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Why I Fired My Pediatrician

Photograph by Instagram/peveteaux

Here’s what I want from my pediatrician: I want her to assess my children’s health and diagnose any problems. I want her to explain best practices for keeping my kids healthy and safe. I want her to be part of the team of competent adults who support me and my husband in raising children who feel good in — and about — their bodies. Part of that “team player” thing I am looking for means I want her to speak respectfully to my children and to me. In a perfect world, she’d also be on time, bake me cookies and compliment my shoes.

I understand I can’t have it all. But some of those are deal breakers for me, and I’m not talking about oatmeal raisin cookies.

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Two doctor visits ago, my daughter sat on the examination table while our doctor looked into her sore ears. “Yep, she’s got an ear infection in both ears,” the doctor said, confirming what we suspected. When my daughter started to cough, the doctor scolded her. “Do not cough on the doctor.” I didn’t like her harsh tone or the frightened look on my daughter’s face, but the doctor did have a point. Wasn’t I telling my daughter about 70 times a day to cover her mouth when she coughed?

Later that night, I recounted the story for my husband. I thought I was over it, but I found myself steamed all over again. It was her tone and the suggestion that coughing on a doctor was a greater crime than coughing on a “regular” person.

I decided to let it go. We’d been seeing her for years, and she was allowed to have a bad day.

It felt like God himself had judged me and found me wanting.

Three weeks later, we were back for my son’s bronchitis. I wasn’t holding a grudge about the previous visit; I just wanted her to help my son. But two minutes into the examination, she asked me about his fevers. “They spike each night around midnight, but are mild during the day,” I told her. She looked irritated. “What exactly are the numbers?”

I felt embarrassed that we never actually took his temperature. Our thermometer, adorned with Winnie the Pooh, doesn’t seem very accurate, so I didn’t bother. I knew my baby had a temperature and that was enough for me. To her, I simply lied, “We don’t have a thermometer.”

She didn’t like that answer. She stopped examining my son and wagged a finger at me. “When you leave here, go straight to a pharmacy to get a thermometer. You have to stay on top of this.” I agreed with a sheepish nod of my head. Adrenaline coursed through my body, carrying shame — the “I’m a bad mom" shame. I’d learned to deflect it from most sources, but this was coming from a doctor. It felt like God himself had judged me and found me wanting.

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It took a few hours for me realize how much power I’d given her just because she was a doctor. I’d like to think I’m open to medical professionals giving me advice. But I don’t need a dose of shame to go with that. And there are a dozen other pediatricians in the practice, so there’s no need to settle for a situation that makes me feel uncomfortable.

And I didn’t buy that thermometer at the pharmacy that day. I bought it on Amazon.com, because I know a thing or two, myself.

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