This physician isn’t a victim. She’s a survivor.

If I have to hear, “There is always a third victim in these situations, don’t forget to take care of yourself,” one more time, I may go crazy.

I wish people would be cognizant of the language they use. According to the dictionary, a victim is, “a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency.”

Don’t call me a victim. I go home afterwards, completely broken by what just transpired. But my three children are healthy and beautiful, my husband is loving and supportive, I have a comfortable home, two cars, I never go hungry, I’m financially stable, and generally healthy. My world is not shattered forever, my life is not destroyed, no injury happened to me. My life goes on as usual. Stop calling me the victim.

Except for when a patient is in labor, and you almost feel like the third parent, as your job is to keep the baby safe until it is delivered into this big new world. In fact, you as the doctor, are better equipped to take care of this baby, still in utero, than the parents who conceived it. Only when the baby is safely out, crying or cooing in its parent’s arms, can you relinquish those parental feelings.

So when there is a dead baby, then a resuscitated baby, then a seizing baby, then a sick baby trying to hold on, and then finally, there is no more baby, I still feel like I lost my own baby.

But I didn’t, not really, because my kids are still safe at home and at school. My life didn’t change. I still have to go over ridiculous experience-centered birth plans, listen to 32-weekers complain about sciatica, listen to 10-weekers ask to get off of work, listen to girls complain about every bump, fold and zit down there, manage nice normal labors, make my kids lunches, wash the dishes, get the knots out of my curly girl’s hair, do the laundry, and put everyone to bed.

Stop asking me how I’m doing as you casually pass by me in the hallway and expecting “I’m good” or “I’m OK.” Do you really want to know? Do you really expect me to tell you in the middle of my busy day, as I run from one room to the next, just trying to focus on the task at hand that I’m broken, that I cry myself to sleep most nights, that when I do sleep my dreams are full of the OR, NICU, and a lot more tears. That when you see a pregnant woman you see hope and a new beginning, but all I can see now is a potential horrific disaster? No, you don’t expect to get that answer out of me and you won’t, so stop asking and stop telling me I’m the victim.

As a victim, you would say to me, “Hey, we’ll take care of you. Why don’t you take the next few days off, we’ll work on rescheduling your appointments, we’ll take care of your labors for you. Take some time. I’ll come home from work early and make supper and pick up the kids and put them to bed. Take some time.”

But no, since I’m not really a victim, no one says that to me because I look OK, I seem OK, my makeup is still on, and my outfits are still put together. I can still laugh and joke around. No one would know that I’m changed as a doctor, as a mother, as a daughter, as a person. No one can see that little scar forever on my heart and in my mind from that sweet little baby with the chubby cheeks and thick dark hair. But don’t call me a victim.

Just call me a survivor. Because of what I wasn’t able to give to the couple who entered my life as strangers 9 months ago, wanting desperately to be parents, the blessings in my own life are that much more apparent and that much more wonderful.

The author is an anonymous obstetrician-gynecologist.

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