You weren’t to know, when I entered your room this morning that I was having a dark day. You weren’t to realise that anything, any one significant thing could have tipped me from just coping to teetering on the brink of despair.
You weren’t to know, but that shouldn’t matter. As a doctor you have a duty of care. You are meant to treat your patients with the respect and dignity that they deserve, and I don’t feel that’s what you did this morning.
When I booked the appointment, I explained it was for the recommended 6 week check up for my coil. I don’t know if maybe they don’t pass this information onto you from reception, but still, even if you weren’t forewarned that you would start your morning off looking between somebody’s legs, you didn’t have to look at me like I was in the wrong place when I explained that’s why I was there.
You may think you know best, but cutting somebody off when they’re trying to explain to you that they’ve constantly bled for the past six weeks and can see no sign of it stopping, and that that they’re worried it might not ever stop, is not best practise. It’s not nice.
You see, I have been going over and over things in my mind since the bleeding started, worrying it’s not normal, worrying I might never have a day I don’t have to wear a pad again, it’s affected much more than my purchasing of sanitary products, it’s affected my self confidence when it was at its lowest post baby, it’s made my partner question whether I still find him attractive after I’ve yet again rebuffed his advances.
I’m snapping at people with no reason, and yeah I’m a moody bitch generally but clearly my hormones are at play here as well, and that’s probably to do with the coil.
But when I went to elaborate on ‘I’ve been bleeding for 6 weeks’ you cut me off and said you just needed to check it was in properly.
At the time I was holding Benjamin, he’s four months old and doesn’t like being in his pram, so I had to take him out whilst waiting for my appointment. When I explained this and asked if I would need to put him down for the examination you didn’t smile kindly or acknowledge that it’s tough with a young baby, you simply said that I shouldn’t have brought him with me.
I don’t quite know what you thought I could do with him, my partner works, he’s not a pet, he can’t be left unattended at home…
Still, feeling like a bad mum for bringing my baby son along to a doctors appointment I put him down in his pram and you instructed me to strip off the bottom layer of my clothing.
I know the drill, it’s ok, but you didn’t try and protect my modesty at all. There was no curtain drawn, there was no polite turn of your back, no crinkly disposable sheet to go over me whilst you looked around ‘up there’.
I’ve had smears done, I’ve had kids, I know that these things are never going to be fun, but you were so cold and unfeeling during the examination. When you couldn’t see the coil using the speculum at first, you abruptly asked if you could use your fingers to find where about it was, and then did so, before I had the chance to answer you.
The whole thing felt rough and left me hurting hours later. But it wasn’t the physical pain which upset me the most, it was what happened next.
As I got myself dressed again and you went to end the appointment with a breezy ‘Things usually settle down after the first year with the coil, if it’s not working for you, you may have to try something else’, I dared to broach the second reason for coming to see you.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I know the NHS is totally stretched, that a doctor’s time is precious, but when a mum with a young baby decides to open up to you, do you not think it might be a good idea to listen. To take the time, to stop clock watching for a moment in order to be there for that mother.
You have no idea how hard it is to admit to a health professional that you are not coping all that well, that you may in fact need to go back on the medication you worked so hard to come off of when pregnant.
You have no idea what it’s like to worry that what you say might result in people assuming you aren’t a good mother, that your baby isn’t cared for. But when I opened up to you this morning, when I finally admitted I might need some extra help, you said you didn’t have the time to discuss it.
I explained I had already self referred myself to steps 2 wellbeing but that they had recommended a local specialist counselling team who had a long wait list. You asked me who the specialist team was, and when I said the words childhood sexual abuse you looked like you wished you hadn’t asked and just looked back at your computer screen.
I asked whether you were able to refer me to anyone else, if there was any way to speed up the process so that I could avoid going back on tablets again, as I wanted to talk to someone to try and get better. You simply said no, there was only steps 2 wellbeing.
And ok, maybe there is, but couldn’t you have spoken with more compassion? Couldn’t you have taken a moment to try and understand how I might be feeling? Isn’t that part of your job, to care?
You mentioned tablets, that some were suitable whilst breastfeeding, but again reiterated that you didn’t have the time to discuss then and there and, if I wanted to, I would need to come back another time and then when you made it clear I had already overstayed my welcome, I walked out of the room, struggling with the pram with no offer of help, holding back the tears.
I had entered your room feeling low and nervous to discuss things but also hopeful that you, as a doctor, might be able to help, that you might have the answers I so longed for. But instead I left feeling so much worse.
I feel you let me down this morning, and I just hope that next time I see a doctor about my crippling anxiety and depression that they might show a little more compassion.