'Last Week Tonight': Bias in Medicine Can Jump Up My Dilated Cervix
Hey remember a couple of weeks ago on Last Week Tonight when John Oliver did that piece on medical bias against women and POCs and then a couple of days later you realized it had happened to you? Oh, wait, no, that’s me.
TL;DR (TL;DW?): John Oliver presented one of his usual compelling, well-researched focus pieces on how American medical professionals have biases against women and POCs. Sometimes it’s based on the doctors’ and nurses’ personal life experiences, sometimes it’s based on insane bullshit biases taught in our medical system, but the upshot is doctors are less apt to believe women or POCs.
When it comes to women’s bodies, I’m — not surprisingly — a “my body, my choice” kind of girl. If you want to have an orgasmic birth like some anti-vaxxer nut from one of my mommy classes claimed she did, I think you’re batshit, but also you do you.
When it came to having my own babies, I was definitely of the Jessi Klein “Get the Epidural” camp. My “birth plan” with my daughter was simple — get to the hospital, numb that shit up and then do what the doctors tell me. I didn’t go to medical school, you did. This is your rodeo. I’m only the vagina providing entry, as it were.
What I didn’t factor in is — as John Oliver has reminded us — being a woman means sometimes trusting your medical staff to listen to you isn’t enough.
As anticipated, as soon as my labor started, my water broke and I went from zero to “sitcom woman holding onto the wall” almost immediately. Because my labor with my son was fast, we knew I was on the clock. We went straight to the hospital, where I was promptly left to die by hospital staff.
OK, that’s an exaggeration. I had my doula with me. She had my back (and undercarriage — HEYO).
My point is this: We came in, told the medical team my info, and they… ignored me.
I know saying childbirth is painful is a cliche. But let me be clear: Unless you have done it, you can absolutely suck my dirty asshole if you want to @ me about it. Because it is like nothing you have ever experienced and the fact that the human body can endure that kind of pain and not be dying is honestly shocking to me.
For the record, here were my stats: Second child; first child = 8-hour labor + natural birth; water broken; contractions regular and intense — 1 minute long every three minutes; 4cm dilated at admission. I.e., we’re going to the show.
I knew the drill. What having babies was like. What having babies in this hospital was like. What early (non-active) labor feels like (not this). How long it takes them to get you sorted for an epidural. How busy they were (not busy). Even how to request my epidural (diluted because with my son my scoliosis meant it only worked on one side).
And yet they dicked around for so long that by the time they came to give me the epidural I was 9 cm dilated. My doula was saying, “Um, she’s pushing.” And the anesthesiologist said, “Most hospitals wouldn’t give you an epidural at this point.” If I could have moved more than to moan, I would have punched that guy in the nuts.
My husband would say that I have a high tolerance for pain. My doula said they didn’t take me seriously because I didn’t scream. And they both may be right. Thanks to my upbringing, I am conditioned to be a happy joke robot for people and downplay any problems I’m having.
But I’m also a woman. And according to studies, that means that whether you yell or not, they just aren’t going to take you as seriously. In my case, that meant hours of suffering I wouldn’t even wish on Donald Trump (okay, yes I would).
In the end — this time — my baby and I were OK. But you only have to look at the numbers to see that others, especially black women, are not that fortunate.
Heather Huntington is a Staff Contributor for Paijba. You can follow her on Twitter.
Header Image Source: HBO