Doctor’s orders

EmpatheticDoctor

Over the last two weeks the key topic sizzling in my mind has been our medical system. Now, I am not even going to pretend that I love it the way it is because even using love in the same sentence feels like a struggle. I admire and am thankful for the amazing work that the medical professionals can do for our bodies when we flop out of a helicopter or have any other trauma or injury, but as far as most chronic conditions, natural bodily functions and general health are concerned, I think to say that there is room for improvement only does justice if one is forbidden to use words ‘inadequate’, ‘insufficient’, ‘unsatisfactory’ and all their synonyms.

Well, as part of our pregnancy journey with a lovely group of midwives, we have been asked for one set of medical tests to ensure that all is well and that we can continue with our intention for a home birth. And that’s when we entered the maze of the medical machine. The nicest way I can think of to describe the appointments with the different medical professionals that we had over the last two weeks would be saying that the whole experience was like a string of really bad dates with bad chemistry. You know, we have all been there in search of true love.

Some of my medical ‘partners’ were really grumpy because I was late for our ‘first date’ – the fact that I waited until the middle of the pregnancy to show up made some of them huff and puff quite rudely during most of the appointments. It did not seem to matter that most babies over the last few thousands of years grew up happy and healthy without being scanned and poked during pregnancies. The fact that I was late made me a bad date.

Most of the appointments felt like speed-dating with partners that were not that into me – it all happened very fast and without any real presence or desire to get to know each other. There was no eye contact, no smiles and no connection at all – a pregnant mama (i.e. me) didn’t even get asked how I was doing and whether I felt generally happy.  They just sort of wanted to talk more about themselves and their services and get the meeting over with.

Do you know those bad dates where your partner keeps checking their phone and updating their Facebook status rather than talking to you? It was like that. The doctors were glued to the monitors without talking to me, making mysterious clicks that apparently I didn’t need to be informed about, despite all of it being about me and my health!

Some of them were like the bad dates where the other person wants you to commit to the next date and to being with them right there and then – one of the GPs that I visited got irritated when I told him that I was not available for appointments the following week due to a work commitment that had been planned many months ago. He proceeded to give me a full lecture on how I really need to rethink priorities in my life because – man, it’s all about to change.

Have you ever been on a bad date with someone who is trying to figure out what is wrong with you – you know the fact that you are still single cannot possibly mean you are enjoying it and it is a clear sign that there is something intrinsically not right? Well, this was like that – the simple fact that here I was walking on two feet seemed to convince them that there had to be something wrong with my body. I appeared to frustrate them by not displaying any apparent signs of ‘wrongness’ as it made it impossible to point out my negligence and irresponsibility about not coming to visit them sooner.

The appointments also brought back memories of those bad dates where someone is really trying to fit you into their list of tick-boxes of an ideal partner and the more of them can get ticked off, the better. Clearly, I didn’t seem to fit the tick-boxes of a submissive good patient (to start with I didn’t even feel like I was one!), and that didn’t go down too well. I left behind a trace of empty boxes or gave them weird responses that didn’t fit (apparently, ‘spirulina’ is not one of the correct answers to the question about food supplements I am taking during pregnancy).

Back in the day I had a few bad dates with guys who upon sensing that perhaps there would not be another date proceeded to advise me how I should start behaving if I ever want to find myself in a relationship. This was similar. Generally, I really struggle to receive advice from people who I naturally do not have an admiration for or who do not seem that far ahead in the game. Likewise, many health professionals to me look so far from ideal image of health that it nearly makes me want to do the opposite of what I am being advised. At times the conversation felt like trying to discuss with your mechanic the most breathtaking views experienced while driving your amazing car and then realising that your mechanic who knows all the parts of the car does not have a good driving record. I giggled half of the morning when we drove up to one of the biggest hospitals in Madrid and saw that it had its very own McDonalds, fully lit with white medical coats of staff having their morning chicken McNuggets. Well my favourite nugget 0f wisdom came from our town GP who insisted that I need to start preparing my body for the baby’s arrival (because clearly my body is completely oblivious to what’s happening with it during these 9 months) and should intensively rub my nipples with alcohol three times a day to make them ready for breastfeeding. When he offered me to come back with any questions, keeping my mouth shut and not advising him back which parts of his body he should rub with alcohol was one of the most difficult things over the last two weeks!

Have you had an experience where your date gets defensive when you ask them a question? If you haven’t, you can try during your next medical appointment – regardless of the fact that we all have a right to know about the risks and alternatives of every process or suggestion that we receive from medical professionals, asking questions is not appreciated. No matter how gently or simply you might phrase your query, it is likely that they might feel that you are questioning their authority and orders.

There are also those bad dates with awkward physical contact where you just know that although sexual chemistry and appearance is not everything, it will just not work. During one of the appointments I had the joy of testing the famous chair that positions you with your bum spreadeagled towards the door and upwards. Whoever designed it must have really been interested in medieval history and especially the chapter on torture contraptions. It felt so unnatural and uncomfortable that I think I would struggle to release trapped intestinal gas positioned this way, let alone give birth to a baby. And yet this continues to be the acceptable and standard position for birth in most medical establishments.

And then you know when you just get interested and start receiving texts or information from your date, but it makes no sense and is impossible to decipher what they meant? Doctors’ notes are like that. I have seen patterns scratched out by chicken looking for grains that had more meaning in comparison to the scribbles on the medical paperwork that was being passed around about my ‘condition’ from one hospital to the other.

So this week just as we were getting ready for our ultrasound appointment, I decided I had had enough of these bad dates. We woke up early, and I was determined to make it to the other side with my head held high. I found my favourite skirt that beautifully reveals my legs, put my brightest underwear on (if I’ll be flashing it onto the hallway, I might as well blind everyone who decides to peak in!), sprayed a dash of perfume and added some extra mascara – I was going full force on this! We joked around with my husband the whole time it took us to drive to the hospital and then stayed relaxed and giggly during the 45 minutes that our ‘date’ was late by. When our turn finally came, the whole experience was simply excellent – the staff were polite and gentle and laughed at our joke about my unpronounceable surname as we came in. The main doctor had kind gentle eyes and soft calming voice. There was just the right amount of eye contact, questions and answers. I enjoyed a comfortable position with no need to expose my underwear. We felt comfortable and well cared for.

So just like that, it happened – you know those dates that maybe do not end up in a long relationship or even a relationship at all, but where you have a really nice time and leave inspired and thinking that it is all possible. That while this might not be it, somewhere so close, just around the corner, your true love is coming. And we left knowing just that. We are having a baby girl.

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