Mommy friends

I wrote this back in September, but never published.  Better late than never!

Over the summer I joined a stroller boot camp. We met once or twice a week in a park in my town and an instructor led us in a mix of cardio and strength training. Everyone had a stroller with one or two kids and the exercises often involved the stroller or a song. Even when the exercise had nothing to do with the stroller, it was a place where a crying baby is met with knowing glances and understanding.

I did lots of bootcamp classes when I was pregnant with Mabel and continued after she died into my pregnancy with Felix.  I was able to return to a few before they changed their pricing and class structure making it no longer feasible for me to stay a member. Plus with a kids who didnt sleep, my fatigue was making it very hard to find the time or motivation to make it a regular thing.

When I learned of the stroller boot camp- I was thrilled. I didn’t have to worry about childcare. There was a class that met on my day off, so I didnt have to choose between exercise and sleep or worry about childcare.  I thought that since it was in my own town maybe I could even make some mommy friends!

The first class was fine- it was a little weird because since Felix had a fever I showed up sans baby and stroller.  During our warm up we would circle up and introduce ourselves while we lunged and squatted.  The instructor was very nice and super chatty.  A pregnant woman was there who was about 35 weeks and pushing a stroller with a toddler.  She was talking with the instructor about how she hoped this exercise would help her go early.  I chimed in “I ran a road race when I was 37 weeks with my second and he came that night, so you never know!” It’s a fun fact that I hoped would start some conversation. It was well received and talked a tiny bit more until it was time for a new exercise.

The next class we were all lined up after the warm up for an exercise behind the strollers. As we worked, the instructor stood in front of us asking questions, engaging with different people in the group. “How long have you lived in this town?”… “what made you move here?”… then she looked at me. “Who’s watching your older child, Meghan?”

I was caught a bit off guard and I must have shown it in my face because before I could formulate an answer, the instructor felt she had to explain. “You said last week that Felix was your second… so is you older child in day care or at home or….?

It was weird being asked that question, but not unmanageable. I was trying to think of how to best answer without making it awkward. It was also weird to be asked that question with so many people listening.

Finally I said simply, “she died.”

I was ready for the usual response- the i’m so sorry- and honestly was kind of shocked when I didn’t get it.

I got nothing.

The instructor literally was looking directly at me when I responded and she quickly turned away from me and asked another of the women in the class a question.

Nothing.

No acknowledgement, No awkward response. No well meaning but painful platitude. Nothing.

I think it was the worst possible response I have ever gotten. I know that she didn’t know what to do or say and I understand that it was not at all the answer she was expecting. I don’t think it was even in the realm of possibilities for her.  A part of me felt sorry for her- sorry that I couldn’t give her a warning, that she was forced to deal with the unexpected response in front of an audience.

But I was also a little frustrated and mad.  By not acknowledging what I had said gave me important impression: Talking about my dead daughter was not welcome here. I understand that the group is made up of moms and no one wants to have to think of how it would feel to lose one of their babies, but it’s my reality.  I can’t talk about so many of the common mom things without at least referencing the fact that I gave birth to another child.  It is interwoven with my every day existence. It is one of the things that defines me- it’s just as important that people know that I am a midwife as it is for them to know I am the mother of two children.

From that class on I accepted that I was not there to make mommy friends, I was there to get exercise.  The fact that the interaction was witnessed by most of the class also gave the class the impression that my dead daughter shouldn’t be talked about. But how can I make friends if people don’t know about Mabel? Argh. Another loss- the loss of “normal” parenting and friend making.

I was able to make a connection with one woman towards the end of the classes. She and I used the same midwives and those who choose the midwives I go to tend to be a self selecting group of people- likeminded in many ways.  Once I learned that I (perhaps a little biasedly) liked her instantly. We talked for a bit about birth and our midwives; it was nice.  What normal friend making must be like. Sadly it was in the second to last class and so nothing more ever grew from there.  I suppose it was good practice.

How do you make new friends after loss?

