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To Dial, Or Not To Dial

Last week’s poll results are in, and wow, we’re a bunch of self-sufficient mommies.

I asked how often you were in phone contact with your pediatrician during Pumpkin’s first six months. I expected it to be a bit more all over the map, but you overwhelmingly responded that you spoke with your doctor only at well-baby visits. A few said you talked somewhere between 2 and 6 times in those first six months, while only one mommy bravely admitted to being practically on a first name basis with her pediatrician!

I have to admit, I thought I’d be on the high end of this poll, but since we talked to our doctor twice outside of well-baby visits during Maddie’s first six months, it puts us at the lower end. No martyr’s crown for me, dang it.

We checked in with the doctor for two issues – one was Maddie’s reflux, which the doctor actually caught very early on at Maddie’s four-week checkup. A week later and no improvement, she upped the medicine dosage over the phone. A couple weeks and modest improvement later, she ordered me to try an elimination diet to make sure baby girl wasn’t allergic to anything in my breastmilk. It turned out that the reflux had combined with a nut allergy to make Madeleine one very unhappy kiddo. Problem solved, and no more phone calls from us until chicken pox weekend.

I had thought I’d be in daily contact with my pediatrician; I just assumed that was the sort of mommy I’d be, and I felt so overwhelmed at where to start with the whole figuring-it-out baby thing. There are a few reasons I kept my twitchy finger off the speed-dial: first, Madeleine was incredibly healthy. She never had a cold, flu, etc., so no illness reason to give a ring. Second, I’ve got a pretty decent collection of baby books (see my list of favorites), and they were my first line of defense. You know me, Mrs. Research. So when I started panicking over some imagined problem, I’d force myself to look it up in a book first and see what they had to say.

“Ok, ok, ok, ok, let’s see . . . . excessive sleep in a two-week-old . . . oh. This says it’s normal. Maybe it’s not narcolepsy after all.”

Third, and I can’t emphasize enough how grateful I was for this, I had a great support team of girlfriends who already had babies. Baby won’t stop crying? I had input from three or four sources of what the possible causes could be, with suggestions of how to deal with it. The doctor never heard from me around week three because my girlfriends successfully convinced me that Maddie’s excessive crying was not a cause for a trip to the emergency room. They patiently helped me rule out things like spinal meningitis (no fever) and the Ebola virus (no oozing sores), and reassured me that conversation with my pediatrician could wait one week until her one-month check-up. They gave me the skinny on what I could offer Maddie, like Mylecon gas drops (yes) and whiskey (no). My doctor should send all my girlfriends a thank-you bouquet for the extra sleep she got that month.

And finally, I didn’t call the pediatrician that much because of stiff-necked pride. I’ve always been and independent person, and can only comfortably admit that I don’t know everything to a select few people. Somehow, I had equated calling the doctor with either being lazy (geez, can’t the woman open the window to see if her daughter needs a hat?), a bad mommy (look what she did to her daughter! How could she let it get to this?), or stupid (Holy cow! I thought everyone knew what yellow seedy stool looked like!). I thought it would somehow shine a spotlight on my lack of qualifications to be Maddie’s mom.

And to be totally honest, I didn’t call the pediatrician much because I wanted her to like me. I didn’t want her to roll her eyes every time she heard she had a phone call from me or saw Maddie’s name on the schedule. And let’s go one step further – I wanted her to admire me. I had some ridiculous scenario in my mind of her checking her schedule for the day, seeing Maddie’s name for her six-month checkup, and thinking to herself, “Hmmm, Maddie, Maddie . . . oh yes! I remember her! I haven’t heard that name for three months! Come to think of it, I haven’t spoken to her parents in that long! Wow! What amazing parents they must be, and how self-sufficient and knowledgeable they are!”

This lasted up until Maddie’s bout with the one-year vaccines. We called twice in one day, and initially I cringed at what she must think of us. But I realized I cared less of her opinion than I did about how my daughter felt. Madeleine was sick, I had it within my power to get more information, and I was unafraid to use it.

Pediatricians expect these phone calls. It’s part of the job. And yes, every practice has the mother who calls every time her daughter spits a food out – “Do you think she’s sick?” “No, I think she doesn’t like squash.” – but most of us are viewed as moms trying to do what’s best for their kids. I know our pediatrician understands our calls and doesn’t think less of us for them. And as much as I trust my girlfriends, it’s my doctor that went to medical school and she’s going to hear from me before I give my daughter any medication for the first time. I want to hear that it’s ok for Maddie’s age and the correct dosage from her lips. I’m a surprisingly (to myself at least) laid-back mom and I’m big on the “wait and see” philosophy, so I’ll give that bug bite on her legs a couple days before I freak out. If it turns into a tell-tale ring (as in worm), though, press and hold “7” on my cell phone.

So I think we’re in a good relationship with our doctor, and don’t think those two calls in one day will get counted against us. I’m still probably going to bring her cookies at Maddie’s next well-baby, though. A little sucking up never hurt.


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