Thursday, April 16, 2009

Women listening to women

When it comes to talking about problems and finding solutions, one would think that women could find allies in other women. But I have found that sometimes other women can be road blocks instead of sisters, hindrances instead of helps. Why is it that we don't take each other seriously?

When my first son was born, an OB at the hospital came in and announced that he was going to break my water. There was no discussion following that even resembling informed consent! He put his hand inside of me to break my water and when he complained that I was "breaking his wrist" the two students, or residents (I'm not even really sure who they were) both forcibly grabbed and opened my legs, so that he could force his hand further inside of me. My husband watched in horror. I felt humiliated and was in a lot of pain. I later felt that what I experienced must be very close to what it would be like to be raped.

Months later, when I was recovered from the unexpected Cesarean birth of my baby, I decided that I was going to get this guy in a little trouble for what he did to me. I was working as a supervisor in an HMO that contracted with this doctor's group. So I went to my female supervisor and told her the whole story. To my horror she waved the whole thing off. It seems that years earlier she had been having a difficult birth and this same doctor delivered her baby after a difficult pregnancy and she still felt very grateful to him and was not about to have him reported or reprimanded. I did write a letter to the hospital after I resigned my position, but that letter too went to a lady who was called a patient liason and never received any reply.

Ten years later I was being rushed into surgery to delivery my daughter who had an umbilical cord prolapse. I was trying very hard not to push with contractions because I did not want to collapse my daughter's cord and cut off her oxygen supply. I was very calm and peacefully concentrating on prayer with what I can only describe as a heavenly peace that this was going to turn out well. Suddenly two techs, nurses (no clue who these people were either) came up and forced my legs apart (what is it with these people?) and as they did so I had a huge contraction that dropped the baby's heart rate. They yelled at me not to push. I yelled back that I couldn't help it and that if they didn't want me to push they should put me under anesthetic. They put a mask over my face and I determined that I would breath as deeply as I could to get oxygen to my baby and then to fall asleep so that she could be delivered. But to my surprise as I breathed there was no oxygen, there was no gas, there was nothing.I felt as if I were suffocating. It was as if someone had put a hand over my face and nose and when I grabbed the mask off to complain, I was restrained until I fell asleep.

The next day I remember telling the female nurse about this and asking why they would put a mask on my face with no oxygen if the idea was to keep the baby oxygenated. She told me directly that I was probably having a panic attack and that what had happened to me probably didn't happen. I was livid.

Interestingly, my male brother-in-law who was a nurse anesthetist did remember my story and started telling moms in my situation what to expect when he put the mask over their face.

So I would think that since I had had two very traumatic experiences with women not listening that I would become a more empathetic listener myself, but with this situation involving my mom I have learned that I have a lot more work to do in that area. For months she has been complaining of profound fatigue, the inability even get up to get dressed, and no desire to go down to the dining room to be with her friends. And I did to her what was done to me. I thought it was in her mind. I thought she was exaggerating, I thought she wasn't trying very hard. Turns out an abdomen full of ovarian cancer will do that!

For the last few days I have been pondering how I let that happen. Is there something between women that keeps us from believing each other? Why are we so ready to assume that stuff happens in our head instead of reality? We would be up in arms if men treated us the same way that we treat each other. Why do we doubt each other? No answers. Just questions that I finally at least know enough to ask!




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