This post also appeared on www.capecodonline.com/blogs in the opinion section of the Cape Cod Times, a division of Ottaway Newspapers, Inc.
They say marriage and parenting is supposed to be an equal partnership. Having been married nearly three years and a father for six months, I’ve come to the conclusion that it must’ve been a woman who made that statement and she was lying her ass off.
Will is still a little sick, as am I. But I’ve never gone to the doctor’s office and I matter much less than my son. I’m fine with that. But when it comes to Will and his health, MJ and I have very different approaches. Obviously we both want what’s best for him, but we come from polar opposite backgrounds when it comes to doctor visits and health in general.
First, some background. As I’ve already mentioned, I avoid the doctor’s office and the ER at all costs. I pretend nothing is wrong and I treat all my ailments with NyQuil and DayQuil. I cut my arm open in 2004 requiring 10 stitches but wouldn’t walk the 1/2 mile to a hospital (I was living in Boston at the time) because it was right after the Patriots won the Super Bowl and I wanted to stay and have fun. Other than two occasions where I needed stitches and one broken wrist, I’ve always been healthy. Never stayed overnight in a hospital in my life and I’ve never needed surgery.
MJ, on the other hand, is at the opposite end of the spectrum. She has had multiple major surgeries and has spent up to a couple of weeks at a time in the hospital for various illnesses. She has Crohn’s Disease which was misdiagnosed for years. At any given time she could be on a dozen different required medications, and therefore she takes this stuff way more serious than I do. And I don’t blame her.
So looking at these two extremes, you can imagine we clash quite a bit. Case in point with Will. When he first got sick last week MJ immediately wanted to call the pediatrician after we discovered he had a 101 degree fever. I did some research and found that’s a borderline temperature to call the pediatrician, and all the info said if he wasn’t screaming his face off and inconsolable then there’s probably not much you can do for him, especially since he’s teething.
But MJ wanted to call the doctor despite my objections. But she also doesn’t want to come across as the typical worried first time mother who’s acting overprotective. So what does she do? She calls the pediatrician’s answering service, leaves a message, and then when the doctor calls back she makes ME talk to her, even though I was against calling in the first place.
And sure enough, the doctor told us there isn’t much we can do and to give him Tylenol and call if things get worse.
Fast forward to yesterday. Will’s fever dropped but it’s been hovering slightly above 99 degrees for the better part of a week. He’s still congested and his nose is runny. And while he occasionally goes into screaming fits, for the most part he’s been OK. Not his usual cheerful self that’s for sure, but not a total demon either.
So again, MJ wants to call the pediatrician. I try to explain that his fever is only 99 degrees, he’s teething and it’s just a shitty time. Because from what I’ve read, there are just going to be some times — especially around this age — that he feels like crap and there just isn’t much we can do. It’s obvious he’s not sick to the point where an ER visit is necessary, so I tried to persuade her not to call.
But she did call, because mothers have to get their way all the time. And again, they told us the same thing as before. And this pissed MJ off to no end. Then it came out that she doesn’t like our pediatrician’s office, namely because she’s heard from several people around town that they misdiagnosed some illnesses that led to a perforated eardrum and scarlet fever.
I am fine with our pediatrician’s office. They’ve been more than adequate and they’ve always responded during off hours when we’ve needed something. The problem is that they haven’t responded with news that MJ wanted to hear. And as a reporter, I know that stories always have two sides. So these people talking about how the doc’s office misdiagnosed their kids’ illnesses are probably exaggerating to a point. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle.
And look, I love my wife dearly, but when it comes to these things she has a tendency to think she has a medical degree. I know she’ll read this and completely disagree, but it’s true. She’ll diagnose him with an earache simply because she spotted him pulling on his ear, and then get pissed at the pediatrician’s office over the phone for not agreeing with her. And hell, I’m probably guilty of going too far in the opposite direction and being too lax about it.
But what pisses me off is that dads aren’t listened to and they never get their way. We actually talked about this in my Dad’s group last week. Mothers think they are the only ones in tune with their kids wants and needs, and anything we say is either ignored or just tolerated while the moms go and do whatever they were planning on in the first place. And please spare me the “We housed him for 9 months and therefore we know our baby better than you do” bit. That’s crap. If a father spends as much time with a baby as the mother, there is no reason to believe he doesn’t have just as good a grasp on things as she does. Yet I can almost guarantee that 9 times out of 10 — in almost every relationship out there — the wife/mother gets her way just on principle.
Sorry, but I trust my pediatrician more than my wife’s, or my own, intuition. They deal with thousands of sick kids a year and I have to believe they know what they’re talking about. Are they sometimes wrong? Of course, they’re human. And it’s necessary for parents to keep themselves informed so they aren’t just blindly going along with what the doctors say. But it’s another thing entirely to dislike the pediatrician simply because they aren’t agreeing with you all the time. And that’s what I feel is happening.
I know we both have what’s best for Will at the heart of all this, but it’s getting pretty irritating in the meantime.