BY KIMBERLY LIPSCHUS
“I hereby agree to the excavation of contents.”
Now, please sign here.
It’s terribly unpleasant typing those words. Although it sounds rather like a building site, its actually clinical term for a curette or D&C. Otherwise known as the scraping away of the womb lining after an incomplete miscarriage. And to have one done, you need to sign the form to agree to have your contents ‘excavated’.
My ‘excavation’ went something like this. Ultra sound. The chatty clinician falls quiet. She prods around and I see my baby on the screen and take a fluttering breath of joy. But she’s been quiet too long. Then she utters these five words, “There’s no heartbeat. I’m sorry”
Rush of blood to my brain. Pounding in my ears. Breathing comes in short bursts. And I’m ushered out into the waiting area where I’m told to go home to wait for it to ‘come away’. And there I find myself, blinking in the sun, shaking like a leaf. So I waited. And waited. One week later the tiny form within still clung on. I saw it in my minds eye, not wanting to let go of me, its mother. Perish the thought. Instead I spent the week overly busy whilst somehow trying to recalibrate a defeated dream and birth date that would never occur. Finally, I just booked in for the D&C, and signed for an excavation of contents.
I am a psychotherapist and counsellor. I focus mainly on fertility in all its guises. From pre pregnancy to birth and beyond I am struck as women and their partners endure dehumanising experience after dehumanising experience, just like this one.
Take the woman waking up in recovery after having eggs harvested during her fourth round of IVF. She looks down to see a single number ‘2’ scrawled in black marker pen, on the back of her hand. She begins to focus on the other beds in the recovery room.
Women like her, all with numbers scrawled on their hands. One has an 8, another next to her, a 6. And hers has a piddly 2. She grasps the enormity – with only two eggs, her chances of conceiving are very poor. What did she feel when she walked out of the hospital that day? She felt like a branded pig.
It’s not just the trying for baby, its birth too. Recently a midwife told me of a woman so terrified during labour, that in the middle of it, she legged it. Straight out of the hospital, down the road, to a neighbouring sports field. Would a woman who feels honoured and supported do that in the middle of her birth? Nope.
Surely, as I signed my form for surgery, an empathetic hand on the shoulder wouldn’t have hurt? Or a midwife willing to (as most do) create a quiet sanctuary for the terrified labouring woman who’d feel safer at home? Perhaps the nurse in recovery could bend and whisper the results in the ear of each patient, so they don’t have to read and compare like a frontline newspaper? It takes so little time yet maintains such a necessary sense of human-ness.