After the baby developed an abscess that had to be surgically drained, we went to a pediatric surgeon for a routine follow-up examination. But it seems whenever I have to take the baby to a new doctor, the conversation with the receptionist goes something like this:
“Prior surgeries?” the receptionist will ask.
“No, him,” the receptionist will say.
“Oh, right. No. He was just born. He hasn’t had much time,” I’ll say with a smile.
No reaction. “’Allergies?” the receptionist will say? “Allergic to any medications?”
“Well, I’m allergic to niacin, but I’m not sure if that counts. It’s not really a–”
“Not you. Him,” the receptionist will say.
“Oh, right. No. No allergies.”
I don’t like pediatric offices because they’re usually full of children who are coughing and wiping their mucous-covered little hands all over everything they pass. I try not to touch anything below the three-foot level. If I have to go to the bathroom, I wait till I get home.
But more than that, pediatric waiting rooms, not surprisingly, are filled with parents and their children, giving you a microcosm into that family’s dysfunction.
“Look at that puzzle in the corner,” one woman kept telling a young girl of about five who appeared to be her daughter. The woman had a butterfly tattoo on her right forearm and was bouncing an infant on her lap. When the young girl failed to look up, the woman said, “Look. A puzzle. Over there in the corner.”
The girl continued to play with a book.
“Don’t you see that puzzle in the corner there?” the woman said. “Oh, forget it,” she said, like a pouting child.
A few minutes later, the young girl walked over to the puzzle and carried it over to a small table. The woman told her to put it down on the floor.
“You’re going to drop it on the baby,” the woman said.
The young girl put the puzzle down and walked over to the water cooler.
“Hope, no more water. Holy Toledo,” the woman said. She got up and grabbed the girl’s hand and brought her back to where they were sitting.
The nurse came out and called their name, and they disappeared into an examination room. A couple of minutes later, I heard the mother’s voice behind me as the three of them spilled back into the waiting room.
“The water is not a game, Hope,” the mother said, following behind the little girl who was carrying a cup. “Don’t spill it.” She pushed out a little seat for the child. “Sit down with the water.”
They sat down in a row of chairs along the wall, and soon, the woman with the butterfly tattoo was explaining to the woman next to her how Hope was not her own daughter but rather the daughter of her 17-year-old son, who had died. When the son’s wife couldn’t handle Hope, the young girl wound up in the foster care system until the woman pulled her out and adopted her. The young baby the woman was holding belonged to her daughter, who was at work.
As the woman with the tattoo explained her situation to the woman next to her, the woman with the tattoo had the baby in her lap, and she kept bending the child’s feet toward each other until the bottoms would touch like they were clapping.
As I looked around the room, all of the parents appeared to be my age. I naturally assumed they were the mothers of these children until I heard several of the children address the adult they were with as “Grandma.”
“Jesse’s mom?” the receptionist called out.
No one got up.
There was a television in the middle of the room with the volume on high, making it difficult to hear the names being called out. A woman got up and walked over to the receptionist’s window and then turned around and sat back down. I could hear her tell the woman next to her, “I thought she said, ‘Beth’s mom.’”
I stood up and picked up Edwin and followed a nurse into an examining room. The nurse told me to unbutton enough of Edwin’s onesie so that the doctor would only have to undo the baby’s diaper to inspect the abscess that had been lanced. I followed her instructions and stood over Edwin as he lay on the examining table. But after a few minutes, the doctor hadn’t come in, so I decided to nurse him. We’d sat in the waiting room for so long, it was now past the baby’s feeding time. I grabbed the baby, sat down on a folding chair by the window, unbuttoned my shirt and stuck Edwin on my breast. Just then the doctor walked in.
“Oh, I’ll come back,” he said, looking flustered.
“No, no, that’s all right,” I said, quickly buttoning my blouse.
I placed the baby on the examining table, and as the doctor opened up Edwin’s diaper to inspect the abscess, he found a load of fresh poop.
“Why don’t you clean the child up, and I’ll come back,” the doctor said, and turned around and walked out.
As soon as the doctor left, Edwin began to urinate. The urine went high in the air and landed on the beautiful Dr. Seuss tissue paper that lined the examining table. I cleaned him up, changed his diaper, and wiped down the table. I moved Edwin out of the wet area and stood over him for a few minutes waiting for the doctor to return, but when he didn’t come back, I decided to nurse him again while we waited. I grabbed the baby, sat down in the chair, unbuttoned my shirt and stuck Edwin on my breast. Just then, a female doctor walked in.
“Oh, I’ll come back,” she said, looking flustered.
“No, no, that’s all right,” I said, quickly buttoning my blouse, but she was gone.
I sat there for a moment waiting for her to come back, but after a couple of minutes, Edwin began to cry. I unbuttoned my shirt again and stuck Edwin on my breast. Just then the doctor walked in.
“Oh, I’ll come back,” he said.
“No!” I said, buttoning my blouse.
I placed Edwin on the examining table, and the doctor undid his diaper. He peeled back Edwin’s butt cheeks and pulled away the gauze we were told to place over the wound for a few days.
“Everything looks great,” he said, and re-fastened the baby’s diaper. And then without prompting, he said, “There’s nothing you did that caused this.”
Everyone has staph on their skin, he said. Sometimes, and it’s not always clear why, it can breach the surface and develop into a boil or abscess. But it wasn’t the result of anything we did, he said.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “We’ve been using washcloths and warm water instead of those disposable wipes, and my pediatrician said–
“There’s nothing you did that caused this,” he said.
And with that, he turned around and walked out, and for one sweet moment, I felt vindication.