“'D'you know what happens when you hurt people?' Ammu said. 'When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That's what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.'”—from ‘The God Of Small Things’ - Arundhati Roy
- Finalised project plans for my BMedSci for next year with Professor R.
- Randomly bumped into the child psychologist masters student and his girlfriend on the train home from the city one night (after dinner and coffee with friends). He’d only met me twice briefly in clinic but he remembered me enough to say hello! I actually walked by him the first time thinking he was waving at someone else and not knowing who he was ><. They’re such a cute couple :) It was a nice train ride.
-Found $70 in the back pocket of a pair of jeans I haven’t worn since Year 1 :)
- The team I had chosen to support in the footy this season won!! HAAAAA. Go Geelong Cats! *jumps up and down*.
- Discovered a love for affrogatos.
- San Churos is my new favourite coffee place in the city (not that I had one previously).
- Made a new friend in Frankston — the midwifery student with me on the ward. She’s really sweet, we share births and have food together.
- Was stranded at Frankston station (the most scary dodgy place in the world) on Saturday night. Just as I was panicking because I’d missed the last bus by seconds and there was no other way other than to walk to the hospital in pitch black in an infamous rape/stabbing district. Suddenly saw someone I knew standing at the empty cab shelter, out of the blue! How random and miraculous. Waited for an hour at the cab stand and shared a cab in the middle of the night with her and 5 other random guys we had met at shelter. They were loud, roudy, singing, and scary looking — in the end they turned out to be navy guys and 1 airforce officer. And they paid for our cab fee. <3
- Took Tuesday off after my meeting with Professor Rosenfeldt to enjoy the brilliant weather.
- New shoes <3<3
- Midautumn festival is coming up. I love it :)
- Finally found out the name of my favourite sushi place for the last 3 years! I always go there, but I never remember what it’s called because the sign is really obscure. (They gave me a business card because they were full one night…but…=_= then I lost it. So now I don’t know it again).
- A mummy giving birth had really nice perfume on. Reminded me of some friends I hadn’t seen in a while in NZ. Felt happy.
- Saw some really really lovely women who are wonderful mothers. I wanna be as elegant as them when I’m in pain like that..
- Jonny got a job in Singapore! :) He’s gone on a business trip there to finalise, but I’m so proud of him.
- Life-changing moment: Saw a vacuum delivery where the obstetrician (a polite, british chap) walked in, calmed the chaos of the birthing room, gently talked the frightened woman who looked so distressed, coached her, did the impossible and delivered the baby that would have killed her otherwise, and breezed out after congratulating her. It was like he was god, walking in, pulling off a miracle, then cheerfully and with good humour walking out after apologising. He, apparently, had 2 more lives to change/save downstairs in theatre. (Decided on the spot that he will deliver my kids if I ever have them. He is the nicest, most reassuring person I’ve seen).
- The previously mentioned new dress is size 8 and needs to be taken in.
- Was on-call last weekend — from Saturday night to Monday night with only 4 hours of sleep (1 hour on Saturday, 3 hours on Sunday) in a bunk bed without a heater.
- The previous mentioned on call weekend involved continuous labour ward rosters (from 7am Sunday - 3am Monday and 7am-6pm on Monday)
- Discovered on Monday night as I was leaving that there was in fact a heater…in a closet that I didn’t know existed next to the room I was in. =_=
- Didn’t get to deliver any babies myself this time (things going wrong + midwives not too keen + mothers anxious each time).
- My regular study group was cancelled this week. I was kind of looking forward to it (nerdy, I know).
- After I came home from the weekend, I smelt like amniotic fluid, meconium, blood, faeces and urine. It stayed in my hair. Turned up for my BMedSci meeting without having showered after all of that. I’d fallen straight asleep the previous day after I’d gotten home and gotten up almost too late. HORRIBLE PRESENTATION.
- Looked doped up due to lack of sleep at ward rounds — Dr. Ford (the really nice obstetrician I mentioned previously) probably thought I was a horrible student. As luck would have it, he’s on ward duty this week.
- Had to press the giant red ‘emergency’ button in one lady’s labour (foetus was distressed on the foetal heart monitor).
- Got rained on. Badly.
