Updated: May 9
I recently had my first OB/GYN appointment regarding Maximilian and it included a sonogram, a quick little rummage inside, and pathology. The results came from my bloodwork and a phone call was received telling me that my Vitamin B, Vitamin D, Iron, Hemoglobin, and Hematocrit levels were critically low. This can be addressed by taking my prenatal vitamins religiously, but I had to be referred to a high risk specialist. What upsets me most is that the specialist is both male and white. I wanted nothing to do with a male OB.
I have been loud about my search for Black healthcare professionals for several reasons, but the most important reason was the racism that plagues the healthcare system and is documented--resulting in substandard care for black people and increased deaths [1, 2, 3.] Everything from Black people receiving little to no pain management because of the debunked belief that we experience lower levels of pain (or are just seeking meds,) dismissing our health concerns entirely because doctors and nurses like to assume that they know best and that the patients are ignorant of their own body, or a refusal to be thorough and follow up after initial diagnoses--wasting time that could have saved a life [1.] A Black woman is 3.3x more likely to die as a result of childbirth than a white woman, and that's just not a statistic I am interested in playing around with [1.] Being wealthy and a world class athlete like Serena Williams, or an educated epidemiologist with the CDC like Shalon Irving hasn't been enough [1, 2.]
This is a very real fear for me. I am an educated woman, I pride myself on knowing my body better than anyone else because I LIVE IN IT. A doctor might know how the human body works, but I know how mine works. I know my entire medical history, but past that, I know how I feel when I eat something and my digestion is affected. I know how one medicine affects me faster than a doctor would ever notice adverse reaction, so...LISTEN TO ME. I refused the glucose test, and didn't have to argue about it. I merely explained that, as a gastric bypass patient, the results would be skewed and make them believe I was hyperglycemic because of my shortened intestinal pathway, that's just a fact. I remember my sister's pregnancy and how the doctor's were struggling to understand the results. I wasn't willing to put myself through that for a null result.
Also of great concern is the fact that I am delivering this child in the middle of a pandemic, when they are restricting the people that can even be beside you and comfort you. Amber Isaac endured a C-Section with only a local anesthetic, her heart stopped while on the table, and her fiancé was blocked from being by her side. Her son Elias was left without a mother and she died alone.
The explicit or implicit biases, and how they affect me, is causing anxiety and it means that I am feeling the palpitations, the shortness of breath, and all of the things that precede an anxiety attack. I am aware, and I am vigilant. One thing I can say I have going for me is how I have learned to become a FIERCE advocate for my own self-interests and I have always known I would be very aggressive when protecting my child. This situation affects us both and I will not leave my child without a mother.
I take great comfort in the fact that my birth plan includes a doctor and nurse who have known me all of my life so I can rest assured that I will be safe in their care.