“How’s the baby?” she asked all smiles.  The joy in my office was palpable- she was there with her sister, as her support person for her first OB visit.  They both remembered me from her last pregnancy and clearly remembered that I had been pregnant myself not too long ago.  And now they wanted to bring me in and share the joy with them.  How sweet of them to ask; it actually pained me a little to give the truth.  “Oh, my baby died.”  Shock.  Disbelief. Discomfort.  “Oh no, I’m so sorry,” they say, with brows furrowed unknowing what more to do.  “She was sick.  We knew she was sick.”  That made it better somehow.  Sympathetic “oh”s followed making it easier to transition back to the visit at hand.  I did not cry or break down.  I was just mesmerized at how I felt that I had to make them feel better about my baby’s death.  I practically said, “It’s ok that she died because she was sick.”


We were talking of her plans for labor.  “I’m pretty easy going,” she said. “I don’t care if I end up with an epidural or not, a c-section or not, as long as she’s healthy.  I just want a healthy baby, you know?  As long a she’s healthy.”

I don’t know.  I have NO idea what it’s like to simply want a health baby.  It’s not all that matters.  Each time she said healthy, the word stabbed me in the chest.  Of course every one wants a healthy baby.  But now I feel like there’s some sort of ignorance, or even greed to that wish.  Like playing a scratch card- everyone wants  to win $1million, but I’d be happy for $1, as long as I could take that dollar home.

I cut her off with a quick “ Yup.  You’re next appointment is in one week.” And I left the room, exposing my pain with some unintelligible mumbling of certain cuss words under my breath.


I walked into the exam room and I could see the exasperation already on her face.  Young and annoyed to simply be pregnant, she glared at me as if it were all my fault.  I have faced this look before.  Many women are uncomfortable at the end of pregnancy.  They want to know when they’ll be able to sleep again, to be rid of bad heartburn, to shed their newly acquired cankles.  We spend their whole pregnancy talking about one date- their due date.  I explain in the first visit how it’s an estimated due date, give or take two weeks, but that lesson is long forgotten by the time that magic day rolls around.  They are done; they just want to meet the darn kid already, not realizing they are about to trade one set of difficulties for another.

I used to be more sympathetic.  Now as I looked at this young woman giving me a sour face and I want to shake her and scream You don’t know how good you have it!  I don’t smile at her, trying to be her sympathetic ally.  No coddling about understanding how tough it is to be so pregnant.  Gone are the words I use to sweetly remind her how nature works and time will bring her a baby.  Instead I talk robotically about the protocols for induction leaving emotion and compassion crumpled in a heap in the corner of the room.


“Man, labor hurt like H-E- double hockey sticks!”  Her actual use of that phrase almost made me laugh.  Her baby was a few years old, but she still remembered.  “Do you have kids?”

I had a daughter.

“Oh, “ her voice dropped and her face took on an appropriate somberness. “Is that you in the sign?”  I nodded.  “I was reading it in the waiting room.  I’m so sorry for your loss.  She was beautiful.”

I smiled “She was, thank you.  And thank you for reading about her.”  And with just the right amount of pause I add, “ and yeah, labor did hurt like H-E-double hockey sticks.”  No derailment; we are back on the path


If a patient declines genetic testing it is our practice in my group to make sure we document that they wouldn’t terminate for those reasons.

“If you knew you had a baby with Down Syndrome or Trisomy 18, would you consider terminating the pregnancy?”  I hear them say no and write the words in their charts.  Over and over I say these words- several times a day.  How can I not think of Mabel?



16 thoughts on “Snippets  

  1. Many of these reminded me of my aunt who died a few years ago.

    After many years of being a nurse and teaching at the college level, she decided to work in an inner city school.

    She told me once of a 6th grader and her interactions with him. I thought she was harsh. She looked at me with steely eyes and told me what I didn’t know…

    He had received a liver transplant a few years before and his actions were destructive to his health. There was a chance he’d need another transplant if he continued his current actions.

    As my aunt said, life is a gift and he needed to hear the truth… and make a choice.

    Best to you… in each moment.

    • that’s all I want some people to know. realize what a gift they have. I need to realize that too sometimes- I have my own gifts, of health, of a loving partner, a supportive friend network…

  2. I oftentimes feel the need to comfort people after telling them of Owen’s loss. I say the exact same thing: we knew he was sick. Once, when someone who was mostly an acquaintance seemed almost distraught, I even said “it’s okay,we’re fine, everything is alright.” Of course that’s not true, but I was so uncomfortable with this person who was so anxious about my news. It’s odd to comfort people about my own baby’s death, but it seems that’s another universal thing about this.

    • So it seems! People are uncomfortable with our reality and we are in turn uncomfortable with their discomfort! and so some how it comes out of my mouth “it’s ok” when it’s really not.

  3. I find myself feeling the need to comfort people after telling them about Max. Yes, I was pregnant, now I’m not. We lost him. They say “oh, I’m so sorry”. Then I find myself saying something like “Thanks. It sucks, but life goes on” and then we change the subject. But in my head, life doesn’t go on like that. I’m broken into a thousand pieces and I feel lost without Max and the life we had planned. But there is no way to explain how I feel to someone who has no way of relating. That’s another thing… people try to relate “oh, that’s how I felt when I broke up with my boyfriend”, etc. I want to scream at them that this is not the same and they cannot understand how I feel nor should they – it’s horrible.

    • ugh- yes. It’s funny you use a breakup as an example. Sometimes thats the closest things I can think of to compare it to- losing that person, but also the dreams you had for your relationship with that person. but’ I hesitate to even write it because it’s so so SO much more than a break up. I mean, we were literally connected to these tiny people. Literally.

  4. You really can register people’s discomfort sometimes. I too say “it’s ok” but of course it’s anything but. It’s something you wouldn’t wish on anyone and it’s hard for others, who haven’t experienced baby loss, to understand.

    • Sometimes I worry because I want people to feel the pain I feel- so they can understand it. but they way you put it, it’s reassuring that I truly dont wish this on anyone as shown how I feel like I need to take away their discomfort.

  5. Thank you for these glimpses into your work world. I really can’t imagine how you do it, but as a fellow bereaved mother, I have to say I’m proud of you.

    The “as long as she’s healthy” thing… sure, yes, we’ll go ahead and get the message to the universe… you will deal with anything except an unhealthy child. Ok. Got it. Those are your boundaries with which the universe must comply. Ridiculous. You are a saint for sitting and listening to this.

    • Right? I understand that no one thinks about taking home a baby with an illness or condition. I dont expect them too. But the words literally stab me and the have no idea.

      • I am in awe of you on that, too, Meghan. You must be a gifted midwife. You are able to serve these women where they are, as they need, even if your reality offers you a very different take on their situation. Your patients are very lucky to have you.

  6. Pingback: Do you have kids | Expecting the Unexpected

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