Day 22: Self Care

I work four days a week.  When I was working “full time” as a midwife, I would work on average about 60 hours a week.  The plan was when I had kids to drop one day in the office, making me “part time” at 50+ hours a week. Some of that time I was on call for births, meaning I might spend the shift in the hospital awake for 24 hours, or I might spend a good portion at home in my bed.  After Mabel died, I eased myself back into work.  My goal was to work myself up to that same “part time” schedule so I could have that extra day off for myself, to work on my grief.  After a few months into work, I realized that the goal of returning to call so soon was unrealistic and so now I work four office days.  My practice was kind enough to allow me this adjustment and Chris and I decided our finances could handle the decreased salary that accompanied.

Wednesday is my day off each week and I use the day to take care of myself.  Today I photo-documented the things that fill my day.

I spend some quality time with my pup, who gives me something to care for and love, who reminds me that I am needed.

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I had lunch with a friend, who shared her precious cache of chocolate with me.

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I exercised, indulging in an episode of Scandal while I hit up the elliptical.

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I sat on this couch for a hour, pouring out my soul and working through my anger with my therapist.

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I mulled over some thoughts and took a quick nap as I received an acupuncture treatment.

 

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A friend came over and we dressed the pup up.  She seemed to enjoy it!

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Another friend came over for dinner and we had a glass of wine!

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I ended my night with another babyloss mom, enjoying teat and hot chocolate, laughing about things in ways only the babyloss know.

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#CaptureYourGrief

 

Day 10: Support

My grief journey started well before Mabel was born.  I grieved the original vision I had of a typical baby when I learned she had Down Syndrome.  I grieved the potential risk of miscarriage and stillbirth that came with that diagnosis.  I began grieving the death of my child when we learned it was a real possibility at 27 weeks.  My grief wander high and low as I crept week by week, my baby still alive inside me and then hit hit full force in the days, weeks and months after she was born and died shortly after.

“Down Syndrome children are born without malice,” one of them told me and I began to celebrate the new vision of the child I was going to have.

“You need to meet with this doctor,” another told me, encouraging me to seek out a well respected neonatologist on the medical ethics board.  With that meeting I began to plan how to best help my baby.

She didn’t put me on bedrest, like many would have done, simply because no one knew what to do to help my baby.  “Exercise,” she said, “is good.”  She gave me a little sanity.

She came with cabbage leaves and breast pads to soothe the raging milk that kept reminding me there was no baby.  She put me on a sitz bath, reminding me that my body needed to be cared for too.

“Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children,” she cried unabashedly, sitting in my bed with me in the days after.

My OB team- my midwives, my doctor- was and still is a huge support for me.  It’s national Midwifery Week.  So it’s well timed that today I thank my midwives (and my M.D., my Midwife Doctor).

#CaptureYourGrief

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Sharing too much

She was hemming and hawing over whether to take a particular medication in pregnancy. My opinion was that she would benefit greatly. Sure, everything has its risks, but women (and also some other providers) err on the “conservative” side recommending avoidance of all medications in pregnancy. Women and babies sometimes miss out on some valuable benefits. I’ve seen it done when discussing exercise. “No you can’t do crossfit,” “don’t let your heart rate go above 140,” and “if you don’t exercise now, you don’t want to start in pregnancy.” Baloney. None of these recommendations are evidence based and they do a disservice to moms and babies. Exercise has so so any benefits. I often want to share with my patients what I did in pregnancy, leading by example. I’ll make a quick offhand comment but quickly divert so there are not further questions. I would hate for them to probe too far and learn my baby died.

As I talked to this woman on the phone, I sensed she needed more assurance that the med would be okay. We had already gone over the risks and benefits, but she was still hesitant. Finally I said, “Listen, I was on a very similar med all through pregnancy. I only tell you this because I want you to know I wouldn’t recommend something I wouldn’t do myself.”

I hear the relief in her voice. Correct me if I’m wrong, but sometimes patients want our personal opinions. She began to seriously consider.

“Can I ask you one more question, if it’s not too personal?” she asked.

“Of course.”

“Did you breastfeed on the med?”

Sh*t. Just when I thought I had done the right amount of sharing, it backfired.

“My baby died shortly after birth- nothing to do with the med, so I couldn’t breastfeed. But had she lived I certainly would have. No doubt.”

