Happy birthday and happiness: Two years. 

It’s been two years since I was atop Machu Picchu thinking only of my Dad. I still think of him daily, wishing  I could call him from the slow boat in Laos and chat with him about my adventures.

  I watch longingly whenever other travelers call their families, but then shake myself out of it and remind myself that I have a built a wonderful life that I’m leading happily now. I’m still working out the griefy kinks but I think it’s almost there; this trip I’m on is healing.

The last few years have been the hardest of my life, and that’s exactly the reason that I am committed to adventuring and being present. Even while pursuing a new career, I commit my dollars to adventures. I scrimp on luxuries year round so I can go travel. Or come home for Christmas. Because you never know when you’ll run out of the opportunity (or ability) to do what makes you feel alive, or to see those you love; and, because you can always make money back.

  
What makes you feel happy and alive? What doors can you open to get yourself there? 

Stillbirth

A couple of weeks ago I experienced my first stillbirth.

It was undoubtedly one of most tragic things that has ever happened to me. From delivering the news that there was no heartbeat to the moment the client lovingly took her newborn from me after delivery, I was enveloped in a fog of disbelief and heartbreak. I left that day feeling incredibly humbled, saddened, and rocked with raw feeling.

Clinically, I had to grow up. We needed the medical induction of labour and vaginal delivery of the infant to be smooth and, without question, professional. I didn’t have time to ask for the step-by-step instructions of things I should already know how to do. I found clinical confidence I didn’t know that I had. It challenged everything I had ever learned about labour management, because the focus shifts entirely from both mother and baby … to the mother alone.

I cried.

Once alongside the longing labour cries she expelled to mourn the motherhood she would never have, and once when she asked for 60 more seconds with her baby before we took him. Putting the little bassinet into the morgue wasn’t easy for me either.

I had some flashbacks to my Dad’s death, but I was able to focus them into giving her everything I had in labour support. I can only hope that it made even a fraction of the pain less sharp.

The staff at the hospital were incredibly supportive, helping my preceptor and I negotiate all the additional paperwork required in this situation. One of the nurses gave us each a solid, lasting hug. Midwives cannot declare death, so several consultations were had with the obstetrician on-call, ranging from the most appropriate method of induction, to special certificates that needed signing. The hospital provides the family with memory boxes and the option of getting footprints, while also empowering clients to spend as much (or as little) time as they want with their child.

This situation was hard. Certainly not as hard for me as it was for that unbelievable family that endured literal heartbreak, but tough nonetheless. As health care providers we have to balance caring for our clients and caring for ourselves, and in this situation my tank was drained on both accounts. I drove home at 4:50am and it was only then that I was consumed with a full, empty sadness that made me cry myself to sleep. I woke up around noon, feeling heavy, and called my school to file an incident report. I spoke with one of my favourite midwife professors, who talked me through things. We then paid a visit to the client’s home to check on her, later in the afternoon.

Almost two weeks later, after talking it out with my peers and my preceptor, I feel more acceptance. The clients thanked us by name in their obituary, which to me is the greatest honour of all. We will continue to support the client until 2 weeks postpartum, and then we will part ways until she is ready to try again.

My preceptor handled things so eloquently and I feel honoured to have learned from her care approach. I am also somewhat grateful to have had this experience as a student, because I know that this is a part of our job that we cannot run from, and that I will unfortunately have to manage again someday. This was the 3rd stillbirth in my preceptors career, and she noted to me that there are usually never any concrete answers we can find to tell us why this happens.

It’s not fair.

I guess Life is always there to remind you that it’s precious, isn’t it? Hug your loved ones and spend a moment being grateful today; trust me, those moments are what you’ll remember when it matters the most.

How short is your list of ‘What Ifs’?

Sometimes I go there.

I let myself think about all the things I could have done differently. I let my mind wander.

What if I had told my Dad to get a scan earlier?
What if I had paid more attention to his gastrointestinal discomforts?
What if I had visited more?
What if I had encouraged him to try newer and more holistic healing strategies?

You drive yourself crazy doing that. So I don’t usually let myself, because I’m crazy enough as it is.

But sometimes, I go there. Then I let out a big sigh, and inevitably end up back here: I visited enough. He didn’t want alternative strategies. No one talks to their fathers about their bowels.

It’s all so clear in hindsight. The signs were there. And that scan, why didn’t I push for that scan? The one that was just barely out of my control. So close I can feel it, but too far to grasp how I missed it. It wouldn’t have mattered, though; the pancreas is the most forgotten organ there is. And when you sum that all up, you get my list of questions. The list that occasionally I drive myself crazy with.

The list has taught me something, though: the goal of life is to live it as best you can.
I’m not saying happy or triumphant or goal-reaching. Just the best you can with what you’re given, every day.

I’m saying this: fulfill yourself with every small decision you make. It doesn’t have to be climbing a mountain or swimming with sharks for goodness sake.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/3d2/57040840/files/2014/12/img_7675.jpg (This is Ron Burgundy’s best life, but it sure isn’t mine!)

Just do your best with what comes to you every moment. Sometimes it won’t be quite right, but since that was your best at the time you won’t be able to regret it later, and you’ll inevitably be better on the next one.

When you live your best life, you automatically have a smaller list of questions to go over and over and over when the unexpected strikes. Your best life has no room for regrets, even when the unexpected happens quickly and shockingly, changing your foundation without your consent.

How short is your list?