The hospital. Saying the words, envisioning the building puts my stomach in knots.
My practice has a Monday morning meeting at the hospital. It used to be every week, but in the past few months it’s morphed into a once a month affair. We gather as a group of docs and midwives and talk about protocols and patients, ensuring we are all on the same page. Aside from the 7am start time, I have traditionally enjoyed the meetings. I like having clinical conversations with my colleagues- we sometimes debate and I almost always learn something. I also think it’s good care for our patients- getting fresh eyes on complicated cases, allows everyone to give suggestions on how best to care for our patients. And on top of it all, I enjoy the company. My practice has four offices in different towns and the hospital on top of them, and we are spread among each location- so I am lucky if I interact with one of my colleagues on a daily basis. Even when we are in the same office, our schedules are quite crammed so there is not much time for catch up or small talk. So Monday morning meeting is a chance for us to see each other and catch up for a minute.
The meeting takes place on one of the maternity floors in the hospital, in a spare conference room. It’s the floor on which I spent two weeks while pregnant with Mabel. During my hospitalization I was allowed about an hour off the monitor a day and one Monday I decided to use that hour to go to Monday morning meeting. I popped in wearing my “nicer” hospital clothes (yoga pants instead of pjs) and sat as my colleagues discussed work. It was good to see them- I had seen many of them while I was there- if they were working they would often stop by my room for a quick snack and a chat, but it was comforting to see them altogether.
The meeting holds new meaning for me. It takes place in the building where my daughter died. It’s on the floor where I spent the last good moments of pregnancy and where I returned to my room empty handed. After Mabel died.
We had a Monday morning meeting this week. I went once before- in September. I felt I needed to, as we had just hired a new doc and midwife. But I skipped October- I didn’t want to go. The thought of the place causes a painful physical response and frankly, I was not up to the task. But this week, I needed to go- there was a clinical issue I needed to discuss (how to care for pregnant patients on methadone). So I skipped my usual Monday morning exercise class and headed in. I parked on the street because my usual hospital parking is in accessible- my ID doesn’t work for the parking garage and I haven’t gotten around to fixing it. As I walked closer to the door, my heartrate sped up and I felt that familiar pain in my chest and stomach. I regulated my breathing and made sure to look at the funny rabbit and carrot decoration that sits in the revolving door to the children’s hospital. The carrot gave me some comfort. But when I hit the doors to the maternity floor, I could feel the tears coming. Before heading into the conference room for the meeting, I had to hide in the bathroom for a few minutes to have a good cry.
I wouldn’t call it a panic attack- I know enough about them to know that’s not it. I simply identified my response as grief, simple grief. This place is so sad for me now. It also represents mountain I need to climb. The hospital represents birth- normal birth for most people, a usual happy occasion, and if I ever want to be a full scope midwife I will eventually nee to climb that mountain and welcome normal birth again. I am far far from that place.
My doctor called my response- a reaction to trauma. The term didn’t quite sit well with me at first. People have trauma when they go through sudden, unexpected events- emergency c-sections, stillbirth, prematurity. My daughter’s death was in some way expected. I should have been prepared. I often feel I don’t have the same right to claim trauma like those who were totally caught off guard do. My doctor encouraged me to accept her definition of trauma- that it doesn’t have to be sudden; it can be long and drawn out. Death, a life-changing event, whether expected or not can be traumatic. So I’m working on accepting that- apparently it’s necessary to do in order to move forward in my grief.
How do you view the hospital/doctor’s office? Are they traumatic for you at all?