The Craziest Advice I Got From a Pediatrician

pediatricianIn the last month or so, I tackled yet another item on my pregnancy to-do list: finding a pediatrician. After gathering recommendations from friends, my OB, and my twins group, I narrowed down the field, focusing on doctors who worked close by, who were affiliated with the nearest hospital, and who took my insurance.

Then, I made some phone calls and skimmed the list down even further, ruling out pediatricians who would charge me just to meet them, who didn't do interviews with expectant parents, and whose staff was rude. You can say I'm rigid, but if it's a hassle just to get a sit-down with a doctor, how am I going to feel when I've got a screaming baby with a high fever in my arms?

Ultimately, I set up meetings with two different pediatricians, and put together a whole list of questions to ask. Armed and ready, I remember walking into my first appointment thinking, "How will I ever choose?" Well, one of them, with his wacka-doodle advice, made that decision a whole lot easier!


My first meeting was with a female doctor, who I'll call Dr. S. Before I even met with her, the office was earning major points. They had a sick-visit and well-visit waiting room -- check. Her staff was friendly and sweet -- big points. I didn't have to wait more than five minutes to meet with her -- bonus points. They also have four doctors on staff, and at least one is on call every night of the week. Plus, they have Saturday and Sunday morning hours. So far, I felt like I'd hit the jackpot, and I hadn't even met the pediatrician yet.

And Dr. S did not disappoint! Many of my friends had said you'll know in your gut the right pediatrician for you, and this was true. Right away, I got good vibes off of her. She was relaxed, upbeat, and smiley, and she laughed at my jokes which, you know, is a total score. More important, I loved her answers to all of my questions. When I voiced concerns about breastfeeding (because I've had a reduction, I may not be able to produce milk), she reassured me that she sees kids who were strictly formula-fed, and they're healthy as can be. She then went on to say that I'll do the best I can for my babies, and that she doesn't see how any doctor could have a problem with that. She was also really encouraging about my pregnancy and the health of my babies, assuring me that my hospital was incredible with newborns and preemies, and explaining to me how unique and interesting twins are in their development.

Then, I asked what was meant to be my hard-hitting, Matt Lauer-style, morning news question: "What's your best advice for expectant parents?" Here's what she said: "I think the most important thing to know is that you can trust your gut. Don't read a million books, don't get on the Internet all the time, don't cram your brain with too much information on infant care. It'll mostly be learning on the job, and you will have maternal instincts that you didn't even realize were there. You will know what to do, and what you don't know how to do, you'll learn or I'll explain. But you can trust yourself, and as a doctor, I'll be there to answer any questions or concerns you have." Ultimately, what she was telling me was that I would be just fine. If this was the Miss Doctor America pageant, I'd be crowning her with a rhinestone-studded stethoscope and draping a red sash across her white coat.

The next week, I met with Dr. R, who was recommended by literally everyone. He was affiliated with multiple hospitals, including the one where I'm delivering my babies, and was being touted as an all-around nice guy. His office had a quaint, small-town vibe, and reminded me of the pediatrician's office I went to growing up. He too had a sick waiting room and a well waiting room, the latter of which looked kind of like a little library, with pictures of his large family on the bookshelves. When he walked in with his salt-and-pepper hair and warm, friendly smile, I thought, "Well, now, how am I ever going to decide?"

Then, we all sat down for our group interview. There were three other sets of parents there, including another couple who were having twins boys at the same time. We introduced ourselves, and when the other twin mama and I went, "Oh wait, weren't you in my twins class?" the doctor interjected with a smirk, "I didn't even know there WAS such a thing as a twins class." First of all, how could you not know there was such a thing? As a pediatrician, I would think you would know better than anyone how different it is to raise twin babies than it is to raise just one. Also, was he mocking us nervous twin mamas-to-be? I wasn't sure.

Okay, so moving on, we discussed a few separate issues, and I was in agreement with him on almost all of it. He was open to staggering vaccinations, he was okay with not breastfeeding (but he did feel that patients should allow him to encourage it), and he did believe in the "barnyard theory" of cleanliness for little ones (basically, that all the antibacterial junk does more harm than good and that getting dirty and getting sick is ultimately healthy for kids). So far, so good.

But then, I started to realize that the traditional, old-school vibe of his office might extend to his opinions as well. One of the women decided to ask when he thought she should go back to work. Granted, it's a weird question to ask a pediatrician (at least I thought so), and one that probably she and her husband could have decided for themselves, but the doctor's answer really threw me. First, he said something like, "About two or three months is good ..." but then he went on to say, "... Really though, children do better when their mothers are home, and you can't get that time back, so you should stay home as long as possible, and then, at least try and cut down to part-time."

While the conversation could have just stopped right there, the doctor then went around the room and asked each of us moms-to-be what our jobs were and if we were planning on going back to work full-time. I work from home, which I know is a luxury and one that I'm grateful for. But all of the other women said that they had to go back to work full-time, that staying home wasn't an option for them. Rather than drop it though, he responded with, "Well, the reality is that babies are better off with their mothers at home, and you will miss out on a lot, so just think about that. You can't do it over." Ouch, ouch, and ouch! I wanted to say something like, "Hey, jackass, my friends who work full-time are just as bonded to their happy, well-adjusted children as my SAHM friends, so it's time to throw out that 1956 journal on parenting and get a clue!" Instead, I took a sip of my Dixie cup water and tried to change the subject.

It was time for my big question, asking his advice for expectant parents. After the amazing response I'd gotten from the pediatrician just the week before, I was hoping for enlightened wisdom from Dr. R. Instead, I got: "Yes, stay together and don't get divorced, because divorce really screws your kids up." Wow, huh, wasn't expecting that. First of all, as a child of divorce, I can say that I'm doing just fine, thank you, Doc. Secondly, do you think that any of us in here want that for ourselves or our children? Talk about a downer!

I sort of thought I'd hear something like, "It's okay to let your babies cry it out," and "When your kids get sick, it's not the end of the world," or maybe even, "Buy organic!" But silly me, I've probably spent far too much energy getting prepared for the birth of my new babies when, all of this time, I really should have been setting up some long-term relationship goals to ensure that the hubby and I aren't headed for Splitsville. "No, honey, I don't want to talk about sleep training. Who cares if the car seats aren't in? What we really need to focus on right now is planning for date nights and sexy time!"

Sure, Dr. R came highly recommended, he has privileges at the hospital I'm delivering at, and he clearly is a good man who means well and knows his stuff. Still, I didn't know how I would feel about a doctor who scoffed at a class for parenting twins, who believed that a woman must stay home to raise children, whose best piece of advice for a new parent was "don't get divorced." As if it's any surprise, I decided to go with the pediatrician I met with first, because I appreciated her "you can do this, and I'll be here for you" approach. She's the one who I got a good vibe from, the one who was pleasant and positive and warm, the one who made me feel better about how I'd be as a parent. She's also the doctor that I trusted would be sympathetic if I called her on a Saturday afternoon, crying, "Good God, why does his poop look like that?" And in the end, I know that having a receptive and supportive doctor is what's really going to matter.

What qualities do you look for in a pediatrician?

Image via isafmedia/Flickr

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