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

I was reminded of this experience while reading C is for Crocodile’s post . How badly I want to maintain membership in this group- the “I’ve been pregnant too” club, as well as the “pregnant making hard choices” club. They are silent clubs, like most of ours are, so I have to allude. But by announcing my membership, I sometimes inadvertently have to share that I also belong to the babyloss club- something that sometimes feels right, but sometimes feel unprofessional. Here, it didn’t feel so good. I didn’t cry- I’ve become quite good at saying “my baby died.” It just felt crummy that my contribution, my commaraderie with this woman, suddenly became tainted. It’s as if it nullified my membership.

 

Has this happened to you? Have you had a time when you felt you shared too much? What happened?

My Massages

I love massages. I’m kind of a glutton for them, actually. I used to go to a small Chinese herbal medicine shop that did massages in the back room. As sketchy as it sounds, it was, but they did give good massages for cheap, as long as you didn’t mind missing out on the luxuries of a spa. When I moved out of the city, I gave up my massages for a bit, but two years ago I found myself with a gift card to Massage Envy. After a massage, I signed up for a membership, enjoying a monthly massage for just under $50. Hard to beat. The only down side was finding the right massage therapist. Each time I tried someone knew- the first had hands that were just too cold. The second didn’t apply nearly enough pressure. The third didn’t avoid certain areas like I had asked her (I don’t like my arms and legs massaged. Stick mostly to the back, lady). So when I finally found Jean, a woman who used to work in a chiropractor’s office, I was thrilled when she applied good pressure, had warm hands and followed my requests. I continued to see Jean until the day I told her that I was pregnant. Working for a corporation (Massage Envy is a chain), she wasn’t certified in prenatal massage so wasn’t allowed to see me anymore. I was heartbroken. I continued my monthly massages with Anthony, a guy who seemed skilled enough but he was no Jean. On my kind days I would chalk his too light pressure and ineffective techniques up to the prenatal aspect- he was overly cautious. I stuck with it because I needed to relax (it was a difficult pregnancy- worried that my baby would die, and all) and because I planned to see Jean postpartum.

My husband understands the joy I can get in massage- he will frequently rub my back and my neck and tolerates my monthly indulgence. For Valentine’s Day he had arranged for a massage therapist to come to the hospital to give me a massage. He was going to tell me about it on the day itself and the massage was scheduled for a few days later. Labor and childbirth interrupted that plan, but the masseuse was kind enough to make a special exception and do a postpartum one in my house a week after we were discharged. She knew the circumstances and was appropriate when I told her I might cry during it. I did.

I returned to Massage Envy the month after and got to see Jean again. I few weeks later, I received a phone call telling me she was on leave, indefinitely. No more Jean. A friend of mine who also was a regular suggested I try her massage therapist, Nick.

I warmed up to Nick; he was no Jean, but he was good enough. He remembered I didn’t like my legs or arms massaged and he had a good personality. When I first saw him, he said “I see you just had a baby?” When I nodded he said “Congratulations!” and that was all. He often tried to talk a bit during the massage- I know my friend is quite chatty with him- but I wasn’t not much of a talker, especially during those early grieving months. I was always polite back.

One time, after a particularly hard day, I had been crying in the car before I went in for my massage. I was still quite emotional and quite sniffly from the tears. He noticed my runny nose and asked if I was sick. I answered truthfully- no. “Allergies?” he went on. I do technically have allergies, so I felt like I wasn’t lying when I nodded. I had to stop in the middle of the massage a few times to blow my nose.

He remembered the next time I saw him, noting that my allergies seemed better.

The next few massages passed uneventfully. Last week, I went again, eager for him to work out some stress spots in my back. After my recent encounter with a patient, I was feeling more empowered to let people I see regularly know that my baby died. When Nick was chatty, I tried to be talkative back to him. We had talked a little about exercise because I think I strained a muscle lifting at bootcamp, and he mentioned he had gone running that morning and felt awesome afterwards. I told him that I had been struggling with running after childbirth, because of the effects of pregnancy on my pelvis.

I purposely mentioned my pregnancy to try to lure him into asking about my baby. A simple, “how old is she?” or “is she sleeping?” or any reference would have opened the door to me telling him that she died, so I wouldn’t be lying there month after month with my secret.

My efforts were not rewarded. He didn’t ask and I couldn’t bring it up out of nowhere.

So for now, he will continue to think I carry the stress and fatigue of a new mom in my back and the stress and fatigue of a newly bereaved mom will be my continued secret.

