Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The one question you should never ask.

When's the baby due?

As I was reading Jen's post over at Maybe If You Just Relax, I felt the need to document my own experience. I know I keep saying that I'm going to write Abbey's story and because that has yet to happen, I am trying to write bits and pieces so that I won't forgot. Not that I will ever forget but with time, the details become fuzzy.

As a female, I think I was fairly considerate (in my younger years) in not asking other women if they were pregnant because not only is that an extremely personal question, it could obviously lead to an embarrassing situation for both parties. Don't we all know someone who has asked this question and looked like a jerk when the "expectant mother" reveals that she's not expecting at all. Or worse.

And then I became pregnant with Abbey.

When we made the decision that rainy morning in June to head to the hospital because I thought I was in labor but hadn't felt the baby moving, I was wearing gray non-maternity sweatpants with a drawstring waist pulled snug under my tummy and a pink stretchy maternity tee shirt from the Gap (or maybe it was Old Navy.) I ended up in the standard issue hospital gown shortly after my arrival in Labor & Delivery and I wore those gowns until I was discharged three days later.

If you've never had a baby before, you may or may not know that it takes time for your uterus and mid-section to return to a normal (or somewhat normal) state. If you pack your pre-pregnancy jeans and a tight fitting tee for your return trip home, you will be greatly disappointed.

I was the lucky recipient of a catheter after Abbey's birth and before I could leave the hospital, I had to pee on my own. So that Tuesday morning, the catheter was removed and I changed back into my gray non-maternity sweatpants with the drawstring still pulled snug under my tummy and my pink maternity tee shirt. I still looked pregnant. Very pregnant.

After Abbey was born, I had been removed from Labor & Delivery and placed in a private room located in another area of the hospital. So that Tuesday morning after peeing on my own and having a tearful conversation with my (pregnant) OB, I was discharged. I was told that I needed to be pushed out of the hospital in a wheelchair. It was just me and Rich that day and because the hospital is in the city, we were told that a volunteer would walk out with us and wait with me (and the wheelchair) curbside while Rich retrieved the car. Which no longer contained an infant carseat.

The volunteer was young. Maybe 20. 21. I can think of all of these questions I would have liked to have asked her. Like why was she volunteering? Was she in school? Do people still just volunteer just for the sake of volunteering? But when your baby has just died, a part of you has just died and so your mind doesn't work. You stare off into space and hope that your heartbroken husband rescues you as soon as possible.

"When's your baby due?"

That's what she asked me in that awkward span of time we waited for Rich.

"When's your baby due?"

When your baby dies, people will say things to you that will hurt/sting/make you want to scream but you have to let it go because they don't mean to hurt you. They just don't know any better.

"She passed away."

"Oh. Do you plan to have more? I'd like to have kids someday."

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why no one warned her. I suppose it has something to do with her being a volunteer and HIPAA and all that jazz but really?

It doesn't end there but that was one of the most painful conversations. Almost heartless.

My hope is that the internet will provide a sort of real life education for others and that maybe, just maybe, someone will read this or Jen's post and learn something.

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Anonymous said...

I always avoided asking because I'd been asked before, and I was just fat. And that sucked too. *hugs* They should have told her. That was kind of an unnecessary kick to the teeth. *hugs*

kdliberty said...


My Grandmother said it was the rudest question you can ask. The older I get the more I realize she was always right about everything...

Jessica said...

I can understand completely. I lost my first son at 19 weeks. I always have a hard time answering the quesiton of how many children I have. I always include him but I find myself telling his story to complete strangers in the grocery check out or getting my hair cut. I feel like if I don't mention him, that I'm denying him as my son.

Tina Michelle said...

*hugs* Still, they should have warned her or had a nurse walk you down or had the OB walk you down. Anything but that. The internet is a wonderful teaching place.

Blessed Rain said...

I have found that the world has a run of never ending stupid.
I am sorry that she didn't just say sorry and zip her lips.

On the day of my daughters birth I was asked what I wanted (we had waited for birth to find out the sex)I said a boy. The nurse looked at me and asked "What will you do if its a girl?"
I looked at her like the moron that she was and answered, "We'll name her and take her home." I said it slowly and wondered in the depths of my heart how people like that get those jobs.

Anonymous said...

