Better safe (sex) than sorry:
Don’t shy away from a clinic for any reason. If you want to be there, you should — it’s your right to safe healthcare. You don’t have to be married to visit an ob-gyn clinic. Pregnancy and abortions are two of the many things a gynecologist consults on. It’s as difficult to find a great gynecologist, as it is to find a supportive partner. You know you’ve got both when your partner tags along with you to the clinic, and the gynecologist talk to your partner!
As a self-diagnosed hypochondriac, I need a visit to the doctor and get affirmations about the state of my body once in a little while. Working on community health projects, I was told repeatedly that ‘early identification’ is the mantra. I tend to identify a lot of things in my body, very early in the morning. By the time I’ve fixed up an appointment with a clinic, I’m a nervous wreck thanks to WebMD. After I’ve spent hours working my way through each finger nail at the waiting room, and a few minutes talking to the doctor, I leave content — either I get appreciated for looking into the concern quickly or dismissed for being concerned in the first place. But when I visit a gynaecologist, I’m always angry when I leave. If I were certain that kicking the desk at the reception wouldn’t leave me with a swollen foot, I would go for it. But that’s unlikely, so I spend my time seething over notes I’d like to leave behind to those at the clinic. These are a few samples:
To the receptionists, lab technician & cashiers:
You probably deal with over 100 clients a day, but please ask me before you casually note down, tick off, or address me as ‘Mrs’. I don’t have to be married to visit the clinic. Even if I were to flash a wedding band, ask me. Don’t assume. Ask me. Finally, I hope that someday you’ll learn (from someone like I did from my English teacher) that it is not ‘Mrs Anita’, rather ‘Mrs Selvam’, and that would be my mom, not me in this case.
To the first nurse, second nurse, third nurse, and the doctor’s assistant:
Don’t ask me what the problem is, or why I am here. I’m here to meet the doctor, and I’ll gladly tell him/her about it. If you hadn’t just screamed ‘UTI’ loud enough for the entire waiting hall and the nurse across the long corridor to hear, thereby embarrassing the woman in question to walk as fast as she could while everyone was staring at her, I’d tell you. If I had the slightest hint that you’d be able to address my concern and prescribe a treatment, I would tell you. But you can’t, so I’ll wait for the doctor.
To the mothers and mother- in-laws accompanying pregnant women:
If you believe pregnancy is solely a women’s issue and men should be kept away from the clinic or if you want quality mother/mother-in-law time with your pregnant ward, so be it. But don’t judge my partner or me for sitting next to each other, holding hands and sharing a joke. Don’t point, don’t stare and don’t ask us to go sit elsewhere. He is my partner. That means half of everything, including accompanying me to the clinic. Moreover, he has some questions for the doctor, and most importantly, this involves both of us. So he will be with me. Maybe your daughter wants her partner next to her too, instead of you. The clinic is not an exclusive women’s space, so I don’t get why all the fathers and the husbands are missing from the equation. If they do come, I must ask why they try to merge with the half-blue half-pink wallpaper (unquestionably the favourite colours of the new born boys and girls respectively) or wait a safe distance away from the ‘women of the family’ or even worse, huddle at the car park. Surely, don’t you need men to make the babies?
To the friends’ mothers, very distant aunt, and the school teacher from long ago:
I’m on high alert at the clinic because of you. To your credit, I’ve not glanced at my phone for over an hour. I’ve spent my time watching the door to the clinic so I can spot you before you spot me. No, I didn’t forget to invite you to my wedding. I’m not married yet. I don’t know if I want to be. I’m here to meet the doctor, because I have a few concerns. Stop telling yourself that I’m here to get an abortion. Even if that’s true, I’m not going to tell you about it. I didn’t bring my mother along because she doesn’t know I’m having sex, and was afraid that the doctor would ask me in front of her. No, I’m not alone, but I got my partner to make a dash to the car so you don’t get the gossip you’re looking for.
To the doctor:
Thank you for taking my concerns seriously, and patiently answering my questions. It’s rare to find a non-judgmental ob-gyn doctor who will also maintain confidentiality. But please, talk to my partner. He’s sitting right next to me, and he’s not invisible. Please help bring men into the conversation.
(The writer is an activist, who has visited many gynaecologists & chosen to write about it anonymously because her parents read the newspaper. She understands the irony of it all.)