The patient is the one with the disease. Legendary words from “House of God” serve as a coarse reminder to maintain a healthy perspective and emotional boundary from our patients. But what about when the rules break and the doctor is sick?
I’ve never really questioned my body’s function before. There have been times I wished it were faster or stronger or thinner; from a young age I’ve been overly aware of the shape of my hips and get reminded about other peoples opinions on my figure frequently. But it’s a body. And I’ve always believed that I am more than my body, and my body is more than how it looks. Its harder to keep this distance when my body seems to be letting me down in real, non-optical ways.
We’ve been trying to get pregnant for 8 months now. Still technically within normal, but feels like an eternity. Briefly we thought we were working towards our family when I was pregnant in July; but sadly that pregnancy didn’t stay. I was so shocked. I know that early pregnancy loss is as common as 1:4, but I didn’t think it could happen to me. Especially not now, when the world is falling apart.
As we worked through our grief, in the back of my head, the competitive problem solver not-so-secretly just thought, “ok so now I can get pregnant, I’m sure it’ll just happen again next cycle”. But it didn’t. Not only that, but shortly after that next cycle started, I couldn’t ignore my severe abdominal pain. I’ve felt these twinges before- always assuming it was an ovarian cyst or some other vague, non-serious abdominal abnormality. Suddenly I wondered, could it be endometriosis? Could there be something actually wrong in there that’s affecting my fertility? The jury is still out on how it affected my fertility; but we did discover the cause was acute on chronic appendicitis, which I’ve apparently been ignoring for months. Years? Suddenly my body was failing me in a new way. Three hours of surgery left me in pain, intolerant of eating or drinking, unable to pee and exhausted. Nothing makes you more aware of your body than staying in the hospital. Poked and woken up ever few hours, strangers leaving nothing to privacy, literally filling you with tubes to move the fluid in and out when your body can’t do it for herself.
For years I’ve been demanding so much from my body, without giving her much in return. I’m not talking about clean eating, or shredding a workout. I’m talking about really listening to what my body needs. Medical training taught me to ignore the urge to pee, sleep, eat- taught me to hold my body at the absolute limit in service of my mind and my patients. Maybe she’s letting me know that things need to be more of a two-way street; and I can’t just demand performance without more attention to myself. Perhaps my blame is misplaced.
What if my body isn’t broken? As a loving friend asked me, “what if pregnancy loss has nothing to do with my the worth of my body?” What if she’s drawing on nature and intuition to do exactly what she should? Wisdom in my bones knew that my pregnancy wasn’t going to turn into our long-awaited baby, and that the chronic inflammation in my abdomen needed more urgent attention than I was giving it in order to move forward. As I think back over this summer, maybe I can have a new feeling towards my body; gratitude. That even when my plans and my body’s are at cross-purposes; I can trust she’s working for me anyway.