Friday, January 11, 2008

“Gynecologists: perhaps the most ignorant class of men, when it comes to knowledge of women, in the country.” *

When I chose my ob/gyn practice fifteen-plus years ago, I chose a practice based primarily on one thing: I wanted women doctors. Yes, I was interested in medical credentials and personalities, but mostly I wanted someone who COULD experience anything I might – whether or not they actually had was irrelevant. I felt that a woman doctor could best understand any symptom or feeling or fear I described, and be able to better empathize than any male doctor, regardless of how kind or gracious or experienced. (In fact, this theme has followed through my PCP, dermatologist, dentist, and therapist. Call me crazy, but I am just much more comfortable with female doctors.)

I stayed with the practice through my original doctor leaving the practice and several shifts in personnel. I became intimately – and I mean intimately – acquainted with every doctor in the practice throughout two years of infertility worries, and then three pregnancies and deliveries. Yes, I had my favorites among the five doctors and one nurse-practitioner, but I felt comfortable with all of them, and supremely confident in their abilities and willingness to listen to me, empathize, advise, and keep in mind my needs and wishes with regards to birth control, birth plans, and all other manner of female stuff. Truly, I could not have been happier with my doctors.

Then two months ago, squarely (or should I say roundly?) in the sixth month of my pregnancy, not one but two of the doctors dropped the I’m-leaving-the-practice bombshell. And why? Some scheduling/flexibility issues – all of my doctors have youngish children - but mostly because the higher-ups (assuredly all men) at the hospital had decided to merge my group with another practice – one with three male doctors and one woman doctor (who would not actually practice at the office to which I go). Said higher-ups saw no reason whatsoever (according to two of my doctors with whom I discussed my concerns) why any woman would prefer an all-female-doctor OB/GYN practice. So this change took effect at the end of the year, leaving me with a practice of two women doctors whom I know, and three male doctors, none of whom I have ever even met and don’t really want to meet.

And yet, today I met the first male doctor.

Who, not promisingly, spent the first four minutes in the room explaining how his name is pronounced (it’s an Indian name but not terribly complicated and I had greeted him with it, pronounced properly, when he came in), joking about how the fact that I was a librarian made me assuredly very interested in breaking down words and figuring out how to pronounce things properly. Uh, ok.

Then he told me I had an internal exam due to see if I have begun dilating. I had spent some time the night before considering this; I knew it was probably coming. And call me a Puritan or tell me I am acting like some fundamentalist crazy woman, but I don’t want a male I don’t know probing around my reproductive parts. I am not a prude; I enjoyed a healthy and perhaps overactive or even indiscriminate sex life in my youth. But, again call me crazy, but having sex (fun! exciting!) with someone you barely know is very different from being closely, clinically examined by someone you barely know. And I know plenty of you fine upstanding citizens would think it would be the other way round, but for me, in my fuddy-duddy middle-aged years, it’s not. I’d like to keep my private regions’ viewings restricted to my husband and my female doctor. Dr Pronounce-my-name-right seemed a little put out (but at the tender age of what? maybe 24? Doogie would have to learn to cope). I assured him that while I was certain he was a very fine doctor, I really was not comfortable with a male OB/GYN, and in fact, once the baby was delivered, chances were excellent that I would be following one of my old doctors to her new, all-female-doctor practice. Nothing personal. He seemed compelled at this point to explain that no one PLANNED this merger months ago and it certainly wasn’t intended to make me feel uncomfortable – all of which I acknowledged politely and stuck to my guns.

So after a few seconds’ stand-off, he decided to measure my belly and listen to the heartbeat. And then he said, “Hmmm, I see here you started this pregnancy at 190. And now you weigh 186.” (And there I was, pleased that I had put ON two pounds in the past two weeks.) I explained the whole I-vomit-continuously-almost-the-entire-pregnancy (um, all FOUR of them) predicament to him, and assured him I was indeed eating, just stuff like fruit and eggs, not burgers and fries and pounds of chocolate – very unlike me (in fact, H has threatened to search the basement for pods lately...) And I also explained that at 5’8” and 190 pre-pregnancy, I certainly had some poundage to lose, if necessary. AND all through the previous eight months, all the doctors (his now esteemed colleagues) had made sure the baby was growing properly, that the heartbeat and movement were good, that my measurements were right on, and I had had two previous ultrasounds, all of which confirmed the health of the baby.

Still he looked concerned. “I’d feel better if you were to get another ultrasound,” he said. He measured my belly again. “Hmmm. You seem to be measuring a little...small.” Oh. OH. Shit. “I am concerned that the placenta may not be feeding the fetus properly.” He furrowed his young brow.

So. What to do but say, “Fine, ok, I will be happy to go have another ultrasound.” And leave the office, prescription clutched in hand, and despite the rational part of my brain – you know the part that remembers this is my fourth, very normal pregnancy and that, up to this point not one other doctor has been anything but reassuring that the baby is fine, in fact, perfect - telling me that everything is just fine, I call H to whom I sob that the baby is not right and I have apparently been STARVING my poor little fetus.

You see where this is going, don’t you? Of course you do. You are probably well-rested, and not eight months pregnant, and fully caffeinated. (Plus, you probably are not half as defensive as I am on any given day, about any given issue. Years of therapy, I tell you...)

The baby is FINE. Perfect, even. The ultrasound tech, who has been doing this for 23 years, used those exact words. “Perfect.”

