When I became pregnant with my daughter, my first baby to make it home, there were a lot of difficult things. Pregnancy after loss is hard – the panic and anxiety, the bed rest, having to manage your excitement. But perhaps the hardest of all was having to repeat my medical history at every single appointment.
During my pregnancy, I was cared for by a wonderful OB/GYN who was sensitive and attentive to my needs as a PAL mom and I also attended the clinic at the hospital every two weeks. At each hospital appointment I was sure to meet someone new, who with my file in hand, would ask me some variation of the same questions:
“Do you have children?”
“Have you ever given birth before?”
“Did you give birth within the last year?”
And each time, I would have to explain that I had two miscarriages within the last year and was pregnant again.
At this knowledge, they would look at me suspiciously then consult my file and scribble frantically. I would sit silently as they got caught up, sometimes this knowledge changed everything about our interaction, other times not so much.
This went on so consistently that I learned to be proactive about it.
“My name is Natasha Carlow, I have had two miscarriages and I am ___weeks pregnant today!” I would say to anyone new that I met.
When I became hospitalized at 35 weeks with pre-eclampsia, I would meet with nurses, interns, doctors and head doctors and this became my mantra.
“My name is Natasha Carlow, I have had two miscarriages and I am 35 weeks pregnant today!”
Over and over and each time, there was a look of confusion, followed by the frantic file checking and note taking then back to me. Regardless, the staff took wonderful care of me and all the other mothers there that having to repeat my medical history seemed a small price to pay.
At 38 weeks I was wheeled into labor and delivery.
Even though I had been hospitalized, my labor felt like it crept up on me suddenly. I had never experienced such incredible pain. I was scared and my body felt like it was being ripped apart. Because of my complicated medical history, and the cultural preference for an unmedicated birth, there was no epidural to ease the pain.
At some point, my labor got complicated. The cord wrapped around my baby’s neck, and she was turning blue. I was delirious with pain but the midwife’s words to me cut straight through my delirium.
“I read your file, I know what you have been through. Your daughter wants to come to you but she needs your help, she needs your help to be born.”
I looked at the only person I had met at the hospital to have read my file before speaking to me.
She was the only person to have spared me the trauma of repeating my medical history and the only person who could have gotten me through the scariest moment of my life. A moment where I was so vulnerable I couldn’t say my name or the fact that I had lost so much already.
My daughter’s birth has always been wondrous to me. There were so many moments leading up to her coming to us that I knew were the results of constant prayer. I tell my daughter about this midwife all the time, about how she helped me find the strength to push harder. I am grateful to her for taking the time to read my file, to understand what was at stake, and to use that knowledge to help me become a mother.
March is Pregnancy after Loss Awareness Month and I have written a lot about raising awareness for the support that families experiencing PAL needs.
But I want to use this month to thank the men and women in the medical profession, who are tirelessly researching in the fight to reduce infant mortality. To the doctors and nurses who care for women pregnant after loss, the lab technicians who help us understand what is happening in our bodies, and of course, midwives like mine, thank you for holding our hands during labor and delivery and whisper words of encouragement.