Women are amazing! I have loved these anthems of celebrating us! Black girl magic, girl power, and girls rock, all celebrate and acknowledge our creativity, strength, vulnerability, and empathy. We carry multiple identities – bosses, sisters, mothers, wives, friends – the list could go on. As many of you know, I am a woman, and I proudly say that I am biased. Why am I inspired and amazed by women?
Because of our strength and resilience that we endure due to our reproductive system. What is true, is that this same system that gives us an opportunity to bear children can also cause us to feel disempowered. From PCOS, infertility, hysterectomies, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer, women experience uncomfortable, painful and sometimes traumatic procedures to maintain our health. My hope for these next few blogs is to help women identify ways to care for themselves during painful medical procedures. This first blog will take a look at finding providers that you trust, and advocating for your needs.
First, things first
As I continue to support women in these experiences it’s been important to say this often: You are brave! Whether this is your first time getting an ultrasound or it’s your 10th time, each time that you lay down/stand/sit up on the examining table is a moment of bravery. Whether you cry the whole time, or need to hold someone else’s hand, the bottom line is you are showing up for yourself (and oftentimes for your family). That takes courage.
Go at your pace
In those moments when you are struggling to motivate yourself to go to another appointment, know that you are also not alone. Sometimes, multiple appointments can leave you feeling drained and confused. Barring what your doctor recommends or if it’s a life/death situation, sometimes it’s okay to take a break in between procedures or appointments.
Many women who have gone through infertility treatments have taken a break between cycles. Sometimes you need some time to regroup. So take care of yourself, grieve those moments of disappointment, experience relief from your stress, and reconnect with the people in your life that bring comfort, joy and peace.
It’s all about the provider
Truly, the number of women who have switched from one provider to the next in between treatments is common. The sad truth is that not all providers are created equally. Some are not great about listening to your needs or concerns. It may feel like they are invalidating your experience, or frankly, do not demonstrate kindness and compassion.
Many women, and especially women of color, have experienced disparities in treatment due to their race and gender. If you have had an experience with a provider that has left you feeling more traumatized or you are having a difficult time trusting them, then it’s time to find a new doctor. Being brave or courageous means finding people who are safe, competent and worthy to be trusted with your physical and emotional vulnerability. Do not settle.
Advocate for yourself
If you are unable to switch providers due to financial, insurance, or a lack of options in your geographic region, do not worry. You still have a voice to advocate for what you need. Do your homework ahead of time. Ask others who may have gone through the procedure already what questions would be good to ask. If you have any medical professionals within your family or friend group, they could be a great resource. Write down all of your questions down ahead of time. Bring a copy of your records from previous appointments/procedures with you that relate to your current concerns. Take your time reading through any documents or consents that you are asked to sign. You have the power and the right to be informed of the care that you are going to receive.
Don’t go it alone
Shame is a huge motivator for why some don’t invite their friends or family into this process with them. Maybe you are struggling with a sense that it is, “my fault,” or that there is, “something wrong with me,” that you need to have this procedure done. If you are feeling this way, please know that many other women feel this way too. And yet, it is not your fault. Our bodies, and what happens inside of them is such a mystery to many, including myself. Why some women have PCOS and others do not, I can’t explain. What I do know is that shame will keep you from telling others about your experience and reaching out for support. Brene Brown has some great tips on how to gain “shame resilience.”:
- Recognize when you are feeling shame and understand its triggers.
- Practice normalizing – know that everyone struggles with it.
- Reality test with close friends and families.
- Tell your stories of shame. The power of shame loses its strength when we decide to bring it into the light.
Invite others to support you in whatever way maintains your boundaries and sense of empowerment.
It has been such an honor to journey with women through concerns or changes within their bodies. Reach out to schedule an appointment today!
Written by therapist Pamela Larkin
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