My calves are twitching and I’m thinking of you.
Your precious, petite girl was born two days ago and you’ve moved out and moved on from the hospital birth, but I’m still here remembering.
You’re home and you’re focused on her round, rosy face and her dimpled hands, grasping at your breast, and I’m still stuck on Sunday.
But yet you’ve moved on.
My triceps remind me every time I lift my dinner plate about your transition, where we held each other for two hours to keep from collapsing on the sterile cement floor. My typing of this story engages a muscle in my forearm to remind me of how you squeezed my hands so hard during pushing that I had to squeeze back to consent to your touch. Time and time again.
And at that time I worried I might hurt you, because at that stage of the process the lightest of touches can feel like you’re being hit by a transfer truck. But I had to believe you would tell me if that were the case.
I have to trust that you would tell me.
After all, we had built a rapport and a relationship over these past two months. We had met in your home, and shared meals, parenting stories and laughter. We had shared tales of our extended families, and of your hopes and dreams for your children’s future.
And maybe that’s the problem and my hangup- my investment in you.
Because we talked in length about your wishes for the birth. We talked in depth about the trauma you had endured with your first childbirth and your fears of reoccurrence. And so I told you I was committed to your care, and that I would help you to advocate for yourself. Because nothing should come in the way of your ability to have an empowered experience this time around. Nothing should stop you from making your voice heard, language barrier be damned.
And so when I held your hand when things went sideways in the delivery room I struggled to bite my tongue. No, my role is not to speak for you as we had discussed, but to help you speak up for yourself- but yet you didn’t. You didn’t ask for clarification from the doctor or interpreter about what was happening, or ask for more time to think things over, like we discussed you could. You didn’t blink an eye.
Your stare was blank.
In the moment I thought to myself, if only they knew your past and your hopes and dreams, if only they understood your journey and all you’ve gone through to get to this point- perhaps they would have paused and exhausted another option. But of course they did not know your story- because they hadn’t built a relationship like you and I had. To them, you were another mother giving birth and they were doing their jobs as they would any other patient- but you weren’t just that to me.
I knew you. I cared about how this would affect you for the rest of your life. So when things went askew and you looked to me with that blank stare, all I could do was convey compassion. All I could do was try to tell you with my eyes that I was there for you and encourage you to speak if that’s what you wanted- because you didn’t say a word.
When I ask you about the birth you have nothing but positive things to say about it, but yet here I am still wondering if I did enough. Here I am still wondering if it could have been better.
And yet you’ve moved on from that moment, and have not brought it up since. So there’s a part of me that is happy for your version of the experience, sweet mama, but there’s a part of me that is left wondering- could I have done more? Or, is it even my place to be thinking these thoughts, after all, the version of the experience that matters most is yours- perhaps you were truly at peace with it.
Again, you’re not talking so I won’t put my words in your mouth. But I was there, and my version won’t stop playing in my head, each time I lift my toddler or I sit down for a meal.
You’re my client, but it becomes so much more than that. You’ve taught me things and you’ve opened my heart to your world.
But I can’t ask you about that aspect of the day.
And yet my calves and arms are twitching and I’m still thinking of you. I just hope with everything I have, and am left to trust, that I’ve done enough.
Disclaimer: The above scenario is not based on any one actual series of events, but on a common theme that occurs in this line of work, based in factual possibilities.