I’m A Physician Who Had Breast Cancer, And Here Are The Knowledge-Based Decisions I Made For Myself

So, 2020 has really been a shit year.

It has been for nearly everyone, of course, and when the stuff stops hitting the fan, we all need to take a collective breath, pat ourselves on the back, and celebrate.

I had a busy year planned for 2020: I’m a gynecologic surgeon seeing patients and trying to build a badly needed menopause clinic in a local hospital here in Seattle. I’m editing a book, and consulting and providing telemedicine care for women in menopause as Chief Medical Officer at Gennev.

But then in January, I got a diagnosis of breast cancer, and suddenly I was making new plans. Somehow I had to carve out five weeks from this life to recover from a double mastectomy, then more time later for recovery from reconstruction. I managed it, barely, to have my first surgery in March.

I thought I had it pretty much under control. My patients were scheduled with other physicians, meetings were on hold, a bunch of work up-front meant I could relax and heal. In February, I went on a vacation to Mexico, where I spent a lot of time crying on beaches and into margaritas with friends. It helped. I came back ready to move forward.

And then COVID-19 hit, and it hit right here at home: epicenter, Seattle.

Suddenly the chaos and noise of my own life have expanded to a global level, and all of us in health care are scrambling to find answers, help others stay calm and safe, keep ourselves as safe as possible on the front lines, and meanwhile I’m trying desperately to ignore the little voice inside that’s saying, “What about me?”

As a physician and surgeon, I know what cancer looks like. I have an idea how it progresses and how bad treatment can be. I wanted to get on with it, have the surgery and whatever treatment so I could recover and get back to my life. But with my first surgery scheduled for mid-March, now it looked like those carefully extracted five weeks weren’t mine anymore.

Oh, and did I mention, suddenly my kids were home all the time? They’re pretty much grown, so I have it easier than many, but the advanced clusterf*ck of trying to “home school” an attention-deficit high schooler while sympathizing with my college kid who was missing out on some pretty important stuff in her education and future career (she’s a dancer) deflated any zen I managed to scrape together in a hurry.

This is a tough time for teens and young adults who rely on their social structures more than ever, and suddenly mine were stuck with a sick mom and Zoom.

Despite being a pretty practical person, I haven’t always approached my health practically. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic at 42 that I finally started taking some things seriously. Perimenopause had added some belly fat and bumped up my bad cholesterol, so I — at last — started exercising regularly and taking medication, since eating better wasn’t enough anymore.

However, as someone with a family history of cancers, I’m a huge advocate of screening and started annual mammograms at 40.

Now that’s irony, Alanis.

As with most women in their 40s, the mammograms showed that I had dense breasts, but nothing particularly concerning.

Then Gennev started working with MiraKind, an organization researching the connection between a gene defect called the KRAS variant and a greater likelihood of developing certain cancers. I got tested, and sure enough, I was a carrier. Knowing being KRAS positive could mean I was more susceptible to breast cancer, I added an MRI to my usual mammogram (remember, dense breasts).

Two days later, they called me and said, “So, there are a couple of masses on your MRI.” A couple of biopsies revealed invasive ductal carcinoma. More testing, more biopsies, more black and blue boobs.

Now I had a decision to make: I could get bilateral lumpectomies and sign up for a life of going in every six months and probably having to get biopsies every six months. Eventually they’d find something, and I’d be right back here again. I’m a doctor — I knew how I’d feel with these things on my chest, knowing there was cancer in them. So I decided on a bilateral mastectomy.

In the end, it was the right choice: there was more cancer that hadn’t yet been detected. It was small, sure; but it wouldn’t always be small.

The hospital where I would have my surgery started disallowing non-essential surgery the week before my mastectomy was planned. And surgery on anyone who was medically fragile – old, ill, likely to respond poorly to anesthesia, etc. – was postponed.

I wanted nothing to do with postponing the surgery. I had done everything to make taking those five weeks okay for everyone it affected — patients, family, colleagues. Just the thought of redoing all that was exhausting. I had taken the time to take care of me, and dammit, I was going to take care of me!

In the end, it came down to the fact that I was young and healthy going in, so I wouldn’t need an ICU bed that was needed for a COVID-19 patient. I’d be out the next day. So we went ahead.

On March 19, all my breast tissue was removed.

March and April were spent alternating holding my breath and breathing sighs of relief: biopsy of sentinal nodes revealed no signs of spreading. Testing of the tumor showed it wasn’t aggressive enough to require chemotherapy. Because I did what I did when I did it, the cancer was Stage 1. I’ll be treated with hormone therapy; I’m on Tamoxifen. They got great margins when they did the surgery, and I don’t need radiation.

Ask anyone who knows me: I’m pretty blunt. I’m never unkind, but if a patient wants a lot of touchy-feely handholding, they should probably find another doctor. However. Telling your daughters you have breast cancer is not an occasion for blunt.

Not only was I telling them I was sick, I also knew they would watch me for signs of what was to come for them. “Realistic but reassuring” is a delicate dance. Fortunately, I was able to be pretty reassuring. It was Stage 1, not a particularly aggressive form, and I’d be fine on the other side. But I also wanted to be honest with them about their own health and the screenings they’d need, given their family history.

I could complain about how unfair it is to have bad genetics, or how much it sucks to take care of myself and still have cancer, but I really have a “shit happens” approach to life, and it served me well. Yelling about how unfair it is — as much as I was screaming it on the inside sometimes — wasn’t going to help me or my kids get through it.

COVID and being isolated together certainly didn’t make it easier. This is a hard time for kids – their lives are dominated by social things, the groups they’re in, who they communicate with, the things they do. They’re missing out on things. So managing their emotions and my own is really tough; I’m maybe not as patient as I would be otherwise, because I’m going through some shit. I have cancer and it sucks. I don’t tell them everything because it wouldn’t help them. But I try to be open and honest because I know your imagination can sometimes be worse than the truth.

It could be easy to let cancer and COVID take charge and send me screaming to a safe room, but that’s really not my style. I take precautions to protect myself from the coronavirus, but I’m still seeing patients. I know that as a healthcare professional, I’ll get it eventually. I just intend to be at full strength when it happens.

I walk every day, three to five miles with my dog. I run three days a week. I’m back in physical therapy because too many hours performing surgery have caused problems with my neck. I truly think staying active has helped with my recovery.

Recovery was tough, not so much because of pain, but because COVID meant my friends and family couldn’t help the way they wanted to: they couldn’t come clean my house or cook meals, though many dropped meals on my doorstep, rang the bell and ran.

