Say we’re both on a playground. And say you don’t know me. And say one of my kids gets whacked in the face with a stick/fist/swing/low-flying bird. And say said kid (and say it three times fast) is bleeding profusely.
I’d say, “Hmmm, sweetie, looks like you might need stitches. Hold this slightly used Kleenex and apply pressure, and we’ll zip on over to the doctor.”
And, after I calmly gathered my children and things and walked to the car, you might say to your friends, “That woman has her act together. What a totally calm mother. Very impressive.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s me today.
But that was not me nine years ago, when I had my first baby.
As I discovered. In a humiliating way.
See, I took the kids to the doctor yesterday. Jack needed his seven-year checkup and Caroline, who is nine, came along to get a flu shot. In between the doctor and the nurse and the peeing in a cup and the shots, I was in the room for a while with the kids, and their charts.
Jack’s has maybe seven pieces of paper in it. Caroline’s is about three feet thick.
I flipped through Jack’s (is that legal? I’d assume so) and it said, basically, “Big healthy boy. Big healthy boy. Strep. Big healthy boy. Ear hurts. Big healthy boy.” Pretty unremarkable, pretty accurate.
But then I flipped through Caroline’s. I started at the beginning (and noted that she was described at birth as a “black female” infant. Such observant doctors attending to my daughter’s birth! The child, to this day, barely tans. I have no idea where that came from).
Then I immediately noticed, with mounting horror, that they had taped every phone message I had ever left for the pediatrician in her file. And then the nurse had written her response.
Ooooh, it’s bad.
But I’m honest, so here we go:
Mother called. Daughter is crying. “Suggested mom feed her.”
Mother called. Daughter has diarrhea. “Suggested it’s because she’s breastfed.”
Mother called. Urine in diaper looks darker than normal. “Suggested increased liquids.”
Mother called. Daughter has a rash. “Suggested it’s dry skin.”
Mother called. Daughter is moving jerkily when music is turned on. “Suggested she’s dancing.”
Mother called. Daughter spit out avocado. “Suggested she try sweet potatoes.”
Mother called. Daughter sleeping a lot. “Suggested she’s tired.”
Mother called. Daughter has a fever. “Suggested Motrin.”
Mother called. Daughter is covered with purple spots. “Suggested mom hide the markers.”
Mother called. Daughter is sneezing a lot. “Suggested she has a cold. Mother suggested allergies. This was a very long conversation.”
I am NOT kidding about this – those are the notes in Caroline’s medical file. They’ll be there forever, unless I can sneak in at night and redact a few hundred pages. The kids and I were hooting with laughter. Caroline said, “Wow, Mommy, you were nuts back then!” Jack was still laughing at me at dinner last night.
When the doctor walked back in, I almost threw myself at his feet. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I was crazy. And you probably had sick kids in here and I took up all your time with stupid questions about my baby. And I’m not stupid, but having a baby made me really stupid. And then having another one made me smart again. But during that stupid period, I had you on speed dial. And I’m so, so sorry.”
Thankfully, he laughed. Thankfully, he said most new mothers are crazy, and part of the job in a pediatrician’s office is to calm mothers until their first baby turns two or they have a second child. Both seem to be milestones, I guess, that shake you loose from the craziness.
So to all you nutty new mothers out there, I say: Embrace your craziness! Go ahead, panic over purple spots. Because your child will grow out of diapers, too fast...and you'll grow out of your craziness, just in time. Until then, be a mom, whatever that looks like.
Just a little advice for you, though. First, Motrin cures almost everything. Try it before you call.
Second, don't leave messages for the nurse. They'll really come back to bite you. Trust me on that one.