For years, I reveled in my status as our pediatrician’s pet patient, her favorite.
I looked forward to every well-baby check-up and shopped the Marshall Field's clearance racks for my family’s perfectly coordinated outfits. Before each appointment, the diaper bag was laundered, stocked with every possible emergency item and organized to perfection. Infant car seats and strollers were scoured with Clorox and an old toothbrush.
On the morning of the appointment, the kids and I would stroll into the office at least 15 minutes before our scheduled time to socialize with the receptionist and nurses. Walking into the pediatrician’s office was my mommy equivalent to walking into Cheers.
As social as I was with the nurses and receptionist, I brought the game to a whole new level with our pediatrician. We would discuss parenting magazine articles and books while my kids sat in their immaculate stroller eating organic produce meticulously cut into tiny toddler-friendly nibbles. Dr. G praised me for my (insane) dedication.
Dr. G was the ideal pediatrician, who guided me into motherhood and through the infancy and toddler phases of my first two children. She was positive and encouraging. And she always told me that we were her favorite patients. Even though I was obnoxious, Dr. G loved me and my kids.
And then, we moved to the ‘burbs. Our new pediatric office was located in the land of fertility, plastic surgery and nannies, or as others call it, Naperville.
Our new pediatrician, Dr. W, was intelligent and efficient, too efficient. It took me longer to take off the kids' coats than the time it took for Dr. W to examine both children, tell me that they were fine and usher the nurse in with a tray of immunization needles. According to our insurance provider, she was the children's primary care provider, but for reasons we will never know, we never saw Dr. W again.
I was initially intrigued by the concept of an office with a dozen pediatricians. It took me awhile to realize that I had chosen the pediatric office equivalent to a puppy mill. That new office should've had a conveyer belt leading throughout the building as they seemed only to be concerned with shuffling mass amounts of kids in and out of the offices and faxing claims to insurance companies before I could even click the infant seat into its base.
But we stayed. I was lured in by the futuristic glimpse of modern medicine, mollified by the rows of luxury vehicles in the parking lot, distracted by the large salt-water fish tanks in the waiting room. The office was enormous with beautiful people behind the front desk.
As beautiful as the doctors and staff were, the patients were glossy-magazine-photo ready. My little family's coordinated outfits went unnoticed as our duds weren't made out of cashmere or emblazoned with designer names. While our double-stroller was impeccably cleaned, it was also several years old, sun-faded and wore each off-roading adventure with pride. It couldn't compare to its vividly-colored fancy European cousins, whose brand names I wasn't even sure how to pronounce.
And the other mothers! Oh, how I envied those other mothers with their perfectly coiffed hair and freshly touched-up roots. No matter how many creams I tried, my hands betrayed me with their cracked knuckles and splintered fingernails. I hid them with embarrassment and coveted the perfectly manicured chip-free fingernails of the others around me. But it was their smell that I remember the most: those mothers smelled of luxury, of leisure, of all the things that I thought I would have attained by the time I became a mother. And on a good day, I just smelled like soap.
I couldn't compete. And I couldn't even make up for it by impressing a pediatrician with my intelligence and personality as we rarely saw a doctor more than once for 10 minutes. I was knocked off my perfect mommy pedestal and the cold, hard ceramic floor bruised my rear when I landed. I stopped trying to impress and longed for our beloved Dr. G.
The magic spell was completely broken when my son was born early and blue and pounds smaller than my two other children. I was scared and desperate for reassurance. It wasn't until yet another unrecognizable pediatrician popped her head into my hospital room and briefly examined Brooks, dismissed my questions and dashed into another room that I realized I needed more. I needed someone to hold my hand. I needed a doctor who would put down the clipboard, pull up a chair and calmly answer my questions. I deserved more in a pediatrician. My children deserved more.
So I did what I should have done years before, I asked for pediatrician referrals from neighbors and interviewed pediatricians.
And I ended up back in a small office. In a little town called Plainfield. Sure, I have to drive farther, but every extra mile is worth it as soon as I walk into Dr. R's office.
I no longer strive to achieve pet patient status. I no longer care if I'm a favorite. I'm content knowing that Dr. R and his staff recognize me and my kids. They remember the little details, ask questions and genuinely pay attention to our answers.
We no longer arrive in coordinated outfits with strollers and diaper bags as those days are long behind us.
I rarely read parenting books or magazines. With deviously creative, intelligent children, I've evolved into the Captain of Compromise and rely on my own sense of humor, organization and common sense to parent them. And Dr. R respects that.
Dr. R's office is not new and shiny and filled with large beautiful aquariums. It's real and comfortable and exactly where my family should be.