I have two sisters who live locally, and it was killing them not to be able to come and help. One sis is a chef and she just wanted to come and cook for me, but she couldn’t come into my house. That was hard, but honestly, it was harder for them than me, since I was pretty out of it for the first two weeks after surgery.

So, yeah, 2020 is a shit year, but at least some things will get easier now. No more mammograms for me, because the reconstruction surgery scheduled for July will be done using my own abdominal tissue. From now on, a check up involves making sure the area around the reconstruction is healthy and cancer-free, including the lymph nodes and chest wall.

I know a lot about health, particularly women’s health, because it’s my job. And I made a lot of decisions, together with my doctors, based on the knowledge I have. I wanted to share a few things that might help others have an easier time of it, COVID or no.

Exercising.

It might not prevent you from having health problems, but being fit can make it easier to handle the treatment and make recovery easier and faster.

Knowing my risks.

Diabetes, cancer, heart disease are all in my family history. Knowing that helped me make better choices. And the KRAS test prompted me to do the MRI that revealed the cancer while it was still early-stage. Knowledge matters.

Focusing on me.

When I got that pre-diabetes diagnosis, I decided it was time to get a handle on me – I’ve spent my life caring for others as a doctor, wife, and mom. I was trained in residency to “go until you drop.” But suddenly I realized I needed to focus on my own health too. I made changes in work and home life, ate better, took meds. I wanted to feel good and I did. And when this came up, I had good endurance, strong muscles, a strong cardiovascular system, even strong legs and abs to help me get out of bed when I couldn’t use my arms!

Prioritizing sleep.

For the past few years, I had managed my sleep patterns to feel better, and through all of this, I managed to — for the most part — still get good sleep.

Embracing the WTF moments and moving past them.

Because I made great decisions for a solid few years before this diagnosis, there was a little “WTF?” that I did everything right and still got this disease. But we live in a toxic world, I hadn’t always made great decisions, my work has at times been really stressful, plus, I just had some bad dumb luck. There’s always been that bit of pessimism in me because my family history indicates that I have at least one cancer in my future. But, I thought, this can be dealt with, I’m healthy going in, and I’ll take this one day at a time.

Being ready to live with my post-surgery body.

I’ve lost sensation in my chest area. I bump into things, and I don’t even know it. It’s weird, and I’m mourning the loss of sensation there, but I knew it would happen, and I was at least somewhat prepared. Make plans. Have a wedge for your bed. Know what the drain looks like coming out of your body. Know who will help you shower and who will make you laugh when your life just has so much yuck in it. Because there’s a lot of yuck; you’re going to need your sense of humor. And if yours is AWOL, borrow some from a friend.

Balancing practicality and emotion.

Just because I knew what was coming doesn’t mean I didn’t have emotions around it. I had to let myself grieve the loss of my breasts even as I was taking control of the decision to have the bilateral mastectomy. I had to stop being practical and allow myself to mourn.

Finding medical providers I connected with.

Living in Seattle, I am blessed with having so many amazing medical professionals in cancer treatment. But I also wanted to work with someone I was comfortable with, someone I trusted with my body, with my future. I needed to feel they were making decisions that worked for me. Please know that you’re not hurting a doctor’s feelings if you decide to move on from them because you’re not connecting well with them. It happens all the time, and docs understand how important it is that you feel comfortable. I picked people I felt great with and felt we were making decisions for the same reasons.

Finding the blessings when I can.

Hey, I get a tummy tuck out of this – get lemons, make lemonade! I’m not exactly going to be voluptuous, but I’m good with Bs or even really big As that look nice….

THIS IS A BIGGIE: Get a screening regimen.

Don’t rely on self-breast exams — even when I knew where my biggest tumor was, I couldn’t feel it. Also, some people are pushing thermograms, claiming they’re safer than mammograms, but they are NOT safer, so do your research before committing. A mammogram isn’t perfect, but it’s a good tool and has saved lives. And you won’t get breast cancer from mammograms. The radiation is minimal: you get more from walking around for two weeks in the world. Be informed about your choices before you make them.

I could have put off the reconstruction until next year, when there’s a chance COVID-19 will be behind us, and things will be back to whatever “normal” there is on the other side. But I figured, 2020 is already a hot mess of a year, I might as well shove all the shit into this one and look forward to 2021.

So that’s what I’m doing. May you get all your shit behind you too. Now go schedule your next screening.

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I’m Sending A Message To My Abuser

Trigger warning: domestic abuse, suicide.

“Do you think it will make things worse?”

That’s the number one question I’ve been asked the last two days after filing for an order of protection against an ex-boyfriend. Let me be absolutely clear; I’m in no way upset with my friends who asked me this question. I’m upset because it is absolutely normal to ask this question. Women and men who file restraining orders, orders of protection, or other similar documents, are often asked this from concerned family and friends.

The question is quite reasonable considering the climate of doubt surrounding the victim: credibility, accusations of hysteria, accusations of overreacting, or if they’re merely trying to just spite the other party. It happens. People who are scorned will make false accusations or hype up certain events. However, these people are the exception and not the rule.

The majority of abuse victims work on the painstaking tasks of filling out pages and pages of legal documents, gathering evidence, filing those papers, willingly sharing private details of their dark and personal moments with complete strangers, following up with court clerks, and the list goes on and on. You don’t just blink and then serve someone with papers. It takes a lot of time and effort initially and throughout the process.

I went through this process once before, when I was 18. It was mortifying and embarrassing on every imaginable level. My ex-boyfriend was stalking me, harassing me, and wound up breaking into my home (my mother’s home), calling me from the house phone and threatening to kill my little sister and my mom if I didn’t come home immediately. He then cut the phone line. Thankfully, he left the home and sat in his car across the driveway from mine, and my family members were okay. I had to wake my mother up at 5:00 a.m. and try to explain what happened. She was upset with me for being out past curfew with my new boyfriend and thought I was making some of it up. The cop taking the report barely believed me, if at all. If my boyfriend at the time had not seen/heard/witnessed everything with me that night, I would have been completely alone. Of course, my mother and the cop believed he was just covering for me.

Flash forward to age 34. I have a mortgage, a three-year-old daughter, a car, a job, and overall pretty normal adult responsibilities. My husband passed away last year, unexpectedly. A friend of his from high school befriended me over the summer and feelings developed between us. He seemed wonderful initially, but the ol’ bait-and-switch happened in January of this year.

After he downed an entire bottle of wine at dinner one night, he got extremely agitated that I was playing a game on my daughter’s tablet that I wanted to show her for a few minutes. He told me that his ex-wife used to be on her phone constantly playing games, and it triggered him. I had heard that story so many times in the beginning of our relationship that I always made it a point not to be on my phone too much in front of him. I never thought my daughter’s tablet would be triggering while I showed her my favorite game for a few minutes.

