“has not had a period since birth of her son on February 15, 2014”
I read the last note I had written on the patient before I went in to see her. I rarely am so specific in the dating- usually I’d say something along the lines of “has not had a period since childbirth 5 months ago.” Clearly the date had struck me. I wrote it down mindfully, deliberately in the note. I remember that visit. I was seeing the patient in the same room actually and thought of how that was also Mabel’s birthday. At the time all I could think of was how she had a baby to go home to and I did not.
On this day, many months later, a new thought crossed my mind when I re-read my note. As I stared at her, all I could think of was how she had been on the labor floor at the same time as me. She was there, down the hall, when I was wheeled from the NICU back to my labor room so that we could call our family in private and tell them our daughter was going to die soon. As I said “it’s a girl!” in the same breath as “her time with us is short,” picturing the five pound wonder child I had just left on a warmer, tubes criss crossing her slowly bluing face and body, this woman was holding her baby on her chest, shushing those first newborn cries and excitedly cooing over her own little wonder. Not long later I held my dead daughter as I struggled to keep my eyes open, having been up all night in labor, but not wanting admit I needed sleep for it meant saying good bye to my baby forever. She probably struggled with fatigue as well, wondering how on earth she would be able to take care of her needy little one when she was just so tired. I returned to a postpartum room, crawled into the hospital bed with my husband and slept, undisturbed in a quiet room. She went down the hall, her attempted sleep punctuated by cries telling of a needed diaper change or feeding. I walked out of the hospital with a box and she was wheeled out with a baby.
I write these words not out of bitterness and jealousy, as I would have many months ago, but out of fascination… that here we both were, face to face, our lives forever changed by the birth of our first children on that same fateful February day, in the same place, but how very very different our lives are now.