 

Do you have an indulgences to temporarily take you away from your grief?

Has something similar happened to you, where you wish you could blurt it out?

Battle scars

I used to be a runner. I’ve written about it here, talking about how running became hard for me physically and emotionally at the end of pregnancy. I was proud of how far along I was when I went for my last run – 31 weeks. I would go for a run (ok, ok a very slow jog), usually before work 3-5 times per week, getting my 3 miles done in 35 minutes or so.

When I was hospitalized at 34 weeks, I had to be on the monitor 23 hours a day and wasn’t supposed to leave the hospital, so I was limited in my exercise ability. I settled for a mini-bootcamp with an exercise band and medicine ball I had gotten as gifts.

After Mabel was born, I knew I needed exercise. We commonly tell patients, no real exercise until 6 weeks postpartum. I used to tell my patients that they could do some light exercise, like walking, when their bleeding stopped. I did not take my own advice. I was doing yoga at 10 days postpartum and back at bootcamp (with modifications and accompanied by my midwife) at 2.5 weeks. I will now counsel patients differently.

But even before I started back at bootcamp, I would walk. Chris and I would hit up the local “rail trail” (and old railroad track converted into a paved path frequented by walkers and cyclists). It was winter and our area had been hit by an enormous amount of snowfall, so rather than brave the sidewalk-less streets in our country-living town, we would bundle up and head to the rail trail nearby. Our town plowed a mile and a half of it in the winter, so it was a safe place to walk and get fresh air. At first the walking was slow going, but as the days progressed, I could do more faster. I was limited mostly by my pelvis. There is a bone- the symphasis pubis- in the front part of the pelvis (the pubic bone in more common terms) that has a joint in it. In pregnancy, the body makes a hormone called relaxin, which, as its name implies, relaxes the joints in the body. Its main target is the pelvis, loosening the hinges to make more room for a baby to pass through. Many pregnant women speak of loose joints that sometimes can be painful and that’s due to the relaxin, which works on all the joints- not just the pelvis.

My body made plenty of relaxin. As pregnancy progressed, I would be sore after a run. I’d feel it in my pelvis, my symphasis mostly. I remember vowing the day after the Thanksgiving turkey trot we ran that I was done running- my pelvis ached! I’d need a little assistance getting off the couch and climbing stairs would smart. I’d ice, stretch and see the chiropractor, but nothing really helped. So eventually I gave up running and moved on to bootcamp. After Mabel was born and we were walking I felt that familiar burning, lingering pain in my symphasis. I wasn’t worried; it can take time to heal. I eventually worked myself up from walking to interval jogging to my usual three-mile stint at a slow pace. Week after week I’d keep at it, slow and steady as I regained my stamina. Though I gave it time, my pelvis seemed stationary in its healing process. I continued the stretching, ice and the chiropractor but found myself running less and going to bootcamp more. I think I’ve run once in the past two months.

I finally made an appointment with physical therapy to try to get some help, but part of me realizes that my jogging days might be over. I am well past a reasonable recovery time and have come to accept that this might be one of my battle scars. I was fortunate to never get a stretchmark in pregnancy- the only few I have developed on my breasts during the rapid and impressive engorgement I experienced a few days after birth. The shape of them have changed too. Other than that, I have few physical reminders that my body once bore a baby.

Part of me hates the loss of running due to my invisible battle wound on my pelvis, but part of me thinks of it fondly. Just like the milk that came in so insistently after Mabel was born, my painful pelvis is a reminder that though there is no baby, there was a baby.

What about you- what are your battle scars? Are they public or invisible? How do you feel about them?

 

*************

Today is a special day, a little girl named Calla was born two years ago today. I’ve never met her.  I didn’t know her mom or her dad or her two big brothers when she was born.  I only know them now because Calla Pearl was born sleeping.  Though I wish that weren’t the case and she were a lively two year old sapping her mom’s energy, I am grateful that I have met Calla’s mom and her family.  Today I tried to picture what I think she would have looked like as a two year old.  I base my vision on the precious photo her mom showed me and how her two older brothers look.  But I know she is and ever will be the baby born too soon and too silent.  I think of Calla being a friend to Mabel, showing her how to be a baby separated from her mother, in the way Calla’s mom is helping show me how to be a mother separated from her baby.