Driving home, I told my daughter to thank him for the dinner. She thanked him and then asked what I was doing. Before I could even respond, “Driving home,” he said, “Mommy is having a meltdown and acting crazy.”

We walked into my home and I kept my mouth shut, acted like everything was normal so as not to upset my daughter, and got her ready for bed. After she was in bed, I let all of my feelings out. I told him that disrespecting me to my daughter is not okay, now or ever, and it was a dealbreaker. I also didn’t appreciate him comparing me to his ex when I was rarely on my phone around him. I wanted to take a dig at him, so I said, “Maybe this is why she served you divorce papers without you knowing because of your shitty temper!” He started crying and saying that I was being mean and shouldn’t go there.

He said he would give me some time to cool off and went upstairs. He came down an hour later and I was still upset. I didn’t take any more digs at him, but I did tell him I could no longer see a path forward for us as a couple. After telling me that I was “acting like a bitch,” I told him he needed to leave. I knew he was incapable of driving, so I told him to get an Uber/Lyft or I would get him one. He refused and said if I was “forcing” him out of the house, that he was driving. I told him that yes, I wanted him to leave, but I did not want him to drive.

He gathered his things, all the while crying and begging me not to end things. I replied, “You crossed the line.”

He went ballistic. He grabbed the scrapbook I had spent a month working on and ripped it to shreds. I yelled, “Stop, that’s mine! What are you doing!? Get out of here!”

He opened the front door and yelled, “You FUCKING CUNT! No wonder your husband killed himself!”

The tirade continued as he walked out. “You bitch, whore, slut! Good luck with the next guy, hope he doesn’t off himself too! BITCH! FUCK YOU!”

I shut the door, locked it, walked five steps into the living room and started sobbing uncontrollably. I don’t know how long I was on the floor that night. If my video doorbell hadn’t captured all of it, I wouldn’t be able to prove he had said any of those things either. I didn’t call the police. I didn’t make a report. I did what a lot of people do once things calm down: listened to the apologies, enjoyed the weekly flowers delivered to my home, and questioned if maybe, just maybe, he was just drunk and angry that one time.

We tried being friends. I refused to get into a relationship with him, but he was definitely trying to woo me again. He said he was respecting my boundaries and my decisions and was going to give me all the space and time I needed. Sounds nice, right?

This past weekend, he had surgery. It was an outpatient surgery, but one that definitely takes two or three days of resting and meds afterwards. He had helped me through a dental surgery the previous year, and I felt like I should help. His parents either live far away or don’t have a close relationship with him.

I offered to help, under the condition that he stayed at my house for the sake of convenience. He agreed.

I picked him up from the hospital, got him into bed, gave him his medications at the right intervals, switched out ice packs, removed and reapplied gauze, and all the rest. One of my friends rode with me to the hospital to pick him up so they could drive his truck to my house and park it in the driveway.

The next morning, my friend (who also used to be my roommate while my ex and I were together), came by with his two kids to play with my daughter and say hi for a few hours. This upset my ex because they were “too loud” and “I didn’t tell him they were coming over.” I have a basement, a main level, and an upstairs. My ex was upstairs in a private bedroom while the kids were playing on the main level. The day went okay otherwise.

That evening, I told him that some friends of mine were coming over before one of them moves out of state. He got upset, grabbed his meds, and went upstairs and slammed the door. While some of my friends were over, I went upstairs several times to check on his meds, give him water and food, and see how he was doing. I could tell from his abrupt responses and rude tone that he was upset with me for having friends over, but I kept telling myself that it was my home and I didn’t need his permission. When I handed him a glass of water, he yanked it out of my hand so hard that water spilled all over the bed.

After my friends left, I did one last check and told him I was going to bed in the basement and to call or text me if he needed anything. I could tell by his demeanor that his hope was that I would sleep in bed next to him, which I in no way, shape, or form wanted to do. I told him sweet dreams and goodnight.

The next morning, we got into a fight. He accused me of spending too much time with my friends and not telling him enough of what was going on. I reminded him that it was my house, my friends, and that I had taken care of him regularly. I argued that what he was wanting me to do was lay in bed with him all day and night, but I have a kid to take care of and a house to clean. Furthermore, I wanted absolutely no part of sleeping next to him, cuddling, or anything else.

He got a phone call and stepped outside onto my front porch. He took a watering globe in my hanging flower pot, saw it was empty, and slammed it back in really hard. He was showing me that he was irritated that it was out of water, even though it had rained for the past two days (I’m not great at keeping plants alive and he’s a master at gardening). I walked outside and said, “If you’re going to act like a child, then go.”

He abruptly ended the call and followed me inside. “Of course you would tell me go while I’m on pain medication! You made me drive when I drank a bottle of wine!” Once again, I told him that he shouldn’t drive and I would call him a Lyft, and once again he refused and got his things. Déjà vu.

After smarting off to me some more and me telling him, “Leave,” signaling that I didn’t want my daughter to see or hear his nasty remarks, he slammed the front door. He walked over to my hanging potted flowers and smashed them onto my front sidewalk as hard as he could. It split the pot open and the dirt spilled out. The pink and purple flowers looked terrified face down on the concrete. The watering globe shattered everywhere.

I locked the door. I didn’t cry. I didn’t call the police. I swept up the dirt and the globe pieces, but not before my little one defied my orders of “Stay back” and rushed over, cutting her foot on a piece of the globe.

I filed for a protective order online, citing the destruction of my personal property as intending to intimidate and scare me. I blocked his phone number, his e-mail, and all social media. His calls were being blocked, but my phone was notifying me each time he called. I ignored all of it.

Soon I received messages from my mother that he had contacted her. Then I received a message from a mutual friend. Then I received another message from a mutual friend. He was trying to relay “important” information through them, none of it urgent, none of which needed to be given to me. I asked all of them to tell him to stop contacting them trying to give me messages and to not get involved in any way.

I let my close friends know what was going on, and that’s when, almost without skipping a beat, “Do you think it’s only going to get worse?” appeared. Hell, I asked myself that question.

So let me get this straightened out:

1) I could choose not to file an order for protection and wait to see if he shows up at my doorstep with a gun. He could kill me, hurt me, take me and/or my daughter hostage.

2) I could choose not to file an order for protection and wait to hear how badly he slanders me and starts rumors amongst our mutual friends and others. I could wait to hear the accusations and either defend myself or get rid of certain friends.

3) I could choose not to file an order for protection and pray that he stops the harassment.

