Friday, October 21, 2011

In defense of crazy mothers: I’ve been there

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.

Really mortifying.

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.


  1. Oh my gosh, the notes are priceless! Thank you for your willingness to share them! I had my moments, too. I am embarrassed to admit how many times I called 911 for the first baby. I know when they received the call at the station, they were like, "Oh, it's the over-reactive first time mom ... AGAIN." I am surprised they didn't start charging me for unnecessary visits.

    Thank you for your humor and honesty! I love hanging out in this space.

  2. Let me know the nurse's name. Looks like I should be reading her blog too!

  3. I feel like this post was just for me :)

  4. Oh my goodness. That had me in stitches. Only because my daughter's chart is probably just as bad. Fortunately, we moved and no longer see that doctor (who was wonderful) so I don't have to face the craziness that was me. Thank you for a great laugh today.

  5. We are laughing out loud and SO thankful for google! I wouldn't want to know what questions I'd have come up with without the internet to do the first filtering.

  6. I actually had a nurse ask me if I was a first time mother. I stopped hyperventilating long enough to ask why. She said (I swear) "Baby, by the time this one is two, you won't be so crazy no more. Have you a drink and take a nap. You said she's sleeping and you sound like you need some."

    And then she just hung up. I was so angry. Now I realize that she was so, so right.

    We live in the South. She really does speak like that and she calls everybody Baby.

  7. Think of it this way--your/her rough draft memoir is already written!