Caring for women in my job involves talking about fertility and reproduction- past, present and future. I’m seeing prenatal patients and though that’s hard in its own way (I can’t bring myself to ask if they are having a boy or a girl, what the baby’s name is- as I used to do in a gushing, excited way), gyn patients still have their own obstacles.
“He’s the kind of baby you don’t show a teenager,” she said of her one year old. She meant that he’s so well behaved, such a delight, it might inspire a teen to think having a baby is easy. I delivered that one year old and so she excitedly showed me photos. “Let me show you the cutest kid you’ve ever seen!” I tucked my head behind the curtain to purell my hands and literally grimaced. I didn’t want to see her baby. I just wanted to do the pap smear and call it a day. But that’s not how it works. Of course she has every right to show off her child, especially to me who was the first to welcome him into this world. Fake it til you make it. I hate that mantra, I think only because I have to do it so much these days. I hate not being genuine- I’m not even that good at it. I took a quick breath and smiled as she showed me his chubby cheeks and blond hair.
How do I look at these babies and quell the inner voice in my head? Mabel had blond hair. Mabel had chubby cheeks. I never got to see Mabel smile. Mabel will never be one year old.
Another gyn patient asked general questions about fertility. Life doesn’t always turn out how one expects it. Long term relationships end. Some women find themselves single when they thought they’d be starting families. I sympathized with her, my heart really aching that she’s not where she wanted to be. But her attitude was good; she was able to talk realistically, with a smile even, about how some friends are having babies while others are talking of freezing eggs. I was impressed, thinking that I need to learn her perspective- frustrated, hopeful, realistic. I wanted to say, “yes, I totally get it! You think and hope your life will turn out one way and then suddenly you’re in your mid thirties and life is not at all what you pictured!” We may have very different circumstances, but we share that same thought. I simply affirmed what she said and hoped she could see the true understanding in my eyes.