1. The Pediatrician
The other day I was talking to the mother of a newborn baby girl. She shared with me the pressure new mothers feel to breastfeed their babies. Right after the birth of her daughter, the nurse asked how she planned to feed the baby. When she said she planned to breastfeed, the nurse said, “Oh good! She’ll be able to go to college, then!”
Medical decisions often present challenges, in particular to new parents. Those who choose not to circumcise, vaccinate, test for heartworm (or whatever else they do to newborns these days) arouse suspicions within the medical community.
We ran into issues when our kids entered the “tween” years. If you haven’t been through this yet, prepare yourself. Around the age of 12, the doctor wants you out of the exam room so she can talk to your child about his sex life (and offer appropriate contraceptives). When I took one son for a 12-year old well check, we saw a pediatrician who was new to the practice. She entered the exam room, took his medical history, and then told me to leave so she could examine him and talk to him privately. My son shot me a panicked look that said, “Don’t leave me alone with this woman!” He then told her, “I want my mom to stay.” She persisted (rather forcefully) and explained that she wanted to talk to him in private about some things. I insisted and she reluctantly let me stay, although she made it clear she disapproved. She began to ask him things like, “Have you lost your virginity yet?” and “Are you attracted to boys, girls, or both?” I stopped her and explained that we had that subject covered and there was no need for her to go on. It was not a relevant medical issue for my 12-year-old son. I’m glad I stuck around so that we could debrief after that office visit (and also so I knew we needed to find a new doctor).
It’s important to understand that whether your kids are two or twelve, you’re the parent and you know what’s best for them. Just because most parents comply with the vaccination schedule, the medication recommended for wiggly boys, or being ordered from the exam room doesn’t mean that you have to. Yes, you’ll be viewed as the overprotective, paranoid, helicopter parent. But you’re in this for your kids, and your private family medical decisions are nobody else’s business.
I’m not advocating eschewing medical doctors, medication, or modern technology. I’m only saying that as with many things in life, it’s important to do your homework and understand that what’s right for most children may not be right for your child. Medical decisions are very personal and it’s important to find a pediatrician or family doctor who shares your values (or at least is not hostile to your views) on medical (or social) decisions that are outside the mainstream. Ultimately (child abuse cases excepted, obviously), you have the right to make medical decisions on behalf of your children.