My daughter was less than a week old and my wife and I sat in the pediatrician’s office. Since she was our first child, we went the doctor that was on duty at the hospital when Autumn was born. Big mistake.
Chrisie expressed her concern that our daughter might be a little jaundiced.
“I understand why you might think that,” the doctor said, “but it’s normal for most newborns to have a slightly yellow cast. You daughter looks healthy and I don’t believe she is jaundiced.”
“Are you sure?” Chrisie asked.
“Well, I can’t be completely sure without a blood test, of course, but I really don’t think she is. She’s healthy and responding well.” Chrisie still seemed unsure so the doctor continued, “Even though I don’t think it’s necessary, I can order a blood test to completely rule it out.”
“What’s involved in the test?”
“You’ll take her to the hospital and they’ll draw blood by pricking your daughter’s heel.”
“Will it hurt her?”
“Not permanently, but she will feel it. Also you have to consider that anytime to cut or injure a newborn you have a slightly higher risk of infection.”
Chrisie bit her lip, torn between not knowing for sure and putting Autumn through all the doctor described (and probably magnifying the effects in her head).
“So the test is the only way to rule out jaundice?” I asked.
“Yes. We’ll check her bilirubin levels and that will conclusively tell us.”
“But you don’t think she has jaundice,” I said.
“No,” he verified, “But I will order the test, if only to provide peace of mind for you two.”
“But you don’t think she needs it?”
“As I said, no. But again, we can order the test to be sure.”
I looked at Autumn, impossibly small in her mother’s, my wife’s, arms. I looked into Chrisie’s conflicted face and put one hand on her shoulder and the other on our daughter.
“Are you sure we want to put Autumn through this just to make us feel better?”
“I just don’t know,” she said.
I was about to speak again when the doctor interrupted, “I’ll just go ahead an order the test then.”
“Wait,” I said, “We haven’t decided yet.”
“Look,” he said, “You need to care for your wife. If she has a concern, you should listen. You can’t write off what she says out of hand.”
“Excuse me?” I was slightly irritated.
“You need to love your wife and listen to her instincts.” Now I was irritated.
“I do love my wife, not that it’s any of your concern-”
“And another thing,” he interjected, “You need to be sure you treasure and cherish your little girl. You have a daughter now and you can’t look out just for yourself. She is a precious gift to you and you can’t be careful enough. Too many men don’t get that it takes a lot more than they offer to be a father.”
Now I was full on mad. I stared at him, dumbstruck that he spoke to me that way. He took a haughty sniff and stepped from the room as he went to order the blood test for Autumn.
“Thanks for defending me, Babe,” I said to Chrisie who, in her defense, just stared after the doctor (I’m pretty sure she had difficulty believing it was happening too).
“Did that really just happen?” She asked.
“Yes, but it won’t again. That’s the last time we will ever see him.”
I managed to control myself when the nurse came back with Autumn’s test orders. I managed to calmly walk to the front with my family.
“I’m going to take care of this right now,” I calmly told Chrisie who went on to the car.
I calmly address the attendant behind the desk, “Excuse me. I need to change my daughter’s appointment for next week.”
“Okay, no problem. You need a new time?”
“No, I need a new doctor.”
“I need a new doctor. We will not see that doctor again. Ever.”
“Is there a particular reason?”
“Yes, I refuse to be in the same room with him again.”
She barely paid attention to me, but said, “I see and what is your complaint?”
“It doesn’t matter,” I continued calmly, “I want a new doctor for my daughter.”
“Okay, but I’ll have to get his permission to release her to another doctor’s care.” I stopped being calm.
“What?” I asked, my voiced raised.
“You have to have the doctor’s permission to see someone else.”
“No, not really,” I said a little too loudly,”I do not, under any circumstance, need his permission not to see him. You do not need his permission either. What you need to do is to change my daughter’s appointment to another doctor. Now.”
Now she looked slightly alarmed. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“No, just do it. I’m sure I can find another clinic if I need to.”
She tapped at her keyboard for a while. After a minute, she said, “I need to put down a reason for changing her pediatrician.”
“Put this down. If that man and I are ever in the same room again he may come to physical harm.”
Now she was completely alarmed. “Um, what do you mean.”
“I mean,” I patiently explained,” that if he is still my daughter’s doctor and I am in the same room with him I may punch him in the face. Repeatedly.”
“Are you threatening him?”
“If you want to call it that, then yes, I believe I am.”
She typed quickly. Oddly, it was possible to change her doctor without his permission.
When I got out to the car, Chrisie asked me what happened.
“I took care of it.” She made me explain in detail anyway.
“You really said that?”
The answer was simple. First the doctor made a serious error in judgement when he assumed my natural concern for Autumn not having blood drawn represented a cavalier attitude toward her and my wife. He further misunderstood that I wasn’t a good enough father. Then the clinic staff completely misunderstood that I needed permission to make decisions for my family.
Of course, his biggest error was Autumn. She did have jaundice as it turned out. I’m glad she had the test (even though that was a terrible day as well), but he still shouldn’t have lectured me.
We were stuck in a room with him one last time, but fortunately he decided not to offer any bits of wisdom. Which is good, I’d hate to have had to punch an old dude in the mouth.
You’re right, I probably wouldn’t have actually done it. But I would have really, really wanted to.