“Remember how I raised you to be polite, courteous, and classy no matter what? Forget it all. Give them the what for!”- Momma upon hearing about the following encounter
I’m thinking of applying for a permanent parking spot at the hospital. Secondborn’s early arrival and a few other issues have joined forces against my sanity. Furthermore, any mother of multiple boys should have a designated spot near the ER entrance. Let me set the scene: Of Secondborn’s first 2 weeks of life, he has been either admitted into the hospital or had to return for an appointment 12 of the 14 days. I am no longer a Stay At Home Mom. I am a Stay At the Hospital Mom. Several people have asked why we have so many appointments—the concern is for his liver and thyroid function tied to his early arrival and a genetic issue. His complications are currently minor. Aside from some Big Birdesque coloring, he is healthy and improving. His pediatricians and specialists are phenomenal and very, very thorough. Other than the frequency of the visits, I have no complaints about Secondborn’s care.
The Thanksgiving holiday was like a finish line; a break from appointments at last! Sadly, after all-day hospital trips Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday required a drive to UNC’s Children’s Hospital two hours away. Before this special trip we needed labs for the specialist to analyze, which meant a long day of frustrating appointments and four blood draws. Before arriving at the hospital I’d battled criticism about using a double stroller in daycare, being on my feet, and bringing the baby out in the cold weather. (Help a sister out! I have raging hormones- badger me at your own risk.)
After a positive appointment, the blood draw took 45 minutes and 4 sticks before success, forcing Hubby to pick up Firstborn unexpectedly from hourly care to avoid the dollar per minute late fine. His car didn’t have Firstborn’s carseat, so he sat stranded with groceries in the car until I could meet them. Bluebell ice cream was melting and a nap had been missed- this was an emergency. When we finally arrived home and grabbed spoons to save the remaining Bluebell (excellent coping mechanism) I was exhausted and ready to pass out from the lack of food, water, and sanity. Frustrated tears burned my cheeks as I confessed to my Beloved, “I am so tired of fighting and feeling angry all the time.” Without a word, he got up, made me a Chai Tea, and just sat next to me. I love that man. I regrouped, had another sleepless night, and got up the next day for what would be the ‘big appointment’—and give me the Thanksgiving holiday afterward to recover.
After two hours in traffic I finally arrived and parked, ready to see what the ‘experts’ would do with the barrage of test results. These needed to be faxed, and I had the number at the ready. We entered registration right on time and were promptly told that we were not in the system, had no appointment, and would need to re-register. As it turns out, they left the last letter off of my name and I did have an appointment. Huzzah! The paperwork packet I was given was in Spanish but I opted use the restroom rather than bother the unfriendly clerk. I’d just fill it out in Spanish if necessary. (It wasn’t, but I was feeling particularly bristled and ready to knock down roadblocks with force.) As we finally rolled into our room to wait on the doctor, we were both hungry. I sat with a bottle in one hand and a Nature Valley bar in the other, trying to ignore my stomach’s disappointment that we couldn’t stop for lunch. (By this time I had also eaten an emergency Kit Kat bar. The doctor owes quite a lot to this fact.)
The assistant was thorough in her note-taking, so I was hopeful when the doctor entered shortly after. Enter Doctor Death. A white-haired man hustled into the room, quickly sat down, and started in on a flow-chart of all the genetic problems or potential surgery needs, with flippant reassurances that “it’s probably not that. He just needs consistent feedings.” (Like the ones I can’t give because of all-day daily appointments?)
He told me about his phone conversation with my specialist and said, “He was so happy! I was surprised he was so happy for being in the Army.” My eyebrow raised, my jaw set, and my voice hit a resolved tone. Strike 1- Not shaking my hand or even looking at my son, your patient, in the first 3 minutes of the appointment. Strike 2- Trashing the military that provides for me and that our home serves in our respective fashions (proudly, I might add.) I politely explained that my specialist was not a soldier, but had provided superb care. I went on to praise the Army hospital’s medical team and their care of my newborn. The doctor and assistant looked shocked. I’d forgotten that I had entered the Technicolor world of civilian life and health care with all its stereotypes of military life. Still, being right doesn’t allow for being rude. His bad behavior won’t excuse mine.
Meanwhile, a card with the information necessary to fax yesterday’s labs to UNC was burning my hand. As I mentioned it the doc rolled his eyes, turned to the assistant and asked if she cared to call in for the labs. She offered to make the call and walked out with my precious hard copy of the military records. (I chased her down for it afterward.) What labs was he looking at and basing decisions on if not the ones that were important enough to cause a 3 hour appointment and a day-care pick-up fiasco the day before?
As the medical tornado was about to whip out the door, he decided to actually examine Secondborn before leaving. The appointment lasted 8 minutes. I was left alone in a room with my naked newborn trying to comprehend what had just happened. The appointment’s only conclusion was that nothing could be determined for another two weeks. I had to come back then and see if pills or a surgery would be needed. (This was said with the compassion of ordering a burger at a drive-thru.) The whole appointment could have been done over the phone- especially the day before Thanksgiving.
As I drove home in crawling holiday traffic, I considered my last two weeks. I’d been unable to eat, drink water, sleep, or bond with my new baby. I’d been instructed to go to multiple appointments daily that mostly yielded no conclusive results. All hope of a schedule had been dashed and everyone- especially Firstborn- was paying dearly. The only reason we had Thanksgiving dinner is because my amazing Bible Study ladies each made and delivered a dish- God bless them for it. I was truly thankful for that meal.
I decided I’d had enough. I drove home resolving to change to a new health care plan: Mama Care. I am my sons’ real primary care giver. I’ve decided to put my foot firmly down with all the force of a combat boot and the pointedness of a stiletto. The experts are trying to do their job; it’s time I do mine to the best of my ability. Mothers must advocate and make the wheel squeak loudly on their children’s behalf. Parents make incredible sacrifices to acquire needed care and resources, especially when health and education is at stake. This is not merely a “Mama Grizzly” defense or a Tiger Mom’s push toward success; it is a methodical and consistent struggle for forward movement and necessary gains, like yardage on a football field. It’s time to fight for what my sons need- rest, routine, family/play time, and a mom who isn’t on the verge of a physical breakdown from struggling to meet unnecessary demands. When the Army pediatrician called, I flat out refused to make daily hospital visits from now on, and would not return to UNC unless it was absolutely necessary. Thankfully, the amazing pediatrician agreed and with the help of a case manager, readjusted my appointment schedule to ease the burden.
I changed my perspective about what care is best for my sons. As the years go by, I doubt my sons will say they are thankful that Mommy took them to appointments regularly. I hope they are thankful for our family and all we did together. My time with my little ones is precious; I will cut out the unnecessary so they can thrive. I must do more than kiss boo-boos and hold tiny hands during dozens of blood draws; I must fight to make sure they get all the kinds of care they need. That’s Mamacare- it’s the best health care there is.