So, as you can see by the title, this post is relating to pregnancy. MY pregnancy. That’s right…after several years of miscarriages, I have successfully made it through the first trimester and am now on the cusp of entering my third trimester. Clearly I haven’t been so great about posting here, but today I really feel the need to write about pregnancy and how women can be invalidated during their pregnancies. I’ve spoken to some friends regarding their pregnancies and found they also experienced invalidation during this very beautiful and powerful time. That said: today I am writing only of my personal experiences with this, specifically my experience leading up to an appointment at my OB yesterday.
During the course of this pregnancy, I have experienced multiple forms of invalidation. Things like, “we’ve all had babies, we really don’t care if you’re tired,” or “just deal with it.” In some of these instances I wanted validation. To feel heard. To know I wasn’t alone in how I felt. Instead, I received invalidating comments, a lot of them from women, which really baffled me. I’m seeing so much in the U.S. how women invalidate each other, whether during pregnancy or not. I see women tearing each other down instead of supporting one another and building each other up. But that’s another topic for another day. A completely different issue. It’s also an issue I haven’t been immune to (more on that later as well).
Over the last 48 hours, I experienced the most invalidating experience of my pregnancy so far (and I do hope it’s the last). Last week, I was given a gestational diabetes screening. For those unfamiliar, it’s 50g of sugar water in a little bottle, and it tastes horrible. You drink it one hour before your scheduled appointment, and have your blood drawn exactly at one hour to check your blood sugar level. Evidently my levels were “barely” over the cut-off. More on that in a few minutes…
So, after guzzling the equivalent of a King Size candy bar in the form of sugar water, I went to the doctor, had my blood drawn, then went straight to my ultrasound. This was my last ultrasound until I’m closer to the end of my pregnancy. During the ultrasound, my daughter was literally bouncing off the walls of my uterus. My husband and I watched the ultrasound monitor as Dina (our daughter) started kicking her legs and shaking her arms, suspended by fluid in my uterus. She was going CRAZY. She did that for about 2 minutes, then started bouncing off the walls again. She was moving around so much the ultrasound tech had to use more than one tummy full of gel from rubbing the sensor all over my belly just trying to keep up with her. I was told (and common sense also told) me this was a result of the sugar water. After I went in to the exam room to meet with my OB, the doctor told me it’s also common for baby to crash after that sugar high. Not surprising. She’s a little human and that is how humans respond to a sugar crash. I was told that it would be normal to not feel my daughter moving for the rest of the night. I was also told my test results would be in the next day, and that if I didn’t receive a phone call by the end of the week, I was in the clear and fine.
Fast forward to this past Tuesday. Almost a week later, and I hadn’t received a phone call. Per my doctor’s statement, I figured I was in the clear. No gestational diabetes. Great. Awesome. Tuesday is when I get the call that my results were in and my blood sugar was “slightly” elevated. That I was “barely” over the cut-off. “Barely.” OK, fine. What do I need to do next? Drink 100g (double the amount of the first) of sugar water and have my blood drawn every hour for three hours. Yeah…NOT comfortable with that. I then made the mistake of asking questions. My questions were: Can you tell me what the risks are to my baby? Answer: We wouldn’t do anything bad for your baby. Ask again: Can you tell me what the risks are to my baby? Answer: We wouldn’t do anything bad for your baby. We do this all the time. You HAVE to do this. My response? No, I don’t HAVE to do this. I want more information about how this will affect my baby. To no avail. NO ANSWER. Nothing. All I got was the equivalent to “you have to do this because I said so” from office staff. My doctor is out of town this week. I then start asking questions about alternate diagnosis methods since this person couldn’t answer my question in ANY way. I was told there were no other diagnosis methods. Really…because I have read articles in pregnancy publications and my doula also confirmed there ARE in fact other diagnosis methods for gestational diabetes. I’d like to know more about these options. Simple enough a request, right? Not so much. The person on the line got even more aggravated with me and told me, “we don’t do anything else. This is protocol. If you don’t like this method, you can find another doctor.” Wow…really? Well, maybe I will because all I’m looking for is INFORMATION so I can make, you know, an informed decision about my healthcare and the care of my baby. Crazy thing, because I’m pretty sure I have the LEGAL RIGHT to do so! (Side note: while the snarky comments were running through my head, I did not say them out loud. I was, however, very adamant about my questions and wanting information) The office member then proceeded to lecture me for 20 minutes about how “irresponsible” I was being for “refusing” to have the testing done, to which I replied, “I’m not refusing testing. I am asking if there is an alternate means to diagnose and I’m asking what risks there are to my baby.” And in circles we went. Utterly ridiculous. At this point, my blood is boiling, I’m pissed off, annoyed, you name it. I even reference my daughter’s antics during my ultrasound after having only 50g of sugar water. I mention the concern I have regarding the sugar and her heart rate. How the subsequent sugar crash will affect her. At NO TIME did I say, “No. I do not want to do this.” I just wanted MORE INFORMATION! Finally, the office worker said “well, since your results were so close to the cut-off, I’ll talk to the doctor about other options and call you back.” Great! Progress! Finally! We hang up, and about 20 minutes later she calls me back and says the doctor there this week said that since my numbers were so close, they could find another way to diagnose. Success!!! Or not….she tells me to show up at 8am, they’d let me know about 8:05 what the options were, and to go ahead and fast like I am supposed to just in case. Ok, fine. I can live with that.
