There Is NO Such Thing As a Stupid Question
This evening, I was putting my six-year-old to bed. As usual, once the lights went out, her lightbulb switched on…
“Mommy, can I ask you one question?”
“No, two questions. No, actually three questions?”
They were just your average six-year-old questions… “Why do our cheeks have so many layers?” “What is a stethoscope made of?” “How does a switch work?”
By the third question, I gave her my full (Umm, I should have paid more attention to the light switch lesson science class) permission to hop out of bed and go and ask her father.
She returned a few minutes later.
“Ok mommy, I don’t have anymore QUESTIONS, but I’m wondering?”
“Where does gold and silver come from?”
We delved into the earth’s matter for a moment and then finally, she said: “Mommy, can I tell you what I’m scared of?”
To which I replied, “I’m scared you’re going to ask me another question!”
Now don’t worry, I listened to what she was scared of and then proceeded to fully and confidently explain the science behind creaking windows (lucky I was awake in that lesson), but I know moms everywhere can empathise with my final words. Later, once I sat down and peered into my clear cabernet, however, my own little lightbulb switched on and so now please bear with me as I share the thoughts running through my head on how this relates to mothers-to-be.
This week, I ran 30 minutes late with a HypnoBirthing couple. I had no idea until we finished the class as I hadn’t even glanced at my watch. They had simply had so many great questions, and by the time we packed up, the atmosphere was buzzing with her enthusiasm and excitement.
Questions are a normal and expected part of my work. I have, however, also had clients say, “This is probably a stupid question, but do you know if…”
To which my reply is always : “There is no such thing as a stupid question!”
Some people might argue differently. Some might even say, “That’s what Google is for.” But I prefer to think of it this way: If someone has a question, there is something they feel they don’t know. Their question is real, whatever it is, and deserves an answer from anyone equipped with the knowledge to answer it. Particularly mothers-to-be who truly feel like they are treading into unchartered territory.
Which begs another question: Why do so many women today, still feel as though their questions about their bodies, pregnancies and births are silly and knowledge that should be left in the hands of the experts?
In her TED Talk “The Lies We Tell Pregnant Women”, Dr Sofia Jawed-Wessel, Assistant Professor in the School of Health & Kinesiology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and Associate Director of the Midlands Sexual Health Research Collaborative, talks about what she calls the “Willendorf Effect”, where women become considered property of the community once they fall pregnant and are not be allowed or trusted to make decisions regarding their own health.
In this ever-present space of mothers not being given bodily autonomy, many today continue to find themselves being prescribed a flippant response to any question. Responses like, “Oh don’t you worry yourself with that.” “Don’t be silly.” “Don’t be crazy.” “Listen, I’m the doctor.” “Leave the questions to me.” or worse. One of my clients (who happens to be a medical practitioner) found that her obstetrician became more and more aggressive with each visit and the questions she asked. The obstetrician eventually told her, “If you’re not going to do it my way, you can find someone else.” She happily did.
Not all mothers, however, would feel confident doing so.
And as I thought about my daughter and her barrage of questions, this came to mind: What an honour for anyone to want to bring their questions to you. They do so not because they necessarily feel you know all the answers, but because they feel they will at least be heard. They bring you their questions to connect. They bring you their questions because they trust you. They bring you their questions because they trust that, even if you don’t know the answer, you’ll help them find it.
As a mother, I know that my willingness and eagerness to answer the daily, and nightly, questions is linked to three things, my interest in the subject, my knowledge of the subject and whether I feel I have the time to go there (read: my patience or rather impatience). Patients in doctor’s rooms are no doubt subject to the same variables.
Something I want all mothers- and parents-to-be to be clear on is that no one has all the answers, not me, and not even your obstetrician. If your practitioner tells you to sop questioning as it’s their way or the highway, ask them this: “Is that because you have not been trained in the alternative?” Alternatively, you are never too old to ask “Why?” as many times as you want until you get a clear answer.
And if you’re not happy with the answer, and feel as though you’re still sitting in the dark, by all means, feel free to find someone else to sit with you. Because no one should see birth and life looming as a big scary unknown.