18 months ago, I was in the midst of a 3-week-long obstructed labor. I had well over a half-dozen encounters with healthcare providers during that time.

I expressed concerns about my frequent, very strong contractions (although I didn’t meet the technical diagnosis of being “in labor” because my cervix wasn’t progressing in dilation, I knew that my uterus was becoming rock-hard every 5 minutes and could not possible contract any more strongly). I expressed concerns about my high blood pressure (although I didn’t quite meet criteria for preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension, I knew that my systolic blood pressure had increased at least 20 mmHg above my own baseline). I expressed concerns about the shape of my belly (although it’s normal for the baby to drop near the time of the due date, I knew my shape had shifted in an abnormally drastic way).

I was told, time and again: “It’s your first pregnancy, so of course you’re anxious about all of these things. You need to go home and relax.” In medicine, we like to normalize patient’s symptoms, and reassure them that they are healthy. Usually, that’s true.

In my case, the twist came after delivery. Then, I was told, “It was your first pregnancy, so of course you didn’t realize that anything was wrong.”