I had my annual female exam today. First time I have been in my OB/GYN office in over two-and-a-half years for a non-pregnancy related visit. My first visit when I was pregnant with Nelle would have been around May of 2015, when I was about 8 weeks pregnant. The exact date is not important to anyone but me. It was a bit surreal, to walk into that building and know that there would be no discussion of medications, or risk factors, or how many weeks along I was.I always dread the questions that I usually face, such as “How many children do you have?” But being a non-pregnancy-related appointment, that never came up. The nurse did ask for my method of birth control, and when I pointed out the tubal ligation on the chart right in front of her I merely rolled my eyes as a reminder of the many, many appointments where I had to rehash information right in front of the provider.
The doctor I chose to be my primary care provider going forward is my favorite in the group practice. Today, he was running thirty minutes behind. I sat in the waiting room, a bit irritated. But then – I remembered the day that he told me that Iris had no heartbeat. Unexpected and devastating, if there is any way to deliver that news with compassion, he managed to do it. He pulled up his chair and sat next to me while I scream-cried on the exam table. He walked me down to the Maternal Fetal Medicine department to confirm what he saw on the ultrasound machine: that there was no heartbeat. No other patient waiting mattered in that moment, and I don’t have any concept of how much time he spent with me before he resumed his schedule for the day. But thinking back to those moments and how grateful I was for his care, any irritation that I had with him being behind schedule melted away. For all I knew, some other women needed his attention much more than I did today.
When I was around 35 weeks pregnant, I had one of my non-stress tests with him. I was beyond anxious and became a bit hysterical when he asked me how I was doing. Again, he sat with me. He wanted to know what I was doing to manage stress. I mentioned my therapist, but she had been unable to schedule me that week (the beginning of the end). He wanted to know what they could do to make me feel better: more appointments? Listening to the heartbeat more often? The appointment was supposed to be NST only, but he put me in an exam room so that he could continue the conversation with me.
In addition to being uncommonly kind, he is both easygoing and easy to talk to. He wanted to know how I was doing, emotionally. I told him that any pregnancy after loss would have been hard, and a baby after loss is hard. I feel like a first-time parent, rather than a third-time parent in my nervousness. He said “Yeah, but it’s been awhile too!” I know he meant well, but it was a reminder that it was not what we had planned for our family to look like. I noticed the gray that has now cropped up in his own hair, another indication of the passage of years since I first met him. I also noticed his medical degrees plastered on the wall, and that his middle name is Patrick. A dear friend of mine lost her son, and his middle name was also Patrick. I always on the lookout for signs like that, that our babies are always with us.
He asked if I had any regrets about the tubal ligation, which I thought was an interesting question. I told him no, no regrets. If our third child had been Nelle, and a healthy, easy pregnancy, then maybe it would have been harder to decide to close that door forever, but I told him that the pregnancy was overwhelmingly stressful and I could not imagine going through it again.
And leaving…. I realized that more than likely, I will not need to go back for a year. After the constant attention and bi-weekly, then weekly, then twice weekly appointments, it was and odd feeling. Like “You’re fine now. We don’t need to see you anymore.”