What's up with the doc?

I remember being in my early 20's, sitting at a bar chatting with a friend of mine who was a few years older than myself. I distinctly remember him saying, "When we're older and we all have kids, let's promise now not to talk about them all the time when we go out."

I readily agreed. Wouldn't we have other things to talk about? Politics, jobs, all of our work to end world hunger? I imagined we'd all be jet setting fabulous "grown ups" who drank good wine and wore stylish black clothes made by Donna Karan. We'd not be tempted to bore each other with stories of potty training and "Oh, Little Johnny tried green beans last night, and we were SO PROUD!" We would have much more important things to discuss on our nights out with friends.

Fast forward to a party I attended over Labor Day weekend in the yard of some neighbors. I sat in my lawn chair in my faded yellow tee shirt, visiting with another neighbor - she in her khaki shorts, and we drank beer from a plastic cup. We talked about the fact that our kids don't eat squat. And then we got on the subject of our kids' doctors. Of all the conversations my 20-something self had imagined my 30-something self not having, this was not one. I had no idea that the baby doctor was such a BIG DEAL.

This is another one of those things they don't tell you about.

They don't tell you that picking your baby doctor is akin to picking a spouse. When you go to the hospital, pre-delivery, to check in and fill out all those papers that say YES, YES INDEED I WANT AN EPIDURAL EVEN AFTER YOU SHOWED ME THAT FILM and that begin the process of getting a birth certificate for your baby, they ask you who your pediatrician will be, so that person can come check on your newborn in the hospital.

I was ready with an answer, but not because anyone had warned me I needed to be. I bet over half the first time moms in that chair go "Wha?" when they're asked to say who will circumsize their baby boys.

So that's when it starts. Right there in that chair, weeks before your baby is born, you have to make a choice, based on nothing more than a few possible snippets of hearsay and who your sister's kids go to. Or, maybe some people are more savvy than I was. I don't know.

Anyway, that doctor that you pick is your new BFF for the first two years of your child's life. You will see that doctor a minimum of ten times in the first two years, and that is if your baby is PERFECTLY HEALTHY - never has a sniffle or an ear infection or a case of Fifth disease. Unfortunately, that is not usually the case. Most babies get stuff. They get colds and coughs and rashes and they have funny bumps on their heads or maybe they can't poop or won't eat or they caught roseola at daycare. And you're whipping that kid to the doctor's office every two weeks, every three days, and eventually you just camp out in your car outside the door and go in every morning so Doc can have a look-see, because it's easier than making appointments day after day.

You better pick someone good. You better pick someone you like. Someone who gets you, will listen to you, and has some respect for parents and their instincts.

And that's if your baby only has "the usual" stuff. If you get into chronic or unexplained conditions, you're gonna want that doctor to rock YOU to sleep at night.

So, it turns out, my 20-something self was wrong. My friends and I, we are those people. We talk about our kids a lot. Not all the time, but a lot. And one of the biggest themes of all those conversations about our kids has been their doctors. "Who do you go to?" "I hate my doctor; he never listens." "I just Google Diagnose my kid." "I'm switching doctors." "We don't go to a pediatrician at all, we use our GP." "I am using a specialist now." "My kids' doctor thinks I'm crazy." "Our kid LOVES his pediatrician! He calls him Daddy!" "Ours makes us wait forever."

Friends, do your research. Ask everyone you know about the doctors their kids go to. I can't tell you how many parents (myself included) have lost unnecessary hours of sleep due to faulty or quick diagnosing on the part of the pediatrician. You need someone who listens, who thinks outside the box, and who does not treat your baby like a factory product.

I am sure all of the pediatricians out there are doing their best. There are too few of them, lots of kids, busy schedules, and eventually one ear infection looks like all the rest. But something is wrong with that system. The job of the pediatrician is to LISTEN and do it well. Babies and kids can't tell you what is wrong. Even bigger kids can't always articulate. It's a tough job, diagnosing people who can't talk. And humans are tricky subjects, as it turns out.

It also turns out that all that talk we swore we'd never do is a really good thing. The more people I talk to, the more I learn about the various doctors in the vicinity. I get examples and recommendations and I find people whose kids have had similar issues to mine. I've finally honed in on who I think (at least for now) are the right doctors for my son, and I'm resting a lot easier at night knowing I'll be heard when I raise a concern. I'm watching friends now go through what I went through in the first year of my son's life with the questions and no answers and the hurried doctor who slaps the proverbial band-aid on the problem, and my heart aches for them. The forest for new parents is black and deep, and we need our babies' doctors to be big flashing EXIT signs from that forest.

So do your homework, parents-to-be. Don't be afraid to talk baby shop with friends, family, strangers in the grocery check out aisle. Get your facts and make a decision and most of all, if what your doctor is saying doesn't seem right? GET A SECOND OPINION. AND THEN A THIRD.

I was a Wussie Mom for the first year, doing what the doctor said although in my gut I knew it was wrong because I believed wholly in the power of the Almighty MD. We put our baby through a lot of meds and experiences that were totally unnecessary, and I sure hope other moms won't be as weak as me. The doctors? They know things. But so do parents. Trust thyself, as Thoreau once said. Take it under advisement. You (and your collection of gabby friends) know more than you think you do.


Marilyn Hull 7 years ago

That pediatrician relationship remains critical even as kids become teens and young adults. Your kids will someday go into that exam room without you. Discussion topics will include sex, drinking, drugs, etc. That's when you really want to be confident that your child is in good hands.

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