OR

1) I could file an order for protection and wait to see if he shows up at my doorstep with a gun. He could kill me, hurt me, take me and/or my daughter hostage.

2) I could file an order for protection and wait to hear how badly he slanders me and starts rumors among our mutual friends and others. I could wait to hear the accusations and either defend myself or get rid of certain friends.

3) I could file an order for protection and pray that he stops and that the order is enough to stop him and his harassment.

There’s really not much of a difference in the outcomes for orders of protection, from what I’ve seen in the news. The main difference is that I am sending a message to him that he is on notice. I am sending the message that I have legal recourse if he contacts me or shows up at my door. I am telling him that I’m not afraid, or that I am afraid but determined.

I am telling him there won’t be any more déjà vu scenes in my home ever again. I’m telling him that my daughter comes first. I’m telling him the abuse is no longer his secret or my secret. Whether or not he wants to make things worse is his decision and that is not my responsibility. How he reacts to the order is his responsibility. We should not have to live in fear. We should not have to live in a society where we have to weigh whether spotlighting the abuse is worth the risk.

Let’s start saying, “Whether everything gets worse or better, you made the hard but right choice.” Let’s keep the blame with the abusers and their reactions.

 

Update: On June 15th, the author was granted the protective order for 10 years. 

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If You’re Wanting To Legally Free The Nipple, Here’s Where You Can (Literally) Hang Out

It’s getting hot out there, folks, and nothing signals sweaty times like a man casually doing all the things without a shirt while women change their bra for the third time of the day or give up and just walk around with paper towels under their boobs. And little more signals the hypocrisy of said man attached to his exposed man-boobs than his complaints about a woman not wearing a bra or trying to breastfeed her baby in public while clinging to the expectation that a woman should show him her tits whenever he demands it.

First of all, fuck off, Chad. Second of all, many women would love to walk around topless as freely as men do, on their terms, but it’s not universally legal. While the double standards run deep and wide in this country, specifically between genders, there are places that give equality to the nipple.

If you want to let it all hang out, 31 states in the U.S. have “top freedom.” But several factors prohibit women from walking around with breasts to the wind even if technically allowed to do so. Laws are often ambiguous and vary between cities within states. And topless women are arrested under the guise of disorderly conduct. According to the site Go Topless, if you want to know if you can free the teats, the suggestion is to Google the city name and its municipal code and key in the word “nudity.” To cover your bases, they further suggest that you “Do the same for the county where the city is located to be sure. Consult with an attorney.”

In 2019, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma became the newest states to eliminate a ban on women going topless after a federal court ruling. The case was won by women who are part of the #FreeTheNipple movement—which has gained public support from Chelsea Handler, Miley Cyrus, and Chrissy Teigen. However, Utah woman Tilli Buchanan recently took a plea deal and admitted to lewdness for being topless in her own home.

Three years ago, Tilli Buchanan was hanging drywall with her husband in their Utah garage. After getting hot and covered in the residue of their work, they took off their shirts. Buchanan’s step children, a 13-year-old boy, a 10-year-old girl and a nine-year-old boy, walked in and saw their father and stepmother topless. The children’s mother filed criminal charges against Buchanan because Utah law stated that any exposure of the breast below the top of the areola is punishable with jail time and the need to register as a sex offender for 10 years. Buchanan fought the charges, but eventually took the plea deal earlier this year. Despite knowing she didn’t do anything wrong (her husband completely supported her too), the risk of being labeled a pedophile was too high.

And what it is it about the areola? What specifically about a “female” nipple makes lawmakers (men) declare them illegal? Oh right. Because people (men) sexualize breasts (women) to the point of blaming the breasts (women) for resulting behavior (harassment, assault, rape). So, instead of men getting their shit together and taking responsibility, they turn women’s bodies into their legal playground.

For clarity, I am writing this article as if gender is binary and body parts have a gender. It isn’t, and they don’t, but the laws are set up this way so I must bend a bit. However, as a nonbinary person who has had a double mastectomy with nipple grafts, I can’t help but wonder what gender my nipples are. Legally, my birth certificate and other documents indicate I am female because the state I was born in doesn’t recognize a third gender, but my chest is visually male. I no longer have breasts and my areolas and nipples have been resized and replaced to give me a masculine chest.

I could have chosen not to have my nipples put back on my body. Without nipples, do I have a gender? What about the transgender woman with breasts? Is a transgender woman rightfully considered a woman in this case? Or will the bigots still hold tight to misgendering her and let her waltz around town with her boobs and areolas hanging out?

We can speculate for days, but if you want to go topless and need some moral support, there are events and cities that celebrate the nips. Sadly, COVID-19 has cancelled or altered some of the most popular ones. The World Naked Bike Ride in Portland has been cancelled, but the Ride in New Orleans is still on — with some social distancing rules, of course. If riding while naked isn’t your thing, World Topless Day is scheduled to take place August 23, 2020. The event was started by the organization Go Topless after topless activist Phoenix Feeley was arrested in 2005, despite it being legal to be topless in New York City year-round. The yearly event coincides with Women’s Equality Day.

Besides NYC, some other cities that have been “topless tested” are Asheville, NC, Columbus, OH, Madison, WI, and Santa FE, NM. There’s always New Orleans and South Beach too.

Men can safely be shirtless and yet women are asked to cover up—even when they are allowed to free-boob it. Not surprisingly, plenty of clothing is made to accentuate breasts and cleavage as if the message to women is this: titillate us with what you have but don’t give it all away until we demand or expect it.

Women’s bodies are not for male consumption, control, or pleasure. Free yourself from the bullshit and free the nipples.

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To Doctors, My Fertility Was More Important Than My Pain

“Are you sure you’re done?” my doctor said to me. “You’re still young.”

I had been fidgeting with my hands, rubbing the space between my fingers one by one, when I felt my hands ball up into tight fists and release. Here I was in front of a gynecological specialist I’d traveled more than two hours to see, and he had spent the first five minutes of our conversation asking me about my dating and sex life. Informing him that I’m currently going through a divorce was enough to move the conversation about my chronic back and pelvic pain, frequent periods, and family history of reproductive cancers to concerns about whether I’d ever have babies again.

Yes, I was absolutely sure. My road to fertility was long and bumpy, and my pregnancy was no walk in the park. I was 31 when my then-husband and I decided to try to get pregnant. It had been more than 10 years since my first pregnancy, which happened much too easily. This time, after more than a year of trying to conceive, I decided to seek help from my gynecologist. After tests, ultrasounds, several appointments, and a laparoscopic procedure, I was diagnosed with endometriosis — a disorder that causes the lining of the uterus to grow outside of the uterine cavity. Turns out, endometriosis is not only a common cause of secondary infertility, it had been the cause of the debilitating painful pelvic pain my previous doctors had brushed off for years.

