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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Doctor

The girl was weighed and measured. The doctor listened to her heart and checked her reflexes. He asked her a few questions. All was well. Except for the fact that the boy wouldn't stop crying.

Why is he crying? asked the nurse. Why is he crying? asked the doctor. I could have told them it was because I had to wake him up from his ten minute nap in the stroller to come into the office. I didn't. It is because he thinks it is his turn to get a checkup I said.

I would cry too if I were him.

*

The boy and I were at the doctor's office only a few weeks ago for his year and a half shots. He was calm until the nurse told me to strip him down to his diaper and then left us alone in the exam room. He understood what she had said and he started to wail. He cried while I took off his clothes. He cried while he was weighted and measured. He cried while the doctor listened to his heart. He cried when he got his shots. He stopped crying as soon as we left the doctor's office.

The girl used to cry too whenever we would take her to the doctor. It is only recently that she has been scared and nervous, but not hysterical. I wonder if she is forgetting. It has been years since she had last had any needles, although her four year boosters are coming up soon.

*

I like to think that they cried not because of the memories of the shots but because of the memories of their first visits there. They cry because I cried so much on those days.

*

The husband took the boy to his first doctor's appointment. I couldn't face it. I was still too tired from the labour and the pregnancy to gather the strength and steel myself for a visit to the doctor.

We tried to get out of it. The husband called the doctor's office to say that we were under the care of a midwife for the first six weeks and asked if we really needed to come in. We are all tired, the husband said, is an appointment really necessary. Yes, they said.

We were told that if we didn't bring the baby in within the first forty-eight hours of leaving the hospital the pediatrician wouldn't take him as a patient. They had had problems in the past, the husband was told, with babies under the care of midwives not getting the medical care they needed and so the doctor wanted to examine him personally.

I hid in bed crying, trying not to think of the husband and my day old baby driving off without me. But staying in bed was preferable to visiting the office and facing a repeat of last time.

*

With a newborn tucked in her car seat we arrived at the doctor's office, tired but still riding the high of new parenthood. As I started to undress the girl in the examination room, the nurse, the same nurse we saw today, asked me how the feeding was going.

It's going great! I said, thrilled to be able to share my success. I am breastfeeding her whenever she wants for as long as she wants.


Oh no! said the nurse. No. Just ten minutes on each side and then if she is still hungry after that you can top up with formula.

I stared at her in shock. I looked at the husband. He was in shock. I found myself fighting back tears and unable to talk. Did she just tell me that what I was doing was wrong? Was I doing the wrong thing? Was I making a mistake, failing already on my second day as a mother?

The girl had her check up and I made it through the rest of the appointment. I didn't ask the doctor about what the nurse had said, too afraid that he would confirm her opinion. Too worried that I would be told not to breastfeed. Too tired to deal with a confrontation. Too afraid that maybe I was actually doing something wrong.

I started crying in the car on the way home and continued for most of the afternoon. When my midwife called later that day I was lying in bed being comforted by the husband while my mother-in-law watched the girl downstairs. I repeated the conversation I had had with the nurse. I looked to my midwife for guidance, and she gave it to me. Along with some strong words of anger directed at the nurse. Words I needed to hear.

Eventually I calmed down. I decided to ignore the criticism I had been given on my second day of motherhood and started learning how to trust myself. I kept feeding the girl the way I believed I should. I let it go.

*

Until I see her again. Every time I see that nurse I think about that first meeting in the exam room. Me with my new baby. So scared of making a mistake and so desperate to do the right thing. The best thing.

We have looked for another doctor. For months after each baby was born the husband would call doctors in the neighborhood. Doctors that were supposed to be taking new patients. We had no luck. So we stay. I take the kids for their annual checkups and their shots. I bite my tongue while we are there.

I also take a small bit of pleasure when one of the kids cries during our visits. I like to think that they, in their own small way, are providing a source of irritation to the nurse. Just like she did for me.

19 comments:

  1. Oh my god. I want to go and yell at that nurse for you!! I had a sort of similar experience in the hospital with the twins and despite having a lot more confidence in myself I ended up crying in the bathroom. One day in, I'd have been a wreck too.
    I am also an un-fan of the nurse at my dr's office and dread seeing her. Too bad it's not easy to rid yourself of people like that.

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  2. Poor you, sounds awful. No wonder you hate going. I hope you manage to find somewhere new to go soon.

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  3. holy crap! are you serious? wow, that's just crazy. i'm really shocked. with the hospitals being very focused on encouraging nursing, you'd think pediatricians would be the same. argh.

    we were lucky that the ped. associated with our midwife agreed to take the bean (we were having a few issues after he was born). but he retired over a year ago. i opened the phone book and started calling every doctor and ped. in the city. finally after two weeks and about 75 calls, we got a new family doctor. i would have prefer a ped for the bean, but beggars can't be chosers. if you are willing to drive out to the east end, i think they are still taking patients.

