As I read more stories of Black women dying before, during, or after childbirth I am devastated. I am hearing more stories of Black women’s voices not being heard when it comes to their health concerns. This is a very sensitive topic for me as I’ve experienced racial profiling when it comes to healthcare. Let me take you back to 2002…I’d been married for a year at the time and my oldest daughter Symone was about 4/5 years old. I went to my annual appointment which went well and was headed home when I got a call from the doctor’s office. They wanted me to return to their office and the doctor wanted to speak with me. Let me first say the doctor I’d seen that day was not my normal provider so I hadn’t built a relationship with this person. I was unable to return to the office that day, and asked if it was an emergency. The doctor who seemed annoyed when he got on the phone stated “Just wanted you to know you’re pregnant, schedule an appointment!” I assumed he handed the phone back to the nurse because all I heard was congratulations! I was in shock, I hadn’t been trying to have another baby or even thought about it, but here I was pregnant. I scheduled my appointment and went home to announce the news to the rest of my family. We were all ecstatic!
Fast-forward to my appointment. I came prepared with a list of questions and excitement. My doctor was still on leave and would be for the length of this pregnancy, so this new guy and I would be stuck together. My hope was this time around we could get to know each other and he would address my questions. He enters the room never looks up from the file, I speak, he nods. I sit back as he gloves his hands and prepares to perform my pelvic exam. I stop him and ask a question, “We’ll discuss that later!” he mumbles. By this time I am annoyed and I just want to get this appointment over with, he completes the exam and leaves the room, I get dressed and sit there, he never says leave, schedule additional appointments, nothing. I get up to leave and stop at the front desk where I am informed the doctor would like to speak with me. No problem, I wanted to speak with him as well. I enter his office, this man still has his head in what I think is my file. Ma’am I need you to meet me at this hospital on Monday at 11am, we’ll take care of this. I’m sitting there confused. “Excuse me, take care of what!” “Ma’am, you can’t carry this baby, we’ll take care of this on Monday, be there and be on time!” I still can’t wrap my thoughts around what he is saying but he gets up and opens the door for me to leave saying on my way out he’ll see me Monday. I went home devastated. Can’t carry this pregnancy, why, what happened?! I cried all weekend as I had no clue as to what would happen when I got to the hospital on Monday. I called my aunt and she scheduled an appointment with her OB/GYN. Monday came and went, I never went to the hospital nor did I receive a call from the doctor’s office about my Monday appointment. I was so confused and scared.
My appointment with my aunt’s OB/GYN finally arrived. They run tests, get blood work and discover my hCG levels are not elevating as they should. This doctor sits with me and explains the results. “There is still hope, but I want you to be prepared if the outcome is, this is not a viable pregnancy.” I cried into this doctor’s arms, I think the mixture of emotions was not being able to give birth to this baby and finally someone was talking to me about what was going on. We waited another two weeks before testing my hCG levels again. Nothing, this was not a viable pregnancy. This doctor sat with me as we made arrangements for me to meet him and his team at the hospital for a D & C. He explained the procedure, asked if I had questions, and sent me home with a care package.
A few months go by and I receive a call from my original doctor indicating she would be leaving the practice and giving her updated information. She asked why I never came back and how the pregnancy was going. SUPER annoyed I explained to her everything that happened at her former practice and why I never returned. She then informed me that that particular doctor had several complaints from other Black women and that she was leaving the practice because of it. She stated that his opinion was young Black women didn’t need all these babies anyway, that suggesting to them to end their pregnancies would be helping them, that everyone had the same sob story and he was sick of dealing with it. This man’s practice was smack dab in the middle of a Black neighborhood, he was convenient to go to because he was right there. He lumped all the people coming to him in the same category and basically wanted to collect whatever funds he could and be done with the community. This man was also Black!
Although I didn’t have a viable pregnancy, imagine the women who came to see him that did, imagine those women wanting their babies and being looked at as less than because he assumed their story. I was a young Black woman, married, one child already, owned my home, worked, educated, yet because of his belief of people that looked like me I didn’t deserve proper care or information. I reported him and I recall months later the practice being shut down due to some flaws in billing practices.
Ladies it’s important that we fight for our health. We can get second opinions, ask questions, challenge behaviors. We don’t have to accept the doctor’s word as law if they are not willing to treat us with respect! How many of you have experienced a story like mine? What did you do?