Journey to motherhood 3 – how do you give bad news?

I was arranged to see SF Loh 3 weeks after the last one, scheduled on the 4th of this month. Unfortunately for me, a few days earlier, I suffered from food poisoning. I had no idea what could be the cause. I didn’t take any raw food. I went lunch with some colleagues, and we had braised duck with cabbage and eggs. For dinner, I had a seafood Horfun (had craving for it for a couple of days) and vegetable and a soup, which my husband also took. Nobody was hit by it except me.

I can tell you it was pretty bad. I woke up at 5am or something with a bout of diarrhea. Then 15 mins later, I puked like crazy. My husband thought I might be suffering from morning sickness. But that seemed rather unlikely since i never had it after I found out about my pregnancy. I went to see a doctor that morning, and received diarrhea medicine but strangely nothing for vomiting. And stupid me declined the medical leave offered. I thought I might get better after taking the medicine. I tried taking some food, but ended up with diarrhea and vomiting again. Went to see another doctor who gave me vomiting medication and medical leave. Unfortunately none of the medicine worked, and I couldn’t take any food. My husband felt that I was dehydrating and getting weaker, this was bad for my pregnancy. He decided I should take an isotonic drink like 100-plus. That night I went to see a 3rd doctor, this time my family doctor. He agreed with my husband’s idea of the isotonic drink, which is like having glucose trip. Due to my pregnancy, the doctor couldn’t prescribe stronger anti-vomiting medicine but at least the one he did, worked. So finally I was able to take soft food, and I continued with 100-plus. But I was still having diarrhea, and little appetite.

When I saw Loh, who looked like he forgot to comb his hair, I told him about the persistent diarrhea and he advised me to take carbon medicine. Anyway he didn’t waste any time and did the scan on my tummy. Immediately he said, “bad news. The smaller fetus didn’t grow.” He moved the probe around to show the bigger fetus which he said was developing normally and well. But the other one didn’t seem to develop since the last scan. I didn’t take the news well. In fact it was a little like getting a direct hit on the face. I continued the rest of the consultation half dazed, didn’t think of asking any questions. My husband asked Loh if I had to go for an op to remove the non-developing fetus and he said no because it would be absorbed into the uterus. He told me he would see me in 3 weeks’ time. I just looked at my husband thinking we should leave then. But Loh seemed to be talking about the appointment again, and I looked at him wondering why he kept repeating it. The nurse put the picture of the fetuses on the table next to me. I glanced at it, not sure if I meant to have it. When I got up, the nurse signaled the picture to me, and I realized I was supposed to take it.

My husband handled the bad news much better than me. He consoled me that perhaps my body realized I couldn’t carry 2 babies, and instead focused on the stronger one. Just like the body can undergo miscarriage when it detects something wrong with the fetus and decides it is non-viable. Life is full of challenges and battles. We have to be prepared to face them, and we will not win all battles. But we learn from defeat and pick ourselves up and move on. Also, my husband told me I shouldn’t worry too much, he quoted from the Dalai Lama “If you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry.” I admit I tend to think of the worst case scenarios, so that when it happens, I have half expected it. But my husband feels that that is a defeatist attitude. He reminded me of the scene from the movie “Eat Pray Love” where Julia Robert’s character (Liz Gilberts) learned from the Balinese wise man: life is about having balance. So live in the moment.

End note: the carbon medicine suggested by Loh worked, no more diarrhea. He’s a pretty good doctor but he needs to work on giving bad news. It wasn’t that he was cold or nonchalant, but he can learn some subtlety or tact. I think the bad news suck especially bad for me because it came just a few days before my birthday. But like what my husband told me, this is part of life. We learn to live with setbacks.


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