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Discretion – by Tabitha

1 Sep

I had an antenatal check-up at a fancy international hospital in Bangkok while we were there. I was super-excited about going, because the hospital is the kind of place worshipped by medical tourists from all around the world for its service and facilities. I had heard rumours that its delivery suites were like five-star hotel rooms, and the ultrasounds were conducted in 4D, one more dimension than anyone could possible ever need.

Indeed it was pretty flash, and did have a hotel-like vibe about it, apart from all the nurses in crisp white hats milling around. It certainly didn’t feel like your typical, sterile hospital. For example, when you walked in, the first thing you saw was not triage nurses but a whole row of receptionists devoted to handling your bill and your insurance forms.

Also, upon arrival you are issued with with a photo ID, complete with barcode. I thought I wouldn’t need this barcode since I was only planning on visiting the hospital once, but no, it was scanned at least five times during our one visit. Turns out it was less like a five-star hotel and more like a factory.

I was hugely disappointed with the incompetent doctor that we saw, but when I was ushered into a special, separate consultation room for a gynaecological examination, my disappointment turned to fury. The nurse in this room asked me to take off my underpants, which I did, with one deft flick of the wrist, as I was wearing a skirt. Then she looked aghast and said “No, toilet!” and pointed to the toilet. I asked if I was supposed to give a urine sample, but again she just pointed and said “Toilet!” So I went in, and laid out before me, as in some day spa, were special “modesty wraps” which you were apparently supposed to wear. While you were lying on your back, knees wide and legs in stirrups for an internal medical examination.

Now, I don’t like flashing my gash to anyone, but the idea that a gynaecological examination should be done “discreetly” is just insulting, especially when it seems the whole “modesty wrap” business wasn’t for the customer’s – sorry, patient’s – benefit but for the nurse and the doctor’s.

I was thinking about this experience recently because I had my first visit to the Canberra Hospital this week. It’s a big, sterile hospital but I felt completely comfortable there. I talked to the midwives about some of the things I had heard about hospital birth experiences, and they answered everything by saying, “You can do whatever you want, however you want”. They said you can give birth in whatever position feels best, on the bed, on the floor, in the shower, using a birth ball (I don’t know what this is), and presumably, in the nuddy, without a modesty wrap in sight. I was so pleased to be back in Australia. Then, and at so many other times since being back, I have soaked up the sensation of “being on the same page” with people around me. Plus, the visit was entirely free.


Discretion – by Beth

30 Aug

What percentage of our lives are dealt up to us vs. things we have some choice over? Do we ever really have control over anything/anyone/ourselves, or is control a big illusion/false economy?

I have thought about variations on this question roughly a thousand times since having a child. I haven’t come up with any real answers, but I know that I wrestle with it a lot. I’m all like: “Look at me, no hands, I’m going with the flow!”, followed one hour later with “I don’t like this feeling anymore! Get me outta here!”

Control. Choice. Freedom. All concepts that are so incredibly loaded in our society. We can be paralysed by too much choice, and surely we can be paralysed by feeling we don’t have enough. I’ve been to both ends of that spectrum, but the too little choice one sucked the most.

Just this week a friend of mine had a baby, and in an email mentioned how she had felt out of control during the birth and that she was looking forward to “getting some control back” post-birth. So challenging for any new parent, especially those used to working in a predictable environment and mainly interacting with adults (i.e. most new parents).

I listened to this podcast tonight about – an interview with David Eagleman about his book on the unconscious mind. There were a couple of things about it that really stuck with me in connection with this topic:

  • “there’s a lot of other literature showing that it’s quite bad for the body to hold secrets. You get an elevation of stress hormones … in fact there’s a group at UT Austin that’s been looking at this for a while. When they have people write down their secrets, even anonymously, or even just in a journal, their stress hormone levels go down. Their number of doctor visits goes down.”
  • Secondly he talked about two examples of men who were driven to terrible crimes purely by having brain tumours pressing on particular parts of their brains. One guy killed 13 people and wounded 33 in a shooting. In his own suicide note he said he was sure there was something wrong with his brain, and sure enough the autopsy showed a brain tumour pressing on a part of his brain dealing with agression.
  • “Currently in the legal system there’s this myth of equality. And the assumption is if you are over 18 and you have an IQ of over 70, then all brains are created equal. And, of course, that’s a very charitable idea but it’s demonstrably false. Brains are extraordinarily different from one another. Brains are essentially like fingerprints; we’ve all got them but they’re somewhat different. And so by imagining that everyone has the exact same capacity for decision-making, for understanding future consequences, for squelching their impulsive behavior and so on, what we’re doing is we’re imagining that everybody should be treated the same. And, of course, what has happened is that our prison system has become our de facto mental health care system. Estimates are that about 30 percent of the prison population has some sort of mental illness.”

I’m tired. Going to show some discretion and get to bed.