I’ve been wondering for a while if I wanted to write about this particular subject. How much is too much, how close is too close? Where is the line you draw about getting too close to a patient?
A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a woman on the phone about her fee. The conversation started out pretty normal. She was in her second trimester. She was young, very young and already had kids. She had $200, and it was all she could get. When I told her how much she still needed to get, she started to cry. She cried more hysterically than I have had someone cry before. I sat there, listening to her agonize out loud about her plight. She had done everything she could, no one was helping her, what was she going to do, she can’t raise another baby, she can’t even care for the kids she has now. I sat and listened and felt awful. After a while, I got her back to the phone. She thought she had hung up and didn’t know I was listening to her. Something spurred me to find her funding. Her case wasn’t particularly difficult – I say this to mean that unfortunately being poor with an unwanted pregnancy is all too common. I did find her the funding for her abortion. It made me feel good for her, but I also felt bad for the many women who don’t break down in front of me. They need help too, and I can’t help them all.
Did I go too far letting her affect me?
A few weeks ago a co-worker of mine was talking to a woman who had a sad story, she had been raped at a party, awful but sadly not uncommon to hear. Her friends didn’t believe her when she told them what happened, no one wanted to help her. She said she felt like she wanted to die. My co-worker was greatly affected by this, to the point where she almost personally gave money for this woman’s abortion. Now, some people told me they didn’t see what was wrong with that. But I wonder, where do you draw the line then. What about the next woman like this, and the one after that?
It may sound awful, but I really try to detach myself. I can’t care about these women personally. If I do, I’m afraid I can’t keep doing this work. If I care too much, I won’t be able to sleep at night.