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  4. Oh... I had such a terrible experience in the hospital post (unplanned) c-section and then I had to go back to the ER for a blood infection and massive constipation. I was so tired of doctors. When they told me my baby was not recovering her birth weight fast enough and I would have to come back for weigh ins, I snapped. Violet was 9lbs 4oz at birth, largely due to late onset sugar problems. She is really a very small person and I knew that to be true based on lots of family evidence. I have many aunts who were born over 10 pounds and barely scrape 5 feet tall as adults. It's how we do things ;) The baby was eating well and peeing and pooping just as she should, so I stopped going to the pediatrician. I guess the one and only advantage of our cold, corporate health care system is that no one protested when I dropped out. No one called. No one cared. I didn't find another pediatrician until Violet was 20 months old. Our pediatrician is a lovely, caring woman who immediately put my fears to rest and got Violet started on an amended immunization schedule. Catching up on shots has been a hassle, but I'm glad I didn't continue with the awful place. Violet has no fear of her doctor, in fact she likes her.

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  5. Ugh...what a horrible first experience taking the baby to the doctor. I can't believe the nurse actually said that.

    When my daughter was born she really did have problems BFing, due to my overactive letdown and her overactive gag reflex. We were quite the ineffective combination. Despite that and despite her initial weightloss my doctor encouraged me to pump and to stick with BFing if I could. Using formula was only ever offered as an option if I felt that I absolutely needed to. I really appreciated that she understood that BFing was important to me. Ultimately it was the doctor's support, my family's support, and the support of York Regional Health's FREE lactation consultants that help Hana and I finally succeed with BFing.

    Sorry you did not have good support, too.

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  6. @Mary Lynn I think that if it hadn't been for the support and encouragement of both my midwife and the husband I would have given up breastfeeding. I have often wondered how many people without support did stop after talkign to that nurse.

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  7. *shakes head* What a terrible thing for that nurse to say! How damaging that could have been had you not the support of your midwife! I too wonder at how many other moms became less confident because of her! *grrr*

    Reminds me of the Diabetes nurse I had who told me, when I had my first checkup appointment after diagnosis, that if I didn't follow her rules I would "kill my unborn baby". I was hormonal, scared of being a Gestational Diabetic, unsure I would be able to give myself needles or lance my finger five times a day... and then a woman who is supposedly an expert tells me this??? I was a wreck. I changed hospitals, and told my (new) nurse about the old one and she just shook her head and said "That woman needs to retire." Oi!

    This comment is getting long, forgive me, but this is something I have a hard time abiding...

    I truly believe that in our health care system, you must be your own advocate, and you must always take what the expert says and verify it. Educate yourself!!!

    For instance, my son was born at 6 pounds. I kept my sugars balanced very well, and near the end of my pregnancy, was having less issues with my levels spiking after meals. However, because I had GD, I was supposed to have a monster baby. I am 5'1". My side of the family is small boned. My husband's mother is short. My baby was born healthy, no jaundice, no other sugar issues, and he GAINED weight in the hospital. YET! My Obstetrician thinks there is something wrong with me and I was submitted to a battery of blood disease tests and other such things. He ignored my perfect 10 out of 10 ultrasounds, he ignored the fact that I would have gone to term had I not been induced early becuase the baby was assumed to be big (never mind error factor on ultrasound weight estimates, my son had froggie legs lol). He ignored my excellent blood pressure, minimal weight gain, and easy third trimester. In short, he made assumptions without looking at all the factors, even when I prompted him about them.

    All tests came back negative, my son has grown perfectly, and still he thinks that he needs to put me on Aspirin in the next pregnancy to prevent some terrible thing from happening, all because my baby was smaller than he was supposed to have been. Aspirin? Riiiight. I'm looking for a new obstetrician for the next baby. One who may be more understanding that genetics played a role in my son, not just my "disease".

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  8. It is interesting the different experiences we have all had. I find I have so much patience for everyone, as each generation has been taught something different. (My mom was taught to give pablum at 6 weeks!)

    Personally, I found the lactation consultants the most difficult and opinionated to deal with.

    I knew I was going back to work after only 3 months and wanted help teach my son to take the bottle and the breast from the beginning. A few refused to see me outright saying they would not support such a decision. The one I eventualy saw was great, until the last appointment when she said I should consider myself lucky she was allowing me to pump and use a bottle. She was rude when I told her she wasn't allowing me to do anything, but helping me make the best decision for my family.

