A few years ago I saw a patient "Martha" for a routine OB visit. Without going into any specific details, I noticed that something didn't look right on her ultrasound and I called in a colleague to confirm my findings. Martha was already in tears when we re-entered the room. I held Martha's hand as my colleague moved the ultrasound wand over her abdomen. She looked at me and nodded and I felt Martha's grip tighten.
Martha was pregnant again about 6 or 7 months later. At the end of her visit, I asked if she had any intentions to delay announcing her pregnancy this time around.
"We told everyone as soon as we had a positive pregnancy test." she replied "We figured that we are going to need all the love and support from family and friends that we can get, and we need it right away!"
I smiled. Her energy was absolutely uplifting.
"You know, I'll never forget what you did for me that day."
"I can only imagine how hard it must be to come back and see me. I would understand if you wanted to see someone else to avoid bringing back any memories."
"No. I was referring to when you held my hand while the other doctor was doing the ultrasound."
"Oh Martha! I had just delivered the worst possible news to you. I felt so helpless. It seemed like it was the least I could do..."
"It meant the world to me at that moment" she replied.
Thus, I learned never to underestimate the power of even the smallest gesture.
Myrtle and I chatted on the phone over Thanksgiving weekend and she asked how things were "health-wise." I didn't want to tell her that I was barely pregnant, so I explained that we would be resuming treatments in the new year, after taking a break due to the holidays. I knew that if the pregnancy were successful, she would figure out that I was withholding the news. After learning that we were non-viable, I realised that my lie had become a self fulfilling prophecy, and I considered not telling her about this miscarriage. The next day, she texted asking for Christmas gift ideas. I wrote back with instructions not to bother; we didn't want or need anything at this time. Then I felt badly about giving such a pissy reply, and perhaps because I am an idiot, I informed her about my second miscarriage. "I'm so sorry" she wrote back and let me know that she'd be available to talk later if I wanted. "Was this a natural conception or IVF?" she inquired.
I chose not to reply. A week later, I phoned her on her birthday. The conversation swung to Husband's trip east and she asked me if I was making the trek as well.
"No. Not this year."
"Awww. Why not?"
"Well, Connecticut in the middle of winter is not an ideal destination..."
"Any other reasons?" she hinted.
"It's just not practical with everything we have going on." I admitted.
"So, we didn't establish this earlier, was this a natural conception or because of IVF?"
"It really doesn't matter. The outcome is the same." Apparently this detail was important to her.
"Yes, it was an IVF pregnancy."
"Oh, I didn't know you had started that process."
"This was our first IVF cycle and we'll do another one in February (this was easier than explaining the process of a FET)." I briefly described how I couldn't let myself even accept the idea of the pregnancy, as I feared this could happen again. Although she hadn't asked about him, "It's really hitting Husband hard." I informed her. "Today he learned that a guy from University, who could be described as emotionally unstable at best, just had a kid, and another old hockey teammate is expecting his fourth. We started joking that if Logic procreates, then we'll engage in a mutual suicide pact."
[Background] Logic (his nickname in real life) was the flatmate of one of Husband's hockey friends. A rather unattractive and socially awkward bloke, the guys pitied him a bit and would sometimes include him in some social events. He lost his virginity in his mid 20s when he visited a brothel during a trip to Amsterdam, and probably hasn't been laid since. Now as an adult in his early 40s, he lives alone and participates in multiple fantasy cricket leagues. He'll occasionally travel with an organised group to watch some cricket tournaments, but he's never been in a relationship and I don't think he's even tried to date anyone. I've often wondered if he has a form of Asperger's syndrome.
"Well, look at Propeller-head and Olivia. They got married and have two kids."
[Background] Propeller-head (also his nickname in real life, as he reminded Myrtle of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin wears a multi-coloured beanine with a propeller on top) was a work colleague who persistently pursued Myrtle. After exhausting the usual lines, "I don't date people from work," "I like you only as a friend," "It's not you, it's me..." she decided that the only way to stop his advances was to set him up with someone else. She called up Olivia, a gawky, socially awkward girl from our high school class (think Amy Farrah-Fowler from The Big Bang Theory) who was still living at home with her mother in her late 20s, to see if she was interested in being set up with Propeller-head. Myrtle made reservations at a nice restaurant in town, and I accompanied her on this introductory date. We ducked out before dessert and they started dating and became engaged a year later.
"So, what's your point?" I asked
"That there's a lid for every pot." she gleefully replied
"Myrtle.... Not helping."
"What a fun time was that double date -NOT!" she continued, not getting the hint to change the conversation.
"Well, Karma certainly rewarded you for your matchmaking efforts." I commented, thinking that Karma seems to be overlooking the fact that I assisted with that date.
"Absolutely! Isn't that right Bay-bee?" she asked her husband who was in earshot.
"Go back to enjoying your evening. Happy Birthday." Click.
I know it's so hard to find any words that can provide any comfort in the setting of devastating news. Many bloggers will comment that there are no words that can be said, yet merely acknowledging someone's pain and anguish speaks volumes. Words often seem so small and inadequate, but their power cannot be underestimated.
Thinking of you...
Sending you a hug...
I'm outraged by the unfairness of it all..
I hope you find some answers...
Take care of yourself...
'Thank you' seems so inefficient to express my appreciation for all the love and support I've received from my fellow bloggers. I never imagined I could develop such an intimate relationship with people who only know me through my written words. All your words mean the world to me.
Especially, as I've not received much sympathy from my friend of over thirty years...