- My washing has been out on the line for 3 weeks. It keeps getting wet with the weather while I am not at home so I keep having to leave it out there to dry. It never dries.
- My [more-expensive-than-I-usually-buy] new shoes, which I hadn’t worn before, got chewed out by my flatmates’ dog while I was sleeping over at the hospital over the weekend. There’s also a puncture hole in my favourite pair of shoes from a sharp canine.
- Am a week behind on EBCP weekly tasks, and 6 weeks behind on my health economics modules. :S
- Brian keeps bugging me to do something for him that I (for really weird reasons) feel uncomfortable doing. —it’s such an ordinary everyday task too…I dunno why I am so :S about it. And I can’t tell him either, coz it’d come out weird.
- Some friends are going through a hard time so….I guess recently has been a bit stressful for everyone.
- Exams are in 6 weeks. I realised my average needs uplifting so I should really really put effort in this one.
- Keep skipping class as travel time sometimes is equivalent to class time if I have only one thing scheduled. (3 hours! Not worth it)
- Forgot that I had an EBCP assignment. It turns out it’s due next week.
- Squelched home in blood splattered shoes. A woman had dropped a 200ml blood clot and it scattered in a 3 metre radius (I was standing next to her). Not even alcohol wipes from the ward could clean it off.
- Does anyone know how to move blood from pants? Blood and pieces of placenta/birth sac remnant…
The days are getting longer - even the curtains of rain don’t fool me. I can sense it in the formation of mornings, awoken so early by Canon In D.
Recent days have been long and draining for no reason. Perhaps fatigue plays a factor but I suspect it’s a small one. I don’t want to see anyone. I don’t want to go anywhere. I just want to catch up on sleep endlessly, like a rolly-polly bear.
The thing that cheers me up most is baking. Last Saturday, on a whim and with access to friends’ cars, I bought a cookie sheet and some muffin tins. Chuan Tai came over and helped me make chocolate chip cookies. He grouched all the way through it like it was a tortuous affair and didn’t seem to know how to use a whisk. Still, the house filled up with warm, buttery smells and I realised how much more like a home it felt.
What else can I tell you about my days? Only this — An awkward phone call here and there, some time with friends. A lot of time reading things and looking out the window of buses and trains, some time wandering around little townships and avoiding eye contact with packs of teenagers skipping school and drinking vodka out of drink bottles.
Everyday seemed a little less coherent than the next for so long. It’s so easy to lose yourself in the throng, to lose end of where one day begins and the next ends. I have the most disturbed sleep pattern second to Been’s normal ones, I seem to have some kind of crazy angioedema thing going on, and in general I am exhausted. There are babies everywhere…except in my hands. I had a meeting with a group that I really wanted to do a project with over summer that didn’t seem to go too well.
Then, one day, a miraculous thing happened. Transferring from the 888 to Chelsea to the Frankston train at Edithvale station, I smelt it. A brief, full, chilling smell that half consisted of the water and the rocks of the shore — the sea! We were still a long way off from the beach but there it was. At first I’d imagined it, but I could recognise that smell anywhere.
I haven’t smiled so widely in a long time.
Yes, it’s chaos. I’d like to say I hate it…but isn’t life all about this kind of mess?
Until last week, I had always been pro-choice without thinking too much about it.
No abortions are done in public hospitals. However, what we do surgically for a woman who has miscarried and retained bits of the dead tissue inside her is actually exacly the same as what we’d do to terminate a pregnancy in a woman who does not want to have a baby. (We also do the same procedure to confirm if someone has endometrial cancer because it’s basically us scraping tissue from the surface of the uterus).
One night after midnight I was in theatre trying to consent a woman to let me do a pelvic exam on her while asleep. She had miscarried her first child - 8 weeks. She told me she’d planned this child for ages, and she’d had such high hopes. She was smiling and sheepish when she told me, but I laid a hand on her shoulder and told her that I was sorry, and that there will be others. She took my hand and began to cry.
When they put her to sleep, she was afraid. As with all women who’d miscarried, she was bleeding. It wasn’t my first vaginal exam on a D & C, nor was it my first patient with a miscarriage but somehow, after I comfirmed an open cervix, I had a surreal moment of watching blood and bits of tissue seep out into my gloved palm on withdrawing my hand.
