Ask Me About My Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women’s Pain by Abby Norman

I love this title. I knew I had to read it before I really knew what it was about. It is fairly self-explanatory, but there are lots of kinds of pain and I had read Moving Beyond Words a few years ago and remember that amazing gender bend on Freud’s theories. If you haven’t read that one, check it out after this.

The most commonly talked about pain that women experience is definitely that which surrounds our uteri. There is an insane spectrum of pain levels to both that monthly occurrence we must deal with during our child-bearing years and the pain from actually attempting to bear a child. Both can be physical and psychological. Ask Me About My Uterus stays mostly in the realm of physical pain but occasionally diverges into the psychological as well.

Personally, I can’t imagine the pain that women with endometriosis do through. It sounds like the worst thing ever. I am among the lucky women who have had relatively painless periods my whole life and even benefited from some strange thing during labor that no one could figure out but meant I didn’t feel contractions passed a certain point. Of course, I didn’t walk away unscathed by the trials of maternity and having a uterus, these just weren’t my personal afflictions.

That said, I marveled at Norman’s willingness to dive into her pain and repeatedly describe it to doctors in ways that they eventually understand, to advocate for women with this disorder and to advocate for an overall understanding of women’s pain. I’m with her in that my personal experience is seeing the women I know silently endure a lot of pain, such as that of a fractured back while many of the men I’ve known complain about a cold as if it were the end of the world. Fortunately, my husband does not do this.

This is not the first book I’ve seen address this issue but it is the first I’ve read to focus so much on women’s pain, that women aren’t believed to be in pain or how often our pain is discounted, and on the specific pain of reproduction to boot. It’s a great book for anyone at all who has ever wondered why women complain about cramps and all the way through to those of us who strive toward gender equality in all things.

I must mention that one of my favorite anecdotes was that of the hospital pain chart. I actually saw a meme of one at the dentist’s office the other day and it seemed much more accurate.

In the event that this chart doesn’t show up well on your device, it ranges from “it might be an itch” to “unconscious” right with “mauled by a bear” as #9. Pain is relative and therefore hard to describe. I’m with her. My son sounds like he is being mauled by a bear when he has a splinter, meanwhile his father just grit his teeth and asked to go to the hospital when breaking bones around the same age.

My one criticism, because it truly annoys me, is the mention of Eve and her punishment as if it is for all women for all time. I know that it is often presented this way, particularly in some translations of the Bible. What I’ve never understood is if Adam’s punishment wasn’t for all men for all time, why would we have assumed that Eve’s was? Women have always had different levels of pain in childbirth, why do we assume that it is all tied to Eve?

I’ve also known plenty of women whose desire is much more for their children than their husbands (you know, wanted kids more than they wanted to go through the act of producing them, no funny business). Also, plenty of women do not have sorrow associated with having children. Sure, it’s been hard for some of us, but many of us are happy enough to have our kids that I don’t think sorrow for being the ones to have them is the right word. It’s not a huge mention, but I try to dispel this idea when I can. It’s important to me.

To end on a good note, I must include that the disclaimer at the beginning that this problem of women not being believed about pain is in no way dependent on an actual uterus. There are so many ways in which this can befall someone who is both a woman and does not have a uterus or has a uterus and is not a woman. She gets into some pretty good detail explaining that this is an inclusive book of those of us who are not believed at the doctor’s office and why and what is being done about it.

Check out this informative memoir from a woman living with pain that doctor’s didn’t want to listen to but has become an advocate for us all. Save it for later on Goodreads here or buy it now from Amazon here.

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