Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Now Repeat After Me: "I'm So Sorry for Your Loss." Great! Now STOP TALKING ...

Just a quick note to say I have eluded the stomach flu thus far! Alas, poor DH fell ill yesterday. Here's hoping my good luck sticks ...

I was reading Ann's recent posts (Raw, and Raw Part 2) over at The Unlucky Twenty Percent She reminds me so vividly of the conundrum of early pregnancy after loss. I didn't have a blog when I was fresh in my grief and newly pregnant with Little A. But most of what I would have written about back then is stuff she talks about now. Ann's description of certain health care professionals who are inappropriately gushy over a new pregnancy announcement on the heels of a loss? Boy, I remember that.

Thankfully many things change over time. The blast crater left in my life by pregnancy woes has been camouflaged by the new things (children, work, holidays, home renovations, vacations, etc.). Most of the time others don't sense that anything catastrophic happened to me and my family in the not-too-distant past anymore. I actually take solace in that. We're different, but still chugging along the best we can these days.

Yet the one place where my loss still always seems like a huge, ugly tattoo remains the doctor office. For instance, I went to my primary care doctor this January. I wanted a prescription for antibiotics to clear up a month-long sinus infection. But I haven't seen my PCP in about 18 months, since before that I'd been under the OB's care. Understandably, my PCP needed to update my chart. "Gee, what have you been up to since 2006?" she asked. "Any changes in your life that relate to your health?"

And so it begins. Mind you, I'm there for my nose. Or other times, I might be in a physician's office on behalf of my kid's wheezy lungs. Yet my damaged uterus keeps butting her scarred little self into the conversation. It always goes the same way during medical history:

Well ... not quite a normal delivery.

Not during VBAC. I'd never had a c section before Little A. The rupture was spontaneous and preterm.

No hysterectomy, but no more pregnancies allowed, either.

Yeah, they say it's a great outcome given what usually happens.

Actually it was a perforation scar that ruptured. A prior surgical complication.

A D&E.

Yeah, second trimester. Due to trisomy 18.

The surreal thing? I find doctors don't react in caring-empathetic mode. I can't remember the last time someone said, "Oh, that sounds dreadful," or "Sorry for your loss." Instead doctors (and some nurses, but especially doctors) eat this stuff up with a spoon. They are obviously excited to hear about what happened to me and Little A and tend to linger and ask detailed questions. Which might reap benefits, IF they were staying to talk about the sinus infection or lung problem at hand. But Little A and I get the standard 90 seconds of conversation on that, and then doctors want to talk about the crazy medical history that is completely unrelated to our chief complaint of the day. We are obviously the caliente in their otherwise lukewarm medical-history-taking day.

Maybe I'm putting out an "I'm ok" vibe by not choking up or crying myself, and that's why I get the borderline gleeful reaction? Perhaps they are all unfeeling dolts? Something else?

I don't even know how I'd like doctors to react to the news. But having to swallow to keep from salivating all over the chart is quite creepy.


Beruriah said...

Gee, something to look forward to.

I suppose you shouldn't have to be the one to give them some pointers in sensitivity. I'm sorry.

Julia said...

So. Uncool.
It blows my mind how some doctors think of patients as cool cases first and people with feelings second (if ever). I am so lucky that my OB's office is very much not like that. But I have also met some duds, and heard of more.
I am sorry you seem to have encounter more than your fair share.

Ann said...

Yes, that is completely inappropriate. But you know what's interesting, and really speaks to what different point you and I are at? I would almost rather have this than the overly sympathetic medical professionals who would be thrilled if I just broke down right there. I can take talking about the scientific part of our loss; I just can't take someone presuming they know what's best for me.

Then again, a little sympathy would be nice. It sounds like your docs don't even acknowledge that you're an actual human being who has gone through this.

Antigone said...

I keep blaming myself for the cold, unempathetic reactions I've been getting from doctors and various medical staff. I figure I come across as unfeeling and cold and that they're just reflecting what I'm projecting.