“Oh my daughter was in the NICU!” I said, sort of cheerily, finding something in common with my patient who has worked in a NICU. The moment the words were out of my mouth, I knew they were a mistake. She didn’t respond- I don’t know if she had read the sign and felt it was inappropriate for me to be bringing it up, looking for pity. My instinct was just to find some common ground, but I realized after I said it, if we elaborated any more, I would have to say my baby died, which wasn’t fair to the patient. The visit was about her and her pregnancy- not about me and my daughter. Recognizing her unease, I quickly changed the subject and went on to the next order of business. She asked about exercise in pregnancy– something I have strong opinions about.
A patient once told me how one of my colleagues told her to stop crossfit in pregnancy. I told her the exact opposite. In the absence of complications, most exercise routines can be continued with some modifications. I encourage my pregnant patients to exercise- continue their regimen or start a new one. I had a patient who ran half marathons while pregnant. I, myself, was very active in pregnancy. Again, I wanted to bond with this patient sitting across from me and mentioned I did bootcamp through the end of my pregnancy. This time I quickly transitioned away from me, not giving her a chance to respond, focusing the attention back on her. She asked about deep squats in the third trimester. I wanted to say so much more- about how I would exercise in the hospital while hooked up to the monitor. And if a baby with no fluid could tolerate it well, an uncomplicated pregnancy should have no issue. My high-risk doc thought I’d make a great study- showing the lack of any fetal distress in the presence of exercise and oligohydramnios. These thoughts whizzed through my head, but I kept them to myself. I just thought they’d hammer home the point of just how OK exercise is in pregnancy, but I also knew saying them out loud could lead to more questioning.
It did make me wonder what would I have said if I had a baby at home. Would I have talked more easily about my pregnancy because it wouldn’t cause discomfort to others? What do other providers say to patients, if they themselves have had a baby? Before Mabel I could only talk in generalities or tell other people’s stories, but now I have personal experience. I recognize over time, as the memories of my pregnancy and labor fade, I’ll be able to speak in more generalities again. But how do others do- those who have just had babies. Do they bring in their own experience? And do patients find it helpful? I can see how in some ways it might not help at all- providers who say- well this is how it was for me so this is how it should be for you– might come off as insensitive. But in that exercise example, I thought it would support her. In the future, someone dealing with loss- would it help her to know her provider had a loss too? I wouldn’t want to take away the attention from her, only show her I can understand on a different level. I think it would have helped me when I was a patient, but would it help others? For the future, I wonder if when I want to reference my pregnancy, I could say “I know someone who…,” [meaning me, but not actually saying it’s me]?
To everyone in general, how do you feel when/if your provider to brings in a little personal experience sometimes?
To those who have experienced loss, have any of you had an experience with your providers (nurse, doctor, midwife, etc) who have had a loss and shared about it? If you haven’t, would it have been helpful?