I Probably Won’t Recognize You
Running into my labor patients in public happens frequently. Everywhere – the supermarket, the park, restaurants – a man, woman, or couple with a baby approach me in public and begin to talk to me like we’re old friends. They look vaguely familiar, but I have no idea who they are. It’s awkward for a moment and then I’m reminded that I helped deliver their baby weeks or months or a year ago. I’m sorry I don’t remember you.
I don’t remember you because you are fine. Your spouse is fine. Your baby is happy and healthy. Your labor and delivery were normal and without complications. Those are good things, and the reasons why your case was not noteworthy enough to stick in my brain. Besides, you don’t even look like the woman I took care of. You’re back to a normal weight, wearing fashionable clothes instead of a hospital gown. Your face isn’t puffy and your ankles are’t swollen the size of tree trunks any more. You’re okay, and because I had no worries about you, I could let you go.
Be happy I can’t remember you or your family or your baby. Because if I do remember you, something bad happened. That’s what sticks in my mind. The sadness and heartbreak of a pregnancy or delivery gone wrong haunts me forever. Those are the people I remember, but wish I could forget.
I remember the lady presenting to the the triage unit with a complaint of decreased fetal movement and I could not find a fetal heart, breaking all our hearts. I remember the woman who died from an amniotic fluid embolism. I remember the patient who had a stroke in labor and was later taken off life support, leaving her husband with a baby and no wife. I remember the couple with a history of six miscarriages, and now this seventh pregnancy was ending at 21 weeks gestation with ruptured membranes and infection. I remember the woman with an intrauterine fetal death who screamed at me to do CPR when the fetus was finally delivered 12 hours later. I remember the ambulance bringing a pregnant woman, bleeding, blood spilling over the side of the stretcher, a placental abruption that killed the baby and tried to kill the mother. I remember the woman diagnosed with cancer who put off chemotherapy to give the fetus a chance to grow to viability. The anomalies, the premature babies, the losses – the list of women and complications is endless, and I remember them all. The crying, sobbing, screaming, and the silent agony of a broken heart.
So if I don’t remember you, please don’t be offended. It’s a good thing. You, your baby, and your family are well. I don’t want a reason to remember you forever.
It doesn’t mean I don’t care – I do! I’m happy you and your family are well. I loved the time we had together and the privilege of caring for you. If you run into me and I give you a blank stare in a moment of awkwardness, give me a gentle reminder. I love to see my patients doing well and I’d love to hear about your family.