Most married women report being unhappy in their marriages while their male counterparts report feeling loved and secure in the same marriages, according to research. Women experienced more doubts than men regarding the love of their partner for them. There is a new wave of, quote-unquote, feminists who disregard marriage and have made it their mission to impart their sentiments on anyone who cares to listen. Well, not me.
Despite the negative attitude that my camaraderie harbored against marriage as a union, it never stopped me. Having been raised in a Christian, monogamous family, I was without a doubt family oriented and I believed in lineage. Being in medical school did not stop me either. I wish this was hearsay but I came across statistics that stated that a good number of women doctors are either married, divorced or single mothers. Tell me, who would make such a harsh conclusion? Or is it not harsh when it is the truth? I will let you be the judge of that. If you ask me, I would say it is as if you are set up to fail from day one. A lot of people speak ill of marriage and not once have I witnessed a married couple that were truly happy yet the pressure from the same unhappily married couples to get married is immense and unrelenting. My dad would equate this to coming across a manhole, acknowledging that the manhole may result in demise and choosing to jump regardless. It depicts lack of gumption. That did not stop me either.
I could lie and paint you a college love story of how my husband and I met in medical school and had a happily ever after but you and I know that’s for the fairies, soap operas and Disneyland to preach. I digress. We had been together for three years now and as is expected, the pressure from our extended families to birth a child could not go ignored more so because we had spent close to a decade completing medical school. The working hours took everything from us, the constant burnout but no one cares, right? They wanted a child and so did we because why not?
I remember that day vividly because it has been less than a fortnight since I had my bloody tragedy.
It had been a morning like any other. My eyes ached from lack of sleep, my arms and legs could sing if they had a voice from all the constant, repetitive movements that I started to suspect were taking a toll on my lower back at such a young age. This concerned me but I had bigger fish to fry. Rotating in the maternity ward, as the medical officer intern, you are the lighthouse. Everything is on you. Well, as it should be but the patient inflow rarely equates to the staff available. It is worse when you are the only doctor on call as I was. I was stressed, exhausted, sleepless and pregnant. Since I was on call that week both day and night, I had not slept that night since I was busy performing cesarean sections on the complicated pregnancies that came as referrals. Also, I was needed in the ward in case of any emergencies, as is expected. I had managed to grab one hour of sleep before I was rudely awakened by my phone to go an commence the ward round as usual. I was half dazed, half awake. I grabbed my stethoscope and slipped on my lab coat, washed my face and sauntered towards the newborn unit where we were to begin the ward round. After about an hour, I started feeling some sort of dizziness that I brushed off as tiredness because that came with the job. Self-neglect is a real issue amongst professionals resulting in a number of them developing the chronic fatigue syndrome. This is why we should always check up on our colleagues to ensure they don’t overstretch themselves in the name of service because what use would they be to their patients if they are burned out? But rest is a luxury one cannot afford when you are the only one responsible. What then do you do when you are burned out and cannot afford to rest? It is a dark road I do not want to explore at this moment.
Three hours into the ward round, I started experiencing mild abdominal cramping that I attributed to the pregnancy and again, brushed off. In the afternoon, as I was about to scrub in for another cesarean section, I felt sudden wetness between my thighs and what felt like a slight gush of fluid. My eyes bulged out of their pockets as I ran to seek privacy and yanked my innerwear open. I could not believe my eyes. I almost fainted and had to hold the bathroom walls to steady myself because I HAD TO perform this operation even with the abortion in my pants because if I did not, then the patient would die and it was too late to get another doctor to go in. the patient had already been wheeled in. I phoned one of the nurses pronto and since pads could not hold all that blood, I asked her for the large gauzes and prayed that they won’t get fully soaked and start leaking before I finished the surgery. I expected it to be a quick one, no major complications were anticipated. As I sat on that bathroom toilet, I wanted to cry but could not. Who wants to notice that their doctor had been crying? I wanted to call my husband but time was not a luxury I had in that moment. I had to soldier on and honor my oath, to alleviate pain and prolong life.
I had a spontaneous abortion right before my operation.
The surgery ended pretty quickly because I had an assistant and immediately those scrubs came off, I was ready to take in a deep breath, sit down, call my husband, face my demons, perhaps call a colleague for a medical opinion since I knew exactly what was going on lakini mganga hajigangi. The irony! Just when I thought I could catch a break, I couldn’t! my shift was hours away from being over and I was required in the ward to do a Manual Vacuum Aspiration in a girl who had an incomplete abortion. Abortions are a common fining in the gynecology ward but performing this procedure when I hadn’t even had time to mourn for my own, left be at a loss.
‘Daktari, there is a patient with post-datism and we need to deliver immediately…’ one nurse went on. I could barely hear her over my own jumbled thoughts and tired mind.
‘Daktari, where have you been?’ another chorused
‘Daktari, kuna mgonjwa wangu hapa…’ a relative to one of the patients said.
‘Daktari, we need you in the newborn unit. We need to resuscitate!’ another nurse urged while they tagged at my arm.
I had had enough!
Plus, the gauzes would soon start dripping with blood and my mind could not think straight in that moment. I will admit it. I felt confused. I had decided to break my husband the news in person and it was gut-wrenching trying to picture the conversation in my head because of all the sacrifices we had made to conceive this child and yet, I lost it for what I offered my sacrificial commitment to.
If that’s not life having a wicked sense of humor and dancing Azonto on my life, then please, enlighten me on other sources of such a wicked sense of humor.
Since then, I have been long reflecting on what could have been done differently and have come up with nothing. Spontaneous abortions occur mostly in the first trimester and 50% of abortion have no known cause. Except my bloody tragedy. It did have a known cause. And for a split second I wished it fell amongst the idiopathic 50%. Maybe then, it would be easier to forgive myself. To forgive the exhaustion that was out of my control and to still hold my passion towards reproductive health and my rotation in the maternity ward which was by far, my worst because of the incessant workload.
Indeed, life has a wicked sense of humor.