Something that no one warned me about when I got pregnant was that my relationship with the medical profession was about to change drastically. Pre-pregnancy– back in those reckless, wild days– I only went to the doctor under one condition: when Mitch made me. And I do mean made. Under the threat of a tickle fight so extreme and terrible that I would wish that I’d never been given ribs. Facing the penalty of no foot rubs until I complied. And then he would throw down the gauntlet: Go to the doctor, or else– do you see that pile of trash over there? The one that is next to your trash can that is also overflowing? It’s going to stay that way until you go to the doctor. That’s right– you go to the doctor, or you have to take out your own trash.
When I started working in child care, I contracted strep throat about once a month, and got pretty good at recognizing that familiar nastiness in my tonsils. When I finally went in for my pregnancy test, the chart read: “Strep, strep, strep, strep, pregnant.” I would hide it for as long as I could. Once I ended up in so much pain that Mitch skipped class all day to take me to the doctor and then to make sure I took my meds. Eventually he convinced me that if I KNEW that I had something that needed a prescription, I may as well just go into the doctor and get one. Otherwise I would just be sick for the rest of my life.
The only really intensive experience that I have with doctors is my gallbladder surgery. And that is not a story that I will tell in a public forum. In fact, I have made a pact that I don’t tell that story to anyone unless they have all ready had a successful surgery. And I always make me tell their story first, and then I tell mine, and then I bring up their successful story again so that they remember that hey, it isn’t all that bad. The thing is, the Universe just really has it out for Adrienne.
And then I had a kid– and guess what. Apparently, doctors now think that we are on some kind of team, that we are working together with the forces of wind, earth, rain, and heart to combat the awful Germies that are making my daughter puke and poop funny and cough all night long.
I picture it more like this though: The Doctors are on their own team, and that team is called the Smuggy McSmuggersons, and all of the rest of us are on our own team, a team called the Didn’t Go to Medical School Team, and it seems that we always lose.
Here is something that I would like to say to The Doctors:
I did not go to medical school for one reason: lack of interest. Not because I wasn’t smart enough.
A few weeks ago, we made an appointment for Maren because she’s been puking a lot. We aren’t really afraid of the puke– my twin nephews puked so much that I don’t know how they survived– but the experience is becoming more and more uncomfortable for her. She used to just puke and then go on about her day, but now she is fussy for about forty five minutes, then she pukes, and then she screams for ten minutes or so. And the puking is becoming more frequent, and we feel like we’ve done everything we can– feed her less ounces more often, keep her upright, don’t let her fall asleep until 45 minutes after her bottle– yeah freaking right– the only thing we haven’t tried is giving her meds or putting cereal in her bottle, so we made an appointment to talk to her doctor about it on a Thursday.
Then on Wednesday, she was super fussy and spiked a little fever, just up over 100. We called the on-call doctor, and he told us she was probably fine but to make sure she didn’t get dehydrated. “Just make sure that she has at least 6 or 8 wet diapers every day, that’s the easiest way to tell if she’s dehydrated,” he said, “And give her some Tylenol for the fever.” Sweet.
The next day we kept her home from school, and she didn’t have a temperature until about 3 in the afternoon, when her temp randomly spiked again. So I called the clinic, explained what was up, added that she had only had 2 wet diapers that day, and asked, “I’m just wondering if I should just keep my appointment for tomorrow, or go ahead and bring her in today?”
And the nurse said, and I’m not shitting you, “Can you be here by 345? Leave right now.”
So, basically the equivalent of: IT IS POSSIBLE THAT YOUR BABY HAS SWALLOWED AN EXPLOSIVE, BUT WE CAN’T TELL UNLESS YOU GET HERE IN THE NEXT FIFTEEN MINUTES.
So I packed her up and went, calling Mitch on the way. He asked if he should meet me there.
“No,” I said, “I think she’s probably fine, I’ll call you if they say anything scary.”
But that’s just not really Mitch’s style. While I was pregnant I had to have an emergency ultrasound while he was at work, and he just about lost it. So I was only mildly surprised to see him waltz through the exam room door a few moments after they had weighed Maren and taken her temperature– showing that she no longer had a fever.
This is about when the antics started. You know. The “You can trust me, I took at least one class on infant care four years ago, and I at least got a C” question and answer session, wherein you get a lot less answers than you want, even though the doctor does a lot more talking than you do.
The doctor– not OUR doctor, just the guy who happened to be there after the nurse panicked me into breaking traffic laws to get there by 345– didn’t even look at Maren. He glanced at the chart, saw that she didn’t have a temp, and said,
“Guys, I know that you are new parents….”
Let me stop you right there.
I know that I’m a new parent. I happen to have a scar from hip to hip that reminds me every day of my new parenthood (and thanks for that, too, modern medicine, just by the way while I’m doling out gratitude for my awesome care recently) And as we all know, Maren did not come with a set of instructions tattooed to her ass, not even the simple instructions like, “Put food in that end, wipe what’s left of it off that end” So guess what? Yeah I’m a new mom. And yeah I’m scared.
But also– I work with kids every day. I know that if they have a temp over 100, they can’t be at school because they are SICK. And I know that puking after every meal is not normal– and for the MILLIONTH TIME– I know the G.D. difference between spit up and vomiting. Being a new mom doesn’t mean that I don’t know anything.