The pain felt like a shark bite to my insides and wasn’t limited to my period. It was accompanied by fatigue, bloating, and often sent me straight to bed for days. I knew it wasn’t normal, but — with the help of many doctors — had been convinced that it was. It was the culmination of a complicated relationship with pain. Strong Black women don’t complain about the pain. We just do our best through it.

When I was 25, I walked out of a top teaching hospital in Chicago with head and back pain so severe I couldn’t hold my head upright. I didn’t, in fact, receive any treatment or medicine. I was sent home with instructions to take a few ibuprofen and later ended up in a different hospital, where it was determined my spinal fluid was slowly leaking and needed to be patched. I could have died, but years of being sent away by doctors taught me that protesting too much was a waste of energy.

Now, after two surgeries to remove the endometriosis, I was finally in front of a specialist. I had severe left-sided pain that was undoubtedly caused by the left ovary adhered to my pelvic sidewall. I had come out of anesthesia years ago after my first surgery to remove the endometriosis to find that problematic ovary still there, still adhered. My OB-GYN wanted to save it to give me a better chance at pregnancy, even though I know now many women get pregnant just fine with only one ovary. This time, though, I didn’t want anything saved except my sanity. I wanted the pain gone, and I wanted every remaining piece of my jinxed reproductive system out. I wanted to be able to sleep through the night, play with my four-year-old without doubling over, and not dread every single change associated with each cycle phase.

“I’m sure,” I said. “Take the fallopian tube, uterus, ovary, and whatever other damage you find.” The images from my ultrasound were on full display behind us. There was my fallopian tube, clear as day and filled with an unknown mass. “Technically, a normal fallopian tube isn’t large enough to be seen on ultrasound,” the doctor had said just minutes before my fertility became the topic of discussion. Technically, I shouldn’t be able to (or have to) feel my fallopian tube either, but I do. He spent a few more minutes clicking through photos and talking very quickly about conservative options that included taking medications for an indefinite amount of time with a high risk of having nightly sweats and hot flashes.

I drove home confused about how once again I’d let a doctor throw a Band-Aid at my suffering. This time I wasn’t going to be gaslit. I wanted a do-over. I called and I left a message demanding we take a closer look at what was going on because none of it feels normal. I put my pain in words the best way I could through the tears that had come to my eyes. The nurse called me back to schedule a CT scan. The results showed a suspicious “thickening” in the lining of my uterine wall and some fluid in the pelvic cavity to add to the list of masses and painful situations the ultrasound uncovered. Now we could proceed with the surgery to remove my uterus, tubes, and ovary.

To doctors, women’s fertility is often more important than our reproductive pain. I had to take whatever comfort I could from the fact that at least my life took precedence over whether I could change my mind about having more babies or not.

The post To Doctors, My Fertility Was More Important Than My Pain appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Feeling pHunky? Here Are Some Common Vaginal Issues Explained By An OB/GYN

Well, fellow vagina owners, if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that health issues don’t take a break—no matter what’s going on in the world. Stress doesn’t help either. Or being in our 40s. (Which means overwhelmed folks in their 40s probably feel fan-fuckingtastic right now. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…)

The truth is, our bodies are magical and amazing, but even the healthiest among us isn’t immune to the occasional “issue”… down there. In the nether region. Okay, let’s just be blunt. It’s time to talk vaginal health.

If you’ve been walking around with a vagina for the past several decades, you’ve undoubtedly faced at least one or two of the problems listed here—discomfort, odor, infection, or maybe just pushing another human through there is what really did your vag in. But there are things we can do to ensure our vaginas are healthy, because guess what? We only get one! So we need to take care of it.

Scary Mommy wanted to consult an expert about issues we face in the area of vaginal health, and go beyond yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and STIs. We know to protect ourselves. We know to see a doctor and seek treatment for odor or discharge or itching or burning. But there are a slew of other issues, aren’t there? So we went a little “deeper.” What about other stuff like painful sex? And WTF is happening with our hormones? We got all sorts of answers and tips from Dr. Maria Sophocles, MD, gynecologist, founder and medical director of Women’s Healthcare of Princeton.

Sexual Discomfort

People, sex shouldn’t hurt. If it does, you need to investigate why. Dr. Sophocles says one issue could be vaginismus, the involuntary contracting of vaginal muscles, which is usually related to anxiety. Because that’s the thing — sex is mental as much as physical. If you’re anxious, your body (all of it) could be tense, making sex less than enjoyable. Another reason sex can hurt is due to vaginal dryness. Dr. Sophocles says the lack of natural lubricant is also often a result of anxiety, but can also be just an annoying effect of getting older. Yay.

“Sex and semen are not harmful or damaging,” Dr. Sophocles says, “but if it’s painful, consider whether it’s the position that’s painful, or ask yourself if you were really given enough time to relax and become lubricated.” She also recommends changing your “sexual scripting” meaning allowing more time for foreplay, changing positions, or even changing partners! (Hey, whatever works, right?)

She also says there is no shame in using lubricant. “There’s a bit of a myth that lubricants are just for older women and that’s not true,” she tells Scary Mommy. “They’re helpful for anyone.”

Finally, if you’re over 55, sexual discomfort may be due to atrophy from a loss of estrogen. Dr. Sophocles assures us that any gynecologist can treat and correct that, so don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor if you’re in that boat. After all, 55-year-olds deserve to have enjoyable sex as much as 25-year-olds, right?

Safe Use of Feminine Hygiene Products

What if there’s a funk? Can we douche? Should we douche? How about any of the millions of other fancy products out there that are supposed to make us smell like a gentle rain in a meadow? Dr. Sophocles says no. “The American College of OBGYN and pretty much every other nationally respected OBGYN group recommends against douching. It disturbs the natural bacteria that are supposed to be living in the vagina and it affects the pH, not necessarily in a good way.”

However, she does go on to say, “That doesn’t mean that all feminine hygiene products are bad. There are gels and suppositories that actually help maintain a nice pH balance. RepHresh is one of them.” So yes, we can use products that help maintain the pH balance our bodies are naturally supposed to maintain. No, we shouldn’t try to make our hoo-has smell like gardenias.

Dr. Sophocles also says vaginal moisturizers are okay, which are different from vaginal lubricants. “A lubricant is something you use at the time of intercourse as sort of a band-aid to help sex be more comfortable,” she explains. “A vaginal moisturizer is something used a few times a week as a way to maintain moisture in the vagina. Many people as they age find that dryness in the vagina makes just sitting and walking uncomfortable, and for those, we recommend the use of a vaginal moisturizer such as Replens or Hyalo Gyn.”

