The Home Front: Pediatrician Season

The story below is from our November/December 2021 issue. For more similar stories, subscribe today. Thank you!

The doctor will see you now.

I took my sons Liam and Preston recently went to the pediatrician for a routine checkup. Of course, nothing about seeing the doctor now is routine. You will be checked in from your car, over the phone, and you will be in the waiting room as soon as you are allowed into the building. The usual distractions like cups of broken crayons at the small tables and toys for better times are hidden (COVID!), but my boys are now in middle and high school. Those things are no longer interesting.

A hurried-looking mother, face free of makeup, hair in a messy bun, probably fantasizing about a shower, was already sitting in the waiting room when we arrived. She had a baby in a car seat and a toddler son who was determined to sit in the seats, which had been taped off. She cooed and forced, with her bag of gummy snacks and small matchboxes. I watched, feeling both solidarity and a strange distance from her, two mothers on opposite sides of raising children.

I’m a rare visitor to the pediatrician now, but oh, I remember. You can’t get four kids through the baby and snot-filled preschool years without finding yourself in that waiting room time and time again when that first fall cold comes.

Known to parents everywhere, pediatrician season is the painfully long months from October to April, when your child’s doctor’s office can double as a second home. When my daughter arrived on the scene, she kicked things up a notch. Unlike her older brothers, each snort seemed to turn into a thick, wet cough—the kind of cranky mess that landed us there more times than I could count.

As I watched my waiting room partner herd her son to the nurse, as their name was called, I remembered one particular fall visit, when I drove Liam and Preston into the exam room in a double stroller, with a very sick Amelia on my hip.

That day, as always, my boys twirled maniacally on the doctor’s round stool and shoved into their mouths all the snacks I could throw at them, with half of the snacks falling to the floor. I remember looking at the crushed goldfish and wondering if I could muster the energy to bend over and pick them up. It was I who was tormented that day, exhausted after being up all night with a sick baby.

When the doctor saw Amelia in October, she was concerned about RSV. Amelia’s oxygen level wasn’t great, and she needed respiratory treatment. The doctor told me that RSV might require hospitalization in a baby as young as mine, but she was hopeful that she would be able to treat her in the office and with medication at home.

We never saw the inside of the hospital that day, but it happened later. Amelia was diagnosed with asthma at 4am and we spent the night in the hospital for asthma attacks. Her brothers have bloody wounds, broken bones and lost an eye in an accident. Amelia added her own broken arm to the tally last fall, with an accidental fall from a hoverboard.

Before I had children, I would get weak in the knees if I saw a drop of blood, but I hardly shiver anymore. Although the initial medical trauma left me completely panicked, the years have shaped me into a stronger personality, a woman who can keep her head clear when faced with a bloody limb or a wheezing child. I’ve learned to lock up those shaky knees and scramble up because my kids look to me to determine if they should panic. On the day your first child is born, you are officially “in charge”, even if you sometimes want to yell at your own mother. And once you feel comfortable in your role, the game changes. They are getting older, the challenges are new.

At least now I can face those challenges freshly showered.

The above story is from our November/December 2021. For more stories, subscribe today or check out our FREE digital edition. Thanks for supporting local journalism!

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