The first thing out of the doctor’s mouth after “I’m afraid something catastrophic has happened, baby A no longer has a heartbeat” was “it’s nothing you did, it isn’t your fault.”
Immediate thought 1: How do you know, we’ve never met before today.
Immediate thought 2: Thou doest protest too much.
Hearing those same words from a doctor I’d known for years and knew more about my choices and lifestyle decisions and the like might have been different, but coming from someone I didn’t know at all, it seemed like just a blanket statement that they say to absolve your sins rather than a medical fact.
I hadn’t jumped to assuming responsibility until she said those words. Obviously if there’s a case where it isn’t my fault, then there must be a case where it is. And so rather than absolving my sins, she left me wrestling with guilt.
Now, to be clear, intellectually I know that it was not my fault. I even have the added support of Chiron’s amazing size and health for his gestational age. My purpose in writing this is not to question whether or not it is my fault. It is to share where my mind is and hopefully explain some other thoughts. So, while I intellectually know it was nothing I did, I also live with a feeling of “yeah, but she died on my watch.”
That’s the context of guilt. Leading us into superstition.
If you’ve ever spend much time around a maternity floor or a NICU, you know that both of these arenas are teeming with superstition. Sometimes it’s true though! There was one nurse on the L&D side that I would always either start contracting or step up the intensity and frequency of the contractions when she was around. After the third time this happened, it was declared (by them) that they just would always switch her out with someone else rather than treat me. I tell this story because I think it’s an example of a principle: while it may not be certain, anecdotal and circumstantial evidence is enough to make a decision on when there isn’t a great cost.
I think I now live that principle. It may seem weird, but I just feel like I should do things differently this time. Not everything, but spice up the mix. Downplay the déjà vu sense. Err on the side of caution.
I did Pilates several times a week last time until the week Aurelia died and walked a few miles every day with the dogs and sometimes Trajan. Now? None.
Last time I didn’t do the Boost Plus drinks and just tried to eat more and well. This time? I do them. Plus every vitamin suggested at all. Fistfuls of them with glee. And I’m already paying attention to getting in a position at my desk that has my legs partway up.
Some things might be less benign. I’ve refused to take even Tylenol this time under the theory of why introduce anything that is uncertain that I can avoid. Until today when I realized that whenever I moved my head, I was distracted by pain. That I was really quite uncomfortable. And something clicked and I decided to go ahead and do it. And I took two Tylenol. Mark it: 08:45 Central time on 2/7/2012 (disturbing confession: the marking it is against a negative outcome so I can come back and point rather than as a celebration of my progress).
I have done a couple positive things such as my breaking my avoiding of a certain coffee spot and their rooibos lattes as well.
And that leads us into the last topic, turkey sandwiches.
I would like a turkey sandwich. Turkey and provolone to be exact. But I won’t eat one. Why? Because it is recommended due to Listeria. Now, having read way too much about Listeria, not eating a turkey sandwich actually doesn’t provide much protection at all. The odds from all sources of Listeria are such that I’m actually endangering the babies less having a turkey sandwich than if I drive somewhere to pick up something else. And the foods that they recommend not eating are only those that have been implicated in Listeria outbreaks despite the fact that the vast majority of cases of Listeria in pregnant women are from single cases rather than outbreaks.
However, the flip side is the case where I am again the winner of extreme odds and contract a case of Listeria. Had I eaten a turkey sandwich, I think this would make the guilt situation much, much worse. And so I don’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I know there are much worse things than wanting a turkey sandwich and I would gladly trade the entire rest of my life’s right to eat turkey sandwiches for some sort of guarantee of health or even an increased likelihood. But it doesn’t work that way. There is no bartering with death.
No guarantees, but hope.