My father the gynecologist


GPs and specialists alike usually commend me on my grasp of medical terminology. They find it hard to understand that a ‘commoner’ can ask them about karyotypes, talk about genes, and show concern about the length of the cervix during the second trimester of pregnancy.

The mere fact that I can utter the word ‘vagina’ and ‘penis’ without blushing is sometimes weird for them. I guess they assume most pregnant women won’t say those words… but how do they expect women to talk about their health and that of their offspring if they can’t even use the correct terminology?

Since I was two or three years old,  I was exposed to all sorts of medical terms and literature. My father, Dr M, was an obstetrician gynecologist who, besides having his private practice worked at a public hospital. He loved his job and delivered hundredths of babies safely into this world.

From an early age, I was well versed in pregnancy, C-sections, and natural births. I knew what an ultrasound was and was allowed to play with the machine whenever I visited my father’s practice. When I heard the word ‘episiotomy’ for the first time, he explained what it was without taboos. When I mistakenly opened a drawer filled with tiny pills that looked like candy and naively asked my father if I could have some, he smiled and told me what they were. I was 9 or 10 years old.

When I turned 16 and told Dr M that I wanted to see a C-section because I wanted to be a doctor,  he was over the moon. Unfortunately, I fainted when the anesthesiologist showed me the needle he was gonna use for the epidural…

Although I didn’t go to med school because I faint every time I see blood, I’ve always found medicine fascinating, and for years edited a health magazine.

I don’t need Dr Google to tell me all the things that can go wrong during pregnancy. I know them by heart. I don’t need my gynecologist obstetrician to tell me that I need to be careful or to explain what preclampsia or placenta previa is. I know what they are, and they scare me to death.

When I spotted, I rushed to the ER at Prince of Wales Hospital. After three hours, the doctor told me: “If you’re having a miscarriage there’s nothing I can do”.

I was flabbergasted. She left me in a grayish room and laughed with her supervisor about my situation. “She wants an ultrasound, give her a referral to the Royal Women’s Early Pregnancy Unit and let her go,” I heard someone told her.  When she came back, I wanted so punch her in the face, but I didn’t. I didn’t want an ultrasound to see my baby, I wanted to make sure he was OK.

As a patient, one doesn’t expect this kind of treatment. Even if it’s true that at 8 weeks there’s little that can be done to save a baby, that’s not what one wants to hear. A bit of compassion and manners are an asset for any doctor. At the end, the doctor just told me. “If the bleeding gets any heavier come back.”

Back at home, I curled up and sobbed. The one thing I wanted was my dad, who has been dead for 18 years.

I would give anything to have him here with me now, to call him and ask “I’m spotting, to which hospital shall I go? Is my obstetrician good enough? I think I want an elective C-section because my anxiety is getting worse?” He would have been my coach and the only person who could put me and my husband at ease, but he’s not here.

Sometimes I try to image what he would say or do. Probably, he would just smile and tell me to relax and enjoy the pregnancy… Maybe he would be as paranoid as I’m because… well… this is his grandson. In the meantime, I just try to think that wherever he’s, he’s taking good care of us — and keeping an eye on my obstetrician.

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