Miranda Colbert and Megan Hofmann
ENGL 384 Section 1
08 December 2021
Word Count: 1045
When it comes to healthcare, many persons with disabilities face discrimination and hatered. They are often seen as a burden or not worth the time, effort, and financial resources to take care of. These misconceptions often lead to harm and injustice as well as prevent people with disabilities from receiving proper treatment within the medical field. For example, pregnant women with disabilities are less likely to get a pap smear or a mammogram compared to an able-bodied person. The constant fallacies have caused persons with disabilities to speak up about their experiences and how they face mistreatment. Rebecca Foust’s poem, Apologies to my OB-GYN and Craig Romkema’s poem, Perspectives depict ways in which individuals with disabilities face discrimination within the medical profession, showcasing varying issues in the healthcare field and their negative impacts on people with disabilities.
In Rebecca Foust’s poem Apologies to my OB-GYN, Foust critiques the medical field and how the profession handles persons with disabilities. In this specific poem, the poetic speaker talks about the birth of her premature son and the way he was taken care of by the nurses in the hospital. The speaker’s sarcastic tone is evident in the line, “Sorry we were such pains in your ass / asking you to answer our night calls like that.” The line itself seems to have a hidden message underneath it as if to sarcastically apologize for making the nurses do their own job. This can also be seen in the lines, “Sorry that my boy birthed himself / too early… / with his two pounds, two ounces.” From the beginning of her son’s birth the nurses see him as a burden. She claims that her son “took up so much room,” which contradicts her next line explaining how small he was. In the line, “skewed bell-curve predictions / into one long, straight line;” She talks about how her son ignored the normal patterns, causing more trouble to the nurses. Foust uses this line as an example of how people that work in the medical field claim that persons with disabilities have a lower life expectancy than others. The line implies that because her son is disabled, the nurses do not deem his life as important as able-bodied individuals because of his life expectancy as a disabiled baby, that because he is disabled he is not a priority. This treatment infuriates the mother because not only is that boy her son, but another living human being and he deserves the same treatment as an able-bodied person. In the end of the poem, Foust writes, “blue wingbeat / pulse fluttering his left temple—there, / there again. Just like it did then.” She uses this line as an ending to prove to the nurses and doctors that her son was alive and well, despite the poor treatment he receives from the hospital. The speaker is using her son as an example for many surviving disabled people to show that they deserve to be treated fairly and correctly.
When discussing persons with disabilities, one of the main issues is lack of communication. No matter how close an able-bodied person is to being disabled it is impossible for them to know the whole story of what it is actually like. Because the narrator of this poem is the mother of a disablied child, it is difficult to get the child’s point of view. This poem is not told by the son, therefore robs him of his right to explain to the readers how he felt about the nurses. Was he angry or upset? All the reader can conclude is that the mother herself felt infuriated and sarcastic. Towards the end of the poem, the narrator uses the lines, “…He spent / today saving hopeless-case nymph moths / …/ at a time…” While the action itself is seen as sweet in the mother’s eyes it still raises the question of why. There was also another line that read, “and that he did everything so backwards: / lost weight, gained fluid / blew up like a human balloon / then shriveled.” Much like the narrator’s own son, persons with disabilities can be compared to a baby in this case. They are both seen as helpless in the eyes of not only the medical field but by able-bodied persons. Without the son’s point of view the reader can only assume everything the mother said is the whole truth.
Another poem that highlights discrimination, specifically in healthcare, is Craig Romkema’s, Perspectives. The poetic speaker claims, “From the beginnings of my differentness, I remember / Doctors, students, therapists / Measuring my head / The tightness of my muscles / The tracking of my eyes / The dysfunctions of my stomach” (Romkema). By stating, “From the beginnings of my differentness” the poetic speaker reflects on how society labels autistic individuals as being different from able-bodied humans, indicating that he/she has known from the start of their existence that they do not fit the mold of what society and the medical field considers “normal.” The lines evaluate varying side effects that a person with autism might have, treating the body as oddity rather than a functioning human life.
Finally, the poetic speaker continues the poem by expressing frustration at discriminating labels assigned by individuals in the medical field. The poem states, “Others not acknowledging I understood every word / they said / So freely did they label me retarded. / Or some other variant, / Equally untrue. / (Romkema). Here, the speaker addresses faults within the medical field where people with autism are given derogatory names because of medical professionals being ignorant of the individual and how they function. The poetic speaker is directly challenging the medical field, claiming that they (the autistic individual), understands the labels being given to them and that the labels are untrue.
Both Rebecca Foust’s and Craig Romkema’s poems address troubling aspects in how the medical field approaches people with disabilities. Unfortunately, individuals with disabilities face unequal or reluctant treatment while also dealing with discriminatory language relating to their disability. The pair of poems challenge the reader to view these acts as unjust, hopefully altering the way in which individuals and society as a whole approaches the aspect of disability within the medical profession.
Foust, Rebecca. “Apologies to My OB-GYN.” Fishouse, Fishouse Poems , 28 June 2018, http://www.fishousepoems.org/apologies-to-my-ob-gyn/.
Romkema, Craig. “Perspectives.” Microsoft Word, http://dislitfall21.chris-foss.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Kenny-Fries-%E2%80%9CExcavation%E2%80%9D.pdf.
I pledge -Miranda Colbert and Megan Hofmann