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08/12/2003

Completion

When the hospital called around 4 o'clock, we headed over. As soon as I got off the elevator on the surgical floor, I panicked. My heart started pounding and I realized I was sweating. No, no, no, I thought, I shouldn't be here. It's not too late to go home. It's not too late to get out of this.

I don't know what I'd expected, but when I saw the alcove where I was supposed to undress and wait, everything in me rebelled. This was a hospital, where people have operations. Surgery. Major medical interventions. This couldn't be right. I shouldn't be here.

Oh.

Wait.

I kept feeling this rising tide of panic, which I tried to beat back by reminding myself that nothing I could do would save the pregnancy, which was already over.

As Paul parked the car, I got settled in my alcove, changing into a gown and slipper-socks, getting my blood drawn, and generally trying to stave off a system-wide freakout. Every doctor and nurse who stopped by had a kind word, making me cry all over again each time. Every gentle pat on the knee. It's the kindness that gets me — as long as everyone is matter-of-fact I can hold myself together.

My usual doctor stopped by and asked if it was okay if someone else did the operation — he'd been in the OR since early that morning. "I don't care if the parking lot attendant does it," I answered, "as long as it gets done," and managed a bleat that passed for laughter.

Now a brief digression while I ponder this question: Why do I need to entertain my doctors? And why am I so intent on seeming impervious to every dreadful thing that's happened? And how scarily robotic does that make me seem? Truth be known, one of the main reasons I trust my usual doctor is that he seems only occasionally nonplussed by my primary personal coping mechanism: breathtakingly inappropriate humor.

We had a short discussion about the current score. One ectopic, one miscarriage. I'm 0 for 2! Maybe next time we can go for the hat trick. We talked briefly about the possibility of doing another IUI with injectibles rather than a full-blown IVF, but agreed to come back to that in a couple of weeks. I wasn't entirely equipped to be making major decisions just at that moment.

Then the anaesthesiologist came in. After a cursory inspection, I was relieved to conclude that he didn't look like a junkie. We had an awkward moment when he asked me if I was here for "completion." I didn't know what he meant. "Are you pregnant?" he asked. And I didn't know what to answer. Yes, there's an embryo inside of me. No, it's not alive. Completion. Indeed.

Finally, around 7 PM, I was wheeled into the operating room. An oxygen mask was fitted over my nose and mouth. The anaesthetic was introduced into my IV. Next thing I knew, I was awake, unspeakably groggy, smelling smoke.

Burned toast. The nurses give toast to patients emerging from the anaesthetic, a kind and merciful act considering that I hadn't eaten all day. When I felt well enough, I ate some toast (buttered, white, delicious) and drank a little water. Correction: Since they wouldn't let me leave until I'd proven I could urinate normally, I drank a lot of water.

At one point the nurse asked me if I was in any pain. "A bit of cramping," I answered, expecting to be given a couple of punk-ass Tylenols. To my surprise, I got a scrumptious hit of morphine right to the IV. I was shocked by how quickly it took effect; within five seconds I was feeling just fine, thank you. So I didn't win the jackpot — at least there was a nice little consolation prize.

Once I'd made it to the bathroom and demonstrated my urinary prowess, we were cleared to go home. I dressed, keeping on the funky disposable underpants I'd been diapered in while still unconscious, and Paul drove us back home. Two Tylenol with codeine, for forgetfulness, and I was out like a light.

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