I first learned about the the post-mortem, in the way the term applies to being better next time around, not doing an autopsy, while working a temp job at an academic hospital in downtown Chicago. When someone dies, there is apparently this big conference. At my hospital they called it M&M, which is a creepily cutesy nickname for Morbidity and Mortality. At the M&M, everyone talks about what they did wrong and what they did right on the case in order to improve. “It’s like we’re doing a post-mortem, not on a body but on the procedures,” my supervisor explained.
It came up again when I was a reporter doing a story on some deploying National Guardsmen.
They did a post-morts on whatever training exercise they’d just completed. I hopped out of the humvee to take some notes in the middle of this battle exercise in the Michigan woods, and they fired shots at the threats, but then jumped back into the humvee and left me behind, which I found hilarious, because I thought they all hated me. Then afterward, I was really moved that they were all down on themselves. Like, if this was Afghanistan, where they were headed, and they had an embed, they’d just left her in the dust. “It’s really OK fellas this is just pretend.” No, it wasn’t, according to them. They vowed to do better. They did a post-mort on the exercise. One guy got down in a humble, one-knee stance in the middle of a soldier circle as a higher-up told him how he’d screwed up. It was incredible and touching to see. They all just wanted to keep each other alive. Even me, an outsider, some reporter chick nobody trusted. And so, taking direction strewn with f-bombs, each vowed to do better. They even let me shoot a grenade launcher and an M4 later. Best. Day. Ever.
In my newsroom, especially after big stories or news weeks, we post-mort stories, sitting around chatting about how we could have done a better job. No one takes it personally. We all need the time to reflect.
I bring all of this up because I follow a writer named KJ Dell Antonia , who for a while ran the New York Times blog Motherlode, which was renamed Well Family to be more about all parents and not just moms. She’s on a break from editing but she’s got a newsletter that I subscribe to.
She did a post-mort on her summer, and I thought that sounded like a brilliant idea.
Then I got to thinking that I want to post-mort, like, everything.
Mark and I achieved the goal of getting out last night.
Let’s post-mort our summer. What did you like? What did you not like? What could we have done better? Did we travel too much? Not enough? I wanted to try to swing a little cabin getaway for our family next year at the least, a trip to a new national park in best-case scenario. He wanted the kids to have more of a daycare option, because by the end, Mark, a teacher, found himself on the edge of madness. He had a personal project that he never got to because accomplishing anything other than putting on pants with our kids at home is a friggin’ pipe dream.
Over ramen and a glorious saki sangria for me and beer for him at a charming, new OKC establishment called Goro, we next did a post mort on the week–namely, our shit-show mornings.
They were frickin crazy and disorganized. We switched mornings on doing Eli’s care. I’m on the Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule. I don’t mind as I’m more the morning person anyway. I did mind that Eli screamed at me every single morning. “I don’t want to do my vest! Why do I have to do my vest?!” One morning was particularly awful. He kicked and punched at me as I tried to get him in the damn thing. “Don’t hit, Eli. If you want to hit, hit the pillow.” He beat the shit out of that thing. I kept trying to soothe him, give him choices. Do you want a juice or a milk? Do you want to watch YouTube or a cartoon? “MOMMY STOP TALKING TO ME YOU’RE MAKING MY THROAT CLOSE!” So I lay there on the couch, did some meditative breathing, tried not to cry and let him be angry and beat the stuffing out of the pillow. He finally covered himself with a blanket, stopped beating m his pillow whipping boy and, vibrating in his machine, went to sleep for the next 20 minutes. Understatement: We aren’t use to this 5 a.m. wake-up call yet.
I thought it’d be grand to try to do the vest AND breathing treatments at once. That did not go over well, as you can imagine. Mark had the genius idea of putting Eli on his breathing treatments before he even woke up. Of course, Mark got away with it, but on Friday morning, when I tried, Eli, asleep, swatted the mask away, rolled over and yelled at me. “STOP IT MOMMY!” He shot out of bed and said he wanted to move to the couch to do the breathing treatments and he did not want my help. “NO! I CAN DO IT MYSELF MOMMY!” So there’s that. And that’s what we did.
Each and every morning felt rushed and upsetting. I swear to you I could taste the cortisol. We were late to school at least twice.
And don’t even get me started on my genius idea to pack lunches this year. I mean, we’d save sooo much money, right? For two kids a school lunch is $6.50 a day. It all adds up. Ya know what else adds up? Packing lunches that THEY DON’T EAT. The time it takes TO THOUGHTFULLY SHOP FOR AND THEN PACK LUNCHES THAT THEY DON’T EAT. Da fuq, kids? How about you buy your lunches, moving forward. They are a little pricey, but that’s because they are actually nutritious n good n square, too.
Now I can’t stop post-morting. Literally we gave a post-mort to our date on the way home.
I was like – that dinner was expensive. I liked the part where we walked by historic homes and judged the ones with crap siding and fantasized about owning the good ones, and zillowed the neighborhood, and fawned over gardens and laughed at tacky lawn ornaments and got too sweaty and so we sat in the plaza eavesdropping. Like, the walking part. The house-gazing, people-watching parts. Not the freaking out b/c we just spend almost $70 on drinks and dinner part and we need to start buying school lunches so that ain’t gonna ride. Let’s hire a sitter and just walk and look at shit next week!!!!!
Anyhow, I like thoughts and phrases that start with the phrase, “Moving forward….”
It’s a healthy way to be. Learn from those mistakes, let them go, charge ahead.
I feel better already.
Ooooh what else can I post-mort?!?