    Our son was born full term and full weight and ended up in the NICU for a week. The nurses and other medical staff there were so supportive for both my mental and physical health and my husband's - looking at us as a whole family. They got me started on pumping and helped my son take a bottle and breast as he was taking off the feeding tubes and needed to be fed throughout the day and night while I wasn't there.

    Our family doctor has always been supportive of giving us choices and doing what works for the whole family. She has never judged.

    Never in my life did I feel more judged for going back to work and letting my husband take parental leave then I did by the lactation consultant and LLL leaders, despite the fact I was nursing and pumping.

    I guess the point I am trying to make is, trust your gut. Sometimes you have to work with what is available and accept that we all have different experiences which leads us to that point. The important thing being that the kids get good care from the physician.

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  9. Doctor's visits...UGH!!! With three...double yuck!! One crying the whole time, the other two whining or bickering!! I've been lucky with my nurses/ doctors..they were VERY encouraging with my nursing...even when the Middle Child was born via C-section where I was DOUBLE or TRIPLE DOSED..at least that's what I think since I was VERY lethargic and it took 2 hrs to raise my body temp back to normal. She wanted to sleep and NOT nurse, so she was on the borderline of having Jaundice. Thankfully after the first couple of days her nursing picked up and was able to "flush" her system properly. She wasn't a big nurser and weened at a year with no lingering, unlike my other two who LOVED to nurse and wouldn't give it up for a couple of months after my (preference) year cutoff! I never had to supplement with formula and was never told to!!

    Now one thing that does bother me about my ped is that she LOVES to offer advice about my discipline style...which is pretty NIL!! :D So I try not to take it personally and actually look at it as "constructive" criticism. :D

    Sorry to have been so absent lately..lots of craziness going on around here! I'm hoping to catch up some today!

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  10. Oh my God! I read this and just felt so sad. Why does it have to be that way for some? I had a midwife too and credit so much to that early care. Thank goodness for them. I also have a wonderful family doctor who's supportive and easy to talk to. I'm luck, I know that. I'm sorry to you and your kids for such negative experiences. It doesn't have to be that way. But most of all I was so happy when I got to the part where your midwife provided you the reassurances you needed. I was worried for a bit and was ready to beak off.

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  11. What a horrible story :( I feel so badly that you have to stay with that doctor's office for now. I didn't see my doctor for a while (after baby was over six weeks old) so we had no issues like that, my midwife had full care for the first six weeks and I didn't need to see my doctor at all. People have no idea how these things affect us, shape us, and these thoughts stay in our minds for a long, long time.

    I'm really sorry your experiences there haven't been better. They should be.

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  12. I have some stories of my own, and I have heard many other similar stories. It's very saddening, when medical professionals can be so flip and unthinking.

    We left a doctor once, with my daughter, and it was nerve-wracking. Thankfully we were able to find another, because I'm not sure I could go back there, to be honest. Although for me it was the doctor, and not the nurse. My bad doctor has since written a pregnancy book and reading the excerpt makes me sad.

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  13. I'd cry too if my family and I were spoken to like that x

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  14. Oh, Capital Mom, I hardly know what to say. How vulnerable one is, just then -- so easily devastated, so ready to doubt oneself. And how long and unsteady the recovery of one's confidence.

    Well, here's to all the mums who have risen from the ashes!

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  15. We need to get together and chat soon. I can't even begin to put my thoughts down here (brain is fried). Hugs to you.

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  16. Thanks everyone for all the comments. There is nothing like an "expert" telling us what to do to make us feel stupid/ angry/ hurt.

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  17. I told Jason the story of your first visit, he (who knows pretty much nothing about breastfeeding) said "That doesn't sound right."

    We were both appalled on your behalf.

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  18. Yup. Been there more than once myself, shortly after the births of our kids in the hospital. The nurses just don't seem to get it. Luckily, our dr. is very PRO-breastfeeding, and UNDERSTANDS it, so we've been very fortunate. I also found that getting a good lactation consultant (and they're not all good!) was also key.

    Awful, when we as moms know that breastfeeding is best, and is all the little ones really need!! Thanks for posting this!

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  19. What a completely irresponsible and unprofessional nurse. Even if she wants to tell you that she thinks you are wrong, it is not okay to respond like that - there are much better ways of talking to patients. (and of course I completely agree with your on-demand philosophy, but it is more about how medical professionals respond that is the key - if she'd talked to you differently it might not have left such a scar.)

    I feel so lucky that we have a fantastic doctor and nurse. (The nurse is a mother of twins, so she always coos over the babies, which feels so nice!)

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