I don't do it for the thanks. If I did, there are plenty of days that I might have quit! I've had women shout at me, swear at me, tell me I wasn't a good feminist, I hadn't secured enough financial assistance for them, I didn't answer my phone often enough, I wasn't checking them in fast enough, doing enough, caring enough. When in fact I care really hard and I try really hard. Sometimes I'd hear a coworker have a similar interaction -- maybe just an abrupt goodbye after she phoned to delivered news of a donation toward a patient's abortion costs -- and hang up and mutter, "A little gratitude would be nice." Idunno, I say screw that. Women have a right to choose abortion; I don't have a right to clients' gratitude just for providing their care. It's a matter of social justice that women have access to abortion, and they don't owe me thanks for their rights. They weren't mine to give anyway.
Don't I appreciate a word of thanks from a patient who, by all rights, ought to have her mind on anything but my feelings? Of course--quite a bit. It's wonderful to hear, "You all have been so kind and so professional; thank you for making this so much less stressful and scary than I expected." It's wonderful to get letters that read "This means the world to me. God Bless and may heaven smile upon you guys. Thank you."
But it's the part that comes before it that keeps me doing this work: "Due to my pregnancy I was discriminated against at work, they cut my weekly hours from 40 to 15 and I could barely afford rent, let alone paying for an abortion or even having a baby."
"I'm involved in domestic violence and have had no one to turn to. You have saved my life from eternal abuse and my child from growing up with violent torture."
"This year I earned a sports scholarship to go to college, but when I found out I was pregnant I was afraid I wouldn't even get to graduate high school."
[Excerpted to protect privacy, but these are women's own words.]
Those women don't owe me thanks! We, as a society, owe them all that we can do to reverse workplace injustice, end domestic violence, increase educational opportunities, AND make reproductive freedom a reality. And I thank them: for not giving up, for seeking to make their own life, for being patient with the unfairly long process of seeking a provider, an appointment, the money, the ride, the babysitter, the day off to recuperate.
Thank you, so much, for the compassion and companionship that I hear you offer each other in the waiting rooms and the recovery room.
Thank you for the times I was training and you consented to have me in the room, even though my presence was of no particular use to you that day. Thanks for everything you continue to teach me and my coworkers as we strive to support you and connect you with what you need. In short, thank you for the privilege of being involved in your care -- I will try to earn it.