And here we come to Wednesday. My husband and I go to the doctor and arrive at about 7:50 and sit in the lobby. The lab tech calls us back and gets me ready for my initial fasting blood draw. I mention to her the conversation I had the previous afternoon with the woman in the office. She looks in her paperwork to see if there are any notes. No notes. I ask her if she’ll talk to her and check the status of my inquiry and give her the name of the person I spoke with. She goes to the back and returns just a few moments later telling me no one is in and they won’t be in until 8:30. Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait for them to come in. My dog had a follow-up appointment at the vet at 11:30, and the test takes three hours. So, I proceed to ask the lab tech the same questions I asked the day before. Her response? She laughs in my face. That’s right. She laughed at me. And gave me the same party line “we wouldn’t give you something bad for your baby” BS. And I responded, “no offense, but 20 years ago doctors were doing things deemed safe for baby that are NOT considered safe today. I just want to know how this will affect my baby.” She couldn’t (or wouldn’t) answer either. Finally, I gave up simply because I felt I had no other choice. No patient should ever feel that way. A patient should feel an active part of their own healthcare. My husband was FURIOUS. I drank the damn sugar drink, went into the lobby with my husband, and started to cry. I felt violated. I felt abandoned. I felt invalidated. That my concerns were not addressed nor taken seriously. I was laughed at for being concerned about the effects of the sugar water on my baby. To make things worse, I’m sitting in the lobby crying and the nurse I had spoken to the day prior before speaking to the office staff (who had also left early and didn’t bother getting back to me before she left, which led to me calling the office back and speaking to the office staff in the first place) comes out to the lobby, stands over me with a scowl on her face and an attitude and says, “You HAVE to take the drink.” I looked at her deadpan, with tears in my eyes, and told her I had already done it. She then turns around with the same attitude and stomps to the back of the offices. Of course, I start crying again and feeling invalidated all over again. Eventually, another office worker I had NOT spoken with previously sits down across from me and my husband and starts asking me questions about the situation. Bawling, I explain to her that all I was trying to do was get more information about how the sugar water and testing would affect my baby, how the changes in my body and blood sugar would affect baby, and that all I wanted was to know if there were other options before doing the test I didn’t feel comfortable with. I told her the staff were not helpful, blew off my concerns, did not address my questions, and were extremely rude to me. I explained to her my concern with the sugar crash Dina would experience and how uneasy it made me feel knowing she’d be doped up for hours on sugar, crash, and then be silent for what could be the remainder of the day, that I wouldn’t feel her move, and that made me uncomfortable because I wouldn’t know how she was. This particular staff member actually took the time to explain the drink to me, explain how it would affect baby, and what I could expect. She also explained any potential risks, which were minor. That’s all I wanted. That’s it. And she gave it to me. Granted, it was a bit late at this point, but at least someone finally took the time and made the effort to put me at ease. She apologized for what happened with the staff, and told me that I could call her any time for questions, that she knew how it felt to be worried about everything during pregnancy after suffering multiple losses. This was all I needed!! Why was it so difficult for other staff members to do this? Instead, I get this whole ordeal that basically makes me feel like I was forced to do something I wasn’t comfortable doing. The ironic part: all of the staff (minus one doctor) are female. Most of them likely have children. They know what it is like to wonder…or are they people who blindly follow whatever a healthcare professional tells them? I admit, I know little to nothing of medicine, but I do know that I should and DO have the right to ask questions if I need more information to make a decision about my healthcare. If a doctor is telling me to do something or to take something, I want to know why and how it works. I like to be informed. And instead of informing me like they should have, they made me feel insignificant. It broke my trust, and that is something that is so major when it comes to pregnancy and eventual delivery. I don’t know that I can trust my healthcare professionals to follow my birth plan or to do things the way I want them to be during my delivery. As my doula says, “this is your birth story.” It is my birth story…so I should definitely have a say in what is happening during my pregnancy and delivery.
I plan to have a chat with my doctor during my next appointment. Depending on her response to the situation, I may very well end up finding another doctor during my third trimester. Not exactly the ideal solution, but I’d rather find someone new than continue with someone I can’t trust to follow my wishes or keep me informed during my delivery. I can not tolerate a doctor who will condone invalidation of their patients. For all I know, she could be horrified by the behavior of the staff. She could also be mad at me and tell me to find another doctor. We’ll see what happens. At this point, I just hope for the best.
On a positive note: my results from the three-hour test came in today and I do not have gestational diabetes. So, there’s that.