The first person to notice things were not all OK with me during my second pregnancy was the man I have since come to recognise as one of the more naturally empathetic people to traverse my life, my obstetrician, Mark.
The baby, due to be born just 15-and-a-half months after his big brother, was doing fine. The sunny toddler at home was fine. Work was fine. Even the underlying health issue which had propelled me into the care of a doctor who specialises in risky pregnancies was fine.
But I was not fine, and he could see it in my face even if he didn't hear me say it in words. With tender kindness, and zero condescension, Mark wondered if perhaps it would be good to meet a mother-baby mental health expert he knew.
There were tears, of course, but this is a guy I'm pretty certain could fill buckets with all of the tears of happiness, or sadness, relief or grief that have been cried on him in a career specialising in helping "high-risk" women become mothers.
It was not the first or last time I lost it in front of this now-senior public health professional, someone who routinely dealt with far more complicated pregnancies than my three, but nonetheless validated – and never minimised – my fears and anxieties.
From speaking with friends who were his patients, I know I was not a special case. Mark has a reputation as someone who, though interacting with women at their most nakedly vulnerable and exposed, leaves us feeling we have been heard and respected, and treated with great dignity despite the often primal nature of the service he provides.
When I think of his gentle exclamation of "Hello, sweetheart" to my new baby as he lifted her from my body, healthy, after a terrible scare during her gestation and tense countdown to her birth, I still well up. Every time.
One thing I never think of when I recall the days of seeing my obstetrician on and off over seven years is his gender.
His warmth, his calm, his generosity and accessibility, (his daggy sense of humour), sure. But the fact he is male? This, literally, never crossed my mind until I read a piece at the weekend by a writer whose work I usually admire.
She asked, "Why do male gynaecologists and obstetricians choose their profession?" and questioned their "motivation to specialise in this most intimate of arenas". In her second paragraph, she mentioned a female doctor who "had seen many male gynies and obs over her long working life".
"She had a harsh observation: 'They hate women, and like to see them in pain.'"
This is not an observation, but a slanderous accusation and one that will have been experienced as not just harsh, but painfully sharp, among women who, like me, were surprised to discover the depth of the bond of trust that grew between them and their doctor.
It defames all the men who miss the kids' birthday parties, the marriage anniversary dinners and the school functions (just like female obstetricians must), and hurts all the partners and kids who tolerate the mad work demands on their family member because they understand its great, human value.
The claim and its corollary, that someone of the opposite gender to those with whom they work must have suspicious motives, degrades the quality of the public discourse around gender equality more broadly at a time when it is fraught enough.
Were this line flipped, the sky would fall on the man making the allegation. Do women football coaches do it because it gives them the chance to demoralise men in a professionally sanctioned way? Do female psychiatrists take male patients so they can gaslight them and manipulate their mental health?
Gender silos in the Australian workforce are already a huge issue, one that is acknowledged to be holding women back significantly from achieving financial parity with men. The idea any gender should be excluded from any field is beyond counterproductive.
Though I have not been in his care for 15 years, the legacy of comfort that Mark left endures.
I asked him why he chose his profession. His answer, in part, was: "To help women, and their families, who may be in the depths of despair following many miscarriages or pregnancy losses, or the daunting proposition of finding themselves pregnant with twins or triplets, or coming to see me with the raw emotion of a recent stillbirth, then [to] guide them to a successful pregnancy outcome is an experience beyond compare.
"Nothing, but nothing, compares with the look of sheer, incomparable happiness in the face of these couples; to feel the euphoria of their successful outcome and to see the pure joy is the ultimate professional reward."
I believe him.