And guess what else? Being a new parent doesn’t mean that we are entitled to any less care than someone who has sixteen kids. LOOK AT MY CHILD. TELL ME HOW TO FIX IT.
He went on to explain that sometimes babies just get temperatures, and it’s not really a ‘fever’ until it gets to 100.4. I told him that the day before it had been just under that, and he shrugged. HE SHRUGGED. He also explained that sometimes babies puke and it doesn’t mean anything, it just means that we are overfeeding her.
I stopped him. “Okay. We have screwed around so much with her food. I rolled into daycare with like six bottles so that she wouldn’t get overfed. We have taken twenty minute breaks in the middle of a feeding. SHE’S HUNGRY SO WE FEED HER. She is puking after every feeding. And she isn’t puking RIGHT after the feeding.”
And he said, “When you’re a new parent, everything looks like it’s a big deal. I’m telling you, she’s not sick.”
Oh. Oh okay. So she’s NOT SICK. So she had a fever, has had TWO wet diapers today, and is throwing up constantly. So, when, exactly, will I know when she is sick? Will a turkey timer pop out? Will she burst into flames? And, at THAT point, will you tell me how to help her?
And then a few weeks later, Maren hadn’t pooped in five days. I know how I feel when I haven’t pooped in five hours. So every day we woke up expecting to walk into Maren’s room and see a MOUNTAIN OF FECES underneath her, and that just wasn’t happening, so finally I called the doctor to see if there was anything I could do.
After all day playing phone tag with my doctor’s office— and one particularly pleasant interlude where I was on hold for TWENTY SEVEN MINUTES— the receptionist finally said, “Oh Dr. So-and-So? She’s not even in this week.”
“But you can give the baby Karo syrup, that should take care of it.”
Wonderful. Apparently, you don’t even have to go to medical school. After you spend so much time working with people who have, the knowledge just starts to rub off.
My sister-in-law is a nurse, and she said that being a nurse is really more customer service than medical stuff– and she’s so right. When I was in the hospital, the nurses were wonderful. Even when the problem I was having was embarrassing (Um, there is all this stuff coming out of me, what is it?) or silly (I got up to go to the bathroom, and I’m sitting on the toilet, and I can’t seem to get off of the toilet and back into bed) or actually kind of a big deal (THERE IS A HUMAN BEING COMING OUT OF MY VAGINA), the nurses always smiled, patted my hand, and usually asked me if I wanted ice cream. They brought me extra blankets, they brought me fresh water every four seconds, one nurse handed us a bottle when Maren wouldn’t latch on, and I swear that if we hadn’t all ready filled out the paperwork we would have named the baby Nurse Carol.
I understand that doctors have to be all detached, and it’s been explained to me that they need to think they are the reincarnation of the Dalai Llama or else they won’t be able to stitch someone up, but I wish that there was some kind of Douche Baggery 101 class that they had to take.
If we are on teams, then we are playing a game like capture the flag. The Smuggy McSmuggersons are protecting their treasure trove of Medical Information, and all of us on the Didn’t Go to Medical School Team have to find sneaky clever ways to get it. For example, NOTHING makes The Doctors more mad than when you come in and say that you’ve done some research on your own. When I was super pregnant and had read that I should be sleeping on my side, I went in to ask my doctor. Her response: “WHAT? Where did you read that? No. No. That’s… that’s just… no. You sleep any way you want too.” Uh- huh.
And you know what else? You should COMPETE for my business. It’s not every kind of industry where you can just bill for whatever you want and the customer has to pay it. When Mitch and I got the bill for Maren’s birth, my bowels turned to water. Because the total cost was more than I make in AN ENTIRE YEAR. And– did you know that when you have a c-section, they charge you for a vaginal birth anyway? That’s like if someone walked into Mitch’s restaurant and said, “Hey, so I really feel very strongly that I want the ham sandwich, and I am really willing to do whatever it takes to have that ham sandwich, because I feel that that is what I need.”
And so Mitch starts making a ham sandwich, but the ham sandwich just isn’t going so well– it isn’t coming together very nicely and it isn’t really the kind of thing that you can do-over, because the bread all ready has all the gloppy mayonnaise and the spicy mustard on it, so Mitch looks up at the customer and says, “Well…. actually I’ll tell you what. I’m going to make you a turkey sandwich.”
And the customer goes, “No…. no I really want the HAM SANDWICH.”
And Mitch replies, “No, I’m going to make you the TURKEY sandwich, because the HAM sandwich just isn’t going as planned. The Turkey Sandwich has the same end result– you won’t be hungry anymore. It’s a lot more expensive, because the guy who makes it had to go to special Sandwich College for an extra seven years, and since I all ready started in on this Ham Sandwich, I’m going to have to charge you for both.”
And the customer is like, “No way, and I’m never coming back here, and you’re crazy.”
And Mitch just smiles and says, “I can do whatever I want. Because guess what– you have to come back here.”
We have a meeting with a pediatrician next week. We’d been going to see a family practice doctor, mostly because I had this weird fuzzy fifties television idea that it was kind of nice that the same doctor that had helped me when I was pregnant was now taking care of Maren, and also taking care of us. But now I am feeling more like we need someone who I feel like is going to listen to me. If they make me feel like they are listening to me, and like they respect where I am coming from, then it is totally okay with me if they end up saying, “Oh. My. God. PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE have another kid so you can stop obsessing over this one. Also, knock it off with the terrible metaphors on your blog. It’s exhausting.”