Sunday 29th November 2009
Gestation: 9 weeks, 2 days
One year ago.
Today, we get the hard facts.
I rise early, packing urgently. Nothing quite like knowing that the judge’s ruling is about to be handed down to get you up in the morning. I stuff everything in my bag, and throw it in the car.
“Are you checking out today?”
“We can only pray.”
I jog to the hospital. I head up the stairs, a full two minutes later, and knock as I enter. Suse looks up as I come in, even more pale than yesterday. She’s almost translucent.
“Hey love,” I say.
“Hey,” she says. She raises her hand wearily, waving.
I put my backpack down. In the silence, it seems to make a lot of noise.
“Did you sleep?” She shakes her head.
“You?” I shake mine.
We sit there for a moment, lost for words. How can you be lost for words when you’ve only been married four months? Answer: Have an ectopic. It’s a total conversation killer.
“And the bleeding?” I ask finally.
“Sure,” she says. “But…” She trails off.
“Well, the damage is already done, isn’t it?” She raises her eyebrows. I raise mine too.
“Has Teresa been in yet?”
“Has the nurse…”
“…They were really good after…that.”
I nod. We sit there for a moment.
A nurse walks in. I smile, and Suse does too. It’s the grimace smile. The nurse shuffles around for a moment, saying nothing, before leaving. Like she’s got Alzheimers. Like she’s meant to be on another ward.
A moment later, Teresa enters. She smiles nervously. The bravado is dulled, the attitude gone. She looks almost meek. She shuffles around, looking for the chart, holding a folder awkwardly. And then, a man follows her in. His skin is darker than hers, his eyes piercing. He wears a smart suit, pilled at the elbows, just beside the leather patches. It’s the same one he’s been wearing since the eighties. We both sit up like the Principal just came in.
This is Mr Chandra.
* * * * *
“This all may well have been caused by infection. That is the most common cause.” He smiles kindly. “Whether you had an infection that you were unaware of, I don’t know. But at some point, that tube became damaged.”
“Damaged?” Suse says.
“Yes. The tube on that side is permanently damaged.” He pauses, letting the detail sink in. “And then with this pregnancy, when the sperm and egg met near the fimbriae,” he says, waving his fingers, “they were carried half way down, but not all the way. It was the failure of the tube’s cilia – the hair cells that transport the oocyte – to return it to the uterine cavity. That is what led to the ectopic pregnancy.”
Suse nods, taking it in.
“Okay. Okay.” She stops for a moment. “So how long is all of this going to go on for?”
“Methotrexate will take six to eight weeks to work.”
“Six to eight weeks?” she says shocked.
“In total, yes.”
Suse rubs at her forehead, her eyes going wide.
“So will it work at all?”
“I don’t know.”
“So you’re saying…”
“…My advise would be for removal of that tube.”
Suse grabs at her chest, like she’s just been punched.
“Because your risk of another ectopic increases to fifteen percent for each consecutive pregnancy. I advocate total removal of the tube, for this reason. Just removing the ectopic itself, and leaving the tube, does not help,” he says, pre-empting our next question. “Removal of the entire tube is the only way to prevent the problem on this side recurring. I have personally seen many women have recurrences after ectopic removal, because the scar tissue in the tube disrupts the motility even further.”
“So you want to take my tube out?” Suse says.
“But then I’d only have one tube left.”
“Some of the women I’ve operated on have needed both tubes removed.”
He is a straight shooter: straight from the wild Indian west.
* * * * *
We manage to convince Dr Chandra to not operate on Suse this very second with his penknife. Indeed, he agrees to our requests to be discharged. The Beta-HCG is down to 935. The methotrexate is working, if at the inordinately slow rate of fuck-all per day. Chemo isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Which, given it’s reputation, is an odd statement.
But that’s the nature of our current reality – one where we wish the chemo was just a little bit stronger.
Dr Chandra leaves, the aftershock reverberating around the room. We sit there, not saying anything for a few minutes. After a while, Suse begins to talk.
“I’m glad I got the hard facts.”
“Are you? That’s a relief.”
“Did you know all of that?”
“A lot of it. But not all of it. Not quite that…bluntly.”
We go quiet again.
“Well…I guess we had to know. Even if I feel like I’ve just been knocked out.”
We sit there for a while.
“Why didn’t Kath tell us all that?”
“Different style, hon.”
“But isn’t that withholding information? Why didn’t she tell me all of that?” she says, beginning to get angry.
“Hang on, hon. That’s a tough one. Some people want to know everything, while others only want to hear what they need to know.”
How much do you tell a pre-mother? How many home truths does anyone want to hear? How much is too much, and how much is not enough?
If you figure out the answer, write a friggin book.
* * * * *
to be continued…