I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom when my cell phone rang. Pieces of scrapbook paper and photos were strewn around me on the carpet as I organized a photo story of Mabel for a scrapbook to show at her wake. When I picked up the phone, I could see it was a hospital number.
“Hi, Meghan? I’m a social worker at the hospital. I’m calling to follow up on your stay on the maternal special care unit.”
I recognized her name and her voice- she was the social worker on the unit I work on. I have spoken to her many times about patients- women who have depression, no electricity, problems with drugs. She is very good at her job, which is a difficult one, one that I do not envy. She was actually one of the first hospital staff to know about Mabel. I approached her early in my pregnancy when I learned of Mabel’s Down Syndrome, hoping she might know about any resources and she gave some to me readily.
Though I greeted her familiarly, it took a few minutes for her to realize she was talking to me– someone she knew. I can understand that. There are many times in my job when I see a name, or even a face, that I know, but taken out of context I don’t realize who it is right away. Eventually it clicked for the social worker and we chatted more easily. She asked about my satisfaction with my stay and if anyone in particular had given me good care. I rattled off a dozen names- from the two women who cleaned my room, to the nurses and my doctors and midwives. The phone call was relatively brief and we ended cordially.
After I hung up, I went back to my project- the only thing that helped me get through those early days between the death of my daughter and when we laid her body to rest. As I held a photo of her in the NICU, my phone rang again. It was the social worker.
“Meghan, I am so sorry. I did not know your baby had died. That information wasn’t passed on to me.”
I had thought the conversation was a little odd, that she never mentioned my baby or gave condolences, but I wasn’t exactly trusting myself to pass judgment on what goes for normal conversation in my grief saturated haze. She went on to be very appropriate and kind and I reassured her it was fine. It was fine. The phone call hadn’t upset me- it was almost normal- whatever that is after your baby dies. But she was lucky that it was me she was talking to. I could imagine another mom in my situation who could have been upset. This was not the social workers fault- it was a system error. The system should have a way to make it so very obvious when a postpartum mom has lost a baby.
When I work my way back into the hospital, maybe I can help fix the system.