As a pediatrician who has been practicing for fifteen years, the most frequent non-medical question that patients’ parents ask me is, “Doctor, do you have children of your own?”
Their questions show that although they value my medical education and expertise, they want to know if I’ve had first-hand experience with the worries and difficulties of having a sick child, making decisions regarding vaccinations, and raising children in general. I answer with, “Yes, I have three of my own,” and proceed to tell them the ages of my children. I’ve realized that if I really had the time, there is a long list of what I would like my patients to know about pediatrician mothers. I believe that this list applies to most if not all of us:
We’ve all tearfully left our kids with fevers of 104 and vomiting at home in the care of sitters and grandparents, and come in to work to take care of your children.
When you tell us that you know something is wrong with your child, we believe you. We know that you know your children better than anyone else. When we can’t quite figure out what is going on with your child and are awaiting test results and specialist evaluations, we don’t sleep well. We go to bed with your child in mind and sometimes wake up with nightmares about them.
We feel guilty when we come home to our kids and don’t have the energy to sing nursery rhymes and play games with them, because we spent the entire day repeatedly singing Itsy Bitsy Spider, talking about Thomas the Train and Dora The Explorer, and looking for Mickey and Minnie in ears; all in an attempt to listen to your kids’ hearts and lungs and check in their ears, so we don’t miss murmurs, pneumonias, and ear infections.
We always remember the very first families we take care of, the ones who trust us with the care of their children when we have just completed residency training. We are grateful to them. We are so sad when we lose patients due to moves and changes in insurance.
We know how difficult breastfeeding and pumping is. While we will provide you with any support you need to help you try to nurse exclusively, we never judge you or think any less of you as a mother when you decide to either supplement with formula or switch to formula feeding all together. Many of us have needed to formula feed our babies. Many of us have fed our babies jarred non-organic baby food. We don’t in any way think that your value as a mother is based on whether or not you are exclusively nursing or making all your babies’ food.
We know that many babies sleep better and longer on their tummies. In moments of exhaustion, some of us may have slipped and allowed our own babies to do that. We still can not tell you that it is ok for your baby to sleep on its tummy. The incidence of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) is higher for babies who sleep prone or co-sleep. Those are just facts.
Sometimes we make mistakes or miss a diagnosis. Occasionally, it is a big misdiagnosis. We are not perfect. When it happens, we think and worry about it all the time, not because we are worried about lawsuits or losing our jobs, but because we care about your child. We beat ourselves up and seriously consider leaving the practice of medicine.
We understand that sometimes parents choose to not be together or stay together. We really dislike parents trying to get to us take sides and say that one parent is doing things right while the other one is doing things wrong. We see what you are doing, and your children do as well, no matter how young they are.
We believe that same-sex parents can raise children just as well as opposite-sex parents, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has also issued statements supporting that. If you ever get the feeling that your pediatrician feels differently, we urge you to find a new one.
We never expect any gifts of gratitude from our patients, but we love your thank you notes and holiday cards more than any gift you could give us. We keep your holiday cards and proudly display them in our offices.
We love taking care of children and families. We hate dealing with insurance companies that force us to see patients in short amounts of time and make it difficult for us to get your child all the services and referrals your child needs. If we absolutely believe your child needs a referral, we will fight to get authorization for your child just like we would for our own.
We vaccinate our own kids according to the recommended American Academy of Pediatrics schedule, because we want to protect our kids from life-threatening diseases as early as we possibly can. We have no reservations about the safety of the recommended vaccines. Otherwise, we wouldn’t vaccinate our own kids. We urge you to vaccinate your kids, not because our vaccination rates are being watched or we are getting any type of kickback from any drug or insurance company. We want you to vaccinate your kids, because we want the same protection for your children that we give to our own.
Paria Hassouri is a pediatrician who blogs at Mom On The Runsanity.
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