Why My Medical Crisis Wasn't Taken Seriously
Time|February 4 - 11, 2019
Why My Medical Crisis Wasn't Taken Seriously

Why my medical crisis wasn’t taken seriously.

Tressie McMillan Cottom

THE FIRST DREAM FOR MY IMAGINED FUTURE SELF THAT I can recall starts with a sound. I was maybe 5 years old, and I wanted to click-clack. The click-clack of high heels on a shiny, hard floor. I have a briefcase. I am walking purposefully, click-clack-click-clack. That is the entire dream. I dreamed of being competent. I have never felt more incompetent than when I was pregnant. I was about four months along, extremely uncomfortable, and at work when I started bleeding. When you are a black woman, having a body is already complicated for workplace politics. Having a bleeding, distended body is especially egregious. I waited until I filed my copy, by deadline, before calling my husband to pick me up.

That day I sat in the waiting room of my obstetrics office for 30 minutes, after calling ahead and reporting my condition when I arrived. After I had bled through the nice chair in the waiting room, I told my husband to ask them again if perhaps I could be moved to a more private area. The nurse looked alarmed, about the chair, and eventually ushered me back. When the doctor arrived, he explained that I was probably just too fat and that spotting was normal, and he sent me home. Later that night my ass started hurting. I walked. I stretched. I took a hot bath. I called my mother. Finally, I called the nurse. She asked if my back hurt. I said no. It was my butt that hurt. She said it was probably constipation. I should try to go to the bathroom. I tried that for all the next day and part of another. By the end of three days, my butt still hurt and I had not slept more than 15 minutes straight in almost 70 hours.

I went to the hospital. They asked again about my back, implied I had eaten something “bad” for me and begrudgingly, finally decided to do an ultrasound. The image showed three babies, only I was pregnant with one. The other two were tumors, larger than the baby. The doctor told me, “If you make it through the night without going into preterm labor, I’d be surprised.” I was checked into the maternity ward. Eventually a night nurse mentioned that I had been in labor for three days. “You should have said something,” she scolded me.

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February 4 - 11, 2019