Happy Birthday, Calla Pearl.

My Alter Ego

I was shoving my water bottle and purse in one of the cubbyholes at bootcamp when a tall woman approached me.

“Are you Mallory?” she asked.

I had been asked many questions I didn’t know how to answer right away, but this one was a new one. Before I blogged here, I would on rare occasion guest blog at SemiProper. I have had the pleasure of attending Roo during the birth of all three of her children and I have been fortunate to benefit from a friendship that grew beyond the exam room. She has seen my debut as the Naked Cowboy and I have joined her in listening to her husband rock out at our local coffee shop. She blogs about all sorts of random stuff, but some of my (totally unbiased) favorites are her public service messages like, promoting pap smears and breast exams. I’ll chime every now and then from the midwife perspective.  She’s even linked me up here (*warning for the babyloss- that last link has birth/newborn stuff, but you’ll also see me at work*) and I know some of you found me through her (hi and thanks for coming).

Anyhoo, when she first started, she had pseudonyms for all the main characters in her life- nicknames for her kids and husband. When she wrote about me, she asked if I wanted my real name used or a nickname. I didn’t want to miss out on a cool alter ego, so I begged for a cool new moniker. After a brief joke about calling me Bertha (get in?), she dubbed me Mallory, a name I had once told her I really liked. Though she dropped the pseudonyms for her family, I am still Mallory to her readers.

So when this woman questioned me before bootcamp, I was at a loss for words. I figured she was an SemiProper reader

“Well, er… sort of,” I stumbled. “Actually I’m Meghan. But I, uh, sometimes go by Mallory… online.” I sounded like someone who lived a second life as an avatar.

I explained how I went by Mallory on Roo’s blog and told her about the pseudonyms.

She told me about how she read my blog and it was helpful to her because she had recently had a baby who had some health concerns.

I left the interaction feeling both amazed (look at me, I was recognized! I’m a celebrity!) and frustrated with myself for being awkward and not asking about her baby.

Then this morning I had my chance. In bootcamp we often have to pair up or make small groups to rotate through the intervals together. Today we had to make groups of three. I found myself next to the tall woman with the sick baby. It took half of the work out for me to get the words out.

“How’s your baby?” I asked.

She told me and asked how I was. I gave a little shrug “you know…” I didn’t say I just hit the six month mark and it’s harder than I thought it would be. I didn’t thank her for asking. I didn’t say anything I should have.

Again my reaction was mixed. I was pleased I was able to ask about someone else’s baby. This was kind of a huge deal for me, a real milestone. There are so many feelings I run from – baby showers, kids with friends, holding newborns. I was proud I faced one little one head on… Baby steps…. But I was frustrated I wasn’t able open up and be a real person either.  Still not the old me.  Someday I’ll be the Meghan or even the Mallory I want to be.

 

A second chance to respond

She approached with a friendly smile. “Don’t you have a new baby?”

I was at bootcamp and the woman behind the words was familiar to me. I knew she had a little baby from an interaction I had with her a few months ago. I remembered her friendly face. In bootcamp we often have to pair up.   Many times I don’t know anyone in the class, so I look around to see who has a welcoming face. This woman had caught my eye.

The words caught in my throat. Six months after my daughter’s death I don’t get choked up when asked about her; I can say the words with out crying. But I get hung up on what to say, how to say it. I almost dread disappointing people when they ask such a simple question, one that deserves a simple answer. I pause awkwardly when asked, thinking how they have no idea the bomb I’m about to drop on them.

“I did… she died,” I replied after a too long silence.

“Oh,” her face fell and the easy smile that pegged her as a friendly workout partner disappeared. “Oh… I’m … I’m so sorry.”  Her brow wrinkled in a mix of concern and surprise and I watched as she walked away processing the information.

When the warm up was over, I found another partner and threw myself into my workout. I mulled over the short interaction in my head, sometimes thinking simply how surreal it was. This was my life now- killing conversations, saying my baby died. There was no other way to do it. The question was asked; the words had to be said.

At the end of the class, I stood, sopping with sweat, slurping my water bottler as I gathered my things to leave. She came up to me and got my attention. Her eyes glistened with tears held back and said in a wavering voice,

“I just wanted to say when I asked you earlier- I wanted to tell you that you look so strong. Even more so now that I know. I’m so sorry.”

