Feeling, Living

Dr. W, as in, The Worst (Part 2)

April 26, 2016

mossNote: This post is in two parts and contains choice language I don’t normally use in my writing. While I believe it is safe for work, you may not want to read if you’re sensitive to strong language or very, very frustrating medical experiences.

Extra note: Thank you to everyone who reached out yesterday after reading Part 1. I truly appreciate your support. This whole experience occurred in November/December 2015, so I’ve had time to process my feelings and move past it. Still, writing this was very therapeutic. 

A week later I went in for a follow-up appointment. The waiting area is small, just 4 chairs in a row, with people walking through constantly. The office was running late. I’d come alone.

Next to me was a couple with a new born, a baby boy who’d been born early. This should’ve been the mother’s 30-something week appointment, but instead her and her beaming husband were there for a post-natal check-up with baby boy in their arms. Glowing, giggling, and happy to share with each passerby – I was frozen next to them, my hands shaking, my chest caving in.

Not once did reception acknowledge this unfortunate timing by asking if I was OK, if I wanted to wait somewhere else, if I wanted to step outside and they would call me when they were ready, that they were making up a room for me to wait in, it’s just that they were so backed up.

No. No one acknowledged my loss or my emotional state, not even the doctor, who stepped in and out of his office between patients. Nothing.

In retrospect, I could’ve asked for what I needed, but I was so overwhelmed, so at a loss, so beat up, that I could do nothing but furiously text a few friends and let my eyes well up with tears.

They couldn’t even put a note on my chart? What was wrong with these people?

Finally, after 45min of torture, I was called into a room, and there the doctor came in with his awkward way because he couldn’t joke around. How was I feeling? Was I still bleeding? My brain was in such shock, I couldn’t speak more than a few words.

“Are you taking iron pills?” he asked.
“No.” He never said to take iron pills. All he did was tell H to fix me a plate of pasta.
“Oh ok. Well, you’re probably anemic. So, what you’re going to want to do is get some iron pills. Or better yet… do you eat meat?” he continued on in such a carefree, confusing way.

If you cared about being my doctor, you would know
, I thought.

“Yes, I eat meat, though I haven’t been able to because it’s an aversion when I’m pregnant…”
He cut me off. “Ok. Great. So the best thing is liver, but most people don’t want to eat liver…”

I thought about how all the tissue I passed the week before looked pretty much like liver. My brain buzzed, my stomach churned.

Sensing my silence. “So if you can’t do liver, you should go and order a hamburger, good quality meat, as rare as possible. Usually doctor’s tell you to order meat cooked, but right now you’re going to want to order something as rare as you can.”

Ohmygodseriouslywtf?

Is this guy seriously giving me medical advice again in the form of food?! And if this was so important why didn’t he suggest the rarest hamburger in the world last week, or IRON PILLS for that matter, instead of telling H to cook me spaghetti, as if such haunting loss could be staved off with some carbohydrates?

He continued on. “And I don’t want to keep sticking you with needles, but we need to see the pregnancy hormones drop. So what I want you to do is, in about a week, you can take a home pregnancy test. If it comes back positive, don’t get excited, you’re not pregnant, it just means there’s still hormones, which might mean there’s still tissue. Call us. If it’s negative, you’re all set.”

I am never coming back here again.

Y’know what a woman who just had a miscarriage never, ever wants to do? TAKE A FUCKING PREGNANCY TEST AND HOPE THAT IT’S NEGATIVE.

This was the absolute breaking point, but I was so alone, so devastated, that I said nothing. Nothing.

I didn’t go back.

I didn’t take a pregnancy test either. I trusted my body, grieved and asked H to take me camping. The morning after H and I said goodbye to our second pregnancy there was some bleeding and I knew then that the last of the tissue passed. Less than a month later, my cycle returned to normal.

I understand that the medical industry is just that, an industry. I understand that miscarriage is uncomfortable and disappointing for doctors.  I understand that doctors are overworked, patients can seem crazy and no one wins but the insurance companies.

