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Remember there are NO – ‘dumb questions’ – just one you don’t have an answer to right now.

Birth Preparation

Just Ask!

What is it about health care that we generally become fearful!

Naturally if it is not your area of expertise you will refer to someone who is in that field for diagnosis, care, and advice.

However, why do we surrender and defer control of our health and well- being to the medical profession without question when we don’t in most other areas of our life?

As a nurse /midwife I see it occur daily –

Patient – ‘Whatever you think is best doc”.

Doctor – ‘Here is a prescription just follow the instructions – one tablet 3 times a day’.

Partner – ‘Is that a new tablet – what is it for? ‘

You – “I am not really sure – I went to the doctor today and he /she said I should take it.”

Nurse – ‘Are you on any medications? ‘

Patient – ‘I just take one white tablet a couple of times a day’.

Nurse – ‘Do you know what it is called and what it is for?’

Patient – ‘No – it was just recommended by my doctor.’

Teaching classes –

Student/ client – “this may be a dumb question but ….”

Sound familiar – is this you at any time?

If NOT, then that is fantastic!

Is it because we feel intimidated because we lack the knowledge, and for some reason we feel ‘dumb’ for asking and they have studied and know all the answers. Not necessarily so – they are human too and there is a lot unknown about so much and it is often a ‘dumb question’ that sparks the imagination of others to find an answer.  Where would we be if that was NOT the case? 

I was raised to always ask – and I am thankful to my parents for that as it encouraged my curiosity and ensured that I walked away understanding with clarity.  

That went for any aspect of my life – dealing with Mechanics, Accountants / finance (my knowledge weakness) / builders, plumbers etc. 

In fact, my father used to tell me that I was always to ask the teacher first before coming home from school to my mother or himself to ask how to do anything related to my homework.  To look up the word in the dictionary before asking what it meant. 

Therefore, it was generally known in my class that I would always raise my hand when I didn’t understand and my classmates always benefitted as they waited for me to do so, to not be humiliated by being the one in the class who ‘didn’t get it’.  Often, I was asking on behalf of ¾ of the class.  My sister and I were labelled as nuisances among some teachers. 

I truly appreciated the wisdom of my parents as it taught me that there was never a ‘dumb question’ just one I didn’t have the answer to and even if the answer was obvious once heard, it was good to have clarity and understanding.  If that didn’t work, I was then allowed to ask my scientist father and my generally knowledgeable in other areas, mother to help. 

Sometimes it was in the explanation or teaching method that the confusion lay.

My parents managed to simplify it or explain it slightly differently and then it all made sense for some reason.  They also asked me to feedback to them, so they were certain I did understand.

A couple of years ago I had some major elective surgery and when I went for my consultation to my chosen surgeon (found through recommendation and research) – I went in armed with a notebook and a list of questions.

He was professional and kind, he gave me his spiel (as we do in the medical profession very well – and I am guilty of this myself) to explain and draw some pretty diagrams of what was very familiar to us as medics and often very foreign to the patient.

At the end of the spiel – were the familiar final words – ‘any questions?’

He was obviously (and admitted to as much later) a little surprised and taken aback when I brought out my notebook and asked for a couple of minutes to check off my list of what questions were answered and understood and those that weren’t.

I then proceeded to clarify the rest – to which he happily answered and even then, some of those answers went over my head.  I clarified them again (he may have had to ‘dumb it down for me’) but at least I went away having a clear understanding of what was going to happen to ME.

As well as what necessary steps I needed to put in place to manage everything pre and post the procedure.  Aside from the financial questions – to which he referred me to the office girls – he covered them all and I may have taken up a little more time than was allocated.

It wasn’t until the next consult in a few weeks that he told me that he hadn’t had anyone come in with notebook in hand and have so many questions that he thought he covered in his usual explanation (spiel).  Jokingly he asked if I had my notebook with me to which I assured him I did!

I responded in kind – that although his spiel was probably very thorough.  Due to my uncertainty in this area of medicine – as I had not done general nursing for some time and that my area of expertise now was midwifery (to which he told me the birth stories of his 4 children – LOL).

I was a little nervous and overwhelmed at the prospect of such a major decision to go ahead, I knew I may not be in the best headspace to take it all in which is why I prepared some questions beforehand. So, I didn’t walk out regretting I hadn’t asked later.   I was in the medical field and had a better understanding than most and yet I needed clarification.

I didn’t doubt his abilities as I had heard great things and researched before I even contemplated going ahead.  My fear was enhanced by the fact I live alone, and I was predominately going to have to cope myself with some help from family and friends.  After all this is happening to ME.

I needed to understand all that was involved and be reassured that it was safe, and I could care for myself in the weeks ahead.  I needed to prepare for all contingencies, managing day to day activities, for the time away from work, how that may impact me financially, how I was going to manage when I went back to a relatively physical job.

He told me that because of our consultation it had given him pause and he realised that maybe a lot of his clients/patients had walked away ignorant of all they were undertaking and so he changed his approach, even started doing some video explanations of his specialty surgeries (in lay terms) on his Instagram.

My surgery was very successful and through follow up appts for 2 years post we often engaged in a Q&A – I respected him more for being humble and recognising that perhaps he could do better with a subtle change in his approach to patients and that he genuinely encouraged them to ask questions as well as getting some feedback from them ensuring their understanding.

It IS okay to question your medical professional – sometimes it brings about an awareness and can be a learning tool for them.

As a professional they should welcome and be able to answer any question you put to them and if they are unable, should find an answer or direct you to someone who can.

I am sure you would question your mechanic, builder, accountant regards to such things before you agree to them doing any work and often may even go home and think about what is necessary and consider the costs.

Why then would you NOT do the same for your health and well-being, your most precious of commodities.

A lot of the fear around birth and birth trauma today comes from fear of the unknown, lack of knowledge, feeling of being out of control, feeling things were ‘done to you’ and questioning consent, which in turn leads to us feeling inadequate, failing, traumatised, etc.  These are very valid feelings and it is recognised more and more – however instead of questioning yourself and considering you have failed perhaps start with an unanswered question and JUST ASK, even if it is after the event and you need clarity and understanding therein allowing you to have a better comprehension of your experience and being better prepared for what is necessary for your future,  should you need counselling, ongoing care, preparation for future births.

Being accountable should be on both sides of the equation – Patient and health professional alike.

It is unfair to yourself and to your medical carer to hand over the decision making so readily simply because you assume ‘they know best.’

Be your own advocate, risk a little humiliation for yourself and your health professional and simply – JUST ASK the question.  Be informed.  We are here to work together to attain the best birth possible!

Remember there are NO – ‘dumb questions’ – just one you don’t have an answer to right now.

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