“Thank you. Don’t be sorry for asking,” I said with a half smile. “It’s nice when people ask about her. She was real. It’s nice to talk about her.”

“I had a baby is November and that was my worst fear.”

“Me too…. I knew she was going to be sick, but I still hoped.”

“I just want you to know I’ll be thinking about you. About both of you.”

What a nice thing, to have a second chance. She handled the first interaction well, but she did even better with the second one. It was genuine. My first words caught her off guard, and she was decent. But she shined when she had some moments to herself and really process. If only everyone was gifted some time to reflect, perhaps kind words would flow more easily.

Dear Bootcamp Instructor

Dear Bootcamp instructor,

I was never a fan of group exercise.  I was happy running when I wanted, for how long I wanted.  But as pregnancy shaped my body and complications with my baby arose, I found I couldn’t run for both physical and emotional reasons.  With a broken elliptical at home and no gym membership, I was uncentered and anxious without my exercise routine.  I finally caved in to a friend’s entreaties to join her at “bootcamp.”  My first class, I arrived early and sat in a near panic attack as all the women in the 6pm class performed different exercises in near seamless coordination.  Everyone looked so good!  I was overwhelmed.  Then the warm up nearly did me in.  I left feeling on the fence about whether this bootcamp was for me.  I tried again at an early morning Wednesday class and left still feeling undecided.  I had an ultrasound later that day with my doctor (a fellow bootcamp-er) and I remember telling her I was like 50/50 on whether I liked it or not.  I gave it one last shot on a Friday morning class that you were teaching.  When I left, I began thinking, I could like this.  In the car on the way to dinner later that night I was telling my husband about my day and told him about the good class I went to with the friendly instructor.  And then there you were at the restaurant- smiling and remembering my name!  Like I told you the other day, that’s what sold me.

Over the next three weeks, the exercise saved my sanity.  I learned to love jam ball slams for the anger I could release about my baby’s health.  When I was admitted to the hospital, the doctors (my colleagues) all had a good laugh at rounds about how their admission for the day (me) would be late because she wanted to go to bootcamp.

I tried to continue the pace in the hospital, taking time each day to do a mini-bootcamp while tethered to the fetal monitor.  You’d be surprised what one can do in a small hospital room attached to a six-foot wire.  My husband even got me a medicine ball for my birthday, which I celebrated in the hospital.  I yearned to do some jam ball slams, but my midwife and doctor (also fellow bootcamp-ers) didn’t think it would be a good experience for the patient in the room below me.  My doctor thought I was a great research project in itself, showing that a baby with no fluid did just fine through vigorous exercise.  How cool it was to watch her heart rate never falter while I did ball taps and squats.  Your class was even on my mind in labor as I told my midwife between contractions, “this is harder than bootcamp!”

My midwife let me return to bootcamp at 2 ½ weeks postpartum, under her supervision.  My daughter was buried, my family had all left and my husband was back at work- I was alone and terrified of my grief.  In the initial days, I wouldn’t get out of bed, barely eating.  Going to bootcamp gave me a reason to get out of bed, brush my hair and eat breakfast.

Upon returning to my first class, I sat in the car crying until the last possible moment.  I was scared of the memories- being somewhere that I only knew in pregnancy, seeing people who might ask about my baby, unaware that she had died in my arms.  I made it in that day, as you know, and many days that followed.  That first day wasn’t the only day that saw tears.  The nice thing about bootcamp is I can’t make it through a class without a red face dripping with sweat- a nice camoflauge for the emotion that would spill out without warning. 

Bootcamp allowed me to step out of myself for a bit.  I took a momentary vacation from my sadness everytime I thought “only ten more seconds of climbers,” and sometimes I dove deeper into my grief, using my anger to push me further.

As you may have noticed, I come pretty much exclusively to your classes.  I found myself going almost exclusively to your classes, looking forward to the bubbliness and kindness you showed.  You didn’t treat me weird- you didn’t ignore the fact that I was back, no longer pregnant but childless, nor did you treat me like I had some sort of leprosy.  I was comfortable.  I was coming to your mid-morning classes (one that I dubbed the “mommy class” because of all the kid chatter that happens before warm up) and I could come alone- without the crutch of my friends from the earlier classes- because I knew you.  You knew my name from day one.

