Some Notes on Health Care and the Mama Instinct

During my first pregnancy, I was given the sound advice to trust my own instincts when making choices for my kids. This week I have been weighing and reflecting upon health care decisions, and coming up humbled by the intuitive nature of Mamahood.

Raising healthy kids is no easy feat, requiring micro decisions about nutrition, rest, behavior, and development. We monitor growth charts from birth, torture ourselves over breast or bottle, agonize over first foods. We debate cloth or disposable diapers; the brand, the size, the wipes. We research car seats, vaccines, and dentists. We fret over sleep training, sleep schedules, sleep regressions. Keeping tiny humans healthy means being a decider.

Illness only brings more rounds of choices. Do we want a second opinion? More or less testing? How many antibiotics are too many? Where do we stand on fever reducers? When do we keep them home, bring them to the ER or the pediatrician?

Have we even chosen THE RIGHT pediatrician? Are they too pushy, condescending, respectful of our family values? Finding a good doctor is like rejecting blind dates until you get to your soulmate. I passed on an OBGYN once because she told me, based on Addie’s size, my labor must have been “a breeze – one push and out”.

Our family lucked out with the kids’ pediatrician. We have a balance of professional medical advice and personal choice. Her office was our first stop a couple months ago, when Owen developed croup. We went in on a Friday and left comforted by her advice and treatment.

He should have been much better the next day, but instead was screaming and feverish. My Mama alarm was blaring when I called the advice nurse, who said to wait until the morning to see a doctor. I ignored my intuition and waited, while his misery continued. The next morning, we saw the on-call pediatrician who barely glanced at him and advised waiting it out even longer. I went against my instincts again and left without pushing for a diagnosis.

By that night Owen was inconsolable, burning up, and lethargic. I took him to the ER where they finally saw an ear infection. This time I pushed for a flu test too, which came back positive for RSV (a respiratory virus). We had a diagnosis and an easy treatment plan. He was on the mend within 24 hours.

The whole experience left me dismayed about health care and disappointed in myself. I got over the bitterness and learned to trust my Mom gut (not to be confused with my Mom Bod). This week, when he started to have similar symptoms, I raced him to our doctor. She diagnosed croup, double ear infection, and pink eye (when the kid gets sick, he goes for it.). With immediate treatment, he was back to running circles around me in no time.

I am fortunate to have healthy kids, access to quality healthcare, and also sharp instincts. I believe in considering both medical advice and my own intuition, but from now on, when there’s a gap between the two, I’m on team Mama-knows-best.

Doctor’s office selfie – Owen is NOT a fan.

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