I arrived early to the chiropractor in a surprisingly good mood. I still struggle with depressive thoughts and so having a day or even moment of mood levity is treasured. I had even texted a friend of mine just an hour before, “For the first time I feel a little hopeful!”
I signed in and said hello to the cheerful secretary. She has always intrigued me from the first time I met her. She was pregnant then, as was I, but she was carrying twins. I started at this new chiropractor in my pregnancy because early on I was feeling a bothersome change in my pelvis, especially after running. She came highly recommended by a friend of mine and her hours and location were super convenient. When I met her secretary I had asked, like a good midwife, when she was due. I soon learned that was a surrogate for another couple. I had written my grad school praxis about gestational surrogacy. The practice fascinated me and I told her that. I thought it was one of the most courageous, generous things a woman could do.
I became a frequent visitor after my low fluid diagnosis because the long weekend I spent in the hospital bed really screwed up my tailbone. In the two weeks following I went almost everyday and my problem was solved. While waiting for the doctor, I often chatted with this secretary, learning that she was carrying two girls, one of the babies was breech and how badly she want a vaginal birth. I overheard her once telling another patient how her doctor had told her it’s illegal to have a breech birth in Connecticut. I couldn’t help myself; I had to say something.
“No it’s not!” I piped up. “It’s totally legal. I’ve been present at breech births.” I had patients who come in fully with the baby’s feet hanging out of the vagina. At that point, best to deliver the baby breech. I’ve had patients who have fooled us, when we thought the baby was head down and when they became fully dilated we realized it was an especially head-like butt coming first. Some of those babies came out vaginally. I’ve had twins where baby A is head down and baby B is breech, and under those circumstances we sometimes consider breech birth. There are risks- mainly head entrapment (the head is the largest part of the body and so if the butt comes first you don’t know for sure the head will fit until it’s too late)- so usually we recommend a c-section if the baby won’t turn. But it’s not illegal.
“But it can be risky,” I backtracked, not wanting her to feel badly about her choice in doctors. “So most doctors recommend a c-section.” She had her babies vaginally around Christmas, after both girls lined up head down. I was surprised she was back at work a few weeks later, but then I remembered how she didn’t have those babies at home with her.
When I went into the chiropractor today she was behind the desk. My doctor knows the whole story with Mabel, but I’m unsure if the secretaries do. The other secretary, another cheerful, chatty woman, asked me once about Mabel after I had delivered. She asked whether I had a boy or girl and what I named her. There were no follow-up questions or condolences, so I assumed she didn’t know.
After I signed in today, I sat down and listened to her talk to another waiting patient about her son’s blueberry picking trip. Moments later, a woman walked through the door holding a baby carrier. She put it down in my full view as she signed in. I could see this little baby girl staring up at me- I guessed she was about six months, Mabel’s age. I took a few concentrated breaths as the secretary started asking about the baby.
“She’s great. Well, I mean, lately she’s a little monster!” she said looking at her daughter in a high-pitched singsong voice women use to talk to babies. “My girl, who has been sleeping through the night for the past two months, doesn’t seem…”
I didn’t hear the rest of the sentence. Tears came on hot and strong and I got up and walked out the door. I sat on the curb in the parking lot, letting the tears flow. That was supposed to be me. I’m supposed to be here with my baby. The woman with the baby in the carrier sitting next to the woman with empty arms. The contrast was too much.
I played on my phone (my standard go-to when I need to calm down.) and waited until another patient came out. As she passed me, she said “What a good idea!” For a moment I expected her to say how that baby’s presence was too much for her too. “The sun feels just so good out here.”
I nodded and gave a weak smile. I guessed the woman with the baby had been taken in by the chiropractor by then and so I returned to the waiting room. I took my seat wondering if the secretary had any clue what was going through my mind. She didn’t chat me up, telling stories of blueberry picking or asking about my life. Perhaps because my visible frown advised her to keep her distance. Perhaps because she could see the emotional havoc that just went down in front of her.