This site is intended for health professionals only

Dr Hana Patel: Dedicated to the child I will never have

‘Imagine you are drinking pink champagne,’ said the kind anaesthetist who was seeing me again in his anaesthetic room at the hospital.

Pink champagne… if only I could go back to that time, remembering drifting off into oblivion and leaving all my worries behind.

I never thought I would be a patient so early on in my life, getting my repeat prescription in on time at my GP surgery, becoming friends with the ladies in the surgical assessment team as I went in for my seventh operation thus far.

However, the desire to have my own child has led me thinking about pink champagne as I drift off to the best sleep that I’ll ever have. Making me ruminate back to waking up after my first surgical procedure, to be told that I would never have my own child without the aid of IVF, and remembering the gynaecologist walking away as I burst into tears, leaving me to look despairingly into the eyes of the kind nurse who was looking after me, and let my husband come in to comfort me.

Or the time when another gynaecologist told me before I was having my sixth anaesthetic in 18 months, very matter of factly, that I had a condition called Asherman’s Syndrome caused by ‘exuberate scraping away’ at my last D&C, and that I would never carry my own child.

Cue more tears as I watched her walk away, trying not to take her delivery of this awful news as a reflection of how she would harvest my eggs in the next five minutes.

Doctors are never sure how to treat one of their own. Delivering devastating news as if triggering a hand grenade and placing it gently in my hands, watching me from a distance as it explodes like the heart breaking news that it is.

Another GP colleague advised me to ‘get over it’ and wonders why I am always busy and unable to have coffee with her. It is interesting how we are compassionate towards our patients, but can never seem to find that compassion when a colleague or peer has medical issues.

It hurts even more, I feel, because I know the statistics, likelihood ratios, outcomes and all the other statistical terms that eluded me during medical school. I have found mumsnet a veritable source of untapped information that even the fertility clinics are unaware of, an underground mine of information that no leaflet, counsellor or gynaecologist can tell me. I find myself clutching that article talking about ‘bee propolis in IVF’ and sharing it with my GP, who watches me with sadness in her eyes.

And then I realise – I have become a patient. One who does not like to be around other pregnant women and babies, as it reminds her of her own inability to procreate, that she is failure. And where does that leave a female GP, whose core work is seeing these patients?

Dr Hana Patel is a GP in south-east London

Click here to read all the entries to Pulse’s annual writing competition ‘Turning Tables’