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.