Why, Why, Why?

Don’t worry–this isn’t some whiny rant post. This is just a reminder of what to ask when presented with something–any test, any procedure, any intervention–during pregnancy or birth (and afterwards, for that matter!). This blog goes hand-in-hand with the informed consent page, so if you haven’t already, check it out on the side of this page.

Have you ever consented to something, and then afterwards wondered, “Why did I do that?” Have you ever felt like you didn’t quite understand a procedure, but didn’t want to seem stupid, so you didn’t ask for a better explanation? Have you thought you understood something when it was explained to you, then later on realized you didn’t know all the facts?

Me too. I daresay everybody has. Nobody wants to appear dumb–call it “The Emporer’s New Clothes” complex.

But the truth is, if you don’t understand, then it’s not your fault for not understanding the explanation–it’s their fault for not explaining it on your terms. It has nothing to do with real intelligence, but rather with understanding their particular jargon. And let’s face it, some folks just like talking over other people’s heads, because it makes them feel superior. It’s time to say, “Enough!”

When faced with anything, just ask “Why?” And keep asking “why” until you fully understand.

For instance, take the flimsy hospital gown they give you when you check in. Why do you need to wear that ugly thing that barely covers you? Would you be embarrassed, if a nurse opened the door suddenly, and a stranger passing by your room saw you like that? There may be a reason for you to wear the gown….sometimes. But why not just let you wear your own clothes? Why can’t you bring your own gown, that is certainly both more modest and more comfortable. In addition, wearing a hospital gown marks you out as more or less their property–you look like a patient, and patients are by definition “sick.” When you retain your own clothes, you retain more of your own power, and people treat you differently. It’s a little hard to retain your dignity, when wearing a gown that opens at the back, and barely covers your front (especially with your pregnant belly).

I could go on, giving multiple examples of asking “why” before any procedure–getting an IV, pain medication, pitocin, etc., but I will refrain. Here are some examples of questions you can ask–repeatedly if necessary–to give you the knowledge and information you truly need: “Why do you want to do that?” “Why do you need to know that?” “What benefit is it?” “What are the risks?” “How will that change my care?” “How will it help the baby?” “I don’t understand how that helps–could you explain it again differently?”

And after you are told of the risks and benefits, and you truly understand why they want to do it, you can always ask for a few minutes to think about it. (If you want to, you can always say you need to discuss it with your husband or pray about it.) There are very, very, very few times when you cannot take the time to think and really approve of something.

It’s not just to be hard-headed or hard-nosed, but if there is no benefit to you from the procedure or practice, then why should you do it, just for their benefit?

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