And then she said, “Why did your doctor want you to have this ultrasound?”
So I explained that I was apparently measuring a centimeter or two small, and she LAUGHED. And told me the baby weighs six pounds, and if he continues to grow at this rate, I will be giving birth to an 8-pound, 3-ounce baby.

Well, at least he’s not an alien, right?

So then of course, I spent the afternoon wondering if this was Dr. Mister’s way of asserting his male power. Or just his inexperience showing. Or what. And I decide I don’t care. I am giving birth to this child (hoping that I pull one of the female doctors whom I know – because don’t even get me started on my fears of unnecessary c-sections or episiotomies), and getting my tubes tied, and then switching practices, so as to be comfortable revealing my private parts as necessary to any doctor in my chosen practice.

And just for your edification, when I stopped at the Chinese take-out place for my daily fix of fried rice, the little old lady there looked at me and said, "Hmmm. You having boy." And here *I* thought I was having pork fried rice and an order of hot and sour soup.


* HL Mencken


Anonymous said...

That doctor is not going to have much of a career if he continues like that. Sorry you got stuck with him. :( But isn't it wonderful to have more assurance after the u/s is said and done, that your baby is PERFECT!!!

I actually settled in on a male ob/gyn 15 years or so ago after seeing several different women ob/gyns, and it seemed to me that the women were colder and less gentle in the matter of obtaining the wretched pap smear. Male or female, when I'm exposed in the cold light of day, I just look at the ceiling and say lala lala la, I'm not here, I'm not here.

Jess said...

Good for you sticking to your guns. So many people get intimidated by the white ocat (I think maybe that's what he was counting on?)

Good to hear your passenger is happy and healthy. Ooh! And he'll love hot and spicy stuff!

Velma said...

I met the doctor who delivered my first about two hours before I delivered - not his fault, since she came so early, and my female OB was out of town - but the experience SUCKED.

And now I want Chinese for lunch, darnit.

Sarah Louise said...

I'm thinking Chinese for lunch too...

Male doctors? I did not read the letter they sent carefully enough, apparently.

Sending positive thoughts your way...

my vw is lfsav, which I see as lifesaver, I need one!!

Badger said...

Dude. I am absolutely 100% with you on the male vs. female doctor thing. I have had many, MANY doctors over the years because of my chronic health issues, and no male doctor I've EVER had has trusted that I know what is normal FOR ME with regard to what my body is doing. Seriously, do not even get me started. I could go on and on and ON about this subject.

Never again will I go to a male PCP, GYN or dentist. NEVER. And I would love to find a female cardiologist, while I'm at it. And a female gastroenterologist. And a female allergist.

And this is from someone who, generally speaking, prefers the company of men to the company of other women.

HEATHER said...

I am so totally with Badger, on this! I have the FMS, and generally male doctors just treat you like the hysterical female.
Could you not go with your doctor that moved now? I would think since the doctor moved that you could go with her. I don't even understand why men even bother to be OB/GYN's, they don't have the equipment, so they can't possibly get "it".

lazy cow said...

Good on you for sticking to your guns! It sounds like he was inexperienced and over-cautious.
I've never had a problem with male ob-gyns (had a different one for each of my births, good female ones were booked up for months back then) but if I had my time again (please no!) I'd definitely go the female option.

Katy said...

oh, ick! I'm sorry you got the retard man doctor for your lady parts. I also totally agree about having woman doctors. And men going into OB/GYN? Do you ever hear of female urologists? NO! Men wouldn't tolerate that. So why do they expect women to have male OB/GYNs?

My mom switched my sister and I to an all-female pediatrics practice when I hit puberty (also coincided with the practice opening up) and I haven't looked back since. Though I do have a male dentist (I hate all dentists with a passion, and this one slightly less so) and a male psychiatrist. The psych doc doesn't matter. He writes the scripts and listens for the most part.

Good luck with the baby dearest! Will you be naming him Cletus in honor of your favorite design teacher? ducks and runs

Stomper Girl said...

Me too, preferring female doctors, especially for internals. (Except I much prefer my new male dentist to my ex-arrogant female one.)

Well done for sticking to your guns re the internal and boo to him for being so ungracious about it.

Paula said...

Fucking doctors.

When I was pregnant with Chris they (male doctors) kept telling me how small he was and that he'd be in an incubator. I kept telling them he just liked to curl up in a ball when he was being prodded, they kept worring me to death. He weighed almost NINE pounds when he was born. I thought I'd never get his shoulders out...

I'm so glad you told that boy doctor to keep his cooties off you!

blackbird said...

And so?
That's our official announcement?

KPB said...


The doctor that is.
Not the gorgeous mini BabBab that will be making his/her presence known (6pd OR 8pd or indeed 10 if he/she follows Grover's lead) irrespective of their birth weight.

And call me a cynic, but I agree totally - that this was the ego/pride-damaged MALE buffoon just trying to show he still had the power. Bastard.

Meanwhile - big HUGS and love to you as you near the end of this pregnancy. Been there bloss and well, big hugs and love to you.

Unknown said...

I agree 100%... I always prefer women to men, whether it's my doctor, dentist, allergist, whatever.

I'll take it one step further. When it comes to my ob/gyn stuff, I also love midwives. There's a wonderful collaborative practice in my area that has both physicians and midwives, and you can see whichever you prefer.