But seriously, Dr. Sophocles says vaginal deodorants are a no-go, and that if your vaginal odor is strong to the point where it’s socially embarrassing, you need to see your doctor. Strong odor could just mean you have bacterial vaginosis, which is very common and is merely a shift in pH that causes embarrassing odor. It does, however, require medical treatment—not odor-masking products.

If, however, the odor is mild, Dr. Sophocles says to basically “do very little about it” because over washing and scrubbing will only irritate the delicate skin of the vulva and vagina. She says to “use mild soap and just let the soap from your body wash over the vulva. Wash gently between the inner and outer lips, rinse with water, pat dry.”

Hormonal Shifts Related to Menopause

Is anyone else just entering their 40s and wondering what TF is going on with their bodies? Thankfully, Dr. Sophocles says it’s not just me.

“The beginning and end of the reproductive cycle are a rocky road,” she explains. “When teens first start having periods, often the periods are irregular or problematic, and when women are in their 40s and enter what we call peri-menopause, this is also a time marked by hormonal fluctuations. This can lead to mood changes, changes in vaginal pH, changes in periods regularity, changes in cycle frequency or length, women can get heavy or irregular periods.”

Oh, so basically we get to have all the fun of the teenage years AND we have to pay bills and worry about our retirement now. Awesome.

“Peri-menopause is a frustrating and inconsistent decade or so,” she adds. Like as in ten years?! WTF? But Dr. Sophocles says there’s an eventual end to this exhausting roller coaster. “Once you’re done with menopause and the ovaries have shut down and you don’t have periods anymore, things tend to stabilize.”

So my 40s are gonna ROCK, is what I think she’s saying.

In all seriousness though, Dr. Sophocles does emphasize the value of taking care of our mental and physical health during this tumultuous time. “If you’re having mood changes and are a little grumpy and teary and can deal with it, fine, but if it’s impacting your family life, and your professional life, I think it’s really important to seek professional help. If your gynecologist can help you and offer solutions, that great. If not, don’t be afraid to talk to a mental health specialist,” she says.

And, don’t ignore major health signals either. “As far as periods go, if they get a little bit heavier but you’re not dizzy or weak, that’s fine. But if you’re bleeding between periods, or you’re bleeding so much that you’re bleeding more than five days in any cycle, that’s probably worth mentioning to the gynecologist, just to make sure it’s not some other problem like a fibroid or polyp or something,” she adds.

In the end, ownership of a vagina requires patience and accepting of things we cannot change (like fucking menopause and the fact that we ride the reproductive wave for what seems like 900 years), self-care (like gentle, mild cleansing of our physical selves and taking care of our mental health), and doing what we need to do to make our sex lives enjoyable. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. Because in the end, being healthy is a gift and a huge responsibility. We run the damn world after all.

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NY Governor Says Partners Can Absolutely Be Present During Childbirth

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issues executive order ensuring women can have birthing partners in the delivery room

Earlier this week, New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Mt. Sinai health care system made the controversial decision to ban birthing partners from delivery rooms in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus. Now, the governor of New York has issued an executive order, ensuring that pregnant individuals are allowed a birthing partner in the delivery room and that all hospitals must comply with the mandate.

New York-Presbyterian originally announced the shocking policy change on their website on March 23, stating that “no visitors including birthing partners and support persons are permitted for obstetric patients,” and called it a “necessary step to promote the safety of our new mothers and children.”

A number of petitions were created immediately after the announcement, and celebs like Ashley Graham took to social media, imploring their followers to sign petitions in the hopes of reversing this decision. The outcry worked and got the attention of Gov. Andrew Cuomo who made it impossible for any hospital in New York state to enforce such a draconian law.

“In no hospital in New York will a woman be forced to be alone when she gives birth,” Cuomo tweeted on Saturday, March 28, 2020, after issuing the executive order. “Not now, not ever.”

Issued with the State Department of Health, the executive order requires hospitals to allow women one support person and that person can be their spouse, doula, parent, midwife, or “another person they choose,” but the partner must stay in the room and cannot swap places with a secondary support person. The birthing partner will be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 — including an interview about their potential exposure to anyone who did test positive for COVID-19 — and given a temperature check every twelve hours.

“We updated that guidance to make that a directive,” Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, said in a statement (via Romper). “Women do not have to be alone while they are giving birth and we’re going to reinforce that in an executive order.”

So far all the hospitals have stated that they will comply with the governor’s orders effective immediately.

“We have always — and will always — make these difficult decisions with the best of intentions and safety of the mother, baby and our staff as our guiding principle,” Renatt Brodsky, a spokeswoman for Mt. Sinai, said in a statement (via The New York Times).

We’re thrilled with the news, and not just that, but comforted by the knowledge that calling your reps, speaking out, and signing petitions can actually effect change.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg Shuts Down Outrageous Louisiana Abortion Bill

RBG completely dismantled every point of this abortion access bill

A small abortion clinic located in Louisiana is challenging a 2014 state law that requires doctors performing abortions to get admitting privileges in a hospital within 30 miles of the cinic. The case went to the Supreme Court this week, with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg challenging every point of the restrictive abortion bill like the master of law she is.

The bill, known as Act 620, demands admitting privileges for abortion providers so that an outpatient doctor has the right to admit patients to a hospital and then treat them if an emergency occurs. In addition to this barrier, a state-mandated 24-hour waiting period also makes accessing abortion services at the clinic more difficult.

Ginsburg, who has served almost 30 years on the Supreme Court and battled cancer four separate times, supports abortion rights. Now that the Supreme Court is Republican-dominated, she’s got her work cut out for her in terms of preventing the Court from rolling back rights that have been in place for decades. Luckily, Ginsburg does not back down.

Per CNN, RBG “persistently and systematically dissected each point” in the Louisiana case. She referenced a case the Court decided four years ago when the majority struck down a similar law out of Texas.

“There is not even a plausible conflict in this case because this court already held that admitting privileges served no medical benefit,” she said. Many women come from different states to seek abortion care at the Louisiana clinic in question, which is an important point.

Ginsburg noted that most of these abortions “don’t have any complications.” She noted that if a complication were to arise, it would likely happen once the woman returned home after the fact. “If she needs a hospital, it’s certainly not going to be the one near the clinic,” Ginsburg said. “If the woman has a problem, it will be her local hospital that she will need to go to for the care, not something 30 miles from the clinic, which does not have a necessary relationship to where she lives.”

