My own second chance

“You got married?” I’ve been getting this question a lot lately. I got married two years ago and my name was officially changed, both personally and professionally, within a few months. Anyone who has changed their name understands the pain in the butt it is to do so. Being a medical professional there are additional hoops I had to jump through. Nursing license, midwifery license, midwifery certification, state drug license, national drug license, insurance companies, labs slips, stationary, etc. To change my name professionally was kind of a big deal, but I love my husband, I intend to stay married to him forever and I wanted to be one person with one last name. The first year I found it reasonable for people to be confused or surprised by the name change. I don’t know why in this second year some of my patients are finally recognizing that I have a new name. But it’s happening. Almost daily.

“Yep. I got married two years ago actually. The name change has been kind of slow.”

“Congratulations! Did you have a baby too?” She asked pleasantly.

“Yes.” My heart pounded n that familiar way when someone seems to know I had a baby but doesn’t know she died.

“Congrats too! I heard from some people at the hospital.” She worked at the same place I did, but in a different part.

This was my chance. I vowed the next time this happened I would say something. I had to do it. But how? I panicked. I sat there as the silence dragged on, until it was getting awkward. It was my turn to say something, but I hadn’t come up with the words because nothing seemed natural; I couldn’t think of words that would help the conversation flow. Perhaps because introducing a baby’s death into a seemingly happy exchange will alter everything.

“Thank you,” I finally said and then moved on to reviewing her medical history.

All through the visit I was kicking myself for doing it again- not owning up to my loss. I’ve learned I have to try saying things different ways and gage the reactions before I know what works. I continued on with her history and exam and at the end left the room while she got dressed.

Once I was in my office, I could take a minute and think. The visit wasn’t over yet; I still had my chance. I walked back in the exam room and gave her the prescription.

“I wanted to thank you for asking about my baby,” I said. “Because you were so kind to ask, I wanted to let you know that she died. I always like it when people ask about her.”

And just like that I did it. It was easy, the words came and she responded appropriately. I liked that I could do it at the end of the visit, so the repertoire we had built wasn’t derailed. The visit could still be about her and I could still tell the truth.



13 thoughts on “My own second chance

  1. Hello Meghan, I just came across your blog. I am sorry that Mabel couldn’t stay longer. My daughter, Sinza was stillborn in January, at 38 weeks, suddenly, for unknown reasons. I am a single mom and she is my only child. The other funeral I have attended since hers was for my Dad in June. I hate funerals, I just keep relieving the moments when my daughter’s satin covered white casket was going down into the grave, over and over, its horrifying. At my father’s funeral I made a conscious effort to keep my eyes firmly closed during that moment.

    • Oh, I am so sorry to hear about you daughter Sinza. What a beautiful name! Does it have particular meaning?

      Being a single mom during the loss of your only child must be so challenging. It’s a different kind of loss losing your only one (not to say losing a child with living kids is easy in any way. those moms have their kids grief to deal with, and often don’t get to grieve on their own because of it). I hope you have a good network of support. My heart aches for you- and then to lose your father so soon after. I know of many people who have had multiple losses like these and it astounds me how the universe can work sometimes.

  2. You are so brave to be able to do this. I struggle so much with how much to share with people, or how to ‘own’ my sons loss. It’s truly hard with strangers. The more I thought about it, the more I’ve realized, I would never say that I didn’t have a mom (because she passed). Why wouldn’t I say that I had a son? You’ve inspired me, the next time someone asks, I’m going to try to be fair to my son and myself. Thank you.

    • I laughed a bit outloud reading your words ” I would never say that I didn’t have a mom (because she passed).” You are SO right! Why is it so different for a child? it’s the whole outside-the-natural-order thing, no one expects you to say you child died, or you have a dead child. there is so much awkwardness that follows. I’m trying to find out what words make the sharing more comfortable for me and for who I’m talking to. I’m glad you feel inspired- I hope you get good responses when you do share- but don’t beat yourself up too much if it takes a while to build up that courage and find the right words- it took me time! but I’m glad I found words I felt ok with. and got a good response. keep us posted!

      • It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? It wasn’t until I really thought of it that way that I started to gain some perspective. I’ve been going around trying to make everyone else ‘comfortable’ with my situation. Things need to change. It’s time this is about me and where I’m at. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  3. Ahh! So proud of you (is that weird? I don’t mean it in a patronizing way) and impressed! YAY you! What a brave, beautiful, validating move (and you used such great words, too!). And for what it’s worth, changing your name when you’re gay is a super major big pain in the ass, too. You have to be sure to submit paperwork in just the right way so it’s not rejected (at least you did back in 2011!).

    • thanks! I’ll take that pride 🙂

      Oh, I bet its such a pain changing your name like that! I once messed up on a drug license and forgot to change my middle name, which meant I couldn’t do the next license until I fixed that one. so much paperwork and I just wanted to be done! every now and then I still find something I forgot about. I’m still waiting for my practice to put my new name on the letter head!

  4. I am so glad that you were able to share your experience and that you got a good response!!! You handled everything so professionally and authentically. Those moments of wanting to share but being unsure how… I think of those as my “am I a real person?” moments, if that makes sense – did this all really happen, and can it be part of a valid narrative, and can I bring my son into community? Often when I do share, though, I find that I become *more* of a “real person”, both in my own mind and in the eyes of others, and that my son & I are welcomed in ways I hadn’t imagined. Hoping that you continue to have some positive experiences with this (when you choose and when you feel comfortable!).

    • “am I a real person?” Wow, what an accurate summary of the dilemma I face in the exam room with patients. am I a real person or am I a provider? Do my patients want to see me as a real person or a provider? I’ve always leaned toward the provider role, but I”m learning that I can be a better provider, have a better connection, with my patients when I let myself be a real person too. such a good term!

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