My dear gynaecologist,

I’ve had better starts to the year. Ones that didn’t involve waking up every day convinced I was about to die.

Of course, we both know by now I’m a hysteric — granted no longer a term in clinical use, but in any corner where medics gather to gossip the concept burns as bright as ever. Don’t tell me that it doesn’t.

You did me a favour by pretending not to notice the babble of neurosis that accompanied my visits. The same babble that ushered in the fertile years, returned afresh to chaperone their exit. Fecundity bookended by emotional frenzy: the symmetry is almost perfect.

Maybe you’d heard it all before, the crazy-speak, or maybe it just brought some variety to your day (neuroses not being your department after all). I want you to know that, had you decided to hand me over to the specialists on the secure wing, I wouldn’t have blamed you in the least.

Was it not Hippocrates who came up with the idea of the ‘wandering womb’? That a bodily organ could float unfettered around the torso, causing chaos, casting spells? That it behaved like an animal and disliked the smell of garlic. The father of medicine, apparently?

But I digress.

You see, I’ve always been a deadline junkie, hooked on adrenaline, buzzing towards the finish line on the rush of a hormonal high.

When it came to doing last minute, I never suffered from self-doubt. Even as I saw 40 go whizzing past, it didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t be able to pop one out with seconds to spare. It was left to you to explain that, this time, the usual drill did not apply; my shiny and extended youth had reached the end of its elastic.

By the way, I never did thank you for the New Year card you sent. We were days away from surgery at that point. I was a mess.

The next time we met, you were dressed in scrubs. The anaesthetist by your side, she was working a thick cannula into the back of my hand, saying: ‘This one’s in case we need to get some blood into you in a hurry. Ten seconds from unconsciousness, I didn’t need to know that. I was struggling as it was with the idea of dying on the operating table: my guts open, bleeding out. I could have done without her validating that possibility at the exact moment I was prevented from doing a single thing about it.

I have to use my imagination to picture what happened next: that first incision, then your gloved hands reaching into my abdomen to sever ligaments and tie off veins. On waking up again, your face was close to mine. ‘All done,’ you said, and I was back in the room, but not quite whole.

It takes some getting used to, this strange intimacy. Not sexual. Not familial. The body given over to another in abject surrender, my signature on the consent form in case of any doubt.

Call it the after effects of sedation, but in the days following I was obsessed with the thought that I should have gone into medicine, ignoring completely that I had no talent for science and even less for maths.

When I returned for a check-up, the story about your own hysterectomy came as a surprise. I don’t know why, I suppose I thought a gynaecologist would somehow be exempt. As if swearing the Oath meant you knew how to swerve whatever shit the mid-life body decides to throw your way.

I’d said goodbye to my womb already. I said it on the way to the hospital when I wanted it to all be gone. I’d say goodbye to you too were it not that we’re now bound forever; the connection between us has been made indelible, stained red on the inside, scarred deep into skin.


For This Relief, Much Thanks

"Worried, even certain, will die on upcoming Peru trip — card-carrying hypochondriac — so jotting down some instructions for you."