Saturday, March 24, 2012

Challenge Accepted

I plan to be a pro-life, NFP-only OB/GYN and hope to use naprotechnology. I'm very excited about this, but our culture doesn't feel the same way. For example, the overwhelming majority of opinions on an SDN thread about Catholic OB/GYNs are discouraging:
An OB/GYN who doesn't prescribe contraceptives. That's funny.
...sterilization and contraception is part of the career...
 ...I'm pretty sure the law requires a doctor to refer a pt to someone who offers those services. So, even if you wont do ABs [abortions], you have to refer the pt to someone who does.... may have difficulty getting enough continuity patients as many patients in a resident OB/GYN clinic are seeking contraception. At my institution, you have to log continuity patients. have the viewpoint of a student with no real experience.
Our Lady of la Salette, a remarkable apparition
because our Lady appeared seated and crying
with her head in her hands before
standing to speak to the visionaries.
This statue is how I feel when I read these quotes! should not join a field in which the scope of practice is such that they will be placed in a position where they are unwilling to provide care (I'm talking about contraception) or refer for care (abortion) frequently. I just can not get over how selfish this is. How many other specialties could you do where yours and your patient's interest not be constantly opposed. Unless you are planning to do some fellowship like gynecologic oncology or reproductive endocrinology, being an OBGYN who will not prescribe contraception or refer for abortion is unconscionable. You will end up blocking your patient's access to the care they desire. Go into some other specialty!
I am a Catholic OB/GYN resident but I don't have a problem with contraception or sterilization. If you do, then OB/GYN will be a difficult residency for you because that is what you are going to be an expert in. I also happen to think Humanae Vitae was a misguided encyclical. I think that at some point in the future the Church's prohibition on contraception will change.

And pressure doesn't come just from the strangers online. My mom increasingly asks, "are you sure you want to do this? Don't you think you'll have nothing to do? I'm not sure this is the right thing for you."

And my shadowing experience with Dr. C ended on a slightly sour note because I am a Catholic and believe the Church's teachings. On the last day I shadowed him, I expressed my admiration for explaining to a patient why he could not prescribe an IUD for her.

He thanked me, then asked me about being Catholic. Wouldn't that restrict me?

Restrict? Not doing something harmful is not a restriction, it is a freedom. Yes, I admitted aloud (I've learned not to get philosophical right away in these conversations). I won't prescribe birth control. He raised his eyebrows. I mentioned the two aspects of the sexual act (unitive and procreative) and that the Church believes they should not be separated. He picked up the next patient's chart and as he went through the exam room door, he turned around to me and said, "so tubals would be a problem, too." All I had time for (before we were in the exam room talking with the patient) was a quick and quiet "yes."

That afternoon, one of his patients went into labor. I was very excited until I thought I heard that she was having a tubal after delivery. I quietly asked Dr. C if the patient was going to have a tubal. He simply answered "yes," not meeting my eyes. I said, "in that case, I think I should be excused." I tried to be polite and thanked him for his time (and sent thank-you notes as planned), but I had no idea how to pick up the psychosocial shards of the relationship that had just shattered. Where can I find a mentor who accepts me?

Long story short: becoming a pro-life OB/GYN is apparently going to be a challenge. But I am not deterred. Our Lady (at la Salette) is reported to have said:
Our Lady of la Salette. (CastleRoy)
...I call upon the true imitators of Christ made man, the one true Savior of men; I call upon my children, my true devotees, those who have given themselves to me so that I may lead them to my Divine Son, those whom I bear as it were in my arms, those who have lived in my spirit...the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ who have lived in contempt of the world and of themselves, in poverty and humility, in contempt and silence, in prayer and mortification, in chastity and in union with God, in suffering, and unknown to the world. It is time for them to emerge and come enlighten the earth. Go, show yourselves to be my dear children; I am with you and in you, provided your faith is the light enlightening you in these evil times. May your zeal make your famished for the glory and honor of Jesus Christ. Do battle, children of light, you, the few who see thereby....
How can you say no to our Lady proposing such a wonderful fight? Challenge accepted!


  1. I cannot adequately express my awe at your courage and your faith. I have only been following your blog a short while - and have never commented, despite my deep admiration for your strong faith. But I had to speak up after this post. Your life is a powerful witness - to us, your readers, and to all those who know you. Please continue to pray to Our Lady who will always support you. Perservere in the knowledge that God will take care of you and advance your (His) work. I will hold you in my prayers.

    1. Dear Teresa, THANK YOU. I am so encouraged by your words (because, despite the awesome courage that God gives, I am simultaneously terrified)! Thank you for your prayers--both I and the whole world badly need them--and your encouragement.

      P.S. I visited your blog! Even though I can't read anything, I like the banner a lot. Such a fresh and simple picture--lovely.

  2. Good for you! I'm leaning towards family and will have some similar issues but not nearly as many. I've already had to tell a preceptor (a Catholic one at that) that I wouldn't administer Depo.

    Anyways I found this article encouraging and thought you may appreciate it. :)

    1. 1. I'm sorry you were asked to administer Depo by a Catholic preceptor! You will have some of the same struggles.
      2. You're thinking of family? How cool. I wish I could somehow be a family doc and an OB/GYN. General docs are so down to earth and wise!
      3. I love that article and thanks so much for linking it. I'm so pleased by it's content and by the fact that I've seen it three times (through you, through my parish priest, and through New Advent)! The more the better. :) I'm glad it's making the rounds. (Maybe if enough people see it and start thinking, in three years....)

      I hope the semester is going well for you! Stay in the peace of Christ.

  3. Your conviction reminds me so much of my patron saint, Gianna Beretta Molla. It's so refreshing to see people with strong faith standing up for their beliefs in their professions. This is one of the things I am most nervous about in my future career as a nurse. Luckily, my passion is taking care of children, so I will probably not encounter the contraceptive issue often. I'm definitely sending up some prayers for you!

    1. I love St. Gianna! Her life and death is a great example for us. God guide you as you become a nurse! Thank you for your prayers and be assured of mine.

    2. I just found your blog, but find it very interesting. In my undergrad, I took the MCAT while a nursing major. It was toward application time that I felt clearly called to be a mother and that as a physician I would be so conflicted. And so it is, I am an RN with four beautiful living souls under my care. You have been called differently and beautifully!

      As an RN I have been aked, but always deferred to a colleague to give methotrexate for likely "ectopic" pregnancies. I do know of a wonderful NFP only OB/Gyn in LaCrosse WI, I have no idea where you are though.

      My personal OB is "Catholic" although not the real deal, when I am with him (I really like him as a person. Smart, personable, intuitive) I can pray so fervently and clearly for him. I think God has great plans for this man. I really do. I have refered many friends to him and if we all pray...Through the interession of St Gerard and St. Gianna.

    3. Anonymous, thanks so much for reading. I am so thrilled to read that you discerned a call to motherhood (of four!), and allowed that to form and not erase your career work.

      Thank you for striving to maintain your integrity in your practice, in ways like giving methotrexate. You're an example to students like me. I will pray for your OB, I am sure God will work great things in him for the sake of Christ's passion and through the intercession of the saints.

  4. It is a spiritual battle to be a truly Catholic medical care provider. Do not give up!

    1. Dear Lora, thank you for reading and commenting today. I hope you have a beautiful Ascension and a holy Pentecost. God reward you!