This could have been part of a baby. A loved, wanted child. At 8 weeks, there would have been a heartbeat.
Watching the registrar perform the procedure itself, I felt something in me form. It’s not often you can pinpoint a single moment that would impact on the rest of your life, how you are in a certain aspect of it.
The next week at a bus stop in Mornington, a group of wayward teens also came to wait. There were 6 boys and 2 love-struck looking girls giggling and following them, blushing when they yanked on to them and pashed madly. They ran out on the street and at driving cars who swerved to miss them and laughed. They had bottles of gin with them and I’m sure they were underage.
They left me alone largely, except to ask me for a lighter that I didn’t have at the beginning of the hour-long wait.
One of them passed me and said, “Fucking Chinese people.”
Girl A giggled insanely (grasping the boy’s arm like he was her hero). She was dressed like a well-cared for girl - pink cardigan, jeans, brown hair. I suddenly pictured her pregnant one day, sitting in a toilet of a shopping mall with a home pregnancy in her lap and how frightened she’d be. I thought of how she’d get a termination and how I might be the person who would have to do it someday.
I was struck with the violent urge to take her aside, scare her and make her cry. I wanted to shove her back into school where she belonged. You could end up here, I wanted to say, in a scenario a bit like ‘A Christmas Carol’: 2 ghostly girls standing where I stood in theatre, watching blood and tissue trickle into my cupped hands.
I wanted to ask her if her mother knew.
Young girls get exploited so much. Not just by young boys — other girls too. It happened to a couple of people at EGGS. In retrospect, I had only been mildly surprised at a docile girl hanging out with a troublemaking group while I had been in high school.
Last summer I happened to spend some time with A, someone I knew through Graphics and Design at school. Listen to A. talk to me about what she’d been made to do by those crowds of girls whom she idolised, I felt sad. She still idolised them. That made me a little sadder.
Weird, even when we were at school and careless, we all knew who they were. Admit it. Anyone reading this will immediately picture someone they went to school with — these girls with low self-esteem. They usually were a little overweight, pale looking. Sometimes they wore glasses. They weren’t academically bright. They were usually quiet and eager to please. Most importantly, they were easily influenced, easily manipulated. They wanted to give you everything if you paid attention to them or included them.
A.’s self esteem is still really low, but it’s gotten a lot better now. Weird, the more I think of it, the more girls like that come to mind. B.P., who nobody except me would talk to in Year 10 because she had an eating disorder — in the end she gave me a lovely card and I felt bad (and bewildered) because I had actually done nothing out of the ordinary. B.H., who would talk to me endlessly about ponies and catch the bus with me, who one day after summer break ran up to me and shyly whispered that she’d slept with a boy and that I was the only person who knew; soon after, that she was pregnant.
She disappeared from school a little later, but recently I found her again on Facebook.
I think everyone turned out alright, in the end. The road to happiness is long, but there are multiple routes.
But that’s the thing though, isn’t it?
Everyone has a story to tell. Even when they come in with their large bellies and happy smiles or holding the hand of their partner or mother, I wonder what kind of lives they’ve had. Maybe a peaceful one, full of stoves and warm kitchens. Maybe one filled with loss?
Sometimes you learn things not just about the patients, but about the people who look after them.
(Koop is an amazing group. I say group, not band - it consists of 2 people who chop and paste millisecond soundbites from different music and recreate these stitched up pieces into sweeping 1920s-Parisian-like swing / haunting tracks with guest singers singing on top).
It’s 12:31am now, admist the shambles of my room. Laundry day has been and gone and the floor is piled with what couldn’t fit into the smaller-than-usual washing machine. I’ve even sorted them vaguely into colours, more a whim than anything technical.
Twenty minutes ago, I was looking at photographs of the past while trying to pick out a good photo to promote myself for a position on the Med student board at my uni. Ten minutes ago, I told Been I was going to bed. Nine minutes ago, I realised I’d left my washing in the machine. Eight minutes ago, I found I couldn’t sleep.
That’s not saying I don’t want desperately to be happily in a deep coma, ready to start fresh and early tomorrow.
Maybe, just maybe, time could slow down for a while. Just for a little while, while peace descends.
