On a particularly cold January day in 2018, I was laying on a particularly cold examining table, waiting for a technician to come examine my unborn child. I was at the Maternal Fetal Medicine Center, in their high risk ward. I was really only there because my fundal height was measuring one centimeter off. There was a 99% chance everything was fine, and my doctor had assured me of that at least 27 times before I’d left his office crying the day before.
I was already nervous as the technician came into the room. She started to read over my chart. Suddenly she stopped, scoffed, and turned around to look at me.
“Have you been taking these medications during your whole pregnancy?” she asked, pointing aggressively at my sheet. She had about the same amount of judgment I thought was only reserved for teenage girls to give their moms when they would say “hip” or “cool” in front of their friends.
“Yes.” I replied “I take Zoloft for anxiety and I take Ativan for PTSD because-“
She cut me off.
“And who prescribed these medications to you?” she asked, as if accusing me of buying them off the streets.
“My psychiatrist did. He specializes in pregnant women and has for many years. He said these medications are at a safe dose and he is monitoring me.”
As I spoke, she was furiously writing something on my chart. She got out her highlighter and drew a large circle over the words “DRUG EXPOSURE.” She wrote it in all caps like it isn’t wasn’t clear enough she was yelling at me. She began to tell me I needed a much more detailed ultrasound to make sure I hadn’t caused any damage to the baby with my “drug use.” Then I would need to have a detailed heart ultrasound to also make sure I hadn’t caused any more damage to the baby’s heart because of my “drug use.” She would personally walk me to the fetal cardiac center so I would make sure to make an appointment today.
I suddenly felt embarrassed. I knew enough to know that I was under great medical care and was doing the best thing for me and my unborn child by taking these medications, but I suddenly was doubting myself. I felt ashamed for taking care of my mental health needs. I felt scared that I had hurt this baby.
I tried to explain:
“I don’t take these medications for fun. I take medication for anxiety. I have had anxiety since I was a little kid and have experienced OCD, anorexia, insomnia, panic attacks, racing thoughts, dread. Really, you name it and I had it. Then my mother died unexpectedly when I was 22, which only exacerbated things because –”
But I stopped myself, because y’know what? I’m tired of explaining myself to unqualified, judgmental people. I don’t owe her an explanation. She is not a doctor, and she is certainly not my doctor. Fuck her for looking down on me. Fuck people like her who see only the baby but not the mother. Surprise! We are attached to each other. Fuck the people who judge you without knowing anything about your story and fuck the people who judge you even when they know your story and fuck it all because you don’t need a story to need help with your mental health. But, really, and most of all, fuck this technician for thinking she had the right to treat me like a criminal for treating my mental health (under a doctor’s supervision, no less!).
My scans were fine. My detailed anatomy scan was actually something that had been advised already by my doctor, and the results were normal. The fetal cardiologist told me there was really no correlation between antidepressants and heart conditions. It is not something I needed to come back for if I would have another child.
After giving birth to a healthy baby girl in April of 2018, I did go on to have another child. And so, in June of 2019, I went back to the Maternal Fetal Medicine’s high risk ward for my level two anatomy scan. I watched with dread as the same technician walked in.
She looked at me and then looked at my chart. She began her rant:
“Have you really been on medications throughout the pregnancy?” she balked, with the judgment I thought was only reserved for… well, you get the picture.
“Yes,” I said, this time with confidence. “I know what you’re going to say, but I have it under control. My doctors are monitoring me and I am fine.”
And I was fine. And I am fine. Because taking care of yourself and consulting with your doctors allows you to make decisions that are best for you. And that’s all you can really do.
But, really, fuck her.