“I wasn’t listened to.”
That sentence breaks my heart. I hear it all too often from acupuncture clients, friends and family. I’ve even said it myself. Not being listened to by medical professionals has become the norm. I understand medical professionals are busy, and Covid-19 has not helped that situation. Though I have compassion and gratitude for those who are putting their lives on the line to simply show up for their patients, not listening to patient’s concerns is unacceptable under any circumstance.
When we are pregnant, we are vulnerable. Our bodies have changed and are no longer ours alone. When we put ourselves in the hands of someone else to care for us, we have the right to expect to be heard and taken seriously. Being dismissed is not just rude, it’s dangerous. If our concerns are looked upon as not credible, mistakes can be made. Important clues to underlying conditions can be missed.
Even if the situation turns out to be harmless, when medical professionals write off our concerns as invalid, they undermine our ability to trust ourselves and to learn what needs our attention and what doesn’t. We need to be able to ask questions, get information from different sources, and have that information verified or debunked by the people we put our trust in to take care of us.
When my first born was 4-5 months old, I left him on a blanket in the living room while I went to the bathroom. He had rolled himself over and gotten into my backpack that had red tickets leftover from train/carousel rides. He was sucking on them when I came back in minutes later, and had gooey deep red dye all over his mouth. I panicked. I felt guilty for leaving him unattended.
I didn’t realize he could roll himself over so easily. And I was shocked and scared by all that red all over his mouth. I called the pediatrician immediately. The nurse laughed at me. She said to her co-worker, with me still on the line, “Oh, we have doozy here! This one thinks her baby is dying of red ink poisoning!” I didn’t think he was dying. I just needed someone to share that moment of panic with. Someone to help me feel less alone.
She could have handled it differently. She could’ve asked me for more information. She could’ve empathized with me by saying,
“It’s really hard to have a new baby, to keep up with their growth and development AND tend to your own needs. It sounds like maybe you could use some help.”
The nurse’s lack of respect reflected the doctor’s lack of respect for new mothers. I left the practice and found another one where the doctors, nurses and staff all treated us with consideration. Some even treated us with kindness and compassion.
A decent provider will take the time to answer all of your questions, take all of your concerns seriously, and will give you reassurance if there is nothing to be worried about. Don’t be afraid to shop around for care providers until you find one that at a minimum shares your values and takes you seriously.
Ridicule and shame are not acceptable responses. From anyone. Ever. No one has the right to decide for you what to be concerned about. Simply having a concern is valid. You have the right to have that concern addressed with dignity and respect. If you are not getting this from your care providers, find a better match.
It’s never too late to change.