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Dear Doctors of the World

Dear DoctorsDear Doctors of the World,

Let’s talk about miscarriage, stillbirth, and the loss of children, shall we?

I know it’s not a popular, feel-good topic, but let’s face it – if you work with women of childbearing age or post-childbearing ages, it’s going to come up. And, quite frankly, the lack of wanting to talk about this topic is causing some of you to be callous and insensitive during what, for you, seem like simple and routine medical questions.

Let’s take my most recent doctor visit for example. We’ll call this doctor, Dr. D. Here’s how the routine questions went:

Dr. D: Have you had any pregnancies?

Me: Two.

Dr. D: How many children?

Me: None living.

Dr. D: Terminated?

Me: No. I had a daughter who was stillborn at 21 weeks and another who was miscarried at 10 weeks.

Dr. D: Silence. Then moved on to the next question without comment.

Hold up a minute. Seriously? How exactly is it that the only scenario that you can come up with when I disclose I have had pregnancies but no living children is that I have had abortions? That’s fucked, Dr. D.

Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against abortion. For many, many reasons, abortion may be the best or only option and I absolutely and completely believe in women’s right to make this choice.

What I can’t believe is that the only explanation you could think of, Dr. D, for pregnancies that didn’t result in living children is that the mother choose to terminate those pregnancies.

Really? In all your years of medical training and practice, you’ve never heard of miscarriage and stillbirth? Or even the possibility that my children were born health and alive but died due to other circumstances later? Or that I gave him/her up for adoption? If a pregnancy doesn’t end in a living child, for you that means abortion?

So, not only is that fucked, it’s just plain ignorance and poor medical practice. I’m not even going to get into the lack of acknowledgement of my experience or the loss of my children.

Let me show you how that conversation could have gone:

Dr. D: Have you had any pregnancies?

Me: Two.

Dr. D: How many children?

Me: None living.

Dr. D: Can you tell me what happened?

Me: I had a daughter who was stillborn at 21 weeks and another who was miscarried at 10 weeks.

Dr. D: I’m so sorry. What were their names?

Me: Grace and Lily.

Dr. D: Have you had any medical complications or concerns related to Grace or Lily’s deaths?

And the routine medical questions continue…

See, Dr. D, a little basic compassion and a few seconds of addition conversation would have gone a LONG way toward building a trusting relationship with you and for my trust in your abilities as my doctor. As it is, for this and other reasons, I’ll never step foot in your office again. Nor will I recommend you to anyone else. If fact, I’ll be telling anyone who might ask to steer far and clear from walking through your doors.

And I wish, I really wish, Dr. D, I could say you are the only doctor to fuck up that line of routine questioning. Unfortunately, it’s all too common of an occurrence.

There are a few doctors out there that get this right, like my amazing primary care doctor whose routine questioning pretty much played out like the second example above. But there are far too many like you who blunder forward with assumptions, insensitivity, and ignorance.

Miscarriage, stillbirth, and child death do happen. As someone wanting to provide my medical care, you should probably be aware of that.

Sincerely,
A fierce and loving mother without her children

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