Any woman can tell you that visits to the gynecologist can be - how to put this? - challenging to one's sense of modesty. You have not known examination room embarrassment until you have had an ob/gyn advise you on comfortable sexual positions in late pregnancy while probing your parts to see whether or not you're dilated, or had an obstetrical resident stitch his finger to those same parts (true story) while repairing a tear and announce it loudly to the entire room. That is, I thought that that was the sine qua non of examination room embarrassment, until I read some of the stories at My OB Said What?
Because, seriously: those OBs said WHAT?
“Oh, honey, you never *really* know who the father is.” – Nurse to mother who refused RhoGam because her husband was also Rh-.
“Gone are the good old days when you gals would be all shaved up for us before we got in here, miss those days!” -OB to mother during the repair of her tear after birth.
“Oh why do you torture yourself? You should have just gotten an epidural! No one who has a natural birth wants to have another one afterwards.” -OB to mother while she was pushing her baby out non-medicated.
And my personal favorite:
“I’m pretty sure your partner is bigger than this, don’t worry.” – OB to mother who expressed concern when seeing the transducer that is used for a transvaginal ultrasound.
I laughed when I read some of these. But I laugh from the comfortable vantage point of a woman who has delivered two children and who has left behind her own discomfiting experiences with OB/GYNs and other medical professionals (one almost wants to put 'professional' in air quotes) who attend to the business of birth.
The fact is, when I was the woman going through those experiences, they were sometimes upsetting. The aforementioned finger-stitched-to-parts announcement - which, yes, really happened - for example. Or my doctor telling me that she couldn't even describe to me how badly my parts were mangled by the birth (the one involving the stitching disaster) of my son, and could she draw a picture instead? Or the time that I went to the hospital, convinced (wrongly, as it happened) that I had gone into labor, and a resident took one look at my file with all of its references to partum and post-partum depression and said "maybe we should talk about your psychiatric treatment, and consider whether you're really here because of labor or because of your anxiety disorder?"
The first two of those experiences were just discomfiting. The third almost put me off ever going to the hospital again. In fact, I was so nervous about going to the hospital after being chastised - as I heard it - for being a crazy lady that I put it off when labor hit and almost gave birth at the side of the freeway. Those minutes that I hesitated, it turned out, might have been better spent getting to the hospital so that my baby could be delivered safely and so that I could be stitched up in such a way that didn't end up with fingers sewn to parts. There are, I'm guessing, similar stories for many of these women who found themselves humiliated or shocked or insulted by the words of an insensitive doctor or nurse: how many such women found themselves reluctant to go for ultrasounds or examinations, or who put off visits to specialists, or who felt nervous about going in for delivery? And how many such women simply felt dismissed or disregarded or disrespected, and carried that negativity with them?
Not all OB/GYNs - or residents or nurses or midwives or doulas (remind me, someday, to tell you my doula stories) or whomever - say silly or disrespectful or alarming things, of course. My own OB/GYN, who freaked me out on more than one occasion, is a wonderful doctor who is otherwise excellent, and I'm grateful to have had her. But it remains that enough women have had enough off-putting experiences to fuel a whole website, and that, I think, speaks to a problem. How we address it, I don't know, but I think that talking about it is a very good start, so that we can let each other know that we're aren't or weren't or won't be alone in these experiences, and that they are not about us, but, rather, about a medical establishment that might need to give some thought to how it treats women, and especially women having babies.
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