My Job?

Life and death. In good times my job is the most joyous…and in bad times it can truly suck.

This morning I attended a beautiful birth in this family’s bedroom. Just 2 years prior I had attended the birth of their first baby, a daughter. With the rising of the sun, a baby (gender not yet known) slipped gently into a doula’s tub and into daddy’s waiting hands. Both dad and mom lifted baby up and held her like Simba being unveiled in The Lion King. They looked together and announced to each other – another girl!! She sputtered, then protested by letting out a grumpy whine. Mom cradled her new daughter in her arms and golden sunlight filled our area of the world.

Approximately 12 hours earlier I had gotten a phone call from another client – at 11 weeks she had begun to spot and was scared. As soon as possible we met at my office. I gave her a brief hug and brought her immediately to lay down on the exam bed. As I put my hands on her belly my heart sank….I did not feel 11 weeks worth of uterus under my hands. Still, knowing I could be wrong, I put the Doppler down and began to search. The mom told me that she had felt like something was wrong, that she didn’t feel like her uterus had grown like it had last time. I stopped the Doppler and said yes, my hands felt the same thing and let’s get an ultrasound for some answers. Several phone calls later (labs all closed for the night) and calling in a favor for someone who does ultrasounds that I know…..and they were off to wait for answers. I tried to stay strong and professional for them, but as the door closed my eyes teared up. Why them…why do I always feel so helpless. In a couple of hours I got the phone call I didn’t want to get – the baby was only measuring 7 weeks of gestation, not 11, with no heartbeat. They will call in the morning and make an appointment to sit down and discussion options.

And my heart broke.

Then the sweet little girl born in her bedroom reminded me….how lucky I am when immersed in the most joyous of events. That I shouldn’t take those perfect moments for granted. It’s those moments that refill my soul with love and gratitude and all that is holy so that I may have the ability to then gift those things to my clients that need them.

I came home exhausted from lack of sleep, but feeling a peaceful triumph. And now, as I look at the clock, I wait the passing minutes until I have to leave and have a conversation I don’t want to have. What will make this better for them? What will ease their pain? Absolutely nothing. I will listen, I will explain, I might even cry….and I know that it still will make no difference. They will still lose their baby.

I’ve had people tell me that they couldn’t do my job because they don’t want to have to deal with a mother who is bleeding too much, or a baby that comes out not breathing….but almost always we can fix those things!! I stress, I sweat, I grind my teeth….and when I leave a healthy and stable baby in the arms of a healthy and stable mother, that is when I know I made a difference! I did my job and this family has a better outcome because of it! What’s not to love about that?! Or if I’m not needed because they have a smooth ‘butter birth’ (baby slips out smooth was butter) and I never had to get my gloves dirty…that just renews the joy reserves in my soul!

But telling a family they lost their baby, nothing can be done, nothing could be done. Then what the hell am I for?? That is when I want to scream and that is when I feel useless. There’s nothing I or anyone else can do. I offer love, but it’s of little comfort in a time like that. I offer my shoulders, a hug, my tears – but the outcome is the same. I say to them, “I would do anything to make this better for you.” And I mean that with all of my heart.

I am just really lucky that the beauty of welcoming new life into the world, seeing those eyes open to light for the first time, watching their mouth make its very first sound, snuggled in their mother’s arms….that is what makes all of the other crap worth it. So thank you to the baby that I was blessed to meet this morning, and I pray for the wisdom to say the right words to this family that is saying goodbye to theirs.

That is all I can think of to write for today.

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