Monday, September 21, 2009

Dr. Seuss

We have entered the proverbial final stretch, having passed the 34-week mark, with (less than?) six weeks to go. And I am feeling an unprecedented combination of excitement and anxiety. Luckily, to help unfray our nerves with comic relief/shocking pronouncements, we have Dr. Seuss (rhymes with her real name). Dr. Seuss is our OB/GYN, who comes highly recommended by former expat patients. She speaks fluent English, which helps. Her bedside manner is laconic, which sometimes doesn't. And, most importantly, she can be counted on to provide at least one slightly-to-very racist comment per visit. The first time we saw her, she asked about my mother's labor history. I replied that both my sister and I arrived via difficult births, which perhaps could be attributed to the fact that my father is a good ten inches taller than my mother. To which Dr. Seuss replied, "So, your father is not Korean?" No, I explained - in fact, neither of my parents are, as they are both Chinese. She seemed quite dumbfounded by my response (implying that she didn't think there could be such a thing as a tall Asian male).
On another visit, I inquired about counting kicks, a practice that is recommended by What to Expect When You're Expecting after 28 weeks. Looking at me like I was crazy, Dr. Seuss replied, "That is just silly. Do you really think they do that in Africa?"
But it was only in the last visit that Dr. Seuss outdid even herself. After a fairly satisfying discussion about the details of labor (epidural, episiotomy, etc.), she attempted to reassure me by saying, "But you will be fine. Your labor will be easy, because you are Asian." Before I could even say "Excuse me?" she explained, "It is true . . . labor is easier for Asians. And also for blacks. But for whites, it is harder."
While completely preposterous, I found her positive stereotyping interesting in that it seems to represent a broader tendency here to idealize more "primitive" cultures. And while I don't really doubt her medical competence - which is why I have decided to keep her as my doctor for this birth - I do wonder whether (and shudder to think that) her biases might influence important intervention decisions during labor. And, once again, I have to ask myself the question that seems to come up again and again: whether this behavior can be attributed to outright bigotry, narrow-minded provincialism, or both. (And at the risk of sounding prejudiced myself, to what extent Dr. Seuss is simply being . . . Belgian.)              


  1. Amazing-
    What generation does Dr. Seuss belong to?

  2. Maisie- Claudette, is me, Alana. NOt sure why my account is coming up as "Claudette"...perhaps my Belgian alter-ego??