*****BE ADVISED: Graphic depiction of bodily fluids and miscarriage*****
One sunny day in August of 2009, I woke up in my on-campus apartment having the most intense cramps I had ever had. To be clear, I’ve had the kind of cramps that have required Demerol, so when I say these were bad, they were bad. I was in so much pain, I was bowed over, unable to stand. Clutching my stomach, I stumbled to the shared bathroom in the apartment and sat down on the toilet. I was praying that I would find some relief. I felt the pressure to push so I did but instead of it coming out like a bowel movement, it came out of my vagina. What I saw next sent me into shock, I was babbling and shouting and my roommates came in. They were grossed out and concerned and scared. With shaking hands, I called my mother and I said the only thing I could think to describe what I saw. I screamed into the phone, “Mom, it looks pieces of me are falling out!” My mom urged me to go to the hospital.
For context, the hospital I went to was about 2.5 blocks away and situated in a predominantly black neighborhood that housed not one, but two historically black institutions (Benedict College and my alma mater, Allen University). I can’t for the life of me tell you how I got to the hospital. This is how I know I was in shock. I can’t say how long I waited in the waiting room. The first thing I remember after the conversation with my mom is lying on an examination table. I tried to explain to the nurse how bad it was. I remember trying to hide my underwear beneath me because I was so ashamed. She said very little as she used a clear speculum to perform a swab test. When she pulled the speculum out, however, we were both stunned at the tissue and blood. I asked her what was wrong with me and she said that they would run some tests. I then saw her throw away the speculum. They never once tested the tissue.
About an hour later, a doctor came in a prescribed me some antibiotics and told me I had Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and possibly an STD. They assured me that the antibiotics would clear up anything but that I would receive a call in 3 business days for the results. I was shocked. I couldn't understand how I would have an STD when I had only had one sexual partner and we were both tested. I asked questions and all were dismissed. I went back to my dorm room after filling the prescription and for 10 days I wasted away taking it. It dawned on me that I had never heard from the hospital. I called and asked for the results of my test. The woman on the other end said everything came back negative. I was stunned. They told me I had an STD and treated me for one but not only did I not have one BUT I also still had no answers for the bleeding and tissue.
The summer of 2010, I returned home to Buffalo to prepare for the military. Whenever I went running, I would cramp and bleed. I had never experienced this before so I scheduled an appointment with my doctor. While explaining to her about my new issue with bleeding after a run, I told her about the mysterious situation I had had while at school. She ordered an ultrasound.
During the ultrasound, the tech asked me had I ever been pregnant. I said no. As we neared the end of the sonogram, she asked again and I said no again.
I went into the doctor’s the next week to discuss the results of the ultrasound. She sat me down and explained that I had miscarried earlier that year. She was disgusted and appalled for me. All I could think was I could’ve died. No one even tested the tissue because they made an assumption about me as a young sexually active black woman that I had an STD.
Later that night I cried on the phone with my best friend for about 2 hours. I cried about the loss of a child I didn't even know I was pregnant with. I cried about how I had been treated at the hospital. I cried because I was young and didn't even realize I was being profiled until after the fact.
I had a miscarriage and didn’t find out until 10 months later. I was treated for an STD I didn’t have and sent on my way.
Systemic racism will have a person believing they know you without having ever asked you a question about yourself.
Systemic racism allows stereotypes about young black women to prevail instead of actually acknowledging or honoring the truth that ALL people are different.
Systemic racism will have someone who has taken an oath to protect you, fail to do so.
Systemic racism kills. It isn’t only in the streets, under knees or behind burning bullets. It’s killing us under the scalpel and in the waiting room.
I walked away with my life… I still feel that I am owed so much more. We all are owed so much more.