I watched the mother parent her child. She was great. She answered my questions through the visit while still keeping her one year old quiet and engaged at the same time.
I brought that baby into the world one year ago. In the before, I would coo and oooh and ahh at the child. “Remember me?” I’d ask the kid, smiling at my own joke. “Or maybe you remember these?” I’d stick out my hands in my baby-catching position towards the child. That would usually get her mother laughing.
But now, in the after, I gave the quickest, faintest of smiles toward the baby and focused my attention on her mother. The baby became restless, strapped into her stroller and her mother was bound to the exam table. So I worked my magic, blowing up a blue exam glove into a balloon, as I continued to listen to my patient. I handed the glove balloon to the child without ever losing eye contact with the mom. I bought us another few minutes.
During the exam, the mother took over and effortlessly kept her child occupied. They counted the fingers on the exam glove.
“One, five!” the little girl shouted.
“Almost…” her mother said laughing quietly. “Can you say ‘two?’”
It was a beautiful interaction watching the mom, such a natural teacher. She didn’t use a baby voice or play it up for my benefit. I was impressed that such a young baby even knew that five was a number. I watched and listened surreptitiously as I did the pap smear.
After the exam was over, the patient looked at her little girl and said to the baby, “she delivered you.“ She said it kind of sadly, in a way that made me realize I was in some way disappointing her. She wanted the before Meghan- the one who coos and cracks jokes about being at the baby’s very first birthday party.
Oh, how I wanted to tell her that I know I delivered her daughter! And she had grown up into such a beautiful toddler, the kind that should be in a diaper commercial. She seemed smart and I think that’s because her mother was teaching her so well. She was a good mom.
I wanted to tell her that watching her parent so well caused my chest to ache. That it impressed me, but also brought me sadness. I saw in her mother-child duo, what I had lost: The chance to parent well. Or the chance to even parent poorly. The chance to parent my baby at all! Many of us in the babyloss community have our gripes when we see people who are parenting poorly in our eyes- those who yell harshly at their kids, those doing drugs in pregnancy, those who show no appreciation for what they have. The injustice that they get to parent live children stings us all.
But seeing good parenting has its own sting for me. I want to be that parent! Sadly, all mothering is some sort of trigger for me. All kids are reminders. Newborns remind me of the Mabel that I knew. Six month olds remind me of the Mabel that should be now. Older children remind me of the Mabel that will never be. Mothers remind me of the mother I don’t get to be.