Philip Brown, Post-CCT Spinal fellow
I was an F2 when, one weekend, due to premature preterm rupture of membranes my son was stillborn. After 12 years that sentence barely does justice to the awful, heartbreaking experience.
With no warning our baby was gone. I’d love to say that everyone I dealt with was amazing, I can’t. Despite progress in many areas, equality in pregnancy and its issues isn’t a thing. Yet the effects of an event can be significant for both partners. I took a day or two off, was sent home from my placement by a great supervisor who knew better than me that I needed to be at home with my partner. We were offered the chance to hold our son and have photos/hand prints made. In our pain and shock we declined fearing that it would deepen the anguish. Thankfully someone took it upon themselves to take a photo and a hand print. It was given later to my wife and we treasure it. The hospital were great and arranged a funeral for us with little fuss and no cost. I’m an atheist but I remain grateful that we did it as it helped with some of the grief.
So did talking. But that’s hard. Turns out late pregnancy loss and still birth is a lot more common than you think, but it’s not a topic that people really bring up. The hardest part, still, is running in to people you sort of know or maybe worked with even years later who ask about kids because they remember the pregnancy excitement and it’s never not awkward or painful to explain. There are a variety of groups both local and national available to help but we didn’t use them.
I found out more about the support available when we tried again. Not an easy task to embark on with our memories fresh and medical issues to deal with from the get go. My wife ended up on bed rest at home, for the best part of 4 months. I got the call to tell me there were issues and walked out of a placement and never went back. Every day we lived in expectation of a repeat of our first experience. The Deanery, my placement and my GP were brilliant. Not knowing what to do I got myself signed off sick initially. Then after plucking up courage I contacted my TPD. I was given OOPC with very little difficulty to cover the remainder of a placement until our child arrived, worth remembering though that this is unpaid! We had family help but the BMA hardship fund is available as are other charitable foundations for doctors in need. I was able to return to training and finish CT 6 months later than planned. Non work issues of all kinds are more common than anyone in surgery let’s on. Talking to people within the structure is often the last thing any of us want to do. But there exist systems to help and often people are willing if only they know you need them.