Six week check up

I went to my six week postpartum exam and got my clean bill of health- I’m back to normal.  So it’s official, my pregnancy period is over.  This was a hard day for me.

My midwives have two offices.  I went to the one I had rarely gone to in pregnancy, on purpose- fewer reminders.  I have two memories of that office.  The first is the day I got the call telling me Mabel had Down Syndrome.  I stopped by that office on my way home from work to meet with one of my midwives.  I remember sitting in the waiting room; it was after hours- the other patients and staff had gone home.  It was just me and my midwife and a box of tissues.  I cried about the Down Syndrome but I also cried about her bladder.  On the ultrasound a few days before, her bladder was enlarged.  During the weekend wait for the results, I had poured myself into research and learned that an enlarged bladder at that point might be an early sign of a fatal bladder condition.  I was so scared that her bladder would grow and grow and eventually rupture, killing her in the next month or two.  I was worried enough that we booked an extra ultrasound to evaluate it early (in 2 weeks instead of 4).  I sat in the waiting room of that office crying about her bladder.  Who knew that in a month we would find out her bladder was fine, but in three months we would find out her kidneys were not.

The second time in that office I sat in an exam room with another of my midwives crying again.  This time I was further along.  I hadn’t felt movement yet, so I was worried about hearing the heartbeat.  My midwives quickly became accustomed to me asking to listen first thing.  I cried at this visit because I was still adjusting to envisioning my life as a mom to a child with Down Syndrome and I was still worried about loss- miscarriage and stilbirth.

This time I sat in an exam room crying for a different reason.  The last time I had been there, I had been pregnant.  I had been worried but there was still hope- hope that my baby would survive.  That hope is gone now.  This would be the last scheduled visit I have.  While I was waiting for my midwife, her student popped her head in my room to grab the doptone and my heart just sank.  Someone else gets to hear her baby’s heartbeat.  Someone else is sitting in the other room, hopeful and happy.  Someone else is picturing the baby she’ll bring home instead of wondering if she’ll bring home a baby at all.

And being there, with all the equipment, the sights and sounds of an OB/GYN office, I was thrown right back into the world that is work.  It’s not my office, but it’s an office and offices really aren’t all that different.  I could picture myself grabbing the doptone, greeting patients, charting.  I didn’t like it; I wasn’t ready for that.  I had a sinking feeling in my stomach and my heart was beating fast.  Perhaps this explains why my blood pressure was high that day.

I asked my midwife about my cervix and how it looked.  It’s now a parous cervix (a cervix of someone who has had a baby) and she said it looks it.  As one of my commenters, Stacey, reminded me: the os (opening) of a parous cervix looks like a curved line instead of a simple dot, as it is on a non-parous woman’s cervix.  My midwife said my cervix was smiling at her.  Mabel put a smile on my cervix.

As I left, another patient was coming in, clearly for her postpartum check up too, because when she arrived empty handed she was greeted with smiles- “Where’s the baby?”  When I arrived empty handed, I was greeted with sad eyes, “I’m so sorry to hear about Mabel.”

Happy 6 weeks, my little one

Happy 6 weeks, my little one.

I’m six weeks postpartum today.  Six weeks is officially the end of the recovery period from childbirth.  It’s the amount of time we recommend people take off from work, for medical reasons.  Physically the body is supposed to be back to normal- stitches healed, bleeding stopped, uterus small.  It marks the time we tell people it’s ok to resume normal activity- exercise, sex, work, swimming, whatever.  After today my life as a patient is no longer measured by how many days or weeks since childbirth.  After today, I am just a normal gyn patient.  I have my check up this upcoming week and after that no more scheduled appointments.  I went from seeing my midwives every week at the end of pregnancy, then almost daily while in the hospital.  Now it’s been weeks and soon it will be an unknown amount of time.  I will no longer be connected to pregnancy.

This is the saddest Saturday so far.  It feels like an end.  Most people don’t keep track of how far postpartum I am and most people wouldn’t even recognize that six weeks is the standard recovery time.  So this ending is all in my head.  But how strongly I feel this.  I’m saying goodbye to all things pregnant.  Maternity clothes have been packed away, I don’t have to have modifications when I exercise and I’m supposed to be planning an end to my maternity leave.  I am so sad that I am saying goodbye to these things.  I’m sad that no one will see me as recently pregnant anymore.

I’m projecting, I know.  I have no reason to think these things; no one has acted in anyway to make me think they’re true, but I think I’m just processing my fears.  And so many more fears I have.  I fear that people will not expect me to grieve as much because she was just a baby, even though she changed my body in permanent ways that are constant reminders that she is not here.  People are often back to work and regular life much soon after an older family member’s death.  I fear I’m not expected to grieve so much because she lived for such a short time, even though I wasn’t just saying good bye to my hours old baby, I was saying goodbye to all the hopes and fantasies I had for her growing up.  I fear that people won’t give her as much credit as an older child who dies because we didn’t get a chance to know her, even though it aches that we had to take her off the vent before we even had a chance to learn all about her.  I fear that people expect me to be ok- with work, at the grocery store, wherever- because “I’m so strong” or because I’m good at what I do, even though I am weak with sadness because the world as I know it is over.

No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. ~C.S. Lewis