Friday, August 1, 2014

An Open Letter of Apology to My Pediatrician

To Our Amazing, Wonderful Pediatric Providers: 

You see me, and other mothers like me, in your office every day. Overtired, under-caffeinated, without two brain cells to rub together to have a real conversation, looking at you with desperate eyes, expecting you to magically fix whatever brought us there in the first place. 

I see you once or twice (or five or six times) a month twelve months out of the year, so you know my face. But you don’t know me. In fact, there’s a good chance we’ve never met. Because that woman in your office? She’s not really me. 

I’m not really that crazy.

Pediatrician Need a Drink Toddler T-Shirt
This is how I pretty much figure our pediatrician feels after every visit. (T-shirt for sale at

Please understand, by the time we make it to your office, I’m usually on day three or four (or ten) of not nearly enough sleep, often buried under the guilt of missed work hours and trapped in a house with a sick, whining, clingy, fussy child who is all too aware of the fact that I’ve failed as a parent. It doesn’t matter how magical or mysterious my mommy powers may seem when I can produce another lollipop out of my purse or immediately recognize ‘who started it’ from two rooms away.

Those magical mommy powers are useless here. I can’t make whatever is wrong with them go away. They need you…

…But they don’t want you, because even though you’re wonderful, and the kids really like you (I swear they do), you are the bringer of shots and things that taste yucky, and therefore should be avoided at all costs.

A typical visit to your office begins with me crawling bleary-eyed out of bed 30 minutes after the child that screamed all night long magically falls asleep, punching buttons on the phone I can’t even see, praying I got the right ones and that you’re there and that you have an opening. The sooner we get in, the sooner I can give the shrieking devil child that body snatched my little angel some medication that will make them feel better and maybe, just maybe, we can both go back to sleep for an hour or two.

You have no idea how badly I want to bake your receptionist a cake. Or send her flowers. Or buy her the Taj Mahal. Because the minute she answers the phone and tells me you can squeeze us in, an invisible weight lifts off my chest. Once we walk through the doors of your office, I don’t have to be Supermom anymore. You’ll know what to do. All we have to do is get to you, and so, without showers or breakfast or songs or games or cartoons or coffee or the million little things that start our day, we pack up and head out the door.

Do you know how much whining and complaining can take place between my front door and the moment you walk into the examination room? I do. Right down to the very last clause. It’s too cold. Too boring. Too hot. Too wet. Too boring. Too dry. It smells funny. It’s too noisy. Too quiet. Too scary. Too boring.

Did I mention it’s boring to sit and wait instead of swinging off the bed or the fan or the doorknob like a giant monkey (somehow they’re never too sick for that) and the only cure for this fatal condition is to drive mom as insane as humanly possible by tap dancing on her last nerve??? (Hint: Before coffee and a shower, it doesn’t take much.)

I’m not writing this to complain. I never mind waiting for you, because I know once you get to us we’re going to have your full, undivided attention for as long as we need it. That matters to me. It’s a big part of why we chose you to be our doctor in the first place.

But I am so, so sorry doctor. Because by the time you walk into the room, I…am…done.

I really WANT to ask you about your kids, and your garden, and where you’ve been that you’ve gotten so tan, because I know it wasn’t here. (Believe me, if there’d been that much sun, I would have noticed.)

I want to ask where you bought your shoes, and answer your questions about the book on my lap with the witty enthusiasm I’m known for in certain circles.

I want to know what you thought about the movie I saw you and your family at last weekend.

I want to let you chat with my child, because their face lights up every time you do and they giggle about it for days afterward.

I want to know YOU, because you’re one of the most important people in my family’s life, and that deserves to be recognized.

This is what I want to do, but I can’t. The minute you walk into the room my exhausted, tired, stressed-out brain loses touch with my mouth. Instead of greeting you politely and asking about your day, which is what I really mean to do…

…I hit you with a list of symptoms and complaints, because by the time you get to the party I just want you to figure out what’s wrong and write me a prescription so I can get the hell out of there, spend half an hour at the pharmacy while they explain to me how their e-prescribe didn’t work (again), call and interrupt your busy day yet again so you can fax it in, go home, put on cartoons, pour the Gatorade, then hide somewhere for half an hour to suck down a cup of coffee and gather up what’s left of my mind before I have to go back out there and be Supermom all over again.

This is when I’m going to start feeling guilty for the way I once again managed to walk into and out of your office without letting you know how much I appreciate the fact that you are who you are, and you’re there, and we’re so lucky to have you.

This is also usually where I come to grips with the fact that you probably think I’m my own special brand of crazy, and I’m REALLY sorry about that.

You know what amazes me most, doctor? That you see people like me all day, every day, and yet you still do what you do.

You are savior and inconvenience, with people looking to you for answers while at the same time wishing they were anywhere but there.

And yet, you’re still smiling.

Even when your eyes are dark with exhaustion and I can see how badly you want to be irritated with me, you smile.

Even when I’m being over the top and paranoid in the way that only a parent can be, you listen.

Even when you’re pretty sure at a glance that nothing is really wrong and you could be spending those 20 minutes sitting at your desk instead of on your exhausted feet, you do a full exam, order tests and follow up, just to be sure.

