Another Name for the Book

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Part of seeing a new therapist means rehashing many details of my life, and over the past few years, grief. I saw my previous therapist for two years. During the first session, I had to share with her all of the details of how we lost Nelle. I had a session the day after I found out I was pregnant with Iris. She gave me the tightest hug after I lost Iris saying “This isn’t what I wanted for you.” She heard a recap of every doctor’s visit. Every stressful moment during my final pregnancy. And when Autumn was born, I brought her to a session.

My new therapist knows that grief underlies much of why we sought marriage counseling: we put our lives on hold, for years. But it was only this week, after six sessions, that we dove into it further. She asked if we knew why we had experienced two losses, at 21 weeks and 16 weeks.

I had to go back through all of the details: that Nelle was growth restricted at my mid-pregnancy ultrasound. That the amniocentesis was normal. That we were waiting a follow-up with Maternal Fetal Medicine when a routine prenatal appointment showed she had no heartbeat. That no cause was found. That we were told there was medically no reason not to try for another pregnancy. That at my routine appointment, Iris had no heartbeat. That genetic testing showed a 15th chromosome abnormality, but not something associated with pregnancy loss. That both placentas showed clotting, but Ger and I tested negative for any clotting disorders, and clotting could have been effect, not cause. Consulting maternal fetal medicine. Being told to wait six months. The fear and agony of another pregnancy. And now we have Autumn.

I’ve tried hard not to hijack the sessions too much in talking about grief, because that’s not the purpose of seeing this therapist. Even though these are details I have shared with many people over the years, recounting them in a few minutes’ Time was hard, though felt very necessary. She asked us both questions about how we dealt with grief over the years, both immediately after and then following. There were times when I finished speaking and she paused, a moment of silence. I know this habit from my previous therapist: waiting to see if I am actually done talking before moving to the next question. In all instances, I was done talking. I am now also seasoned in talking in therapy about my grief, and know how to say what I need to say.

I told her that I never held them, never looked at them. Ger saw both of them born, and I do not envy him that image. The therapist had shared with us in our first session that she lost a grandson at 21 weeks, last year. She said that her daughter was like me, and didn’t want to see him, but she had held him herself until he took his last breath.

As we gathered our coats to go, I asked her “What was your grandson’s birthday?” She froze and was silent. I feared that she did not know the day and that I had embarrassed her. But then she replied “This past Sunday.” As in just a few days prior. I told her that at home I keep a little book for each baby that I know is lost, with the parents’ names, the baby’s name (if named), gestational age, birthday, reason for loss – whatever I know, I write down, as it is part of that baby’s story. I told her that I would add her grandson to my book and wished him a happy birthday.

She said: “His name was Bryan. With a ‘y’.”

It occurred to me later that this therapist shares the same name as the nurse that was with me when Iris was born, a piece of that day I had nearly forgotten in more than two years that have passed. I had always assumed that the day would be burned into my memory as a permanent fixture, but even the most painful of memories fade over time.