There have been times over the last few years when the hospital has been as familiar to me as my own home. I’ve slept there, kept my milk in the fridge, given the Women’s Centre as my postal address and wandered around in my slippers. I’m no longer daunted by white coats or blue scrubs.
I didn’t really want the appointment. Didn’t need it. We’re not planning more children, so it’s of no concern not to have periods. But it’s irksome to still get the monthly cramps, and it feels wrong that my body still isn’t back to normal after nearly two years. So I took the appointment, and duly hopped up onto the examination couch, having whipped off my trousers before even confirming my date of birth. The sonographer was new; struggled to find my uterus and pressed uncomfortably onto my stretchmarked stomach. Predictably she suggested an internal scan would be necessary, and expertly rolled a durex onto the dildo-cam. I’m never able to watch that without a snigger; I remember at the height of my infertility investigations, pointing out to the sonographer that if I couldn’t get pregnant with a real life penis, such protection against technology was hardly necessary. She whipped the probe under my modesty sheet and pushed… I practically leapt off the table with a shout of dismay,
“what on earth?”
“Are you a little nervous of internals?”
“Not at all”, I replied, “but last time I checked, my uterus was accessed via my vagina, not through my bottom”.
Later on, I watched the consultant view my scan pictures whilst simultaneously making notes and asking for my complete obstetric history. I’ve recounted it so often it comes out pat, sounding like a soap opera plot. The battle with infertility, the IVF twins, the baby who died, the natural twin pregnancy resulting in two healthy girls. The risks, the fears, the difficult deliveries. And now a diagnosis; a simple reason for the absence of periods.
“You have Asherman’s Syndrome“
I do remember the disclaimer my husband signed on my behalf as I drifted in and out of consciousness; I remember their reluctance to perform a D&C so soon after delivery, despite my insistence that I had a retained placenta. I remember the risks they outlined; to my recovery, to my health, to my fertility. But I also remember that I’d have died without intervention. So where was the choice?
And now there will be no more children.
“It won’t affect you” she said, “it’s not important for you”.
But it is important. It’s important because it’s my body, it’s my life, it’s my fertility, and it’s my CHOICE. That’s what I wanted to tell her. But of course I didn’t. What I did was to start crying. Silently at first, tears rolling down my cheeks as she explained I couldn’t ever conceive or carry a child. That I would continue getting the pains as I was still ‘mechanically menstruating’ and would need to continue with contraception to guard against ectopic pregnancy. That I may need a hysterectomy. That at 33 I serve no useful purpose as a woman.
I know I’ve had my children. I know I didn’t plan for more, and I know there are thousands of women out there who have none, and who yearn for them. I don’t place myself in their shoes now, although I once walked in them, and will never forget the pain they caused. I know how very lucky I am. But you see, my family will always be one child short, because I will never again hold in my arms the boy who should be sleeping upstairs. We live in a society where we encourage women to embrace their right to choose. Yet sometimes we have no choice at all.