I wish life were a series of still frames that could be replayed or slowed at whim, free to live days or moments over again without aging, without anything.
I have been getting up between 4-5am for a few days now, irritable and diminuative. The world at 4am seems both surreal and bedrudging - cold, dark, the smell of morning mixed confusingly with street lamps and a high-lying moon, too high in the sky to be comfortable. I’ve become more impatient, more demanding if at all possible.
Twilight’s a strange thing. There are people and cars mulling in a pace that midnight does not replicate. Everyone seems to be in a dream, purposeless or wishing they had no purpose at the station. The majority of people hanging around are in bright highlighter jackets, roadworkers on their way to construction.
There’s a particular taste in my mouth when I don’t get enough sleep. Slightly sour, slightly bitter, like coffee left too long on the tongue. It seems to fall from the back of my eyes, down my throat in one big swoop — an uncomfortable feeling.
Everyone is in a similar position, though not always as dramatic as me. Midwife handovers are at 7am if you are on the labour ward and medical handover at 7:45. Unless we are part of the choice few who (for no recommendable reason) secured university accomodation around there, we had to make our own way. People driving still had around half an hour to travel (it takes me up to 1.5-2 hours without a car) and so 6:30am was the leaving time.
"I swear I hear voices," Michael was saying, "when I get up at 6:45am in the morning. 'Go back to bed, Michael’. ‘Don’t get up’. ‘Quit Medicine and work at Coles*, you can still live a sweet life’.” —Coles being one of the two major supermarket chains in Australia.
All in all, it seems unnatural to be outside the womb of my bedsheets and so premature in the world.
The ward reminds me of my mother when she was gravid, and the smell of breast milk (which to this day makes me want to gag) around the house and in her bedroom where she nursed him.
There is an unnatural hush on the ward, in reverence. Midwives rush around carrying towels and papers and wheeling doppler machines.
One thing is true though: Pregnant women are beautiful, glowing, nursing their swollen abdomens like cuddling a cushion while cross-legged on the bed. Pink and shiny faced, even the ones lying on the operating table waiting for the spinal anaesthesia to kick in look expectant, happy. Or at least, the ones that stand out are. There is also the other ones — the tired, overrun ones who are on their 5th child, looking exhausted and unhappy and smelling of cigarettes. Or the young 19 year old who doesn’t seem to care about the wellbeing of her baby.
The vulnerability of women no matter what their attitude is frightens me. Here they are, whatever stage of their life, whatever background. There is nothing glorious about labour, nor is it anywhere near as short and clean as it looks like on movies. Amniotic fluid, urine, faeces, blood, sweat and a baby comes out all at the same time; not to mention most women tear open their vagina, sometimes making a connection to the rectum so that it’s all just one big hole down there.
It is all so degrading and amazing at the same time; I hate how they try and make it seem empowering. It makes me want scream. Motherhood is the empowering part, not this.
It’s only day 5 and every time I see a nulliparous woman or a woman who could potentially have more children walk past, I just think about the potential for her to have that moment in her life, lying on a bed like that, pushing out a baby like an obtund cow with everyone pretending it was the best moment of her life. And then I hate her a little bit on the inside. I hate that weak moment in her life, and the road that it will take to get there, someday.
How is it possible to hate childbirth and be jealous of strangers with children all at the same time?
Maybe I’m projecting my chronic fatigue from running between Clayton and Frankston onto pregnant women in general. I want to like Ob/gyn. I’m hoping the next few weeks are better once I adjust to these sordid times.
“Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the Earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?”—from ‘Sputnik Sweetheart’, by Harumi Murakami
I woke up to the chipper sound of birds and a woman laughing. The sun was painting stripes across my sheets and from the gaps between my second floor venetians, I saw blue sky. I flew into a complete panic.
What time was it? Did I somehow sleep through the morning, inadvertantly standing up someone?
I checked my phone: the later half of 7am. This must be some kind of mistake.
I checked again. Still somewhere on the take side of 8am. The sun was definitely in the sky. Earlier mornings? Bright hellos? This was only the second day of spring!
I rolled over and knew I couldn’t be mad or unhappy or strict or disagreeable or even judgemental about anything today.