Yesterday I was at the hospital with my husband, who was waiting to be operated. He wasn’t, the op was cancelled and we were sent home. But this isn’t about that.
This is about laughing at the names most important consultants or surgeons have in this country. My husband and I laughed, he suggested they reach a certain level of supercoolness, and then they get to pick a name. Just a few we’ve encountered: Ms Swan, Mr Sugarman, Mr Happy, Mr Fish. The consultant came to talk to us, then he left. Then the anaesthetist came. He was very cool, with a funny tweed jacket, very reassuring and laid back. They are always different, we commented. We talked about how much respect they command. Obviously, I said, their job is so crucial, important… my mind drifted. Normally when I think of anaesthetists I think back to the medical museum we visited in Leeds, and what medicine was like before we discovered the wonderments of anaesthesia. But this time I thought about my abortion, which I had without an anaesthetist.
I remembered the 300 Euro I paid a gynaecologist to have it done, as you see, in Italy it was legal, but not something the Italian NHS would cover. It was all set, as usual it was going to take place in a maternity ward, as any other woman I sat, amongst pregnant ladies, waiting for my turn to give up my third child, which I was sure would have been a girl, to have a chance to escape my beautiful boys’ father, who was an “up and down” (meaning sometimes he would be a drunk and destroy EVERYTHING, and for days he wouldn’t, and be lovely) alcoholic who beat me and had raped me when I had started talk of leaving him if we didn’t do something radical and changed our lives to help him change.
As any other woman in that situation, I had my wonderful boys to show me what that little girl could have been like… it was torture, no different than the torture most women go through who have to go through an abortion, for one reason or another.
What I didn’t expect, was another torture I’d be subjected to. The beating I had had a few days earlier wasn’t enough, evidently, for the terrible crime I was about to commit, against myself, against the beautiful girl India would have been (that would have been her name, India). As I lay down on the operating table and some things started, I started to come back from where I was trying not to think and to hear them talk. They were increasingly agitated, debating whether to start or not: the anaesthetist hadn’t arrived yet. My ears, my head, my neck, all froze. Anaesthetist? I didn’t think it would be painful. I didn’t think I would need one. But if you were expecting one, I guess that meant, I needed one? What do you mean he hadn’t arrived yet? Does that mean one was needed and you are going to do whatever you were going to do without one?? I was frozen. I thought: maybe they don’t need one, but he is needed JUST IN CASE.
That wasn’t the case.
They started scraping, painfully. First it was like a colposcopy, then stronger and harder and harsher and it was like scraping plaster off a brick wall, except the brick wall was my womb. Then they started hoovering. Whatever they were hoovering did NOT want to get sucked up. It didn’t, it didn’t. The noise was deafening, or so it felt. Again some voices said maybe we should wait for the anaesthetist . Again other voices said no it’s too late now anyway let’s just go on. I howled. As I howled, in pain, I pictured my babygirl, whom I knew not to be anywhere near a baby yet, I pictured her holding on for dear life. But still they hoovered and the pain was immense. I heard another person come in and them saying ah here he is, but it’s too late now, it’s almost over. Through my tears and yells I thought it’s never too late, give me some now, make this stop. They didn’t, then, after forever, it was over.
They had me get off the bed, get changed, sign a couple of forms, and I was sent on my way. I thought I saw some pity on the nurse’s face, but I didn’t register it at the time, I registered nothing. It was just pain in every conceivable way. Nobody could ever say I didn’t pay for my decision, or feel the full consequence of it.
But anaesthetists are good. They are your best friends. No matter how bloody new age you think you are (kids ask your parents what new age is), when it boils down to it, fuck natural, go drugs.