Validation at work

“You’re really good at this!” she exclaimed as we finished up her visit. I had just put in a Nexplanon in her arm (a small subdermal form of birth control that lasts 3 years). It’s popularity is growing, mostly in my younger patients, who love the idea of something easy and long acting.

I smiled somewhat sheepishly. “Thanks!”

“No really, I mean it,” she went on, with her teenaged enthusiasm. “You’re so thorough and just really friendly. I’m so glad it was you who did this. You’re really good at your job, you know. It’s so cool, finding something you’re good at.”

Her words were well timed. I often have so many doubts about my place at work. Some days I feel like an empty shell. I smile and say all the encouraging words that I’m supposed to, but then go how and stew over things people say, especially around pregnancy. It doesn’t feel good to be “faking it” all the time. But on a visit like this, it was really easy. I love my teenaged and early 20s patients. I’ve made it known in my practice that I have a special interest in the adolescents, so my staff and fellow colleagues often book patients in that age range with me.   I need these patients right now- they remind me (even without them saying so) that I enjoy parts of my job, that it can be fulfilling and that I can find meaning in it.

“Thanks,” I told her more earnestly. “I sometimes need to hear that. I do love my job sometimes.”

She jumped off the table, her arm neatly bound by the pressure dressing, and I knew she’d be back next year to see me.

A few patients later, I sat in front of one of my prenatal patients. She comes weekly for an injections that helps prevent preterm labor in those who have already had a preterm birth, so I’ve see her frequently. Last time I saw her, she had been struggling terribly with heartburn that made her vomit and caused bad headaches after. She had exhausted all the over-the-counter and lifestyle changes to try to combat her discomfort without any relief. Las time I tried a non-traditional medicine- one for nausea that helps with headaches, though not usually used for heartburn. I told her I was unsure it would work, but worth a try because the safety was well established and her symptoms were non traditional.

Now, two weeks later, I asked how she was doing. She told me the new meds still didn’t help. She had waited to talk to me about it, avoiding the topic at her last visit with a different provider.

“I think it’s time we try a prescription heartburn medication,” I said. I explained how the medication is “category C”- a category given to medications to rate their safety in pregnancy. We usually try to stick to category A and B medications and take category C medications on a case by case basis. In her case, I think its worth the risk (not that there is established risk, simply many of the category C medications there is just not enough information).

“See, this is why she’s my favorite,” she turned her head and was speaking to her husband and brother in law who tagged along to the visit. “She explains everything and really tries to help.” She looked back at me and continued, “let’s give it a shot. If this doesn’t work, then really, I’m just going to have to deal. I don’t have that much longer anyways.”

I smiled for several reasons. Her compliment, like my other patients, was well needed, especially coming from a pregnant woman. I also appreciated her attitude- she felt like she didn’t have that far to go, she could put up with discomfort if she had to. She was 24 weeks and had plenty of time to go. I know so many patients who feel like the last 3-4months are an eternity with their discomforts, and here was this woman who understood the transience of pregnancy and recognized that sometimes we just have to put up with discomfort to simply be pregnant. It was a relief for someone to understand that. I put up with many discomforts during Mabel’s pregnancy- and though I might have mentioned some of them to my providers and friends, I always tried to make the point that I wasn’t complaining, just stating- because really I was just so grateful to be pregnant. Every day I had still pregnant was a gift, considering how high my risk for loss was. Even without that risk, I do truly believe everyday being pregnant is a gift. I just wish some of my patients realized that.

What gets you through the days? Where do you get your validation?

4 thoughts on “Validation at work

  1. I get my validation from your posts ❤ ❤ ❤

    Sometime last spring, I scheduled myself to do Labor & Delivery this month, thinking that after Sacha's birthday I would be ready to deliver some babies… Except, just the thought of being in the hospital is challenging for me, let alone the thought of being around L&D and the same providers, hearing the FHR monitors tick away… Deciding (again) that I'm (still) not ready for that was more heartbreaking than I realized it would be – especially because, if I don't do it now, odds are good that I'll never do it, that maybe I've attended the last birth (as a provider) that I'll ever do.

    I'm also seeing a lot of teenagers, and loving them. And a lot of older patients – I am fortunate to have that option. I feel so alone sometimes among my OB-loving (and OB-hating) colleagues, whose feeling have more to do with "finding their bliss" than coping with personal trauma… It's so comforting to know there's someone else in this strange, rickety boat with me. THANK YOU.

    • I TOTALLY understand! I am still not doing birth either. It’s taken so much work to be able to get through a day at work seeing pregnant people (I had another pt who was 36 weeks and still hadnt done her diabetes test- I have trouble being tolerant in these scenarios) and it’s still a lot of work. I’m not sure I have it in me to jump into the hospital world of it all- being part of most people’s joyous occasions when mine was so so different. I have no idea when I’ll do birth again- I”ve put it on hold indefinitely. Still coming to terms with that, but I’m getting better at being ok with it. Crazy to think that I might have caught my last baby ever! and i feel quite removed from my midwife colleagues too- somehow feel like a fake. a midwife who doesnt love birth? attending births is what people think of when they hear of midwives. It’s a strange place to be, reconfiguring my career and identity. but I suppose its a strange place to be, a childless mother in the medical field, right?

  2. I love this post, Meghan, reading it made me feel teary – in a good way. This kind of feedback from your patients is lovely anyway, and it must feel even better after Mabel.

    I get my validation from my posts and from my Hugo’s Legacy work – it makes me think I am worth it, that I have a place in the world as a baby loss mama. xx

    • love hearing about your talks- I am jealous in fact! I want to do more outreach, though finding the venues to do so is hard. But your ability to find them and get your name and #hugoslegacy out there is so inspiring!

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