I often think that the person you see at bootcamp is not the “real” me, though I’m not so sure anymore.  There I know I am quiet and keep to myself. Other bootcamp-ers might even find me unfriendly, as I learn how to smile and make small talk again.  I might not show how much I enjoy being there and how much my body and mind need to be there.  This new timidity and shyness is a function of the “after.”  In my other life, the one “before” I carried a baby I knew might die, “before” I had to take my daughter off life support, “before” my world came to a halt, I was outgoing and friendly and would have told you all this in person.  I suppose that is why I am writing this.  All the times I have referred to “bootcamp” in writing this, I‘ve really been thinking of YOUR bootcamp.  I feel like I’m in AA, going back, making amends, thanking all those who have helped me on my journey.  I was procrastinating writing this because my journey is far from over, but a friend encouraged me to do it.

So in case I haven’t been vary clear… Thank you.  Thank you for your cheer, your motivation, for knowing my name, learning my story and welcoming me.  Thank you for giving me a temporary reprieve from and insight into my sorrow at the same time.  Thank you for making your class a warm place, full of exertion and encouragement.  You’ve helped me enormously.  You are an excellent trainer and wonderful person.

Thank you.

 

Finding my boundaries

“Oh my daughter was in the NICU!” I said, sort of cheerily, finding something in common with my patient who has worked in a NICU.  The moment the words were out of my mouth, I knew they were a mistake.  She didn’t respond- I don’t know if she had read the sign and felt it was inappropriate for me to be bringing it up, looking for pity.  My instinct was just to find some common ground, but I realized after I said it, if we elaborated any more, I would have to say my baby died, which wasn’t fair to the patient.  The visit was about her and her pregnancy- not about me and my daughter.  Recognizing her unease, I quickly changed the subject and went on to the next order of business.  She asked about exercise in pregnancy– something I have strong opinions about.

A patient once told me how one of my colleagues told her to stop crossfit in pregnancy.  I told her the exact opposite.  In the absence of complications, most exercise routines can be continued with some modifications.  I encourage my pregnant patients to exercise- continue their regimen or start a new one.  I had a patient who ran half marathons while pregnant.  I, myself, was very active in pregnancy.  Again, I wanted to bond with this patient sitting across from me and mentioned I did bootcamp through the end of my pregnancy.  This time I quickly transitioned away from me, not giving her a chance to respond, focusing the attention back on her.   She asked about deep squats in the third trimester.  I wanted to say so much more- about how I would exercise in the hospital while hooked up to the monitor.  And if a baby with no fluid could tolerate it well, an uncomplicated pregnancy should have no issue.  My high-risk doc thought I’d make a great study- showing the lack of any fetal distress in the presence of exercise and oligohydramnios.  These thoughts whizzed through my head, but I kept them to myself.  I just thought they’d hammer home the point of just how OK exercise is in pregnancy, but I also knew saying them out loud could lead to more questioning.

It did make me wonder what would I have said if I had a baby at home.  Would I have talked more easily about my pregnancy because it wouldn’t cause discomfort to others?  What do other providers say to patients, if they themselves have had a baby?  Before Mabel I could only talk in generalities or tell other people’s stories, but now I have personal experience.  I recognize over time, as the memories of my pregnancy and labor fade, I’ll be able to speak in more generalities again.  But how do others do- those who have just had babies.  Do they bring in their own experience?  And do patients find it helpful?  I can see how in some ways it might not help at all- providers who say- well this is how it was for me so this is how it should be for you– might come off as insensitive.  But in that exercise example, I thought it would support her.  In the future, someone dealing with loss- would it help her to know her provider had a loss too?  I wouldn’t want to take away the attention from her, only show her I can understand on a different level.  I think it would have helped me when I was a patient, but would it help others?  For the future, I wonder if when I want to reference my pregnancy, I could say “I know someone who…,” [meaning me, but not actually saying it’s me]?

To everyone in general, how do you feel when/if your provider to brings in a little personal experience sometimes?

To those who have experienced loss, have any of you had an experience with your providers (nurse, doctor, midwife, etc) who have had a loss and shared about it?  If you haven’t, would it have been helpful?

Thoughts?