Disappointment

When I graduated college in California, I moved to the Washington DC area to live with several college friends. I imagined myself finding a job in a non-profit or a government agency involving healthcare. After a couple months of searching and interviewing in my brand new cranberry colored pinstripe skirt-suit (yup, I was hip) I found the job industry harder to break into than I thought it would, even with my shiny new Stanford degree. While my roommates started their more prestigious jobs at local papers, on the hill and in think tanks, I finally found work as a medical assistant in an OBGYN office. It wasn’t the glamorous job I had pictured, but I knew it would give me the experience I needed before applying to midwifery school.

I didn’t meet many people through work- those that I did had different lifestyles than me; they were older or had families. My job was also in the suburbs, not far from the house we lived in. While my roommates commuted into the city and stayed for happy hours with their new friends, I went to work early and often got out at 3:30p only to find myself home alone. So I started looking for ways to meet new people and make friends. I answered an ad on craigslist looking for women to join their indoor soccer league. I wrote tentatively, ensuring that the league was casual and disclosing that I hadn’t played soccer in eight years. Didn’t matter, he wrote, they needed women.

So I showed up, thinking I came prepared in my athletic shorts and sneakers, only to find out that the league was a bit more competitive than I had hoped. In my naivete, I didn’t even think to bring shin guards. Luckily a teammate had an extra pair and I was able to buy some socks there, allowing me to play with the regulation necessities. I was the warm body in female form that permitted them the gender balance for play.

I took a defensive position and found myself trying to makeup for my lack of skill with effort. I ran hard and fast, trying to beat other players to the ball, though I was rarely successful. The first time a ball actually rolled towards me, out in the open, I ran to it, pulled my leg back and swung hard, happy to have my chance to contribute.

I missed.

I also proceeded to basically score a goal for the other team, when the ball ricocheted awkwardly off my thigh, angling itself past my goalie and into the net. I was mortified. Yet, at the end of the game, I was asked to come back again- despite my ineptitude they needed me to be eligible for play. I left the game feeling embarrassed about my performance and walking tentatively because in all the hard effort I had put forth, I think I pulled muscles in both my thighs. I could barely maneuver the clutch to get myself home. I called my parents, as most young adults do when they don’t know how to fix something, and asked how to make my legs feel better. They suggested calling a family friend I grew up with who was a physical therapist. I told her what I had done and how I was worried I wouldn’t be able to work the next day because I could barely walk. She instructed me on the schedule of icing and rest that helped heal my sore muscles and put my in my job the next morning.

When I was recently relaying this story to some friends, I told them how I went back the next week to play again. They were both surprised after such an embarrassing show I had made of myself and the near injury I had caused to my legs. “I couldn’t disappoint them. They needed me,” I explained.

I don’t like to disappoint.

I recently did some soul searching and came to the realization that I’m not ready to do call- to deliver babies. I’ve had the conversation with work, asking to be taken off the call schedule…indefinitely. I do plan on going back to birth, I just need more time to figure out how much time I need. I am extremely fortunate that they are willing to accommodate me in this request.

Admitting that I’m not ready for birth six months after my baby died feels like a disappointment. I’m disappointing my practice partners- they’ll have to work more because of me. I’m disappointing my patients- the ones who were hoping I’d be there for their births will have someone else. I’m disappointing my nursing and midwifery colleagues who have tried so hard to bolster me up with comments like “You’re such a good midwife, you have to do birth,” and “It’ll be hard, but you’re so strong, I know you can do it.” I appreciate their efforts to build my confidence, but what they don’t realize is that I don’t need my confidence boosted. I just need time. These remarks meant to help me actually make me feel worse, because now I feel like I’m disappointing them- I’m not a good enough midwife or strong enough to get past the death of my daughter. I’m disappointing my friends who say they can’t picture me as anyone but a midwife, it’s such an integral part of my identity.

I’m not leaving midwifery and I hope to be back at birth- sooner rather than later- but I have to take care of me first. I will write more about the “why” behind my inability to face call right now, but that’s for another day. I know you all will tell me to not worry about it, to be gentle with myself, to know that I have to be good to myself before I can be a good midwife (and thank you in advance for such kind and supportive comments), but regardless of all the things I can tell myself, of the things you can tell me, I still feel like I’m disappointing everyone.

Do you ever feel disappointed in yourself?  Why?

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21 thoughts on “Disappointment

  1. I feel less disappointed in myself — I know what I’m up against and what efforts I’m making to go through my days — but I am so worried about disappointing others. I feel awful when I forget something for work, or when I lack energy to go out with my friends.
    During those moments, I’m torn between wanting to be the “old me” and wanting to yell why I can’t, and why so many simple things have gotten so hard.

