Friday, February 13, 2015

Judy - Pregnancy and Physicians #3

Doctors in my day

You’ll have a lot of questions as you go through your pregnancy, and the best source of answers is your doctor. Ask questions about anything. Between visits, every time you think of a question, write it down and take the list to your next appointment.

Having said that, here’s a warning about doctors. Don’t let them bully you! I’ve heard many older women say, “If a doctor talked to me like that today, I wouldn’t stand for it.” But when we’re young and a little scared of this new experience, and not used to being involved in medical stuff, we might feel so vulnerable and dependent that we don’t question them. The fact is, however, you have not lost your intelligence just because you’re pregnant. It’s your body and your baby, so don’t let them badger you.

When I was first pregnant, the male doctor always called me “little girl.” I didn’t like it and had the feeling he said it because he didn’t know my name, but I never said anything. In contrast, when I was forty years old and expecting my ninth baby, I walked into the examination room, and the doctor, whom I had never met before and looked like a teenager, greeted me with, “Hey, Judy. How are you today?” I answered, “Just fine, Bob. How are you?” I would not be intimidated by the use of my first name.

At some appointments you’ll be made to wait for hours. The basic assumption seems to be that the doctor’s time is more valuable than yours. One woman, a professional decorator, waited two hours to see her doctor. She said there was no emergency; it was simply a case of overbooking and the doctor coming in late. The woman didn’t say anything at the time, but later sent a bill for her usual fee for two hours of her time. Hah!

I tried to make it a rule not to wait longer than 45 minutes. After that, I rescheduled and walked out. If you often have to wait a long time, call the receptionist the day of your appointment and ask when you can realistically expect to be seen. Then go at that time. You should expect to be treated with respect; don’t settle for less from the physician or the office staff. This works in private or group practice but may be different in an HMO or community health, where all bets are off.

Doctors today

You might have to be assertive with the receptionist too. I was in several practices where I liked the doctor but the office staff was grumpy, officious and demeaning. Stand up for yourself and say something like, “Are you in a big hurry or are you trying to be rude?” If there is no improvement, tell the doctor, in writing if necessary. If you still don’t get satisfaction, change doctors if possible. There are many options and many personalities out there and they can make a big difference in your whole experience. Ask other mothers for their recommendations.

While we’re on the subject of pregnancy, I should mention something about the sad fact of miscarriages. I had two of them before my first child, then two more between my last two children. The first one was a terrible shock. Although I knew what a miscarriage was, I didn’t know anyone who’d had one. Afterwards, many people I knew came up to me and quietly told me about theirs. A miscarriage is not usually physically debilitating, but emotionally I was knocked off my feet, even after I had other children.

Part of the emotional difficulty, of course, is hormonal, and this seems to be the part the medical profession stresses the most. Doctors, who call it “a spontaneous abortion,” often shrug and say, “Well, it was for the best, and as soon as your hormones settle down, you’ll feel better.” I felt like they did not understand the wrenching loss it was--with or without hormones. We need to go through a painful but necessary grieving process, even if it occurs early in the pregnancy. No matter when a misscarriage happens, most often during the first trimester, that baby was very real to us, and we have to accept the loss of this child as we would a living child. In my case, I simply cried non-stop for two weeks and then afterwards felt sad everytime I thought of it.

I’ve since learned that as many as 20% to 30% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Each time the doctor told me that usually they are necessary because there is something wrong with the fetus. If this was supposed to be comforting, it failed. First of all, I never thought of my baby as a “fetus.” All I knew was that my beautiful baby was gone before I ever had a chance to see her. And I was devastated.

In addition, I was surprised to learn how hard it was for my husband as well. He also had to go through a period of sorrow and feelings of terrible loss. Eventually we learned how to comfort each other. Slowly, after bouts of depression and fits of crying, I began to come back to the world and look around me again. At first, I only wanted to see close friends, or my family, but eventually, I was able to face others as well. In time, I was even able to see pregnant women and babies without bursting into tears. The whole process is similar to any other form of grieving with the stages of denial, anger, sadness, and finally acceptance.

It may take a while, and you may need help -- family, friends and perhaps even professional, but this acceptance will eventually come to you too.

Next: The Layette, or Necessary Baby Stuff

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