This week's blog is shared by a really amazing woman, Gabi Day, sharing her experience of getting an outside opinion. We met for coffee at Perk! a couple months ago and as she shared her health journey, a journey that lead her to create her own handmade clean skin & hair products, Bright Body. In her blog, she shares with us her struggles of feeling alone and wrong when she spoke up to the people who were supposed to "get her". She shares about the surprising person who took time to really listen to her and find answers for her.
Thank you Gabi for sharing a piece of your story with us! And if you're interested in learning more about her amazing skin and hair products, check them out here! I am totally in love with the face toner and light face cream. It seriously leaves my skin feeling like silk for the full day. I LOVE IT!!!
I had my first well woman visit as a 16-year-old virgin who was experiencing menstrual migraines and painful periods. As most young women typically do, I made an appointment with my mom’s GYN, who coincidentally was the woman who delivered me.
I remember walking back into the exam room feeling anxious and uncomfortable – I didn’t really know what to expect and I was worried that the pelvic exam would be painful. The doctor came into the room, barely made eye contact, and greeted me curtly. I said hi, introduced myself, and told her that she had delivered me, to break the ice. Without skipping a beat, she responded in a deadpan, “well, I don’t remember.” Cool, thanks.
After my breast exam, I asked the doctor to use the smallest speculum possible and she told me that “I would be fine” and uttered many “just relax”es during the exam. After a very short consultation about my concerns, she prescribed a birth control pill and was half way out of the room when she casually said,
“By the way, your pelvic bone is really low so when you have kids you’ll probably need a C-section. See you next year.”
…Uhhhh, what?! There I was, 16 years old, my very first GYN visit for painful periods and migraines, and my doctor’s last comments to me were that I would need a C-section. I left that appointment feeling like she hadn’t really listened to me – she treated my vagina but didn’t really treat me as a woman. When I told my mom about my experience, she seemed pretty surprised but made excuses for her, saying,
“Well, she’s a good doctor. She’s probably just having a busy day.”
Having no other experiences to compare it to, I decided to continue seeing that same doctor. For the next few years, I was consistently underwhelmed by my interactions with her, each and every visit as curt and abrupt as the first. I felt like I was a car going in for an oil change.
While we were trying to determine the most effective drug cocktail to prevent and treat my menstrual migraines, my neurologist called my GYN for a consult. My GYN’s coarse response was,
“she needs to pick her poison – painful periods or menstrual migraines.”
Not only is that a lazy response, showing a complete lack of compassion and bedside manner, it’s not even how this works – it is possible to treat both dysmenorrhea and migraines. My mom continued to defend her so I assumed that all GYNs were like this and something most women experienced.
A few years later, I couldn’t get in to see my GYN for my annual visit so I agreed to see another GYN in the practice, though I insisted on seeing a woman. I felt uncomfortable seeing a man. This new doctor was somewhat warmer than my regular GYN, but when I asked her for a small speculum, I got the same “you’ll be fine” response, multiple “just relax” comments and the same straight to breast exam routine without making a point to really make a connection first.
My senior year of college was the last year that I went to that practice before moving away, and I could only get in to see a male GYN. I was definitely uncomfortable with the idea but I didn’t have a choice – if I didn’t get in for my yearly well woman visit, I wouldn’t get my birth control.
After waiting a few minutes for him, Dr. Dickman (yep, that’s his real name) walks into the room and sits down on a stool, starting a conversation. Taken aback by the fact that he didn’t immediately jump into a breast exam, I sat up so I could actually look at him while he spoke with me. He introduced himself, asked briefly about my medical history, and asked if I had any concerns about my sexual health, all while making eye contact.
He called a nurse to come in before he started the exam, and once she arrived he told me that he was going to start the breast exam before he jumped in, and same thing for the pelvic exam – explaining each step before he did. I even told him about the comment my first GYN made all those years ago about likely needing a C-section, and he responded,
“Oh, that’s just ridiculous. Don’t listen to that. You can’t tell from a pelvic exam if someone is a candidate for vaginal delivery. Don’t even worry yourself.”
Before leaving the room, he summarized what we had discussed, told me that everything looked fine, wrote my prescription, and told me not to hesitate to call with any questions or concerns.
After 6 years of vastly different GYN interactions, I was totally bamboozled. On the one hand, this doctor actually treated me like a whole human woman, and not just a vagina attached to a person. On the other hand, what the f*ck had those female gynecologists I had seen before been doing? Why was there such a marked difference between these experiences? How could a vagina doctor with a vagina not be more understanding of other women with vaginas?
As it turns out, male OB/GYNs have to go through additional sensitivity and bedside manner training for obvious reasons – women are usually more uncomfortable seeing a male GYN and male GYNs are much more likely to be the recipient of a malpractice/abuse lawsuit than female GYNs. It’s the same reason that they need a nurse in the room with them while performing any exam or treatment – for liability reasons they have to have a witness. The result of this additional training is that male OB/GYNs are often more compassionate, better listeners, and gentler when it comes to their job.
Since moving away from home and putting down roots in Richmond, I have been going to the same male OB/GYN who is consistently nonjudgmental, great at listening to and answering my questions and concerns, respects my decisions around birth control, and always listens to my request of a smaller speculum without comment. He is truly a wonderful doctor and I recommend him to my friends looking for a new practitioner.
Simply put, having a vagina is not a prerequisite for being a good OB/GYN. Just like you don’t have to have children to be a great parent coach.
This resonated with me. So hard. Often times when parents call me, they share concern that I am not a parent. I share with them that I am connecting to them on how to work through difficult behavior, in the parenting dynamic. I have worked through hours of difficult behaviors with children that are not my own- requiring me to learn how to not use physically or mentally damaging tools. This is what I want to share with you.
I have met with many parents who come to me thinking they are a "bad parent" because they are struggling with their child's behavior. By the time they call me often they have read all the books, internet articles, consulted friends, family members and teachers- still being left with this feeling of inadequacy when facing their families pain points.
Simply put- they feel wrong because everyone else CAN and they CAN'T.
This is why I love where I am in my business right now. I come in with fresh eyes and perspective in a totally non-judgemental way and listen to YOUR pain points and hearing from where YOUR family is, right now. And we work together to get new systems in place that work for you- not your friend, neighbor, classmate. For you and your family. Not for what worked for me and mine.
This story reminds me of a comment a recent client shared with me.
"I've been watching your business for a long time and knew it was time to call when I was watching my friend's daughter. My own was at school and it was time to leave and go pick her up. When I directed my friend's daughter that it was time to leave and she said "no" I didn't know what to do. I knew what I would do if it was my own child, but I didn't know how to get her out the door. This meant that it was time to learn some new tools from a fresh perspective."
If you are looking for a non-judgmental, fresh perspective to help you and your family reach your positive goals- now's the best time to reach out. I am opening up my doors to new clients August 15th and I've already started my waiting list!