“ There was nothing like a trip to the gynaecologist, to make one feel just a little violated” ~ Darynda Jones
I gave birth to my children through a caesarean section (CS). The first one wasn’t a planned CS, so I had to try labor first making it worse; then to be invaded in many ways. Kinds of invasions I would have preferred to opt out from, if possible.
Even before having my babies and major surgeries, I knew such procedures, since a normal check up at the gynaecologist can turn into one.
If you are a woman, and a woman of a certain age like me, you are familiar with those hospital beds with elevated handle-like structures spread like wings. You are supposed to spread your legs and put your thighs on them. The handles you put your feet on are made of steel; probably the equipment that is going to be inserted as well, depending on the kind of procedure. It may be cold in there, then the gynaecologist will come closer and peer inside your vagina to examine you.
If you are there for the first time, may be no one has told you about what is going to happen. Like what happened to a female colleague of mine – a newlywed, who was at the gynaecologist’s just the other week. The Doctor was popular in town; the kind with long list of patients and recommended by many. She was meaning to get some checkups as she was planning to have a baby. After some small talk, the Doctor asked her to remove her underwear and lie on the examination table. Confused, she demanded the check up to be done in another way that doesn’t involve violation from a person she just saw – a stranger – who was going to insert his hands in her vagina. The guy’s response wasn’t helping her situation. He told her that he didn’t expect such a behavior from an educated woman, albeit a doctors’ wife. He also told her that many people are waiting outside to willingly spread their legs and “show it to him”.
That is the incident that reminded me of countless times that I had to go through invasive procedures in the hands of medical personnel.
In case you wonder, here is the definition for the word: Invasive procedure: “An invasive procedure is a medical procedure in which the body is “invaded” or entered by a needle, tube, device or scope. Invasive procedures can include anything from the simple needle prick for a blood test or shot, to inserting a tube, device or scope, to major surgeries.”
When those procedures involve private parts, and in a society, that makes speaking of what goes on “down there” a taboo, the nature and magnitude of invasive-ness becomes even worse. Given the situation in countries like ours, where women have to be sensitized to go to health facilities for checkups during pregnancy and for institutional delivery, talking about what happens when you go for such types of reproductive health related checkups and treatments is not a usual thing. Even for those who live in towns and cities, it is not a desirable topic to talk about; it is simply considered among the pains that you just endure as a woman.
Most women I know are not comfortable in going for such checkups, unless it is absolutely a must. I also know for a fact that most women I know closely, and others, for reasons including religious requirements, prefer to wait for long period in between to get checked or rather treated by the few available female gyneacologists in town. Like in many other medical fields, women’s health is still a man’s world, especially so in developing countries like ours.
I had my youngest child a little over two years ago but I remember the whole situation and the procedures and pain like it was yesterday. My doctor, bless his heart, is a wonderful human being who knows how to do his job, but surgery and inpatient care often involves many other professionals. The nurses and others take care of what needs to be done most of the times; all the pricking and inserting, tagging and pulling. All painful and invasive by itself without the inhuman approach. Some nurses, especially those who work during the night shift, come tired from their day jobs and are used to the job there are doing. They tend to perform mechanically.
I know the whole thing is not a woman only situation here. Though the magnitude and nature of invasive-ness vary, such procedures are inevitable parts of medical treatments we all undergo as prerequisite for healing from illnesses or some routine checkups for that matter. But women have to go through it more, given we are the ones who have babies and a single pregnancy alone can involve lots of procedures and visits to medical facilities.
Given the busy-ness of the doctors we usually go to and the number of people waiting their turns, it is almost inevitable that one’s discomfort undergoing an invasive procedures doesn’t matter at all. Rather, if one tends to show a little bit of pain and complain, medical professionals will tell you they want to get done as soon as possible and go to the next patient. They even might treat you rough as well, and tell you to suck it up, they are doing the stuff for your own sake and there is no other way to do it. They cannot be in your position, since they are men that would never imagine how some things like a procedure that involves inserting something made of steel into a woman’s uterus feels like. Instead they tell you to relax, to calm down, so that they can do whatever they are going to do undisturbed. Little do they know or care that a tiny bit of consideration, a mere “ayizosh” (meaning ‘it is okay’) would mean a lot to make it easier for the person involved.