    • yes! I feel that torn feeling too. I want the old me too, but i want people to really really understand the new me. well put, so many simple things have gotten so hard.

  2. Absolutely Meghan, you have to look after yourself. I too feel disappointed with myself when I put undue pressure on myself to have done something, such as meet up with friends, but you have to listen to yourself about when you are ready to do things – especially as something as poignant as helping deliver babies. Be gentle with yourself.
    By the way, my Instagram handle is positive_leigh – be good to follow each other 🙂 x

    • I just started following you! I love how you find all these projects to do on social media.

      thank you for your words of support (as much as I say “i know what you are going to tell me,” it is still lovely to read)

  3. I always struggle with feeling like I disappoint others. In fact, there was a fabulous line in The Goldfinch that I read last night about always feeling like you’re a burden to others. I dog-eared the page and I’ll send it to you as soon as I remember, since it sounds like you would relate to it as I do :). I’m working on not saying “I’m sorry” so much, and reserving it for when it’s truly deserved. I even felt like a disappointment (to my parents; to my in-laws) when Ander died. I’m not sure how we get past this except by being super-mindful: “I am doing X because I fear disappointing others. Do I actually want to do X? If not, how can I make that clear without harming my relationship with others?” I’ve been practicing this self-talk for a while now… and it’s actually starting to help. I feel like a more selfish person but I keep checking in with others, who assure me that I’m not being selfish and that my denials (to do X) are not unreasonable. Now, I’m hoping they’d actually let me know when I was being selfish, but I guess I’ll find out!

    • I like your mindfulness (my therapist would love your self talk!). I should try that- working on not saying “i’m sorry” so much either. I love how you also worry about seeming selfish- I feel that way constantly too. I’m selfish for doing certain things, not doing certain things, for thinking certain ways! I feel guilt about my own thought process. need to come up with some self talk stategies myself- thanks for the inspiration!

  4. I am prettty disappointed in myself, in what I allow (allow is probably the wrong word?) grief to do to me, in many ways. There are still a few “before” places that I haven’t gone to since before Zachary lived and died. My husband does the regular grocery shopping now, at the local place where I just can’t bear to face the familiar faces. I haven’t taken my son to kid-friendly hot spots (arboretum, swimming, zoo), basically all summer, because I know I will be confronted with happy mommies, kids and bellies. It makes me feel weak that I’m not able to do these things (yet). And, in some ways, I think the longer I avoid them, the tougher it will be to do them again. I try to give myself a break, given the circumstances of watching my child suffer and die, but I have to admit I get frustrated with myself.

    I don’t blame you a bit for not returning to delivery yet. I know you probably don’t want to hear it, but it’s brave of you to draw the line until you know you are (more) ready. I’m glad you spoke up for yourself. The little bit extra that your colleagues will have to work, over the course of however long it takes, will be drops in the bucket compared to your overwhelming loss.

    • allow! what a word!I struggle with that thought of the longer I avoid, the harder it may be. Especially in this situation for me. I worry the more I push birth away, the harder it will be to return. Though I think my immersion in the OB world in the office is helping. I see people in labor before I send them to the hospital. Heck, we on rare occasion have births in the office! In my eight years as a midwife I have had none, which I am grateful for, but watch it happen now! So I have minimal exposure. And I’m exposed to the smaller joys of pregnancy everyday between those excited to be pregnant, to hear the first heartbeat, to find out its a girl… so I try to tell myself I”m not avoiding everything. And as part of my self imposed therapy, I’m trying to be at the birth of a patient (a fellow babyloss mom- i’ve delivered bother her other children, one living, one not) who is due at the end of september. If I can logistically make it there (not stuck in the office or away) I will try to be there emotionally. Though I dont intend to necessarily catch her baby, I hope to simply be there, to witness and if I feel like its right, maybe hold her baby (it would be the first since mabel- I’m not sure I’m ready though- feels scary, I think I have betrayal feelings there)

      and thank you for your words of support. I might say I dont want to hear it, but I do! I really do. Your words at the end, remind me what a friend once told me when I had guilty feelings about delaying my return to work and the effect on my colleagues: she said “you know whats harder than working extra? your baby dying.” I try to remember that, though I also wonder when I have to stop using that. like there’s an expiration date on that excuse.

