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Listening to the Heart

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Listening to the heart
Bethany Poppitz
Maryville. University

Intro/Description
Listening to the heart was an emotional, but very real description of a struggle that happens all too often. In this book Lynn Schimmel tells the story of Sarah. Lynn is a women’s health nurse practitioner and we find out that Sarah is one of her clients. We learn that Sarah is having some marriage difficulty. Sarah’s husband, Rick, is an alcoholic and they have many disagreements about having children. Eventually they do have a son. Trouble in her marriage continued when Sarah brought up the idea of having another baby. She so longed to have another child but Rick disagreed adamantly. When she unexpectedly got pregnant it seemed that everyone was against keeping the baby. After choosing to have an abortion, Sarah struggled with the guilt of her decision. Seeing Sarah’s pain and sadness Rick agreed to try and have another child, and also joined AA. At 38 weeks, an ultrasound revealed a birth defect that was incompatible with life. Their baby, Emily, was stillborn. The sadness was overwhelming for Sarah. Lynn helped her through the grieving process and showed her the tools to get back on her feet. Eventually Sarah got pregnant again and gave birth to health girl. This narrative showed real pain and struggle that happens in the medical field a long with the rewarding benefits of patient advocacy and the therapeutic relationship between patient and nurse.
Looking Back When I was a freshman in high school my cousin, had a stillbirth. After carrying the baby they called Aiden for 6 1/2 months she went into pre-term labor. The doctors did all that they could to stop the labor and put her on bedrest. After ultrasounds and different analyses they found out that her uterus had an infection that attacked Aiden. Her body was treating him like a foreign object that wanted him out. There was nothing they could do and she had to delivery

him stillborn. I can remember how emotional it was for her and for all of us. I don’t think that there has ever been anything as sad in my life as Aiden’s funeral. His casket was so small. This story brought back a lot of emotions. I understand and empathize with Sarah and Rick. I wish no one would ever have to go through that type of pain and grieving.
Interpretation
I thought the way that Lynn helped Sarah grieve the loss of Emily was interesting. She didn’t want Sarah to “bury” her feelings of sadness. Lynn would encourage her to speak of Emily often to “help her stay real”. She also suggested that Sarah look through Emily’s things and pictures. She wanted Sarah to stay “submerged in the pain”. At first when I read this I didn’t understand it at all. I was almost angry with Lynn for putting Sarah through that. I felt that Sarah should be able to move on and move forward. After all, that’s what I have always done with any loss in my family. After some contemplation though, I realized that maybe I have been going about it the wrong way all along. My mother’s dad passed away when I was only 3. I had no concept of death at that age. When my dad’s father and mother’s mother died in the same year, I was ten. At this time I understood death well enough to know that I had never seen my father cry before, so this must be serious. Even then though we shed a few tears at the funeral and the burial, but that was it. After that we moved on like it never happened. My uncle passed away suddenly and unexpectedly when I was in high school. His death was difficult for my family. The grieving took longer, months it felt like until I could look at my cousins and aunt without tearing up. But still, we didn’t wallow in the sadness or find things to remind ourselves of him. We didn’t look at pictures and speak of him often. We kept busy. That’s what I’ve always been told to do. Keep busy and move on. When my grandmother, the last grandparent I

had, passed away in April of last year, I went through the motions just as I had every other time. Went to the visitation, then the funeral and the burial. I cried at all of them, but when I walked out the doors to go home I shut that emotion down. It’s almost like turning on and off a switch. My parents seemed to do the same. Everyone is so busy that we don’t take any time to really grieve. I wonder if I would feel better if I would “submerge” myself in the pain and sadness for longer. Have I been rushing a natural feeling that should be left to run its course? Sarah seemed to think that it worked. She later told Lynn that staying home and grieving for the year after Emily’s death was the best thing that she had ever done. She knew that she was “crazy with heartbreak”. She took the time she needed to feel normal again. She is now able to help others that have gone through the same situation. When Sarah got pregnant again after Emily’s death she was a bit paranoid, understandably. She was terrified that she would go through it all again with this child. I loved that Lynn was so considerate of Sarah’s feelings. Instead of simply reassuring her, she allowed Sarah to come in and listen to the baby’s heartbeat whenever she wanted to. This is particularly important to me and I can see it influencing my nursing practice. I would like to be an OB nurse and I think it is critical to understand my patient’s worries and anxiety about the pregnancy. Words don’t always work. Sometimes people need physical evidence to calm their fears.
Outcome
I’m not sure there is a right or a wrong way when it comes to grieving. What I do think however is that I will look at the idea of loss differently from now on. I feel that I have been burying a lot of feelings of hurt, pain, and sadness. It may be affecting me more than I consciously realize. I would like to work on grieving better in the future. Taking time to heal,

instead of simply distracting myself with business. I think this is important for my nursing career as well. I am positive that there will be times that I am faced with grieving families to help and support. It is my job to comfort and encourage them. I have a different mindset about grieving now and I can carry that into my nursing practice to better assist my patients and their families.…...

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