Of course we all want the fairy tale. We want to meet the right person and know immediately that he or she is the one—the one we trust, the one who lifts us up, who takes good care of us and makes a great parenting partner. We all deserve that kind of relationship.
We all deserve a great pediatrician.
But doctor-patient relations are not all fairy tales. At some point you may find yourself in an unfulfilling relationship with your pediatrician. Notice I say "your pediatrician" and not "your child's pediatrician." You're the one who talks to the doctor, you're the one with the questions and doubts, you're the one who needs positive support and education.
Your baby only needs you. You need a pediatrician. You need parenting advice you can trust.
Because really, that's what a pediatrician does, they advise you on parenting. They make suggestions. You're the one calling all the shots (tons of pun intended).
As a new parent, I somehow wound up in a really bad relationship with a pediatrician. But, because it was all new to me, I didn't see the red flags. It wasn't until later, when I got into a relationship that really worked, that I realized just how bad my first pediatrician experience was for me.
So here are the signs that your relationship with your pediatrician is as doomed to fail as your first love and suggestions on how to avoid these pitfalls in the future.
How to find a good pediatrician
You might be in a negative relationship with your pediatrician if...
1. She blames you when things aren't perfect.
Our four-month-old cried inconsolably for two hours following a round of shots (she'd never cried that hard or that long in her life). I took her back to Dr. Ex's office to make sure she was ok. The doctor reassured me that the baby was fine but I wasn't. Clearly, according to the doctor, I was extremely nervous about the shots and that made my baby nervous. It reminded Dr. Ex of her practice following 9/11. Many mothers brought their kids in believing they were sick but really they were just reflecting their mom's negative feelings on recent events.
So there I was as a new parent holding my screaming baby and trying to hear the doctor as she compared my parenting to a major national tragedy.
Make sure you find a pediatrician who empowers you. You feel vulnerable enough as a new parent without a doctor making you feel like you're screwing up. Yes, there's a learning curve. Find a doctor who teaches you without judging you.
2. He puts you in vulnerable situations.
For your baby's well visits (check ups), you don't want to wait in a lobby surrounded by coughing kids or sit in an exam room that was just occupied by a sick child.
We specifically asked about this when I was pregnant and my husband and I interviewed Dr. Ex. We were assured that well and sick patients were kept in separate areas. Later, we discovered that their idea of separate areas was that they tried to schedule most well visits in the morning and most sick patients in the afternoon.
(They also had tons of toys in the exam rooms. I'm fairly certain those toys had enough germ power to come to life and play out a really sick version of Toy Story.)
Find a pediatrician's office that has separate waiting areas and rooms for sick and well children. You don't want to bring your two-month-old to get her weight checked and take her home with the flu.
3. She's inaccessible.
Our first doctor had very limited hours. It was hard to get a same day appointment (unfortunately I don't have those kinds of kids who give me advanced notice of their illnesses), and it always took a while to get a nurse on the phone to answer questions.
Look for a pediatrician's office with a dedicated phone nurse and 24-hour on-call doctors. Our current pediatric office has great nurses assigned to answering phone questions all day. So when I need to know what to do after a toddler pumps liquid hand soap into her mouth (FYI call poison control) or what to do after a hornet stings a toddler's thumb (FYI give Benadryl), I can get someone on the phone right away. And I don't hesitate to call because I know it's their job to answer my questions. I don't feel like I'm bothering anyone.
If your child spikes a 105 fever after five o'clock or hits her head on a Sunday, and you don't know whether to rush her to the emergency room or just give her Tylenol, it's everything to have an on-call doctor advise you.
4. Your best friend doesn't like her.
If you like your husband or wife, and he or she doesn't like your pediatrician, then it's not going to work out for one of those relationships.
Dr. Ex never addressed my husband. She only spoke to me even though the father of my child was in the room for every one of our daughter's doctor's appointments. She treated him as if he wasn't part of the parenting equation.
Find a pediatrician you AND your partner are comfortable with. Find a doctor who respects you both as parents. If your best friend doesn't like your kids' doctor, maybe he's seeing something you don't.
5. She ignores your breasts.
Our first doctor's office offered zero support for me as a breast feeding mother. I mean, they asked me to finish breast feeding in a storage closet because they needed the exam room immediately after one of our appointments.
Let me please take this opportunity to tell you that breast feeding my first baby is one of the hardest things I've done in my life and the one thing I needed most from my pediatrician was support and encouragement in that area.
Find a pediatrician who supports the way you choose or need to feed your baby. If breast feeding is not an option, you need a pediatrician who assures you that it's all going to be okay and helps you through that process. If you want to breast feed, you need a doctor who is really interested in helping you with that.
Our current pediatrician's office has a lactation consultant and they file with our insurance (lactation help is often covered by insurance thanks to a provision in the Affordable Health Care Act). When I needed to feed my babies after an appointment, I was encouraged to stay in the exam room for as long as needed.
6. She doesn't "get" you.
My first pediatrician didn't laugh at my jokes. My, "I don't know why my baby isn't reading yet." Was met by a flat, "Because babies don't read."
Of course she also mistook my normal resting face for my 9/11 panic face (see number 1). She also thought I was anxious about vaccine shots, when I was not. So I'm not going to trust her judgment about my hilarious joke.
A pediatrician is your partner. Find a partner who understands you.
7. She doesn't listen.
Communication is key in every good relationship, and most especially when you are communicating for your child who can't communicate for herself. I knew that my daughter had never cried like she cried after that round of shots at four months, and it was very frustrating that the doctor didn't hear me saying that.
Find a pediatrician who listens and makes communicating easy. Can you email her with a concern about your child's recurring cold or text a picture of your child's latest rash? Does she make you feel welcome to communicate and ask questions? Does she make you feel like you have valuable information about your specific child that she needs to hear? You are experiencing parenting for the first time and you need support without feeling like you're bothering your pediatrician.
8. She makes you feel bad about yourself.
With our first baby, we were tired and our feelings were a little raw, but my husband and I were doing fine as first time parents. That's not how our pediatrician made us feel. She made us feel like we asked too many questions and worried too much. Well, she made me feel that way, she just made my husband feel like he didn't matter as a parent (see number 4).
Now, after everything I've told you above, you probably wonder why I didn't run from that pediatrician's office. But she liked my baby and I trusted her from a purely medical standpoint. It didn't occur to me that I needed a pediatrician for me. It took me a while to realize that I kind of dreaded going to the office and I kind of felt like I wanted to drown my sorrows in inappropriate amounts of ice cream when I left.
It felt daunting to find a new pediatrician with a five-month-old, but we knew we had to leave the relationship we were in. My husband volunteered to break up with Dr. Ex. He called the office and asked for a copy of our baby's medical records while I watched with sweaty palms from across the room.
You know what they say, you have to get out of the bad relationship so you can find the right one.
Our current pediatrician is the right one. She's hugely supportive of us as parents and she thinks our kids are amazing. I know several families that have a relationship with her and she's hugely supportive of all of them... but we're her favorites.
And best of all, she'd laugh at that joke.
Photo credit: www.wellnesscorporatesolutions.com