The hospital

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?


18 thoughts on “The hospital

  1. My heart broke for you as I read this, as I peaked into your on-going heartbreak and grief. I admire your courage to go back into the very place that triggers so many emotions, and I hope with time, as you go back more frequently, this becomes a more peaceful place.

  2. The first time I went back, it was to donate blankets I made for the hospital. I only have Lexi’s blanket and it means so much to me that I wanted to do it for other loss families…. As I sat there, waiting for them to come get them, I got more and more anxious. I could feel my heart beating, breathing more. Until finally, when the lady came to get them, tears were streaming down my face. It was so hard to handle – it is just a place full of horrific memoeries for me

    • yes- I can totally understand that- especially if you had to wait! to many it’s simply the hospital or the NICU- a place where people leave recovered. for some of us, it’s where our lives got turned upside down. it’s lovely that you were able to get through the door for all those amazing blankets. such strength- even with the tears!

  3. I think I had a very unusual reaction. We live walking distance from the hospital – I can see it from my house – but it’s comforting, for me. I have such strong memories of people caring for me and for Anderson there, that it’s actually nice to go back and see them and get hugs and drop off gifts. Granted, I hate seeing all the pictures of success stories on the wall, but I think I’m “lucky” in that I view the hospital fondly. I guess that’s good as ALL my doctors are in the same building!

    • I understand trauma and how a location triggers strong emotions, but then also how the scene can be comforting as well. It is good to know of your positive mindset regarding the hospital where your child received care bablylossmomma. Visiting places cause me a mixed bag of emotions but not so much that I’ve been held back. And I do consider myself “lucky” for that.

      • I think your right- there is a bit of mindset in there- certain places are a mixed bag of emotions for me too- my midwives’ office is a place of sad memories, but it too was a place of such comfort. I think Im using the hospital as a scapegoat for some unresolved grief feelings! I think a mixed bag of emotions has got to be one of the healthiest reactions! I’m aiming for a mixed bag 🙂

    • I sometimes wonder if I”d feel different about the place if I had more time with my baby- or had had any good news. but for me it’s all bad. I could look at the hospital as the place where I finally met my daughter, and even where I was happiest (those two weeks I was there were blissful, knowing that my baby was being watched and would likely be born alive), but I cant get past the last memories- going back to the room that had once brought me a sense of comfort and safety but became a sad dark place because I was babyless.

      As hard as it was to have Ander there in the NICU, it was also his home, with such loving sounding nurses. I”m glad you can view the place that Anderson last lived in a good way. I hope i can someday get there too

  4. I have not yet returned to the hospital where my daughter was born. For the first month or so, even driving by it was painful. They are currently building a new wing, so I hope that if we have another little one, he/she will be born in that area. I did have a tough time the first few times I went back to my OB. It was so tough seeing pregnant women and being in a place where I had always been so happy…and pregnant.

    • you and me both. i’m comforted to know i”m not the only one to have issues with the hospital. Returning to work was like that for me- going back where I was once happy and pregnant, and seeing others happy and pregnant (or worse unhappy and pregnant). it’s crummy!

  5. I work in the same hospital every day right now… It’s hard. This week I’m caring for a patient on the surgical floor, in the same room where I was hospitalized for almost a week after my crazy c-section. I’m not doing OB, but there are still so many parallels with my case in patients’ cases – tumors, late diagnoses (despite seeking care), bleeding issues, death death death and doing all things possible to avoid death (or at least, all the possible things that come to mind at the time)… I get triggered all the time! It’s super traumatic. Today I had a major flashback when an attending was explaining EKGs and said “we need to know, is this the thing that’s going to kill the person or not?” Ugh, I’m getting panicky just thinking about how I felt when he said that! Uff. I always have to ask myself, am I simply being exposed (which is what’s supposed to happen, even if it sucks), or am I being retraumatized? It’s often hard to tell. I think you have a super valid claim to trauma, traumatic responses, etc. And that’s my medical perspective talking. Finding out Mabel had Downs? Traumatic, even if accepted. Finding out about the fluid? Traumatic, absolutely. Anything that confronts you with your own vulnerability and powerlessness in such a profound manner is traumatizing.

    • oh gosh, working everyday in the hospital- tending for patients in the same room. so much emotion that must come with it. It is hard to tell if it exposure or retraumatization! It’s something I’m going to begin working on with my therapist- for now I”m avoiding certain things likes its my job, something I shouldnt be doing so strongly. And thank you for the validation- easier to hear others say it for me than to accept, but I will try.

      • For months I clung to a scrap of a research article I once read – something like, if victims of a tragedy don’t perceive the experience as traumatic, they’re less likely to have post-traumatic difficulties. I thought, great, I just have to not *perceive* this as traumatic and I’ll be fine. Oh no, false!! You can’t really manipulate your perception, I discovered… And trying to do so, via rationalization etc, is not particularly conducive to healing. (Not that I’m healed – but I’m a lot closer than I was when I was clinging to “oh, it wasn’t really so bad…”)

      • Hah! A nice attempt at convincing yourself it wasnt trauma. Funny how research can either help or harm us, depending on the situation!

  6. I just went to the hospital the other day, a new NICU. It was the first time I was in a NICU seeing baby’s on a lighted table. I glanced over the area and did not want to linger. I was afraid my thoughts of what ifs was going to chock me.

  7. Meghan – I cannot imagine having to gear up to go back to helping women birth. If anyone can do it, it would be you, but I just know it will be emotion-filled, and maybe even a bit traumatic. The first time doing anything is rough, and no doubt the first time returning to happy, healthy birth will be extremely difficult for you. I hope that when you do return, you are able to accept whatever emotional response you have and not feel negative or ashamed about it. I dare anyone to handle it better, having been through what you have.

    Second, I agree with your doctor that you have indeed been through a tremendous trauma, in Mabel’s unexpected diagnosis, the ups and downs throughout, and finally in watching her die shortly after birth. Nothing – NOTHING! – can prepare one for watching your child die, no matter if it was “expected” or not. And, I can only imagine how traumatic it was to receive that diagnosis and know you had to see her through…

    I think the triggers are going to be avoidable for you, if you continue in your career. Perhaps over time, you will desensitize to them? (I hope, for you, anyway).

    I am a very sensory-oriented person. So, the sight, sounds, smells of the hospital, care providers and especially the NICU are a major trigger for me. There was tons of trauma in our experience with Zachary, and I replay and relive the moments, the conversations, over and over again each day. There was also mistakes in Zachary’s care, which cause me to ruminate with anger and to replay the points of intervention that never happened. Early on in my grief, I went back to the hospital 4 times to retrieve medical records and to bring gifts and thank yous to the lovely nurses who cared for Zachary. I think I was only able to do that because I was still in shock. Now, I avoid even passing by the hospital by car.

  8. I’m so impressed you were able to go back so many times int he early days- but I can understand the fog that must have engulfed you in the beginning, allowing you to do so.

    I still dread the day I am attending a health, happy birth (aside from the one of a rainbow baby I witnessed in september- though even that was still colored by the baby who had come before). Some day….thank you for your words of validation and words of encouragement!

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