I’m going to tell you a story. Not all stories are good I’m afraid. You know this, you’re here reading. But I’ve been reading about gender bias in the medical field and I want to share my story.
This involves a Doctor who is an obstetrician and gynaecologist.
A little over a year ago I was chasing my Doctor for blood test results. Specifically, hcg results. I’d had my first blood over a week before which included testing my progestertone as I had been testing low and I knew it could affect early pregnancy. I’d since done a second beta test with no results, the only communication I had was to repeat the beta.
After the second one and feeling frustrated at no results (I knew they’d be in by then), I called to find out what was going on. I did not know if my progesterone was fine and nothing to worry about, nor that status of my pregnancy. He hadn’t looked at it so his receptionist was going to call back the next day.
I called again the day after, he still hadn’t looked at the piece of paper nearly a week later. He was too busy. But I’d had bleeding and this was my baby we were talking about, so in order to get some news I made an appointment (see $$$$).
When I got in the room, he made a dig about me calling. Twice in two weeks, after I’d had two blood tests. Like I was stupid for wanting an answer. Like I was just a silly little girl, a nagging woman who was hysterical and over the top. Like it wasn’t my right to know what the blood taken from my own body was saying. Like my miracle wasn’t important.
And then he told me I was losing my baby, and how ‘it wasn’t realy what we wanted to happen’, but that he’d suspected as much for TWO WEEKS and didn’t bother telling me.
That was two weeks of fear, of trying to stifle excitement, of coming to some sort of acceptance and even starting to feel brave enough to browse baby gear. All for no reason.
Every time I saw him last year he made me feel stupid. He ignored my symptoms, he told me “they might not be a problem”, even though that was the whole reason my GP referred me to him in the first place. He’s never told me anything specific, he’s never mentioned a single number to me when looking at results. He’s never asked me specific questions, like the first cycle when I told him I’d ovulated already, and instead of asking how I knew, he disagreed. (FYI, the blood test said yes).
He used words like ‘tummy’ when he spoke to me.
He took hundreds of dollars off me for a prescription I’m not even sure I needed because one cycle when he tested me I didn’t ovulate (which is one of two annovulatory cycles I’ve had since coming off birth control, in the realms of normal). Maybe he’s right, but he wouldn’t listen to anything I said, nor tell me his thought process.
He touched me every time I walked into his office. I mean, of course he has to sometimes and it feels like an intrusion, but I mean as I walked past him into his office, every time. Maybe he thought it was friendly and comforting, but the fact that it sits in my brain means I feel differently.
In other inappropriate behaviour, he records his notes out loud with the door to his waiting room open. He chats to his receptionist about patients, and she asks inappropriate questions (“will we see you back!?”, just after I’d been told I was going to lose my baby… what do you say to that?). He finds it humerous that my husband has a severe anxiety disorder, with a big trigger being anything medical, and that I will not push him to give a sperm sample. Because that’s what I really want, to link anxiety, medical procedures and sexual activity.*
I have not taken the last four rounds of clomid prescribed to me because I don’t think it’s really making much of a difference, and whatever issue I have is unrelated to ovulation. It’s frustrating talking like this after so long, in general broad terms. I’m not unexplained but I have no explanation. I have a group of symptoms that he basically didn’t even ask me any questions about.
I am wounded by this. It took me a full year after the miscarriage episode to realise how angry I am about how I was treated, and to understand why I would come home and cry after every appointment with him. Every time I saw him, he took my confidence, he took my sense of knowing myself by undermining what I told him. I know what I know about myself, I am an expert on my body and it’s happenings, and every time I tried to bring up my concerns he made me feel like I was some pathetic creature who should just worship at his all knowing feet.
When I got home after the last time I saw him, I got mad at the stupidist thing. I was stomping around and huffing and sighing when my husband pulled me into his arms. The tears came out of nowhere, and I told him that with every appointment it seemed like having a family was slipping further and further away. There was never a plan or a direction, the last two visits were basically him printing out a prescription and telling me he wasn’t interested.
This is why I can’t go back there, and when I have the money to start from scratch again, I’ll be looking for a female doctor. I need to feel safe, I need to feel listened to. I need someone to understand that I may not fit into a box and to work with me on that.
I need to feel like I am not a pay cheque, and that I am valuable and have knowledge. I need to not be talked down to and I need to be informed.
I need to feel like I have control of my body and my choices.
I need to feel like I have a chance.
*I know this is an important step, but I obviously have something wrong with me. If I was good as gold and we still weren’t getting anywhere, perhaps I’d get into this more. But at this stage, we know I need some fixing. Even if my husband had a low count (and bear in mind his sperm has done their job once, kind of), I would not be open to IUI or IVF with my current symptoms as I believe it would just be a waste. Aside from that, my husbands anxiety would definitely make it impossible for him to give a sample AT a clinic which basically rules us out of going down this route.