This past week I saw a patient that is making a difference in my life. I've been thinking about her for days now and feel a need to write down what she said to me...words that I cannot get out of my head...and my heart.
This patient was added to my schedule the day before I saw her, referred to us in her 2nd trimester because she had an abnormal prenatal blood screen and abnormal ultrasound findings that were seen on an exam in her regular OB's office. She and her husband are in their 40's and they have two healthy children, (one in grade school and one in junior high). Although this was an unexpected pregnancy, they were happy to welcome another child into their family. The patient let me know, early-on into our meeting, that she and her husband are "very religious."
Among many issues, we talked about her abnormal screening result and the abnormal ultrasound findings in the report from her OB. It's not unusual for parents, in their effort to be hopeful and optimistic, to seem as if they are not grasping the gravity of the situation. I knew and felt how difficult it was for them to re-hear bad news. I knew how difficult it was to process the words that were being said. My heart ached as I watched and listened to this couple, across the desk from me, vacillate from asking appropriate, thoughtful questions to making irrational, irrelevant statements.
Following my meeting with them, they were going to have an ultrasound by our high risk obstetrician, so before they left my office, I said to them, as gently as I could, "Because of the abnormal screening test, the high calculated risk for a chromosome abnormality, along with the significant ultrasound findings, we are very concerned about the viability of this pregnancy." After a long pause, the patient again said, "We are very religious." Then she said to me...
"We have two beautiful children at home and we've had three miscarriages. We gave up on another baby because we thought we were just too old. When I got pregnant, it brought my husband and me closer together. Then when we found out there could be problems, my husband and I got even closer. When we shared our news with our family, our family got closer and when we shared our news with our religious community, our community got closer. So...if this baby dies...it had a purpose."
It's not possible for me to think about what she said without reflecting upon my own situation. Her words are making me deliberate deeply and broadly, and I really hope that I am able to use this pearl of wisdom to help me find meaning and purpose, as I travel on my own journey.