The only tiny bit of solace I can take from Caitlin's being stillborn is that at least I gave birth to her sisters that day as well - that I did not go through pregnancy and the pain of labor and delivery and the still looking pregnant and wind up being wheeled out of the hospital with my arms empty, and have volunteers who should have been told and most definitely were privy to basic HIPPA info ask me heartbreaking questions like that.

Wiley said...

In the NICU, our younger son was labelled twin B on all his paperwork. We had multiple doctors/nurse practitioners/nurses who saw this and just assumed his twin had already gone home (they rotate through three hospitals and while we had a lot of standards, there was often a bonus person). They even had made him a special name sign that did NOT include B where most of the twins said B in their name, but still happened.

I'm pretty sure I responded to one person asking about his twin with some comment about the morgue or the cemetery which was probably highly inappropriate.

Still, I can not imagine someone asking you that as you are leaving the hospital with empty arms. And then blithely proceeding to discuss her reproduction plans. I'm sorry.

Hope's Mama said...

And here I was hating the fact I had to walk out alone. And stand there in the freezing cold waiting for Simon to pick me up. Car seat also no longer in the back seat. Being alone sounds much better than having to put up with this, so early on in your grief.
I also wore grey non maternity track pants to hospital *that* day. I came home in them as well. I had to wear a nursing bra home though. That was all I had packed. The cruel irony of it all.

Cindy said...

My heart goes out to all of you.

Chantel said...

I alluded to this conversation on my blog the other day, but recently I was having dinner with a group of co-workers. One pregnant with her first baby. She was telling us how people are always commenting on how small she is. She is SO annoyed by it, so her husband told her, to shut people up, she should say "The baby is so small because she is going to die. In fact, she is probably dead right now."

You can imagine the absolute horror I felt. That was me. I was the person whose baby really did die inside of me. It was so thoughtless and hurtful...and even though she should know better, she didn't. To say something like that to shut someone up, even in a joking matter. It was one of the most hurtful things I have heard in the 5 years since Curtis died. (As a side note, she felt horrible, I got a card and flowers as an apology.)

I am sorry you had to endure that just days after Abbey's death. I never ever ask anyone of they are pregnant. Why are the contents of their stomach my business??

Sugardrive said...

We, sadly, live in a craphole of a society where other people's feelings are rarely taken into where we cannot talk about death, loss, mourning. It sucks. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry that Abbey is not with you. It's not right or fair. I hope that you can find peace. I hope that you feel comfortable speaking about her. Take comfort in the time, however short, you had her. I don't claim to know how you must feel, but I am just so sorry.

Becky said...

When I was in the hospital and my milk had came in I had called the nurses station and asked if someone could bring me some benadryl because I heard it helps dry the milk up. A nurse that wasn't my nurse that day came in and asked me why I wanted the benadryl and when I told her it was to dry me up she looked confused and then asked me if I was going to pump it for my baby. My jaw just dropped. I didn't even know what to say other than just that my baby died. I can't believe she didn't look at my chart first.
So not the same as what happened with you and the volunteer but definitely a very painful moment.

faithnack said...

When I was 16,still in school and on a practical week in the local hospital, a gentleman had come in to see his wife, whom at that particular moment was totally unstable and surrounded by doctors. I was instructed by my supervisor to take him away to the waiting room, of course he was reluctant. During the walk I told him 'Not to worry' or words to that effect.

I have never forgotten, and wish so, so much that I could live that moment again and not make such a heartless comment. My teachers back at school convinced that I was only young, and shouldn't have been put in the position in the first place, but its one of those unforgivable, unchangeable moments and I'm truly sorry.

Sarah said...

I want to thank everyone for the comments and sharing your stories.

Chantel - Rich and I were in shock reading that story. Unbelievable! I would have a hard time getting over that b/c it really was heartless.

Angela said...

Whew. This post made me cry. I cannot for the life of me understand people sometimes. I can see her making the mistake of asking when you're due, but to continue on about having more kids when you just lost your daughter? I want to chock it up to immaturity, but at 20 or 21, she should've known better. If I had been her, I probably would have attacked you with a hug and an I'm sorry!

I never assume people are pregnant. I wait for them to share that with me. It isn't a safe world to make assumptions. Not everyone is a size 4. Not everyone has a happy ending...or beginning...or middle.