Dear Dr. C,
I won’t use your full name in this open letter. I have no good things to say, but I am showing compassion even though you did not. You probably don’t remember me, just another patient on another busy day. I understand that. But I remember you; I will always remember you.
I will always remember how cold and distant you seemed during the worst days of my life. I will always remember how your colleague told me I couldn’t have the D&C he said was my only option that same day because I had to “emotionally and mentally come to terms with my miscarriage”. I remember being sent home after hour spent in the ER just to get more bloodwork to confirm my already confirmed RH negative status. How no one gave me a number to call if I needed anything between Friday and Monday. No medication to help induce sleep. No words to my husband to watch me carefully and call of something was wrong. No mention that I’d need rhogam administered if I started to miscarry on my own. My midwife was taken out of the room as soon as your colleague confirmed that my baby’s heart was no longer beating. The woman who’d been with me since I was 23 and who knew me. The person who showed any kind of emotion for me, along with her wonderful nurse.
I remember the day of the D&C, I was placed in the general waiting bay for surgery. Separated from strangers by two thin curtains, I felt my water break. My rabbi came and prayed over our son. I clutched his blanket in my hand. Did you know I made him a blanket? Did you think it was stupid for “fetal tissue” to have a blanket?
I remember waking up in the common recovery bay with dried blood all over my left shoulder, sticking me to the bed. The nurse and I had no idea why there was blood there. I still don’t know what happened. I had been given two rounds of pitocin, with plans for a third round, when a former L&D nurse stopped it. I didn’t need it, I was doing just fine on my own. I never saw you. Never was told how my D&C went. My husband and mother had to tell me later, after I’d gotten home.
Now for the part I will always remember you for, Dr. C. I was 1.5 weeks postpartum and at my check-up. You took no blood to see if my HCG was dropping appropriately. No ultrasound. No exam. Didn’t even ask me if I was still bleeding or if I’d passed any large clots. I was already back at work, had been for two days. It was too soon. I told you I was having trouble sleeping. I asked if I’d ever have a living baby. I told you my son’s name. You called him “fetal tissue”, said I was being obsessive and dramatic, and that running tests to see what caused my child to die was useless and expensive. You told me I wouldn’t miscarry again. You were wrong on every count.
You, Dr. C, sent a woman who wanted to die back home with nothing by harsh words and a threat to medicate if she didn’t shape up. I spent months not caring if I lived or died. Not sleeping. And, worst of all, having no answers and feeling like no one wanted to hear me. I could have died. In truth? I wanted to. If I hadn’t had my family and friends to watch and make sure I wasn’t alone at my worst times, I wouldn’t be here now. I’m begging you, please don’t continue to dismiss your patients and their feelings. You never once told me I had postpartum depression. I had all of the signs and symptoms. It took seeing a therapist and another midwife at another clinic to finally get diagnosed and get help. Without medication.
I did miscarry again. But this time the care I revived was so full of compassion and love that it seemed so much easier than Sayre’s death. That’s his name, by the way: Sayre Lee Taylor. My midwife scheduled me for the next day, sent me home with a sedative so I’d sleep, and called to check on me that night. Th Doctor was amazing. He cane into my room and asked me to tell him about my baby. He didn’t call her “fetal tissue”. His nurse held me while I cried. They called her by her name from the moment I told them. Aurora.
I was at my midwife’s office every week for three weeks for checkups. Then she called me every week for three more weeks. Gave me her personal cell number in case I needed anything or just needed to talk. But I haven’t had to use it because being treated with kindness helped me to recover and heal so much faster. I wasn’t made to feel crazy. Our child died and I was told I could have any feelings I wanted.
I tell everyone about you, because for better or worse, you’re a part of my son’s story. I’m sad that you’re the one who delivered him. I’m sad he wasn’t brought into the world by someone who saw him as more than tissue. I’m sad that the birth of my firstborn was so dark and handled so casually. I hold a lot of anger and resentment toward you. I’ve thought many times of coming to that office just to tell you how horribly you’d treated me. Whenever I tell anyone about what you said and how I was treated, they always assume you’re a man. Because another woman cannot possibly treat a grieving mother the way you treated me. But you did. I was so afraid to tell anyone about the suicidal ideologies I was having because I was afraid they’d threaten to medicate me like you did. Or throw me into a psych hospital. I was afraid to get help because I thought everyone would react the same way as you. I don’t remember Christmas, my birthday, Valentine’s Day, or my husband’s birthday. I do remember my husband taking the razor out of my bathroom and not allowing me in the kitchen near the knives. I remember other teachers at school who’ve lost children rallying around me and helping to carry me on days I couldn’t walk. I remember my students leaving me notes on my desk telling me I was brave, loved, and needed and hugging me constantly. And then I had Aurora. My world lit back up and I got to carry my light for 8 weeks until she joined her brother.
This story has a good ending: I made it through and am still alive and doing well. But this might not always be the case. If I hadn’t had the amazing support system that I did, the ending would’ve been very different. Please think about this before you treat a miscarriage patient. You got so incredibly lucky that I didn’t have retained tissue or any issues. You wouldn’t have known because you didn’t do any bloodwork or an exam. You also got lucky my family wouldn’t leave me alone for a few weeks. I want to know how you as a medical professional can send someone who’s bawling and clearly upset home without anything more than a threat to medicate. What were you thinking? Do no harm. Isn’t that part of what doctors are supposed to do? You did harm.