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Annual Questions and Honorary Love: February 2014

The nurse asks to go through the normal list of medical history questions.  I always brace myself for these hard questions, the same way that I prepare to jump off a ski lift, suck my stomach in and take a deep breath.   “Let’s run through your pregnancies,” she says. We begin with my miscarriage, add two healthy pregnancies and then for the third I say, identifying the factors she had asked me to for each pregnancy, “Stillbirth, Girl, Margaret.”  I expect, with my breathe sucked in, that she will quietly shake her head or just keep on going which is usually the case, but this time as soon as I announce it, she lets out a long slow sigh and responds, “Oh dear! I am so sorry.  Just rip your heart out and then you must live on to tell. That is just awful.”  She is distracted by my stillbirth announcement and continues to sigh and look at me.  We move on through my other two healthy pregnancies and I wonder in my head as I always do, why they must ask me these same questions each year at the gynecologist. Why don’t they have my exact pregnancy records on file with a yellow highlight on stillbirth?  She moves me to the table to take my blood pressure, and I realize her empathetic response has caused something to stir in me that I have not felt in a very long time. Over the past sixteen years, I have become someone who leads others through and out of their grief, but today I am being led back in.  Suddenly I remember how I felt sixteen years ago at my postpartum six week check up after losing Margaret.   I remember feeling the emptiness of my arms as the nurse carelessly runs through the list of six week post questions asking, “Breast or bottle fed?”  I respond “Neither, my baby died.” The nurse shakes her head for a slight second and then goes on to the next question.
 
Sometimes our babies live for only a half a sentence and then their short lives are shut back up again when the subject changes, but this year my nurse wants to honor  my loss. I find myself strangely silent. I cannot reply to her kind words. The silence makes me realize that whenever Margaret is brought up, I usually sweep into super girl mode and change the subject or spout my gratitudes  to make the mood and moment all better , and that sometimes, this is exactly what I want to do because I have so many joys in my life that I don’t always want to focus on my loss, but other times, like this day, I can let my defense shield down, allow this woman to look me in the eye, honor my loss for more than half a sentence,  think about my Margaret and allow myself  that painfully good feeling that comes with everlasting grief.   We move through discomfort so quickly in our country that we often don’t even stop to honor or recognize it.  This month of Love I would like to thank and honor all the nurses and doctors who help us honor and move through our losses. We thank you and our babies thank you too, at least for a moment.