“You are responsible to yourself, to love yourself, to care for yourself, and to help yourself.” ~ Akiroq Brost
If I were asked to share one thing and one thing only with any other woman embarking on the journey of fertility, conception, pregnancy, and childbirth, I would say this: Do your best to know and understand how your body works and then, in dealing with your healthcare providers and especially your doctor, be shamelessly aggressive, firm and uncompromising in advocating for yourself and what is right for your health every step of the way.
The reasons for this are two-fold. First, more often than not, doctors determine what to test you for and what to look out for based on what you tell them. It’s not often that women exhibit outward symptoms for feminine issues that the doctor can spot right off the bat. Their expertise relies on yours in more ways than you know. Second, the more I speak to other women and hear about their general feminine health and/or childbirth experiences, the more convinced I am that there are a whole lot of mediocre gynaecologists in this country.
Serena Williams recently confirmed this while telling her birth story in her documentary: Being Serena. She told of how she has struggled with clotting every time she has had a sports injury related surgery. She knew how she had felt each time. She also understood the risks. A loose clot could make its way to her heart and cause cardiac arrest. She could die if a clot was not caught on time. She delivered her daughter by c-section. Within hours of her surgery, she felt in her body that she had thrown a clot. She asked her doctors to check. They tested and didn’t see anything. They assured her there was nothing there. Bear in mind that the quality of Serena’s healthcare would be the best money can buy. She, knowing her body, was absolutely certain something was wrong. She insisted that they test again. She also asked that they use dye to be certain. They tested again and infused dye. There was the clot. She needed emergency surgery to deal with it. If she hadn’t pushed back…
If Serena, with all her star power (it would be naive to imagine that a person of her level of fame and fortune does not get listened to more than an average woman), was still called upon to stand firmly in her belief that something was wrong and action must be taken, that is an indication of how much more firmly we ordinary women must push back to understand what is happening and insist that the doctors act on your instincts. Noone could have spoken up and insisted save for Serena herself. She was the one who knew what she was feeling and was sure of it. Her husband, mum, and sister could only support her in her insistence because they didn’t know what she was feeling. All they knew was what she was saying and the strength of her belief in it.
Had I watched this documentary prior to giving birth, I might have suffered a little less in my recovery. I knew something was wrong within 2 days of my surgery (read about it here) but I didn’t push back hard, or even at all when I was told it was normal. I knew it wasn’t normal but I second guessed myself. I wanted someone to affirm that I was right that something was wrong before taking action and yet no one could because it is humanly impossible for them to know what I was feeling or sensing in the same way I could. I worried that I wasn’t a doctor or an expert so how could I doubt a doctor when he was telling me that I’m fine. The truth is I am an expert on my own body and in any discussion relating to it, I have the standing to disagree, to ask questions, to insist on a particular course of action even if the doctor thinks different. If I understood this then, I really could have shortened my suffering by 2 months. I am very lucky that it was a vein and not an intestine that was leaking.
“Be brave and be fearless, and for God’s sake, stand up for yourself.” ~ Gretchen Carlson