For the millionth time, he did not deliver me.
My dad is a second-generation obstetrician and gynecologist, meaning he spends his days delivering babies, talking to women about their problems (whether health-related or not) and making sure their reproductive systems are in check. His father, my abuelo, did the same until he retired just last year.
As I’m sure you can imagine, having a father who knows more about periods than I do has more or less shaped the way I grew up. When I was little, all that meant was snickering alongside my siblings when we overheard Dad on a work call (“What does ‘discharge’ mean?”). In middle school, when I got my period before my friends, it meant that I had more than just my mother to support me — as awkward as it was to ask my dad if he’d seen any pads lying around the house.
Now, as a college student, the implications of having a gynecologist father resonate with me more than ever before. Through the simple act of going to work every day, my dad has shown me that sexuality is a key component of human health, one that deserves a far brighter spotlight than the one America has given it.
Last October, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in the U.S. are higher than ever before. Meanwhile, our means of prevention are growing ever-more innovative by the day. What, then, is causing the spike in STDs?
It’s the 21st century, and it’s still considered taboo to discuss sexual relations in any way, shape or form, even in the context of health care. According to Planned Parenthood, half of all American teens felt uncomfortable talking to their parents about sex in 2012. Cringey as they may be, those conversations could mean the difference between preventing and contracting lifelong health complications.
Not only that, but our current educational system is not equipped to show students why sex must be spoken of. Though higher-income areas may be capable of tackling this issue to some extent both in and out of the classroom, communities of lower socioeconomic status may not have the means to provide their citizens with adequate resources, whether educational or medical. Consequently, lower-income areas often find STDs, unplanned pregnancies and other dire, yet preventable, issues added to their infinite list of problems to solve. In short, we can’t understand what we don’t shamelessly discuss.
Then there’s the ongoing tension surrounding the crimson wave. Girls still get periods, and yet, most still can’t openly reach for a tampon without feeling the eyes of everyone in the room boring into their uteruses (maybe that’s not quite how it happens, but it’s still uncomfortable, all right?). Menstruation is a human function that has existed since the beginning of time — even longer than the “National Treasure” franchise. It is preparation for those who intend to bring life into the world — a reminder of all the wonder of which the female body is capable. Why is the phrase, “She’s probably on her period,” an insult used to degrade anyone who’s in a bad mood? When I’m crying over a real, significant issue, why is the first response of nearly everyone I know to ask me if I’m PMSing? Why is menstruation the longstanding excuse for all of women’s weaker moments?
I’ve grown up in a household where the body is spoken about openly to some degree, whether I like it or not. Let me clear this up: I don’t talk about boys with my dad, but if I have a question regarding the well-being of my body, I ask. Asking your father about your vagina is not always the most exciting thing to do, but I’ve learned to speak of these matters the way I would a broken leg. Health is health, after all, no matter the part of the body.
Sure, it’s strange to think that my dad took care of my high school science teacher, or that he’s probably delivered one of you (Beaumont Royal Oak, anyone?). But he is also the one who showed me what to do if I contract a yeast infection, who encouraged me to discuss birth control. I still get texts from girlfriends at home thanking me for his secret cramp-zapping strategies (two Tylenol Extra Strength, one Aleve). It’s my dad I have to thank for feeling comfortable and safe in my own skin.
But no, he won’t be delivering my children.