What I don’t understand is how someone can practice OBGYN and not have a standard process for patient support during pregnancy loss when it is so prevalent. 20% of pregnancies will end in miscarriage. TWENTY PERCENT of a doctor’s patient population will go through some form of loss and to ignore this physical and emotional process is beyond negligent. It is egregious.

And how this particular doctor thought that saying a remaining piece of tissue from a terminating pregnancy was a “little shit” is beyond me. How this entire experience in no way supported, or god-forbid, empowered me as a woman to know that this was just a game of odds, just a part of the process of becoming a parent, that my instincts were good (if not a bit nerve-wracking to a doctor), and that our bodies are made to do these things because it’s natural.

I was lucky. I had the kind, scientific words of my previous doctor from my first miscarriage in my head, and the experience of grief the entire year before, so Dr. W’s actions didn’t send me into a black hole, but they could’ve. My heart goes out to other women who experience this type of neglect during their own losses, and take it upon themselves that they’ve done something wrong.

Please, hear me. We’ve done nothing wrong. Even if we never, ever understand, our bodies and our babies know what they’re doing. Doctors are there to support and help, to give insights that education and practice provide, but they do not understand what it is like to be you. If the doctor you have isn’t supporting you in the ways you need, find a new one.

And if you’re pregnant and seeking a OBGYN in Los Angeles, may I recommend you avoid Dr. Weiss of Beverly Hills.

(You can read Part 1 here.)

PS: My two miscarriages were polar opposite experiences and they’ve changed me. The following resources helped me after the second loss in November 2015 (unfortunately, I didn’t find them during the first in late December 2014 / early January 2015).

Pregnancy After Loss
#ihadamiscarriage on Twitter
Dr. Jessica Zucker and her pregnancy loss cards

Whatever you’re feeling it’s yours to feel. And if you’d like to reach out with your own story, I am here to listen – justine.taormino(at)gmail.

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8 Comments

  • Reply Katie April 27, 2016 at 9:06 am

    love. you.

  • Reply Rita April 27, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    I read these earlier in the week, when I wasn’t able to comment fully. I’m still not, but I wanted you to know: I read these. I am so sorry for your experience. I had a similar doctor before I found the right one. They have no idea, I think, the pain they can cause. I get that they are human. I get that in every profession, there are lots of people who are mediocre. And a fair number who are worse than that. I work in schools. I am reminded of this all the time. But it is so hard, when the work is so important and the impacts of doing it poorly so deep, to make allowances for human limitations. I’m glad the writing helped with the healing.

    • Reply jtao21 April 28, 2016 at 8:06 am

      Yes, I totally understand people are human and in every job/industry there are people suited for and “good” and their job, and others not so much. That still doesn’t excuse the entire lack of a protocol for doctors to put patients through when pregnancy loss is so common. Language, resources, etc. Thanks for reading and commenting xo

  • Reply Rita April 28, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    Completely agree.

  • Reply Lindsey April 29, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    I am completely speechless at these two posts, which I just read. I honestly don’t know what to say, other than I’m astonished at how insensitively you were treated and I am so, so sorry about your losses. I hope for peace for you and your husband. Sending love (and knowing how enormously insufficient that is). xox

    • Reply jtao21 May 1, 2016 at 11:35 am

      Thank you so much – any words help, as you know. We were speechless and then outraged, so I needed to process all of that before I could write these… but I wrote them in case other families experience such crap support, they know that it is not about them or their loss, and that they deserve better. xo

  • Reply Nina May 1, 2016 at 10:52 pm

    This is why I do the work I do teaching doctors how to communicate. May I share part of this story? We often talk in my trainings about how “listening is an action” and when you have nothing , you always have empathy to offer if you are willing to sit with the pain in the room. Justine, I am so very sorry. Thank you for sharing your most tender bits.

    • Reply jtao21 May 2, 2016 at 11:12 am

      I would absolutely love to share whatever you’d like from this post with your work and/or I’m happy to write something more succinct if it would be helpful. I’ll email you. <3

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