She’ll remember

Some patients are difficult. Some take a long time. When I saw on my schedule that I had a patient coming in who “needs extra time” and had an extra slot blocked off for her, my stomach dropped a bit- it would make for a long afternoon. Until I read the name of the patient and realized who it was. Yes, she needed extra time. Yes, it could be difficult to care for her. But she was so pleasant- a pleasure actually.

Her chart labeled her simply as “learning disabled.” I have been taking care of her for years, having inherited her when her previous midwife left our practice.   My guess is she is on the autism spectrum somewhere, though I am not a psychiatric provider. She also has some compulsions, leaving the house wearing no less than ten layers of clothes. The extra time needed for her was merely so she could dress and undress.

She spoke in in a loud monotone voice, but was friendly. She complimented me, and just about everyone else she interacted with, on at least several pieces of clothing I was wearing.

“That’s a nice sweater and necklace and shoes and hairstyle. Your hair is so long. It wasn’t that long before.”

“No I think it’s the longest I’ve ever had it.”

She has an astoundingly accurate memory- for people and dates especially. She could tell me the exact date of each of her mammograms over the past year. She quoted from a letter she received from her previous midwife informing her of the death of a mutual friend of theirs.

“I didn’t see you last year. I saw Margaret. You were on maternity leave,” she started. I could see where this was going. “Did you have a boy or a girl?”

“A girl,” I answered with a smile. Isn’t it nice when people ask about our babies?

“That’s nice. When was she born?”

“February 15.”

“Oh, the day after Valentine’s day. That’s nice.”

And then the visit somehow went one. I asked my typical calcium intake and exercise questions. We discussed her weight. I asked how retirement was. And all the while I thought about her amazing memory. I would have told her the truth if she asked the right question, but it didn’t come up. I felt like she would ask about my baby in years to come, because she would remember. So at the end of the visit I said to her,

“I have to tell you something. You asked about my baby earlier. Well, I wanted you to know that she died shortly after birth.”

“Oh, that’s so sad,” she said without hesitating. “What happened?”

“Well, she her lungs were too small and she couldn’t breathe.”

“Why were her lungs small?”

“So she had some birth defects, because she had Down Syndrome. Sometimes babies with Down Syndrome had issues like hers.”

“I know some people with Down Syndrome. That’s sad about your baby.”

“Thank you. And thank you for asking about her.”

I wanted her to know, because she’ll remember. She’ll remember Mabel for years and years.

Is there someone you know that will remember your baby always?

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14 thoughts on “She’ll remember

  1. This put a bittersweet smile on my face. The lady responded so well, and it’s especially lovely that with her astounding memory she will always remember Mabel. There are a few friends that will always remember Hugo – it provides a small comfort xx

  2. Beautiful. Her response seems to have been so heartfelt but also simple. That’s what i am hoping for when i share about Paul. A space to speak of him without having to deal with too much emotion from he person i am speaking to… I am glad you were able to share with your patient, and to know there is another person who will know about Mabel, and remember her.

    • HEr response was so simple- as I knew it would be. Take away all the social stigma and overthinking that comes with typical patients, she was so simple becuase of her learning disabilities. she answered how she felt and that was that.

  3. Such a simple response that is so meaningful. My older brother has Down’s Syndrome and is one of the best people in my life. He always remembers to make mention of our son Jacob when we talk or text…he has a way of mentioning….I was just thinking of you when you called…it always manages to put a smile on my face. He also carries a picture of Jacob with him and shares it when he is asked how many nieces and nephews he has. My brother always finds a way to remember.

    • I love that about your brother! I love that he’ll bring him up without any extra thought- the way we want people to. I really love how he carries a photo around of him and shows it off. I hope he’s a roel model for the rest of your family. 🙂 I’m so glad you too have someone who will always remember, in the right kind of way.

  4. Meghan, this story was so sweet. I have to tell you, I take so many mental notes from you on how to “tell” someone what happened. I’ve made many mistakes in delivering my news to well-intentioned people….and you’ve helped me tremendously. So thank you for that.

    • thank you! I have made many mistakes too- and I remember each one. I desparately want more opportunities to get it right. It was a lot harder, earlier in my grief, when every question was follwoed by holding back tears and still somehow caught me off guard. Now I feel better prepared but still learning how I want to respond in each scenario, which words will give me the best responses.

    • I”m glad you have your mom to hold Kevin’s memory. and I”m sad that she seems the only one. (though I never met him, you know how special the name kevin is to me and my family, so he will be remembered by me. it’s not the same, I know, but it’s something.)

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