American / Book Reviews / feminism / nonfiction / Opinion Pieces / The Latest

Why can’t we just believe women?: A review of Abby Norman’s “Ask Me About My Uterus”

Book cover of Abby Norman’s book Ask Me About My Uterus. Book cover shows a floral design in the shape of female reproductive organs on a dark blue background.

Disclaimer: unapologetic discussions about periods and diarrhea ahead.

As soon as I saw this book appear as a new release in Goodreads, I put it on my TBR straight away. As someone who identifies as a woman who also has a uterus, this book spoke to me. I’ve struggled with painful and irregular periods my whole life and WAS NEVER TAKEN SERIOUSLY BY DOCTORS UNTIL I WAS 26. So I had about 14 years of pain. Thanks doctors. Anyway, I will save the rage for later on in this review.

This book is part about female reproductive pain, but also about women’s pain in general. It also highlights the fact that illnesses like endometriosis are not as gendered as we previously thought. Endometriosis has been found in male and female fetuses, as well as men, as Abby Norman points out.

Norman also highlights the real issues with inherited trauma and having mentally ill parents and the traumas this can sometimes cause children. This is not to say that mentally ill people cannot have healthy happy children, but Norman’s story—and even though it is very different, my own story—show that having mentally ill parents can be extremely painful for children. Especially because mental illness is not taken seriously, treated correctly, or supported like other illnesses. I mean, imagine if you told a diabetic to just generate more insulin by smiling more.

Woman are not believed. It feels like we are just collective liars according to the world around us. We are not believed when we are in pain, we are not believed when we are sexually assaulted, we are not believed to be women when we transition and find our womanhood after first being medically defined as male… Norman highlights this idea that women are not taken seriously and how this affects women’s lives. Women’s pains, mental and physical, are pushed aside. If you’re a woman, chances are you know what I am talking about.

In case you are worried about your body and the pain you might be feeling, here are some common things doctors completely ignore and should not:

  • Painful sex – Yup. Doctor’s have told women that sex is painful. Actually though, sex shouldn’t hurt consistently. So insist, if you can, for your doctor to do more investigations.
  • Painful periods – ‘Periods are supposed to be painful’ is a blanket expression used for all women with periods. Whilst periods are supposed to be a bit uncomfortable you should not have a flow heavy enough that you are googling how to build an arch. You should not vomit, have diarrhea, get migraines, or suffer extreme fatigue. Again, insist your doctor gets their shit together.
  • Reproduction is the only thing that matters – After talking to a doctor about irregular periods and horrible pains (when I was 14), the doctor literally did nothing except tell me, “Don’t worry, you can still have lots of children when you’re older.” I thought, “Wow, that really helps me and my explosive diarrhea periods with a side of vomiting right now. Thanks… no seriously. Thank. You.” Of course people want kids and don’t want kids. Either way, getting help for your reproductive health should not be solely centred on your abilities to breed. It doesn’t matter if you can have kids if your daily life is crippled by period pain. Don’t let doctors use this line to fob off the real pain you are in.
  • You have to have a period – Norman quotes a female gynecologist in her book saying that women actually don’t need to have periods. And it is true. If you’re in pain every month, try stopping your period. There are many ways you can do this. Speak to your doctor about what your options might be. I haven’t had a period in years and it. Is. Fucking. Great.

Ask Me About My Uterus: A quest to make doctors believe in women’s pain made me angry. It made me angry to think that there are so many women around the world needlessly suffering because of sexism and racism in medicine. As Norman points out, woman of colour have been almost completely removed from discussions about endometriosis and other reproductive health issues. Especially in the U.S. where health care is not readily available to all people. This book filled me with rage about my own pain and how it was mistreated, how it is still mistreated by doctors. This book also gave me hope though. It gave me the small glimmer of a promise that it will not always be like this for women. Something has to change.

Have you read Abby Norman’s Ask Me About My Uterus? Have you experienced frustration about getting the health care you needed? What do you think of the history of women’s pain? As always, share the reading love.

One thought on “Why can’t we just believe women?: A review of Abby Norman’s “Ask Me About My Uterus”

  1. Pingback: Shark Week: Let’s talk about bleeding with Emma Barnett’s new book, “Period” | bound2books