Before I had my first child, my husband and I took one of those baby classes – you know, where they scare the shit out of you about childbirth and let you play with a baby doll. One of the suggestions included in the long list of birth preparations was finding a pediatrician. Ok, so the finding a doctor for your child is obvious, but the class and corresponding baby materials insisted that it would be useful to have a few “meet and greets” with prospective doctors before making your choice. I thought, “nah, I don’t need that.” After my own numerous doctor appointments during pregnancy, I honestly felt I couldn’t take any more time off from work and figured if I did the research, I could find a great doctor on my own. That’s what the internet is for, right?
Famous last words.
I picked a pediatrician who was located nearby, had gone to a reputable medical school and had received several Best Doctor in America awards. Also, we live in a college town with a renowned medical school where the competition for medical jobs is fierce so I figured this guy had to be good.
While he was certainly a competent doctor, he didn’t turn out to be the right doctor for our family.
Our pediatrician wasn’t the right fit
Here’s what I might have found out about my doctor ahead of time if I’d bothered to follow the baby class’s simple advice and scheduled a meet and greet:
1. I didn’t feel I could be honest with him.
Yes, looking back, it seems this should have set off alarm bells, but remember: hindsight is well…you know the rest. For example, I once made the “mistake” of telling our doctor that I co-slept with my daughter. He raised his voice as he got in my face and told me that this was dangerous and I needed to stop it immediately and get my daughter into her crib. At later appointments, I just nodded when asked if the baby slept in a crib.
2. He did not support my breastfeeding choice.
He insisted on supplementing my daughter with formula when she had trouble latching in the hospital. I’m angry at myself that I didn’t stand up to him then. When I said I was still having pain while breastfeeding a month later he finally referred me to a Lactation specialist, but I needed a cheerleader, someone who was willing to advocate for me; someone squarely in my corner from the start.
3. He did not trust me.
At one of our first appointments I set my daughter on the examination table and turned around to grab a diaper. He immediately screamed at me, “Never leave your child unattended — they could roll off the table!” I was so taken aback I didn’t even think to respond that I was pretty sure my four-week-old wasn’t going to roll over suddenly. I’m sure he was just trying to emphasize safety, but surely he could have done so in a way that didn’t involve scaring the crap out of a brand new parent who was trying so hard to keep it together that just leaving the house to go to this appointment was a big deal.
4. He had no bedside manner.
He was direct and matter-of-fact in his delivery, an approach I, as an adult, might appreciate in a doctor, but certainly did not in my child’s doctor. Clearly I was mistaken in thinking all pediatricians were as warm and calming as my own had been.
5. He often wasn’t available.
Our first appointment after the hospital was with an on-call doctor. That wasn’t our doctor’s fault, but it sure wasn’t reassuring for a new parent! And had I known he didn’t work on certain weekdays, I would never have chosen him.
6. He talked down to me.
The last straw for me with this doctor happened in the hospital after my son (our second child) was born. I’d had gestational diabetes during both pregnancies and this time our son was having some trouble with his blood sugar. The doctor insisted on having me and the baby stay an extra night in the hospital even though the baby’s levels had been stable for several hours and the nurses all told me he had met the protocol for going home. When I told this to my doctor and said I would really prefer to go home to my husband and toddler he dismissed it by saying that “this is important to your baby’s health. I don’t care if you want to go home and read to your toddler.” I thought, “You asshole! How dare you accuse me of not caring about my newborn’s health?!” I was livid and I was done.
You might ask why I didn’t change doctors sooner and the truth is as a new parent I doubted my instincts. I chalked a lot of it up to my hormones. Deep down I didn’t feel he was a good fit but I thought that as a doctor surely he must know more than me. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Find a pediatrician that’s right for you, stand up for yourself and don’t be afraid to change pediatricians if necessary. Our new pediatrician is warm, wonderfully supportive and truly listens to me. I only wish I had found this doctor the first time around.