It was my child’s four-month checkup. She was thriving; ahead on all her milestones. Smiling, rolling, babbling, and snuggling were her favorite pastimes. We were happily growing and learning together; her as a little human, and me as a new mama.
My husband and I had chosen her first pediatrician wisely enough. He was the senior owner of his medical practice and had many years of experience. His wall was covered in accolades and advanced degrees; his resume far above the norm. A friend of ours used him for all three of her kids and loved him. And, as fate would have it, he happened to be the doctor who’d been assigned to check on all the newborns at the hospital the day our daughter was born, so we felt it was a “sign” that he was right for us.
In his office for that four-month checkup, however, I wasn’t so sure. He’d seemed a bit grumpy during our prior visits, but with his qualifications being what they were, I’d given him the benefit of the doubt. We’re all entitled to bad days. It surely wasn’t personal.
We waited for him in the patient room to which we’d been assigned.
He thundered in shortly thereafter and began with “What questions do you have?”
Well, okay. I offered a “Hi.” I asked him something about child development and he retorted with a quick, “If you’d read the handout the nurse gave you before I came in [he picked it up and shook it for emphasis], you wouldn’t be asking things like this.” A bit taken aback, I responded, “Actually, what the nurse handed me is paperwork about two-month milestones, and this is my child’s four-month visit. Do you have the paper for her age, please? I’d be happy to read it to see if it answers my question before we continue.”
He grabbed the two-month paper and tossed it in the trash, not handing me the alternative; not answering my question.
Instead, he continued, “How’s sleep?”
Responding honestly, I offered, “She had a seven-hour stretch last week for the first time. So, I got a little overconfident. We’re up every couple of hours again, but I’m okay with it. She’s getting her first tooth a little early and working on lots of new skills. This too shall pass. We’re happy.”
To that, he replied, “You’re ridiculous. Don’t go to her when she cries. Let me know when you’re ready to get serious about parenting.”
Frozen with the unexpected insult, I somehow managed to let him proceed with the rest of her well check. Indeed, she was growing and thriving. She was, holistically, getting plenty of sleep. And I was okay with being there for her when she needed me, day or night. I considered it a privilege. We’d lost her older sister halfway through that pregnancy; did he not know how much my heart longed to be there for this child? That going to her when she called was exactly what I wanted to do—that holding and comforting her was the greatest earthly gift I’d ever known? I was perfectly happy to take sleep day-by-day.
To be clear, I spent the next few days feeling livid and replaying the conversation in my mind. I questioned and centered myself, going back and forth, in a crazy-making loop. How dare he imply that I wasn’t serious about parenting? I was fully committed, fully present, and fully engaged in the well-being of my child. She didn’t “make” me respond to her; I chose to respond because it was my instinct to do so.
We never saw him again.
As tempting as it was to stay angry with him, anger never serves anyone well if it morphs into rumination. As a raw emotion, however, it can serve a healthy purpose.
In this case, it did. I let the anger burn as a fuel; not to consume me, but rather, to give life to passion for supporting other parents. Passion for education about normal sleep and child development. Passion for encouraging new mothers to trust themselves; to allow themselves to be physically and emotionally present for their children.
Promptly, I went to the bookstore and bought The No-Cry Sleep Solution by worldwide bestselling author
Elizabeth Pantley. Her tips worked. (afflink)
From there, I flooded myself with all the resources I could find about respectful and positive parenting and consumed them voraciously. I wanted to have all the science, knowledge, and expertise I could possibly find to validate that it is, indeed, a good idea to be kind to children (go figure).
The pediatrician gave me a gift that day. He planted a seed—a desire to “get serious about parenting” in a whole new way—that I’d likely not have otherwise felt with such vigor.
To the extent that I can as just one mama, I want to empower other parents to walk out of a situation—be it a doctor’s office or anywhere else they don’t feel supported—and say, “No. This isn’t right. I want better for my child. Where can I find that?”
I want this to be one of those places for you. Indeed, I’ve gotten serious about parenting—not in the way that doctor implied I should—but in a way that I hope will be much more impactful for a growing community of mindful and positive parents.