Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I was about to post a long-winded treatise on how dealing with physicians after you've experienced serious medical errors is a minefield of awkwardness. But then Bon wrote a beautiful post about what acceptance of the death of her baby feels like over at Glow in the Woods. I nodded all the way through, recognizing myself in what she said.

Like Bon, I said goodbye to my lost baby a little bit at a time. The first big moment of letting go came seven months after my loss, when I was pregnant again and learned Little A had normal chromosomes. Up until that point the lost pregnancy and the new one were firmly merged in my mind as the same. So that was the first moment I relinquished my ghost baby from my body. It was when I began to tiptoe slowly away.

Still, I felt a strong need to keep looking back. Little A's surprise birth exactly one week before the first anniversary of the death complicated that. The joy (and feeding) of a live baby eclipsed all else for awhile. And it felt wonderful to be in the moment, to have the weeks go by and the photos pile up showing the happy progress and growth. But ... it also made me feel guilty. It seemed I was somehow slighting the baby who came and vanished. I think that's why I started this blog when Little A was an infant. Even with my outrageously good turn of fortune, I still needed to voice the stories of what had happened in the previous year. I wanted to be able to write about the good things that happened in my family, too -- this has never strictly been a babyloss blog. But mostly I *needed* to vent that bad stuff. It was an irresistible urge.

To be honest, the second anniversary of her death swamped me like a sneaker wave. I think my life was finally stable and safe enough for me not to guard against the onslaught. So it came, and it shook me in a way that grief had not in a long time.

And then Little A got sick, and life flipped around for me again: new fears and concerns. But as terrifying as some of what happened in 2008 was, there was always hope that it could get better. There were also little stretches of happiness and calm. And during one of those worry-free patches in June of last year, it occurred to me that I my ghost baby's estimated due date had passed unnoticed by me for the very first time.

For me, it took about two and a half years after the death to let go in a significant manner. I knew the change was real when the third anniversary of my daughter's angel day rolled around this December, and I didn't feel the need to write about it. I was busy taking my eldest child to a showing of the Nutcracker that day. It was an awesome day, not at all ruined by my knowledge of what had transpired three years before. If anything maybe that made it just a smidgen sweeter, by contrast.

These days I don't write so much about my babyloss grief journey because it mostly feels completed. When I get a pang, I dish. But most of my harangues revolve around other issues. And that feels right. I guess when it comes to grief, you just have to do what your gut tells you to do: Wallow when that's the only thing you crave, and then move forward when that starts to feel more like a rut than a catharsis.

Forgive the awkward segue, but this feeling of release is precisely what made my last conversation with the doctor so damn frustrating and ironic. Because I have done the work to get over this pain as much as I am likely capable of getting over it. And frankly, outside a doctor's office most days, I feel good -- so long as I'm not dealing with things that would make anyone wig out a bit, such as a sick kid or your own mystery illness. But one lasting tattoo of these experiences is my discomfort dealing with doctors. Discussing my medical history always makes me freeze up. I suck at distilling the story into dry, emotionless bullet points. Because all of the most noteworthy events in my medical life (the D&E, Little A's c section) revolve around medical errors or cascades of complications from medical errors.

Talking about someone else's mistakes or misinterpretations within the medical field is AWKWARD no matter how you go about it. And I never know how doctors will react, either: will they think I'm a raving lunatic? A liar? Somebody ready to sue the next doctor they run into? Or maybe I remind them of someone they accidentally hurt in the past -- their own mistake that haunts them. Any of these reactions is possible, but none of them are particularly helpful in getting me decent care.

Anyway, I think I need a do-over with that appointment with my doctor. Heh, THAT's gonna be a great conversation, when it eventually takes place ...

1 comment:

Ann said...

I don't think you ever really get "over" anything traumatic in your life. You may be able to move past it, but it's still a part of your "truth." Any good doctor will realize that.

Heck, I'm still bitter about the kids who bullied me in junior high. Now, a bunch of them are planning a junior high reunion on Facebook, and it takes everything I have not to post some snide comment like, "Why in the world would I want to catch up with people who made several years of my life a living hell?"