This is what happens when a bunch of men who have never needed and will never need an abortion decide they “know” best and want to restrict healthcare for people who do need them.

Ginsburg reminded the court that abortion providers who do not perform obstetrics and gynecology wouldn’t qualify for admitting privileges because their patients rarely go to the hospital. Elizabeth Murrill, the Solicitor General of Louisiana, stood up to defend the law. RBG wasn’t having it.

“Most of the people who get abortions never have any need to go to a hospital, isn’t that so?” she asked. “You don’t dispute,” Ginsburg said, “that among medical procedures, first-trimester abortion is among the safest, far safer than childbirth.”

BOOM.

She also argued that the 30-mile requirement makes no sense, because, AGAIN, if a woman has a complication after an abortion (whether surgically-induced or orally), she’d go to her hospital, the one near her home, should complications occur after the fact.

The court remains divided, but one thing remains absolutely true: Restrictive abortion laws like this one have a disproportionate impact on women who do not have the financial or vehicular means to travel longer distances to obtain the procedure. It’s unconstitutional to impose these kinds of laws.

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Diet Culture Is Everywhere — Even In The Workplace

I went to a meeting recently for women in government. It was attended mostly by women who work in government, which I do, but I attended in my role as an elected woman in government, not as an employee. The meeting was held in a beautiful old Town Hall overlooking a classic New England style Town Common. There was a large group of women in attendance and the meeting consisted of an opening discussion on creating good habits, followed by two speakers meant to inspire us with their stories. The speakers, one a judge and one a retired school administrator, were excellent. They talked about breaking the glass ceiling, they talked about the pressures of being a working mother and juggling career opportunities and family commitments. They were relatable and engaging and inspiring.

The opening discussion, on the other hand, failed completely. And here’s why:

Despite the concept being a valid one — who doesn’t want to promote better habits? — the presentation of the concept was completely devoid of work and career habits. While that would be fine at a gathering of women for socializing, this was a gathering for women working in government. I expected empowering and motivating discussion. I expected ideas about how to get shit done at work, how to manage my time efficiently, how to be strong and empowered in a man’s world.

Rather than any of that, though, every example they provided on creating habits was related to weight management or weight loss. They talked about sleeping in your gym clothes so that you will go to the gym as soon as you wake up. They talked about requesting a takeout container at a restaurant and putting half of your meal in the container as soon as it arrives at the table. They talked about exercise buddies and weight loss apps to track food and using dry shampoo to avoid having to do your hair and on and on. While I’m certain their intentions were good, it felt like an epic fail to me.

I couldn’t help but thinking, if this were a room full of men talking about good habits they would not be talking about weight loss. They would not be concerned about how they look in a particular dress or how to make time to do their hair after they finish at the gym and are on their way to work. Instead, they would be talking about ways to tackle challenging assignments. They would be talking about using good habits to secure promotions. They would be brainstorming about actions to take and ways to get ahead. And they would order a cheeseburger at lunch and not a salad.

I’ve been considering my feelings about this a lot lately. I’ve started a blog post about this more than once and then deleted it because this is a sensitive subject. But today I’m going for it. It ties in with some work I’m doing on body acceptance and vulnerability and also the challenges I face being the only woman on a three-member elected board. And it makes me think that women need to rise up and lean in and change the way we’re communicating with each other. I mean, there I was in a room full of strong women leaders, and the women in charge were talking about dieting. In a moment when the audience was entirely female. In a moment when there would be no mansplaining, no competition to be heard or get your ideas across, no criticism for showing emotion or using the wrong tone of voice, they chose to talk about body image.

Sigh. We can do so much better than this. We deserve so much more than this.

Friends, we need a call to arms. We need to stop squandering our opportunities when we’re together. We need to not shame each other because of weight or size. We need to break the cycle of internalized sexism and stop believing that successful women must be skinny, that strong women are bossy and ruthless, and feminists are man-hating bitches. We need to stop judging each other for how we look and what we eat. Instead, we need to support each other, we need to be vulnerable with each other, and we need to  become role models and mentors for the next generation of women. I think we do that by demonstrating leadership, by advancing in our careers, and by being our authentic selves.

I’m taking back my power. I hope you’ll join me.

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Caring For Aging Parents Still Typically Falls On Women

How many times have you thought to yourself, “Someday when I have more time…” or “When things slow down…” and then you actually look at your life and laugh. Because that’s never going to happen. The exhausting baby/toddler days spill into the school years full of homework and school projects and baseball games and band practice. And then all of a sudden you’re on college tours, you’re dyeing your grays, you have to crack your back when you wake up every morning, and you wonder why you never had time to do that thing you were going to do.

Now add in caring for your aging parents—a reality for families everywhere. And, like everything else, this is yet another responsibility that typically falls on women’s shoulders.

Women who are mothering their own kids through adolescent drama and learning to drive and high school breakups. Women who often work their own full-time jobs and try to squeeze in a workout or healthy cooking now and then because they actually do want to take better care of themselves. Women who manage the budget and pay the bills and make sure to get the oil changed in the car and take the kids to the dentist and schedule parent-teacher conferences.

And, also, women who must manifest more hours in the day to care for their parents who need their help as they grow older. (Which, to clarify, is something many of us very much want to do.) We love our parents and want to ensure they are properly cared for. But at a time in our lives when we are busier than ever, this responsibility can seem overwhelming, mentally, physically and financially. Especially because it tends to fall on women far more than men.

The Atlantic writer Ada Calhoun recently penned an article that accurately portrayed the “tug-of-war” Gen-X women are stuck in. She tells the story of how on a very emotional, high-stakes day when her 13-year-old son was taking an entrance exam to try to get into a specialized high school, she was also meeting with landlords to find a new apartment for her parents (one of whom has cancer).

“On that day, and just about every day these past few months, I had to choose between caring for one family member or another. With so many crises under way, caring for myself hasn’t really been on the table,” she writes.

However, like most women, she doesn’t really “choose” between either family member, but instead, does it all. She hops from the entrance exam to the apartment tour and back to meet her son.

The one person she doesn’t choose, however, is herself. Because there is no time.

Calhoun’s article explains why caring for their parents is different for Gen-X, including the fact that more women of our generation work full time than our mothers did when they were caring for their own parents so many years ago.

Also, our parents are living longer than previous generations, which, although a blessing, means “more treatments, more medications, more things to be looking out for. It’s a lot of pressure.”

Throw in the steady increase in cost to care for an elderly relative and the fact that many Boomers weren’t great about saving money, and now you’re adding financial stress onto Gen-X women who are trying to save for their own retirement and pay for their kids to go to college.

