Back again is one of the newest to the Feronia family. Her passion for reproductive healthcare and interest in making sex education easy to access and understand makes her a fabulous guest writer, and we’re excited to have her!
So someone you’re close to has asked you to accompany them to a reproductive health care appointment. This loved one, whether they are a friend, a partner, or a family member, clearly cares about you! Maybe they are getting birth control for the first time, and are nervous about what the appointment will be like. Perhaps they have some symptoms they’re concerned about, and want a professional to check them out. It could be that they’ve decided to end a pregnancy, and really want someone there to support them during the process. The fact that this person has asked you to come with them shows that they probably trust you and feel safe around you! And in order to be the best support person you can, there are some basic points to consider when joining this person on their appointment.
This is probably the simplest advice on the list, but also the most important. If the person you are there with wants to talk, listening is one of the most basic and important things you can do! It might seem like you have to coach your loved one or provide them with advice, but that’s not always the case. Hearing what someone is saying, and validating them by lending a friendly ear is a great and simple way to be a successful support person.
2. Leave Your Judgments at Home
People have a wide variety of opinions and views, and it’s something that makes each of us unique and interesting. However, when someone has asked you to join them in a support capacity at a sexual health related appointment, it is important to try to remove your individual opinions and focus on what your loved one needs. Our culture has a lot of baggage tied up in sexual health, and oftentimes individuals who are seeking reproductive health care can by hyper-aware of this. Who is going to feel the unfair stigmas of an STD more than someone who is seeking treatment for herpes for the first time? How much do you think a 16 year old who has missed her period and wants to go to the doctor to find out if she is pregnant fears our society’s negative views of teen pregnancy? When you are acting in a support capacity, it is important not to forget that you are there mainly to help that person feel stronger and more comfortable. Though you may have an opinion on whatever healthcare they are seeking, your role as a trusted individual to your loved one should come first.
3. Follow Their Lead
This point goes along well with listening and being non-judgmental. Try to follow the emotional lead of your loved one: if they are sad, don’t try to force them to be happy; if they are content or seem to be in a good mood, don’t try to force them to bring up negative emotions because you think that’s how you might feel in their situation. Asking someone who seems fine if they’re “really okay” over and over might seem like a good way to make sure you are keyed into their emotions, but you’re more likely to run the risk of making them feel uncomfortable or like they’re not having the “right” reaction to the situation. Nothing is wrong with trying to cheer someone up if they are feeling down, but attempting to joke over and over again may be frustrating for them. Sometimes it is okay for a person to be sad, and it can be important for them to work through that emotion. Let your loved one know that you are there for them, and put your attention on their emotional cues.
4. Don’t Take Over the Appointment
Chances are no one at the appointment knows your loved one better than you. However, it is important to remember that when the time comes they are the one who is going to have to be interacting with the staff at the appointment. You may sense that they are nervous or uncomfortable at the beginning of their appointment, but you need to let them answer questions from the staff, fill out their paperwork, and just generally settle into their visit. You may think you know everything about your loved one, but it is still important that the health care professionals they will be working with get to know your loved one and get all the accurate health and history information needed from them. (Note: At certain times during the appointment, you may not be allowed to go back with them and will be asked to stay in the waiting room.)
5. If You Need a Break, it’s Okay to Step Away
As mentioned earlier, lots of appointments in reproductive health care can be very emotionally charged. It is important for you to create a safe space for the person you are supporting, and to make sure you are not casting your judgments or unwanted emotions onto them. However, this doesn’t mean you need to suppress your feelings permanently. It is fine for you to excuse yourself to the bathroom for a moment to collect yourself, or to step outside when your loved one is with a provider. If you need a minute to feel sad, or angry, or anxious you can’t always suppress that, but it’s absolutely essential that you don’t take your emotions out on your loved one.