Tuesday 20th April 2010
Gestation: 29 weeks, 4 days
One year ago.
We sit there on the slightly uncomfortable couches. Suse holds the clipboard, frowning as she reads.
“What does this mean?” I lean across to look.
“Don’t worry about that one,” I say.
“But they wouldn’t have it on the form if it wasn’t important.”
A lady appears from nowhere.
“Mark and Susan?” We nod encouragingly, the only couple in the waiting room. Other than us, there are two women with prams; an encouraging sign if ever there was one in a fertility clinic. The women don’t even look up, both utterly absorbed in their precious cargo.
We walk down the hall to a room with ‘Dr. Fleischer’ on it. We enter. There stands a tall woman with a shock of auburn hair. She is dressed entirely in black, and is teetering around on three-inch heels.
“Come in, come in,” she beckons. Suse and I oblige, sitting quietly while she completes her dictation about the previous baron couple.
“Please excuse me if I appear tired,” Suse begins, “I’ve been up most of the night with gastro.” I look across at the doctor to see how she will respond. There’s a rumour that some IVF doctors sub-specialise to escape the gore of general Obstetrics. I take this as an early test.
“Oh, don’t worry,” she says, “that makes two of us then.”
Suse and I nod, fake-knowingly. I guess this means that she has a young child too.
I guess just about everyone does.
“Thanks for fitting us in,” Suse says again. More nervous banter.
“Oh, that’s okay. We have cancellations all the time. People are always getting pregnant,” she jokes. We laugh, like it’s the funniest thing we’ve heard today. “So what’s going on?”
“Mark might want to explain,” Suse says. “He’s a doctor, and better at summarising these things.”
Test number two. When you are presented with a fellow medico as a patient, it can be affronting. I have had several circumstances where this has turned the room icy – take our hospital experience up north as an example.
“What sort of doctor?” she asks warmly.
The Paediatrician without kids.
“Great. How do you like it?”
“It’s good and bad,” I say. She looks at me, nodding.
“Including parenthood,” she says, through tired eyes.
* * * * *
I tell the story of Suse’s ectopic, its protracted course, and the difficulties since. I talk about the problems with the saliva test, the basal body temperatures, the mittelschmerz, and, well, with everything.
“So I guess we need to look at the tube, right? To see that it’s functioning?” She raises her eyebrows like she’s expecting an answer.
“I guess so,” says Suse.
“Otherwise there could well be a dilated tube that is not functioning. And if that’s the case, we could be losing valuable time, right?”
I look across at Suse. Her mouth is slightly open as she looks at me. I know that look; a shock at hearing someone verbalise those very concerns she has quashed for so many months, and the relief of it. All in the same bite.
“Yes,” Suse finally says, with conviction.
“And we could do a die-test, which outlines the tubes, but that can sometimes miss things. We can’t necessarily rule out adhesions or dilated tubes with that, and if we see anything, we’d need to do the laparoscopy anyway. By going straight to laparoscopy, we’ll get a good look at everything. And if there’s anything wrong, we can fix it at the time. What do you think?”
Suse pauses for a moment, before nodding. “I want to know what’s going on. I need to know that everything looks okay.”
“Mark? What do you think?”
I look across at Suse, closing my eyes for a moment. “I’m far less keen on surgery.” She looks back at me. “But I know how much stress has been in all of this, and how much that can affect fertility.” I take Suse’s hand. “If this will give you peace of mind, then…go for it.”
“And if we see anything, we can sort it out then and there,” continues Dr. Fleischer. “How does next Tuesday sound?”
Suse and I look at each other again, trying to compute. “Anyway,” she continues, “while you have a think about it, why don’t we do an internal ultrasound to check out your ovaries?”
* * * * *
“I know you’re not keen, honey, but it I think she knows what she’s doing.”
“Clearly she knows what she’s doing. The woman oozes self-assuredness through every one of her freckles.” We hold hands as we walk.
“I just feel so relieved. Relieved that someone is doing something here.” She pauses. “I’m kind of in shock. I was half-expecting her to tell me to stop being so stupid like everyone else has. And now I’m having surgery in a week.” We continue strolling down the street. “And already I know that I have enough follicles from the ultrasound, that my ovaries are good, that I shouldn’t be on progesterone because I’ve had an ectopic, and now this. That woman knows a lot.”
“Yes. She knows a lot.” We walk some more. “She should, hon, she’s a fertility specialist.”
“Yeah, and so should Kath, because she’s an Obstetrician. And so should my GP who’s had me on the progesterone that could have caused this whole thing from the start. And so should every other fucker that’s given me poor advice! But they don’t. And she does! This woman knows her shit. She knows her shit and she backs herself. She sees a problem and tries to sort it out, unlike every other doctor who’s told me to close my trap, stop worrying and get on with it. And above all, stop worrying! Everyone tells me to stop worrying! But none of them have had an ectopic go on in their own body that has bled for six weeks! None of them have had to go through that! None of them!”
Suse stops for a second, and looks at me. “I need to know that my tube is okay, Mark. Because I don’t know what I would do if I have another ectopic.” She drops one of my hands, and we keep walking.
“I just don’t know what I would do,” she whispers, almost to herself.
* * * * *