Featured Fiction: The Mortal Coil Shuffle

Zoe E. D. Tupling

Our new Featured Fiction

Mindthis Magazine empowers young professionals isolated by mainstream definitions of success. It is therefore fitting that its first piece of featured fiction, based on a collection of firsthand accounts, explores one kind of triumph that never makes it to LinkedIn. If you would like to share your story please reach out to for more information. 

“Claire Pine? The doctor will see you now”.

I smile and decide to shake the nurse’s hand. Y’know, be the change you want to see in the world. We enter the observation room and the French-Canadian doctor gets up to greet me. He seems nice, the kind of man who wears woolly cardigans, leaves a yearly Christmas card for the papergirl, and happens to be moments away from reaching inside me to lay track.

He smiles and I shake his hand. Handshakes for everyone. He keeps smiling and I keep shaking. He lets go first.

Once we’re seated, he goes from pleasantries to my medical history. We covered this last time, so I guess it’s a formality. When Thalia got hers, she passed out. Aurelie threw up during her insertion. Romi, bless her heart, passed out while throwing up and her doctor had to wait for her to regain consciousness before trying again. I bought a pitcher of sangria to celebrate Nasreen’s one year IUD-versary. When I told her my plan to get one, she nodded. “Yes, best thing ever,” downing her glass and speaking through a mouthful of purple orange slices, “but, so we’re clear, Claire-Bear, it hurt worse than my abortion”.

When he finishes reading my chart, he repeats what I already know: because the hormones will be released in a concentrated area, they shouldn’t influence my mood. He doesn’t reference the depression or sex drive desert I experienced on the pill or the week I took off work when a broken condom necessitated Plan B.  

My gaze wanders around the room, settling on a stack of brochures with pictures of perfect wide-eyed babies. Judging me. “Before we proceed, is there anyone you’d like to call who could collect you when it’s all done? The procedure can be quite–”

“I’m all good! Thank you!” I consider reshaking his hand. He looks uncomfortable, caught being both the kind of doctor who wants to look out for my well-being and the kind who trusts women to make decisions for their own bodies. I guess trust wins out because he goes to get the nurse.

After changing into the paper dress that passes for Gynecological Couture, I kill time trying out different positions on the table. Paint me like one of your French girls. After ten minutes, I get back up and start rummaging through my purse. Ignoring my phone, I grab the baggie full of Advil recommended by internet discussion boards. I take two pills, along with half a granola bar, and a big gulp of electrolyte-heavy coconut water.

Everything is fine. Everything is under control.  This is an opportunity to exercise Oprah levels of mindfulness.

30 seconds of enlightenment later, I empty my purse on the examination table, suddenly mindful of the need to keep eating. I finish the granola bar, then the coconut water, then, why not, a full container of Tic Tacs. As I put everything back in my bag, I stop to apply a coat of my reddest lipstick. No need for a mirror when it’s war paint.

My phone buzzes and I can see the notification stream of urgent work emails. Maybe I could maximize my efficiency by using this time to send some replies? “Sorry I missed the strategy meeting, Shahab, but I was busy curbing 99% of my fertility for the next five years. TGIF!” Maybe not.

It’s been 15 minutes, but I don’t mind.

Totally at ease.

If there were roses, I would stop to smell them. Instead, I avoid the stares of the brochure babies by closing my eyes, drifting into relaxed meditation.

After 20 minutes, I’m pacing the room, about ready to leave. Forget the whole thing. Probably easier to never have sex again. Definitely less messy. Why was I bothering to get this uterine accessory? The most action I had seen in months was the hug I received from the über handsome Uber Eats deliveryman when I accidentally tipped 40% on an order of Pad Thai.

“Sorry to keep you waiting.” The nice doctor has returned with the nurse.

“No problem, no rush!” We all nod and smile at nothing. The nurse guides me back to the table as another, younger, woman enters the room.

“Claire, if you don’t mind, I’ll be getting our medical student to lend a hand today.” What? No. NO.

“Sure. Uh. Happy to help!” PLEASE, NO.  “The more the merrier!”

I don’t know what I’m saying, but I keep talking, and they keep talking, but I hear nothing. Then, my legs are up, and there are three people investigating the best method of shoving a coil of baby prevention cervix-adjacent. The teacher provides the student with guidance. A little too much guidance.

“Claire, if you just take deep breaths in, deep breaths out, I’m going to talk Ellen through the procedure.”


“Claire, keep breathing. Why don’t you tell me about your plans for the long weekend?” I close my eyes and clasp my hands under my chin, praying. Please let this work.

“Well, Montreal is LOVEly this ti-ME of YEEarr–” there’s an indescribable pressure tunneling up my lady parts, a wave of nausea, and then the adrenaline hits. For some reason, I start laughing through the fear, the way I’ve always done when watching scary movies.  

Abruptly, I realize both doctors are looking at me.

At my face.

“Take all the time you need getting up, Claire.”

It’s done.

I slip back into my skirt and blouse.

Taking slow movements, I test out my new bionic body.

Continuing to ignore work emails, I use the camera on my phone to look at my face, sharing a ruby grin with the one person I can always depend on. Although still wobbly, I tap open my favourite food delivery app. A modern lady, I had spent the day holding my own hand, but, tonight, I was ordering in.