As obstetricians we commit ourselves to a job that consists mostly of bringing life to the world. These celebrations offer such joy in our work. Less often we are shepherds of loss. We help a couple through miscarriage or stillbirth and support families with the loss of a newborn, for example. These moments are most devastating for patients and their families, but they are also full of grief for us. We are never prepared for, nor do we completely recover from, the loss of a mother. Mothers are young. Mothers are the foundations of a family. Most of the time, the loss of a mother is sudden and unexpected. It leaves an empty space unlike any other. Most obstetricians can recite the names of every mother we helped take care of, but lost.
We offer these two memorials as part of Contemporary OB/GYN’s maternal mortality series and to share our experiences. When we were asked to write, we accepted without a second thought; it is easy to write about people we think about on most days. We hope that reflecting on these lives and how we have been changed by them can help our colleagues reflect on their own experiences. We also aim to help motivate a movement to improve efforts to prevent maternal mortality. Our reflection on these cases cannot dwell purely on the profound sadness of it all or how we might have wanted it to go differently. From each case we need to grow and change and get better for the next woman that comes through our door.
During a low point in training, during a time of loss, one of our mentors offered important words of encouragement in this context: “You will be changed by this event. You will either be better from it, or worse from it. But you are the one who chooses which it will be.” In trying to make things better, and in a spirit of fellowship for our colleagues reading this, we are sharing our stories.