Yesterday was my 6 week postpartum appointment. Never mind that Micah is now 8 1/2 weeks old -- the blizzards of 2010 have postponed my last two scheduled appointments. In fact a blizzard was predicted yesterday too - luckily all we got was flurries.
Given that I practically lived at my OB's office the last five weeks of my pregnancy, what with the thrice-weekly NSTs and doctors' appointments, its not surprising people were excited to see Micah. Everyone, from the receptionist, to the nurses and medical assistants, and of course the wonderful Dr. J, oohed and ahhed as Micah slept in his stroller, utterly oblivious to all the attention. It felt good to have the miracle that is his healthy live existence acknowledged, by people who know first hand just how tenuous the journey was that hearkened his arrival.
Such a contrast to my 6 week postpartum appointment after giving birth to Ezra. Purposely arriving first thing in the morning so as to avoid sitting in a room full of pregnant women, I was greeted by a receptionist:
So you're here to followup on your procedure?
Um no...this is my 6 week appointment. I gave birth to a son. He died.
I call that a procedure.
Needless to say, said receptionist no longer works at that office. Stunned, I returned to my seat next to David. Another woman arrived for her appointment, a three year old son in tow. He was very active, having brought two small toy trucks with him, which he delighted in 'driving' all over the floor and chairs. I remember sitting watching him, alternatively smiling at his adorable antics, and tears welling up in my eyes at the thoughts that Ezra would never reach this age, never play with trucks, never make someone else smile at his pure adorable being. It never occurred to me to ask to be taken back to a room on my own...I just smiled and cried in silence until my name was called.
There was a certain sense of...dare I say it...closure, in seeing Dr. J with my nearly 2 month old son. Not closure in the sense of my grief journey of course...that I know will last a lifetime. But closure in the sense that I somehow have brought a living breathing child into this world, as Dr. J promised me I would one day quite some time ago.
Dr. J is very special to my husband and I. Dr. J was not my OB during my pregnancy with Ezra. I went to the same practice, but saw a different doctor, one who was perfectly competent, but not someone with whom I developed any sort of connection. Toward the end of pregnancy, the practice likes you to rotate through other doctors, so you can meet everyone in advance of your delivery. So my 32 week appointment when I was pregnant with Ezra was with Dr. J. The appointment where my protein levels were slightly elevated....which led to Dr. J ordering me to do a 24 hour catch...which led to Dr. J sending me to the hospital for monitoring...monitoring which revealed a perfectly healthy baby despite slightly elevated blood pressure and protein. Which led Dr. J to make the decision to send me home. And most likely Ezra died on the way home.
One might think I'd hate Dr. J.
But I don't. Medically he made the right decision to send me home -- there was just nothing to indicate that Ezra was in distress or was about to be in distress. And even if I had been in the hospital when the abruption happened, it was so acute and complete, that it's unlikely as could be that Ezra would have survived. Modern medicine has its limits - we learned that the hard way.
But here's the thing about Dr. J. After we had returned to the hospital, after we were informed our baby passed away, after the hysterical screaming and tears, after the epidural, and after the process of induction had begun...Dr. J came back to the hospital. He wasn't on call anymore, he hadn't been my treating OB, he could have been home with his own precious children. And instead, he came back. To sit with us, to grieve with us, to make sure that we knew that he was devastated too.
Most doctors would have run away, fearful of unintentionally acknowledging any regret or fault, in light of possible malpractice litigation. He didn't have to come back. But he did.
And ever since then, David and I knew he was our doctor. That if we ever journeyed this path of bringing a child into the world again, it would be Dr. J that would provide the care. That he would fight to ensure a healthy arrival.
And fight he did.
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