As I was holding my newborn in my arms, feeling endless pride and love my colleague walks into congratulate me and to inform me of the status of one of my patients.
We were both admitted to the hospital on the same day, both term pregnancies, both in labor.
However, we had vastly different outcomes. I am going home with a healthy eight-pound baby boy while she was told her baby girl had passed, likely due to the placenta separating from the uterus.
She has been my patient since her first miscarriage, followed by infertility woes, and finally a healthy, uneventful pregnancy. I remembered sharing stories of my pregnancy as we were only one week apart. She was disappointed that I was not going to be there for her delivery and I had joked that I might see her in the hospital anyway since we could potentially deliver around the same date. It is ironic that we were in the hospital at the same time. When I found out what happened to this patient, I felt a strong wave of sadness and guilt. I wish I were there for her during this difficult time and I was self-doubting myself to see if I could have missed any signs of this horrible outcome.
As an OBGYN, we all started this field because we enjoy working with happy mothers and babies. We understand not all pregnancies are perfect and there will be poor outcomes. Before I was pregnant, I would tell patients that suffered miscarriages or late pregnancy losses that I know how they feel and this is not their fault and that they can try again soon after the loss. Looking back, I realized how insensitive these comments are.
During my pregnancy, I encountered three patients with late pregnancy losses and multiple patients with first trimester losses. I could now put myself in their shoes if my own pregnancy had such outcomes.
My world would feel like it’s ended and words like, ” You can try again soon” or “first trimester losses are very common” would not bring any relief. There needs to be a grieving process before devastated mothers are able to open up to the idea of trying to potentially get pregnant again.
For now, I can only send my grieving patient a card to let her know I’m there for her.
Photo credit: adapted from UMHealthSystem | Flickr