I Do Not Consent. These are the four most powerful words a pregnant woman can utter.
I wish I had said them in my first pregnancy when my OB did not believe that I knew my date of conception and insisted on a transvaginal ultrasound at 10 weeks to date the pregnancy. I hated that, and in fact I somewhat regret almost every ultrasound I’ve had. I never wanted them but I agreed to appease others whether it was my husband or the midwives who wanted the assurance all was well. And it was good to know baby was OK.
I Do Not Consent.
I wish I had said these words postpartum. A few days after my second child was born at home, a wonderful water birth of a healthy 11 pound 6 ounce boy, my midwife came to visit. It took only a few minutes before she told us we were going to the hospital. I was dehydrated, I had a bit of a fever, I had very low blood pressure, I had low energy and I’d been having abdominal pain all night. So we went. She had called ahead and knew the doctor on call. We walked in and the nurses took me back and hooked me up to a blood pressure machine, all the while chatting to each other and not paying much attention to me at all. I saw my BP was in the 70s/40s which I knew was low compared with my usual 90/55-ish range. But the nurses were too busy chatting and missed the reading. So they had to do it again. And when they saw it, they actually sprang into action. They led me to a bed and got the ball rolling, soon I saw the doctor, who was great. They did an ultrasound to check for retained placenta. There was none. I ended up with an IV in each arm to rehydrate me. If only I had left after that. That would have been fine.
But I did not say those crucial words: I do not consent.
So I was admitted and saw another doctor, one who totally ignored me. I had to repeat my answers to his questions because he just did not listen. He did not care. Maybe he resented out-of-hospital birthers or maybe it was late at night and his shift was nearly over. He decided I had endometritis and prescribed some powerful light-sensitive IV antibiotics which would mean I could not nurse my baby. I had to pump and dump. My husband was sent home with my new baby, forced to stop at a drug store on the way home for some formula, which we had never used. And I stayed there for two and a half long days, crying in a bed, aching for my baby, watching my body swell from all the IV fluids, asking questions but ultimately not having the confidence to say those four words I should have screamed:
I do not consent!
This is my story of regret. If that had been it, it would not be such a big deal for me. But that baby grew to have some allergies – the only one in either of our families – and I will always question whether that was because his precious virgin gut flora was so disrupted in those early days because I agreed to something that did not feel right or if my breastmilk was still contaminated when I finally got to come home and nurse him again. You know, one thing moms often do very well is beat themselves up about such things. What is done is done, I know that, and sharing this is part of my way of letting go.
I know many women have their own story of regret. I hear them all the time. My hope is that by helping to educate, encourage and empower women to be more fully involved in their care, they won’t wish they had said these words. They instead will have a story of how they did say those words:
I do not consent.
Did you ever say these words? Do you have any regrets about a time when you feel perhaps you should have said them but didn’t?