I had always envisioned the perfect pediatrician as a cross between Mary Poppins and Maria Von Trapp. Unfortunately, Aetna had no doctor fitting such a description in their narrow list of approved providers in my neighborhood. As such my daughter’s doctor is more like a combination of Dr. Evil and Mel Brooks doing a Yoda impression.
(Pause…get that picture in your head…)
Dr. F is the type who slept through the bedside manner lecture in med school but aced Advanced Condescension. While an excellent diagnostician and the doctor you want in your corner if something bad goes down, he seems to have little patience for new moms (read: new moms and their silly questions). When his kinder, gentler partner isn’t available for an appointment, I reluctantly schedule with Dr. F instead. Each time I do, I find I’m talking myself into it, psyching myself up as if it weren’t a routine pediatric visit at all, but a debut appearance singing the Star Spangled Banner at Yankee Stadium. A cappella. Naked.
This will be the time he realizes I’m smart! This will be the time I become his number one faaaaavorite patient.
“So what are you feeding her?” Dr. F asked as he typed in Thalia’s stats, never turning away from the computer screen. This wasn’t unusual. He rarely looked me in the eyes.
I squirmed in the folding chair where I sat holding the baby. What is this power that doctors have over us? Few other people have the ability to make me so nervous. John Cusack springs to mind, but only because he smelled that good in person. And was that tall. And because the mutual friend introducing us had threatened to present me as Liz who really wants to sleep with you. I challenge any of you to not be tongue-tied in a situation like that.
“Feeding her,” Dr. F repeated. “What are you feeding the baby?”
He turned towards me, eyebrows raised. I froze. Wrong answer? He flipped one hand over, palm up and gestured for me to continue.
I was drew a complete blank. What did I feed her? A series of quick MTV-like cuts flashed through my mind: The baby food aisle of the supermarket. CUT TO: Rows of identical baby food jars on the shelves. CUT TO: Our kitchen counter littered with baby food jars because we haven’t yet made a place in the pantry for them. CUT TO: Blurry close-up of the baby food label from this morning’s breakfast.
I could almost visualize it…it’s coming into focus…a label…with an illustration…a picture of…
“Fruits!” I shouted like a retarded contestant on Family Feud. “I feed her fruits!” Toning it down a little, “and vegetables. Also cereal. A little. I mean, she’s been constipated so um…”
Was I supposed to be feeding her meats, I wondered? She has no teeth. Should she be eating pork chops? Oh my God, I can’t even cook. What meat have I ever cooked? Fajitas. Helloooo, she’s eight months old and I’m considering making her fajitas. Hey, here’s a good idea–maybe if I wish for it very very hard, I will turn invisible right now.
“Pureed meat,” he clarified, reading my expression perfectly. “Baby foods with meat. Like chicken. You can buy them at the store.”
“Okay, meat. I understand. And for the constipation…”
“You’re not feeding her bran? You should be feeding her bran.”
“Just oatmeal and rice cereal. But like I said we stopped because…”
“Okay it’s just that…”
“I know I just…”
“Well then!” I said brightly. “Meats and Bran it is!”
Dr. F said nothing further; he just turned and walked out of the office giving me a half-hearted little wave over his right shoulder.
“I guess that means the appointment is over Monkey,” I told Thalia.
And then she leaned forward and put my entire nose in her mouth. I think it was her way of saying, don’t worry mommy. I still think you’re great. And she couldn’t have picked a better time.