Even when you don’t have to, and no one expects you to (I swear, I really didn’t), you once spent the first half of your lunch hour calling for lab results instead of eating a meal in peace because you knew that I was waiting, and then spent the second half going over each and every piece and part and translating every result so I could be informed and involved rather than patting me on the head, giving me the short story and sending me on my way so you could enjoy your break. You’ll never know how much that meant to me.  

Even when you have office hours in the morning, when you’re on call I know you’re going to be understanding while I panic over fevers and rashes and casts that fall off and a million other little ailments that could have easily been dealt with in the office the next day.

No matter how irrational I’m being, or how badly you’d love to tell me to leave you alone for five fricking minutes so you can think (and maybe pop an Advil or two for that headache you’ve had brewing all day), I know you’re going to be patient with me.

Regardless of how long your day has been, or how very much of it is still ahead of you, you smile.

Do you know what that smile says, doctor? It says, “You’re not alone. It’s going to be okay. I’m here now, and together, we’re going to fix this.”

Right then I want to cry, because thank you isn’t enough to tell you how much that smile is exactly what I need.

And I’m sorry that I’ve never found the words to say how much I appreciate it, and you, and everything you do.

Notes to Myself as a First Time Mom

That used to be me.

Sitting around the dinner table, listening to moms of infants and toddlers and babies-yet-to-be, talking about diaper rash and fevers and agonizing over breast vs bottle. Walking through the park on a hot day and looking at little babies in cute little outfits and sweaters, with color coordinated socks and booties. Listening to moms agonizing to pediatricians about colds and fevers and rashes and what to do when baby won’t eat.

That used to be me-and for the record, Dr. Bradshaw, our kids’ pediatrician from the time Princess C was about 6 months old until we moved up here when G-money was three, deserves a gold medal for putting up with me!

Thirteen years of parenting later, I wish I could look back at my younger self and say, “Hey, breathe! Guess 

The world isn’t going to end if the baby’s socks don’t match. Two kids later, it’s a miracle if the socks have been folded. They usually end up in a basket somewhere. You’re going to lose half of them. Your youngest child will delight in wearing one sock pulled up to his knee and one too short to cover his ankles. “Doesn’t have to match, just has to fit” is going to become a motto, so you may as well get used to it now.

Your child is not going to be mentally stunted if you can’t breastfeed. I could have saved myself months of mental anguish over this. Yes, breast is best, but after 12 more years of fighting over the fact that peanut butter and jelly was never intended to be eaten 3 meals a day, the floor is not an efficient food delivery system, vegetables won’t kill you and tortilla chips aren’t a food group, the whole issue of breast vs. formula makes its way to the back burner. (Also, you’re going to have the only kid your doctor has ever seen that manages to self-wean from the bottle at 8 or 9 months old. You’ve got bigger problems.)

Mommy and Me classes are so worth it. Not because your kid needs additional enrichment, which is what you’re going to be worried about at the time, but because you’re going to need an hour or two out of the day where someone ELSE is responsible for coming up with ideas to keep your toddler occupied. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it. 

Don’t stress the birth plan. 13 years and two pre-term c-sections later, you’re going to give up any hope of birth going the way you wanted it to. You’re barely going to remember most of the details, and the only time you’re going to talk about it is as a cautionary tale to moms who are thinking about waiting until the last minute to get an epidural. (Bad idea. Just saying.) So do your homework, talk about it with your OB/GYN, but don’t freak out when the plan goes flying out the window. DO, however, start thinking about whether you want to breast or bottle feed, because that’s going to determine whether or not you get the good drugs on the way out the door.

It’s okay to hate being a stay at home mom. After having to put Mr. A in daycare when he was only a few months old, I was thrilled at the idea of being able to stay home with Princess C. That lasted 18 months, which is probably six months longer than it would have if I’d just kicked guilt out the door and faced up to the fact that some women aren’t meant to be a SAHM. I worked part time from the time she was a year and a half old until G-money was in second grade, and that worked out great for all of us.

Naps and sleep schedules matter (knowing when you’re going to have some adult time is vital for your sanity), but it’s also okay to toss them to the curb every once in a while. There will be some nights where the kids just aren’t ready for bed at bedtime for one reason or another, and it’s easier to toss a movie on and let them lie down in the living room and wind down than it is to argue with the tossing and turning and cups of water and “I gotta go!” that are going to still be going on for the next three hours if you try and send them to bed now.

Get some perspective. Sometimes it’s just not worth the fight. Learn to pick your battles, and try and give your kids as much independence and responsibility as possible without turning them into juvenile delinquents. You’ll all be better for it in the end.

Your husband is the most important relationship you’re ever going to have. You’re going to be a great mom, and your kids are going to love you for your patience and adventurousness and the easy-going, laid back manner you’re going to have one of these days. (Stop laughing. It's going to happen, I swear.) Don’t let being a great mom turn you into a crappy wife though. Your hubby still needs some time with just you, even if it’s just curling up with a cup of coffee while the kids watch morning cartoons. Your kids will learn what to expect from love and marriage by watching you, so make it good.

Take 20 minutes a day with each kid to just be together. The dishes will wait. The laundry will wait. People will judge you for your crappy housekeeping skills, but you know what? It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that your kids have the chance to be with you, because the bond you form with them now determines whether or not you’re going to be allowed to hug them in front of their friends when they get to be teenagers. (And sometimes the answer is still going to be no, no matter how snuggly they are when they’re at home. That’s okay too.)

In short, younger me, chill out. It’s all going to be okay.