“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.