Week 27: What’s Up, Doc?

The next task on our parents-to-be checklist is to choose a pediatrician. I’ve been putting it off because it seems so daunting. First, I’ve got to poll friends and acquaintances for their recommendations. And, inevitably, everybody tells you something different. One loves their grandfatherly-type doctor, while another cautions against going to any physician who’s been out of medical school longer than you’ve been alive. Then we’re advised to actually interview potential pediatricians in person. I printed a two-page questionnaire off a parenting web site, though I don’t even understand half the questions. What do I know about vaccinations or co-sleeping?

Let me tell you, this is considerably more effort than I’ve ever expended choosing a medical professional for myself. Usually, I just open the insurance booklet and pick someone with a name I can pronounce. Or I go with the one who has the first available appointment. Hardly discriminating, but what do I care? Normally I see a doctor once, maybe twice a year. And most spend less than five minutes with their patients, anyway. I had planned to be more thorough when choosing my OB/GYN, but I was pregnant by the time my appointment rolled around with the first potential doctor a friend recommended. I liked her well enough and it seemed like a hassle to switch at that point, so I stuck with her.

We’re going to be spending a lot more time with our baby’s pediatrician, though, so I’m willing to make the effort to find a good one. The first one we met with, Dr. M., is an older woman who treats my friend S.’s kids. She was warm, friendly, and reassuring to C. and me, who clearly know nothing about children’s healthcare. She talked a lot about breastfeeding. She had a reasonable selection of magazines in the waiting room.

The second pediatrician we met with was a guy my friend’s wife had gone to medical school with. Dr. G. is a young, newly-minted pediatrician with an amiable personality. In addition to his office hours and the staggering number of appointments we’d need in the baby’s first year of life, he talked about his dog and his baby daughter. Her name happens to be C.’s number-one choice at the moment. (In the waiting room, C. told me that my first choice for a girl’s name has just been taken by his coworker’s new pug puppy. If this were the only dog we knew with that name, I might ignore it. As it happens, we know two others. What’s with giving canines people names?!) Dr. G. also talked a lot about breastfeeding. His office is conveniently close to a good bakery/coffee shop.

I’m particularly aware of the importance of our decision because of the bond I had with my childhood pediatrician, Dr. Robinson. He was a genial man with slicked-back, chestnut hair who always sounded slightly congested. He once bet me a six-pack of root beer that I didn’t have a bladder infection. I won the bet. (A mixed victory, since guzzling soft drinks is probably the last thing anyone in that condition should be doing.) Still, I liked and trusted my childhood doctor. I would like our child to have a similar experience.

So I guess that means my decision on which doctor to choose should be based on more than whose office is closest to a Starbucks and has the best magazines in the waiting room. Though I really can’t underestimate the value of a good white chocolate mocha and the latest issue of National Geographic Traveler.

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