  5. Cranberry pinstripe suit? Love! Asking for more time at work? Very much love. I don’t want it to sound patronizing when I say “good for you, Meghan.” You’ve mentioned previously your dread at having to be on call. You’ve clearly thought it out and are doing what’s best for your family. Mabel has got an awesome mama 😉

    • thanks carole! the suit, at the time was different, but I thought cool. It was a knee length skirt (sad truth: I felt like I had to get a skirt suit because I was worried some old fart men in the hiring role would think its more appropriate. early 2000s. really?)

      and your words of support are so welcome. not patronizing at all. thank you thank you

  6. Meghan, your candidness is awesome. You’re making the best decision you can for yourself right now, and though it may feel like you are disappointing someone else, disappointing others is a fair trade (IMO) for what could possibly happen to you should you continue to push yourself to a place you’re not ready to go. Grief is a sliding scale, back and forth and back and forth; weeks, months, and years into the game. What we all want to do here is rally around you, because we understand the difficulties in working in a “new normal” world after loss. Take your time and do what you can, how you can, and when you can. No one will fault you for it, and working through how you feel about all of it (including not doing on-call) is part of the healing process. You may find that time doesn’t change it, and that’s OK (not that you need approval from the likes of me). If it does soften the sadness, terror, and anger then that is wonderful too. All you can do is set one foot in front of the other, day by day, and go with what you know. Be kind to yourself, and let us know if you need us! * Hugs*

    • “You may find that time doesn’t change it, and that’s OK (not that you need approval from the likes of me)” those words are more helpful than you know. I think one of my biggest fears is that I may never be ready to go back. to know thats OK, is so comforting. I hope hope it’s not the case for me, but I do feel like I need permission. I’ve said outloud that I wish no one expected me to every go back to work at all, then everything I did would be going above and beyond and not doing something (like call) would be considered expected, the normal. thank you for your kind words of support

  7. Thanks for sharing this. While I’m not sure I would have gone back to play football, I could so relate to the feeling of disappointing colleagues. I’ve had more than one conversation with my boss on how I’m not performing like I used to, how my priorities have changed. Of course they have – pretty much everything pales in comparison to the lives of my children. It makes me feel like I’m not a good enough scientist to keep working like crazy thought the grief over my twin daughters.
    I’m glad your colleagues are understanding. Take all the time you need.

    • “it makes me feel like I’m not a good enough scientist to keep working like crazy thought the grief over my twin daughters.” thats exactly how I feel! its a messed up world our minds inhabit after loss, isnt it??

  8. Hey, keep your chin up. 🙂 You are doing right by you, and if that’s what needs to happen, then it’s what needs to happen. Even though you feel guilty, I’m positive your colleagues don’t feel that way. Really. My aunt’s husband died at work, while she was at work as well, and I was shocked she went back to work a scant month after this death. Reflecting on her decision, she needed to. She felt closer to him and his memory to be at work again. It was her way of processing her grief. I also had a coworker who lost her husband–she left for work and assumed he was sleeping in, but he had died of an early morning heart attack. She took off several weeks and even when she came back, there were days she didn’t come to work and days she left early. We accepted it, we shouldered up to doing work and there was absolutely no animosity. True work colleagues want the best for you–you may feel guilt, but I promise you we don’t. We (work colleagues) want the best for the team.

  9. I can no longer drive long distances since I lost my son in a car accident. I have flashbacks and sometimes it’s just too much. It’s been nearly 10 months and I’m not back to work yet, as driving is an integral part of what I did as a consultant. I think that you’re doing amazing and sometimes it’s hard to admit our limitations, but it’s better to be honest with yourself.

  10. This might not be right for you, so take it with a grain of salt: maybe if, sometime in the future, you have a baby who lives, you will be more comfortable with doing births again? Although the pain and memories and sadness with the first one will always, always be there, it won’t be the only thing that you connect the ordeal with any more. I feel, at least for me, that a lot of my bitterness for other women with babies will dissipate a bit if I can have a baby who lives. I will always miss the first one and I plan on crying for him always, at least sometimes, because I see other bereaved mothers do the same. But it might not always be the same kind of hurt. I only say this because maybe it’s something you don’t have to give up forever–sometime, you might be able to come back. Right now it makes sense that it’s too hard though.

    • thank you! secretly that’s how I feel. It’s hard not to feel weak. I feel like a “strong” midwife would be able to separate her memories from every birthing room she enters. But we are all human. there are so many times throughout the day I rely on my own experience to relate to patients- whether it be about a book they’re reading, where they’re getting married, exercise in pregnancy or if I’ve used the Nuva Ring before. So how can I not bring my one and only experience of birth along with me to others’ births? I’m working through my own disappointment in myself through these words, so thank you for all your validation. It really helps to hear (read).

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