Not knowing any better, I gave birth to my first-born in one of those huge practices, under the care of a rotating cast of fifteen disinterested doctors. Becoming a mother was, without a doubt, the most life-altering experience of my life, but to them I was merely another faceless, nameless breeder who peed in a cup on command.
When I got pregnant for the second time, I decided I wanted more personal attention, so I switched to a solo practitioner who came highly recommended by a friend. “You’re going to love him,” she exclaimed. “But part of me just hates to share him.” I had no idea what she meant by that statement, but I would soon learn.
My first appointment with Dr. P was scheduled for a Friday afternoon, a couple of days before Halloween. I was twelve weeks along. Having already seen my baby’s heart beating at an eight-week ultrasound, I figured it would just be a routine appointment. In his mauve office, Dr. P smeared cold gel across my stomach and pressed down the ultrasound wand. I glanced up at the screen and noticed he was gazing intently at the monitor.
Looking up, he said, “I’m so sorry.”
The D&C that followed is a sad, fuzzy memory. At home, swaddled in old flannel blankets, I was dozing off as the phone rang.
“Hi there. It’s me, Dr. P,” he said softly, as if he were trying not to rouse me out of my state of painkiller-induced calm. He asked how I was doing. I lied and told him I was fine.
“You can’t be fine after all you’ve been through. Try to get some rest and, if you’re up to it, take your son trick-or-treating tomorrow.”
He called the following day, and the day after that, “just to check in.” Meanwhile, many of my friends were avoiding me because they thought I didn’t want to talk about it. My husband wasn’t much better at comforting me. He was concerned with our toddler son and handled his own grief with silence. It was only Dr. P who knew the right things to say.
Thankfully, our luck changed a few months later and I got pregnant again. I made an appointment with Dr. P.
After the nurse checked my blood pressure and weighed me, I waited anxiously in my drafty gown, wondering what we’d chat about once he tapped the door to come in. He had been so warm and funny on the phone. I prepared topics in my head as I tried to get comfortable on the paper-covered table. Should I bring up politics? Too risky. Maybe something more neutral, like the weather. No, I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t a clever conversationalist. Would it be inappropriate to invite him to a cocktail party? I bet he liked a nice Pinot Noir. Or coffee. Maybe we could have coffee, take in a foreign film . . .
He walked in looking like a young Yul Brenner with a smooth, tan skull and a compact, muscular frame and gave me a big hug. “How’s my favorite patient?” he asked, patting my back. I beamed.
He went on to compliment the hideous tent I was wearing: “Green is definitely your color,” he said. I made a mental note to buy everything green during my next maternity shopping expedition. Then I babbled like a scatterbrained schoolgirl: “Wow, did you see that thing about that guy who saved that other guy? Wow, huh? And what about those Knicks? Pretty awful, right? Did you see the new Bond movie? So much better than Pierce Brosnan, don’t you think? Seriously. Hmm.”