Back in 2009 I shared a bit about my birth story. Recovering from a traumatic birth experience is hard, Having other women discount my experience was even worse. Here's an excerpt:
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 liaison and never received any reply.
Ten years later I was being rushed into surgery to deliver 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 breathe 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.
Some things are different than during my childbearing years - at least some powers-that-be are understanding that mothers make the health care decisions for the family, so treating them better might be better for the bottom line. KevinMD.com had an article about that this week.
When Barbara (name changed) recently underwent her fourth Cesarean section, she was appalled by the care she received during her recovery. Her catheter overflowed, and a CNA asked her to check her own incision. When the CNA asked if she was breastfeeding her baby, Barbara replied tearfully that she couldn’t lift her out the bassinette. Rooming-in is a great idea. Unless you’ve had a 36-hour labor or major abdominal surgery.Pregnant women are vital health care consumers as they usually have a partner and one or more children who will presumably be accessing care in the future. However, many pregnant women still experience paternalistic attitudes when they come into the hospital.
I read this article with great interest. The female doctor who wrote it seemed to understand the importance of treating women in labor and childbirth with respect and dignity. Further, this doctor could see how treating women patients well in labor and postpartum could be good for the hospital and healthcare providers in the future. I've been saying that for years.
I eagerly went to KevinMD's facebook page to read the comment section. I was just sure I would see positive comments from other women affirming that a little respect and just having doctors listen to their concerns would be a welcome change.
That's not what I found.
Instead, I found a lot of female OB/GYNs, who were angry at the author, and irritated at mothers who wanted to be partners in their own healthcare.
One female OB/GYN chastised the author or the paper for making her job harder. I opined that maybe mothers who have gone through bad experiences in the past are sharing that information with their daughters. And surprisingly she dismissed that possibility. Here it is.
So even when I told this OB/GYN another possibility of why some of her patients approach her as the enemy, she dismissed me. Chalk it up to just one more time in my life that I have had a female healthcare professional ignore what I had to say.
For the record, I don't think all women doctors are bad, inept or uncaring. My own doctor is a woman and I have a niece in medical school. But I do think women are harder on other women and I also think that all doctors, but particularly female doctors could help themselves and their patients better if they would simply LISTEN!