“Women’s 40s and 50s are ideally a time to find their true calling and focus on themselves,” Amy Goyer, AARP’s national family and caregiving expert and the author of Juggling Life, Work, and Caregiving, says. But when the average caregiver of an aging relative is a 49-year-old working woman, they don’t have time. And that frankly sucks.

We give so much up during those early baby and toddlers days. So many women put everything on hold, dreaming of the day the kids are in school or at least not attached to our boobs and needing their butts wiped anymore. Dreaming of when everyone is grown and off doing their own thing and we finally can have a moment to do our thing—even if we don’t know what that is yet. So many of us watch our husbands thrive in their careers while we take care of things at home, dreaming that “someday, I’ll get to work on me again.”

Only by the time we have a glimmer of that freedom, we are right back where we started, except we are caring for our parents this time around.

So why is this? Why is yet another responsibility consistently falling on women? AARP confirms that although more men are stepping up these days to take care of children and the elderly, the onus still tends to be placed on women—who are historically seen as more nurturing and who tend to be more willing to put themselves and their careers on the back burner.

An AARP article entitled “When Genders Collide While Caregiving” tells the story of three siblings caring for their aging mother. Only it’s really two sisters who do all the driving, feeding, and catering to her. Their brother insists he can’t take time off work. Yet, he still receives praise from his mother if he calls once a week.

This feels like a slap in the face to his sisters, understandably, and is a common story that ends up dividing siblings as their parents age.

The truth is, family caregiving, whether it’s for children or elderly relatives, is still seen as women’s work—even well into the 21st century. And while women do the bulk of it, they get little to no recognition, as it’s simply expected of them. Hmmm… that story sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Just like when women care tirelessly for their kids with no praise (or even face criticism when their kids don’t behave perfectly) and dads get a ticker-tape parade for merely changing a diaper, the same happens on the other end of the spectrum.

“Female caregivers are typically acknowledged as ‘just doing their duty,’ whereas men tend to be lauded for engaging in even minor care activities,” AARP reports.

Awesome.

And what happens? Women continue to burn themselves out on both ends—caring for their families at home and their parents as well, leaving nothing in the middle but exhaustion, stress, and resentment.

This has to change. We cannot continue to expect women to do it all. It’s unrealistic, unfair, and frankly, we’re tired of living through double standard after double standard our entire lives. We want to care for our parents, just as they cared for us. But we can’t take all of this on too. We can’t be expected to shoulder yet another stressful, emotional responsibility that should be shared with our husbands, brothers, and other male relatives.

So step it up, men. Do not expect the women in your lives to care for everyone on their own. Do your part, (which, by the way, is more than calling your mom once a week), and don’t expect a gold star either. Lord knows we don’t.

And women, please don’t fall into the martyrdom trap. There’s no award at the end for sacrificing yourself. Expect the rest of your family to join you on a level playing field where everyone contributes. Demand it. We only get so many years here on Earth. If you spend every moment of every day caring for others and never for yourself, will you look back and be happy with that life? Will you wish you spent some of your 40s and 50s finding yourself? Finding your calling? Discovering new passions? Or will you resent that you gave all of yourself to everyone else so that there was nothing left but an exhausted, depleted shell who only resembled the person you used to be?

Our parents need us. Just as we will need our kids someday. And that’s one of the beautiful pieces of this circle we call life. But it’s our life too. We can’t forget that.

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Moms Stage ‘Nurse In’ At Chick-Fil-A After Woman Shamed For Breastfeeding There

New mom takes to Facebook to share story of how she was harassed by Chick-fil-A manager for quietly breastfeeding her daughter

Despite their recent announcement that they would stop supporting anti-LGBT charities, Chick-fil-A consistently falls on the wrong side of history. Earlier this week, a manager at a Chick-fil-A in Athens, Georgia told a nursing woman in front of the entire dining room that she needed to “cover up” and when the mom pressed the manager about it, she was publicly shamed for doing so and scolded until she left. However, the next day, the woman and a group of friends returned to the Chick-Fil-A and held a “nurse in,” proudly breastfeeding their children while eating chicken sandwiches.

Earlier this week, Samantha Dawn McIntosh went to Chick-fil-A with her 9-year-old niece and 7-month-old daughter. The family sat in a back booth while McIntosh nursed her young daughter and as the new mom later wrote on Facebook, “absolutely no skin was showing.”

Despite all this, and despite all of the tireless strides women make every day to normalize breastfeeding, the store manager stepped in, saying that McIntosh needed to “cover up.”

“Imagine my shock and surprise when I am sitting at Chick-fil-a yesterday with my 9 year old niece and my daughter (breastfeeding) and the manager walks up out of nowhere and tries to hand me her jacket saying someone has complained and would prefer if I cover up because of the other children in the restaurant…please keep in mind that I am wearing a nursing tank top under a large long sleeve shirt,” McIntosh wrote on Facebook.

 

McIntosh said that the manager’s note turned into a “scene,” so she decided to stop feeding her daughter. But as she sat there, she got angry.

“As I sit there in this family friendly restaurant I start to simmer. I’ll admit it. I got angry. Mostly because my niece started asking questions about why I couldn’t feed my daughter. Why would someone ask me to cover up? Why would a baby eating in any way offend someone to the point where it takes a manager approaching me about the situation?! So I got mad,” she added.

A fellow mom jumped to McIntosh’s defense and together they spoke to another employee, but the manager returned to break it up.

“[The manager] comes back TO ME to inform me that they have every right to ask me to cover up when I’m nursing my child and that I should just leave it at that. Which I planned on doing because I wasn’t going to make a big scene of it in front of my niece…until she came back to me and said that, because I wasn’t even causing a problem and she had now not only embarrassed me once by telling me in front of half the restaurant that I needed to cover up to nurse but CAME BACK AND EMBARRASSED ME AGAIN by telling me to let it go in front of half the restaurant!!”

The owner of that Chick-fil-A location has since apologized to McIntosh and the next day, McIntosh and a crew of local moms returned to the location for a “nurse in.”

A local ABC News affiliate in Georgia has photos of the moms casually breastfeeding their kids and enjoying some waffle fries, not bothering anyone. It is legal in this country for a mom to breastfeed in any location and on that night, those moms exercised that right.

“They pride themselves on their Christian beliefs and their family values,” one local mom at the Nurse-In told WJBF about the fast food restaurant. “Clearly some people disagree with publicly breastfeeding…It’s ridiculous because you see people with summer clothes, which is fine, but I can’t sit here and discreetly breastfeed without making someone uncomfortable.”

We love this show of solidarity amongst women. Chick-Fil-A, do better.

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