over disrupted sleep and even swapped exercise tips that would work well with our new bodies.  In another world I would have had a baby at home and probably wouldn’t have made it to bootcamp at all. In another world, Mabel would have lived.

I talked with one of my midwives today about this.  It fit into the conversation about returning to work.  She and one of the midwives I work with came up with an idea to help with my transition to work.  To help deflect some of the “how is your baby?” questions from patients, she suggested posting a little sign about what happened with Mabel.  It would be at the front desk, so patients would see it when they check in.  I have such mixed feelings about it and I think part of that is because I don’t know how it’s really going to be.  If I post the sign, I think people won’t comment and I want some sympathy.  I’ll admit it- work is going to be hard and I want people to know recognize that.  But I won’t have to face the emotions that come along with people asking.  If I don’t post the sign, people will ask and I might get emotional but then I’ll get credit.

I left that appointment and conversation and went to Target.  In the aisle, a woman recognized me- she seemed vaguely familiar.  She asked if I worked at the hospital and when I said yes, she asked if I was a doctor or something.  When I replied that I was a midwife, she said “Oh yeah! You’re my midwife!”  She then asked if I had my baby and when I told her yes, she wished me congratulations.  My heart was pounding and my face felt hot.  I thanked her and that was the end of the conversation.  At first I thought about how ironic it was that I had just been saying how I want people to ask and here I was physically and emotionally uncomfortable when someone did.  But she really didn’t ask.  She didn’t ask how my baby was.  I didn’t get to say that she died, but thank you for asking.  I didn’t get to say that her short life was hard, but she was loved.  I didn’t get to say that I carried her knowing she might die but I hoped she would live.  I didn’t get to say I’m really sad and this is really hard.  I know if she had asked I wouldn’t have been able to say all those things, but being able to say she died would have hinted at it.  Instead she could only assume that I was at Target, excited for a baby-free outing but happy to return home to a little person who needed me.  A mere thank you after a congratulations feels like a lie, like I’m denying what happened to Mabel and what happened to me.  I want everyone to know her story, but there is just no easy way to make that happen.

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3 thoughts on “I wanted her to ask

  1. I like the idea of a sign at your office… if I was your patient, I’d want to know what happened to Mabel so I could be more sensitive to you. I think I’d probably want to bring it up when I saw you for the first time, but I realize that depends on each patient’s personality and comfort level. I would say that I’m so glad you are back and that I’m so sorry about losing Mabel. I would want to know how you’re doing, even if you were having one of the gray days.

    Maybe if you do the sign – which will allow you to tell her story succinctly and in exactly the words you want to use – you can also mention that it’s OK for people to ask you about it/that you don’t mind talking about it?

    I don’t know what’s “best” here but that does seem like a reasonable solution – to give your patients a heads up, to allow Mabel’s story to be shared, to help your transition back go more smoothly. I think most of your patients would desperately want to make it as easy as possible on you. I know I would.

  2. I agree–it might be nice to put a short little version of Mabel’s story so that others know, and add to feel free to ask you about your baby’s life. It might be a comfort and hope to others who have a bad prognosis, to know they have someone to talk to who understands the path so well. Do what makes you comfortable, and maybe at least have this as a Plan B in case you are too unhappy with Plan A?

  3. Pingback: A second chance to respond | Expecting the Unexpected

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