It’s funny how sometimes, long after the fact, you start questioning your levels of care and competence.
During my first rotation of internship (last year), which was Obstetrics and Gynaecology, I was one of the few interns willing to do pregnancy terminations. (For the purposes of this blog, the matter is not up for debate – I have been pro-choice for nearly half my life, and have thoroughly evaluated my own beliefs.)
Just recently I’ve found myself thinking back on those four months and wondering if I did everything I could, and if I was empathic enough.
OBGYN was a high-stress environment. Delivering babies was gratifying, but being responsible for two lives in a single case scenario is always tough. The infection-risk is high because bodily fluids splash during delivery. The patient load is huge.
And we got stressed. And some days I was not my kindest self. And I’m certain that some days, my levels of empathy were low.
I saw a lot of patients who wanted to terminate their pregnancies, so it stands to reason that I saw some of them on my “tired” days.
I know that my behaviour towards my patients was beyond reproach. I was never rude or insensitive. I know that my clinical care was good because when I did not know what to do, I always involved a senior (which was regularly because I was very junior).
But I think back and I wonder, “Did I do enough?”
Did I make sure my behaviour was such that aborting women knew they had a supporter in me? Did I ensure them that they were not being judged? That they did not need to explain themselves to me?
When they left my consulting room into a world where they most likely could not tell anybody of what had happened, did they leave knowing that at least one person was in their corner?
Most importantly: did they leave feeling empowered?
Because choosing to terminate is not just a matter of discontinuing an unwanted pregnancy. It’s not just a matter of choice, of a right hard-won. It’s a matter of being empowered to make decisions about one’s life and one’s future; and in this way it signifies the control she can take of other aspects of her life, too.
Did my patients feel empowered?
I don’t know.
But this single thought has me wishing I could go back, and do those four months again.