Dear Dr. Brougher,
I miss you when I'm not pregnant.
I know it sounds a little crazy. You, the doctor every woman dreads that one time a year, because there are stirrups and cold metal and paper-thin sheets to cover everything and nothing at all, but I mean it. I really do.
This last time around, when I learned there would be another baby, part of my excitement was that I would be able to see you again, that you would share, once more, in the most joyous, scary, beautiful moment that can happen in the lives of a man and a woman.
I wonder if you know just what you have done.
The first time I met you, I was three months into my marriage and coming on the recommendation of a friend. You sat me down in your office and told me you'd been a former journalist, because I was one, too. It was the beginning of a friendship.
I asked you all sorts of questions about sex, the ones I'd never been able to ask my mother, and you answered them all in that direct, no-nonsense way of yours.
And then, you sent me off with a, "see you next year," and you did see me the next year and also four months after that, when I took my first pregnancy test and it said "yes." You may not know it, but I drove 115 miles to see you for that first appointment, because even though we'd moved to another town, I couldn't imagine anyone else delivering my first.
And it's a good thing, too, because there I was in the hospital, three hours pushing and no baby, and when my eyeballs felt like they might explode from the brutal strain, you told me you needed to use a vacuum to get him out.
I went crazy. I cried about how a friend who was a nurse in neonatal intensive care had seen so many cases of brain damage because of the vacuum. "Just don't let them use a vacuum," she'd said just two days before I lay on a bed in labor.
You did not laugh at my fear. You took it and held it gently. "That has not been my experience," you said. "But it's entirely up to you."
Those contractions kept coming so I had to scream out, "Whatever you need to do, just get him out," and you did, and he was fine, and you slipped out of that birthing room quietly, because a new mama and daddy were having the moment you've seen a thousand times, and the last thing you wanted to do was intrude. We didn't even have a chance to thank you.
We would have more chances, though.
You would be my rock when you ran the wand across my belly and there was no heartbeat. That same day you would deliver a baby and instead of placing her in a new mama's arms, you would place her in a lab jar.
You would walk us through a twin pregnancy, a high-risk, share-the-placenta case that had more pages of what could go wrong than what could go right.
You carried me through this last one, and maybe this is the most significant of all.
You see, I didn't know if he would make it. There was that pregnancy condition, when I itched all over day and night. The condition that made me want to scratch my eyes out. The condition that could end in stillbirth.
And, God, I couldn't do that again. I couldn't lose another one.
I cried after every appointment near the end. I had anxiety attacks when he stopped moving for a minute or two. I had dreams about a baby whose face I would not kiss alive.
I sent you notes. I begged you to deliver early, since I'd read all about those stillbirth chances and how they increased the longer babies lived in a womb. I became the patient no obstetrician wants.
And then, the day before my birthday, you gave me a gift. A baby, and he was ALIVE.
I love you for that.
I just had my last post-pregnancy appointment with you, because this boy was always going to be our last, and you don't know it, but I felt all torn up inside.
Because the truth is I will miss you.
I will miss your humor. I will miss our talks. I will miss sharing in this new life experience with you.
I don't even know that words can express how grateful I am to and for you, but I will try.
Thank you for all you have done.
You saw the fear in my eyes for that first one, and you spoke courage and peace and wisdom. You knew the sorrow of that lost one, and you spoke comfort and hope and healing. You knew the fear and worry that can consume a mama when stillbirth looms, and you spoke calm and understanding and love.
This cannot be underestimated.
Maybe it's not what typical doctors do, this caring enough about a patient to ask about the lost job and the writing pursuit and the husband at home, whose name you remember, but you were never typical.
You were exceptional.
Not only did you deliver new life into the world, but you delivered new life into the heart of this mama, who did not know if she could really do it, any of it.
I will not be the same because of you. My family will not be the same. We are forever changed.
So thank you. Thank you for your gift of life. Thank you for sacrificing weekends so you could deliver every one of my half-dozen boys. Thank you for your love and care and constant concern. You are a healer in every sense of the word.
Thank you for being you.