Parallel Lives

She was telling me about a problem she’s had since her baby was born. To get a better sense of the duration of her symptoms, I asked when she had the baby.

February 15, 2014.

As I typed the date into my note, I my fingers began to freeze. They understood the significance of that day. For the woman in front of me, it was the best day of her life. For me it was the worst. We were in the same hospital, on the same labor floor at the same time. We both held our first borns that very day, changing our lives forever.

My family came to meet my lifeless child, while hers came with balloons and teddy bears.

While she changed diapers in the middle of the night, I slept in an ambien-induced haze.

She woke to the sound of a crying baby; I woke to the sound of my cell phone, a call from my credit card company to inform me of some fraud that happened while I was listening to the nurse ask us if we wanted to call the chaplain.

A day later, I was leaving the hospital empty armed and she stayed learning how to nurse her child.

Her milk came in, as did mine, but she had an outlet for her brimming breasts.

While I planned a funeral, she learned to care for a baby.

I sat on my couch, staring mindlessly at the tv; she longed for the free time she had pre-baby to catch up on her shows.

She watched her baby grow into an infant, learning to smile and respond; I placed photos of my dead baby around the house, knowing that I would never see her smile.

She raised a baby while I got a puppy.

She is a mom and I am the shadow of one.

She lived the life I was supposed to have.

At the end of her visit, I slipped into the bathroom and cried.


Have you come across someone living the life you were supposed to have?


17 thoughts on “Parallel Lives

  1. One of my colleagues was due a few days after me, but had the baby a couple months early… she was induced at a facility with a high-level NICU for severe pre-eclampsia, and they both ended up doing fine. I felt sooooo thankful because her infant was born so early while my “older” kiddo was still safe in my belly – and I also felt guilty, because it wasn’t fair that she had gotten sick but I was okay. Now she runs off to pump, I run off to cry.

    Another colleague had her baby at the same hospital a couple days after me. I was still hospitalized and ran into her in the hall as she was being moved from the OR to the PACU. But she’d gotten to hold her baby in the OR, and I didn’t even get to see mine. Then she got to come back up to postpartum and hang with her baby who had been kept safe in the nursery… which I did not get to do, because my baby bled to death in the nursery.

    And a third colleague had a baby the same week I did, kid is fine and mom is back to work.

    Another colleague just had a baby and texted tons of pics (“just” = 2 weeks ago but I’m still upset about it)… same OR, same gowns, same blankets, same postpartum room, same friends visiting, NO trigger warning. WTF mate.

    I think at least 10 coworkers or their spouses have had babies over the past year. Some of them have tried to be very kind and considerate to me, but many have not. I had a much easier time coping with this while I was still in shock (unfortunately, that was also the time when people were most aware and considerate!). It’s far more difficult for me now than it was during the first months.

    • Ay! so so many people and unavoidable people at that! I cant believe that colleague texted you without warning! Really? I mean, really??? And I can relate to how the difficulty has changed. for me, in the first months, my difficulty was acceptable. but now so many months out, I feel like people don’t quite understand why it’s still difficult.

  2. Meghan, i can’t imagine how you were able to offer your attention and care to this patient. It must have been so overwhelming!

    I have been avoiding the (fortunately few) people i know who had babies around the same time i did… i chose to ignore them to protect myself from seeing what i am missing in real time. It just seems too hard to face. So i really feel for you and how you had to deal with this patient. i am thinking of you.

    • thank you. it threw me off for the day. the next patient went on and on about her gender reveal- which of course she has every right to do. it just was hard for me to put forth a good face. I ended the day in tears, telling a colleague (who also sadly knows child loss) “when do I get a break from this?” that day was a bit tortuous.

  3. Oh dear. This sounds just awful. I am so sorry. So, so sorry. Ugh.

    About a week after returning to work, a patient came in to start back on birth control. She explained that she hadn’t been using anything because she thought she couldn’t get pregnant after just having a baby (NOT NECESSARILY!). I asked her how old her baby was, and she couldn’t automatically tell me (as in, was slowly counting the weeks in her head) so I just asked instead for his birth date. April 1. The same day Owen was born. She delivered at the same hospital. She went on to tell me that she had a hard time after birth because they wouldn’t let her leave the floor for a cigarettecigarette (?!?) until she got moved to her postpartum room, and even then she was irritated because she got delayed when a nurse didn’t take her baby to the nursery quickly enough. In addition to just being a generally disturbing visit, all I could think was that while I was kissing Owen’s cool, crimson lips, this lady was worried about her next smoke break. She didn’t have her baby with her, fortunately, and I definitely don’t wish I had her life. Still…ugh.

    • Oh, you do know exactly how I feel! Argh!!! It’s hard enough to face those patients (I have many) who in my opinion do careless things (I know, I know, they have their own struggles and reasons) but to face a woman like that who also gave birth the same day you gave birth to Owen??? Ah! how cruel. Yes, UGH!

  4. “When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

    Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”

    But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

    Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” – Kahlil Gibran

    I came across this portion of this poem today while watching a Capital Cities video, of all things. I have read this poem many times in the past, but it just struck me so much today, especially after also reading your post.

    Although it seems that we are all living parallel lives in our grief compared to the rest of the world’s celebration of life, maybe there is hope that we are also living a parallel life of our own sorrow with some kind of joy. It’s hard to see that joy most days, but it is somehow comforting to think that it is still there about to awaken.

    • wow, those lines are so true. some days it is harder to see the joy. and some days joy is the easier emotion. but I wouldnt be so sorrowful if I hadnt had such deep love (joy) for my baby.

  5. My dear,
    I visit your blog very often, because I find your story really touching.
    Personally, I have been in a similar state many times in the past. I have suffered
    recurrent pregnancy loss (3 times), and reading your post reminded me of the times I have viisited my doctor’s office, to schedule a D&C, after learning that I had miscarried (again) or that I still carried a dead embryo inside me, while being surrounded by happy pregnant women who came in to see their perfect embryos, or the times when I met women who got pregnant while I was pregnant too, and then they went on to have living children, while I got NOTHING at all, or the times I waited to get a D&C, while other women next to me where laboring…….
    I really understand how you might have felt, I understand how much you suffer and grieve, but I’d like you to know that all of your suffering is going to end, once you hold a healthy child in your arms. Of course Mabel, will always be your first and special child!!!!!
    I’ m sending you all my love from Greece!
    I’ ll keep checking on your blog. Keep on writing. It’ s healing…..
    P.S. Whenever I see a carrot, I automatically think of you and your beautiful Mabel!

    • Thank you eri! I love that you share your perspective here- helps us find similarities in our losses. You sitting in the waiting room surrounded by women waiting to see their perfect embryos! I envisioned myself in the waiting room surrounded by women waiting to hear the heartbeats of their perfect babies… or even their babies that would live! It’s that feeling of being surrounded by blissful ignorance… or cluelessness. Not that we’d wish loss on others, but just wanting someone to recognize the pain of simply being in the waiting room.

      I’m glad Mabel has found you all the way in Greece! (a place I would LOVE to go…someday. I just said to chris “can we go to greece? and he said yes, and he will buy me all the feta cheese I can eat!)

      • So glad that you responded to my post!
        I totally agree with you. There were times in this painfull journey that I felt so alone or ignored….
        If you ever come to Greece please let me know! I would love to meet you!

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