Almost two weeks ago, after my 2 ½ year old son completed his well-child check-up, his pediatrician sat me down to tell me that she was retiring in September. With that, we’d have to pick a new doctor for my three kids born after loss. My heart sank. It felt like we were losing a part of our family. She told me how she was inspired by my own mom, who takes care of my kids while I work, and how she wanted to do that for her granddaughter. That was cool, but I really wanted to beg her to stay on… just for 16 more years until my last baby was all grown up!
I was surprised at the emotion I felt in her retirement announcement.
See, Dr. E has been our family pediatrician since my son Dexter became a Dexter! I found her when I was pregnant with him, my first pregnancy after losing Lily. I got her name from a list of recommended pediatricians from my OB’s office. I didn’t get to interview her like so many pregnancy prep books suggest because I was on bedrest after preterm labor and an incompetent cervix. So instead, I relied on the video profiles the doctors had posted on their websites.
Hers was by far my favorite because she talked about why she chose the field. In medical school her mentor told her not to go into pediatrics. He told her that it would be boring and that she would be dealing with nothing more than ear infections. But she disagreed. Dr. E said that he didn’t understand that the ear was attached to a child, who was part of a family, who was part of a community. She said, it’s never “just an ear infection, it’s an interaction with everything.” That video profile told me that she would be the one to handle my parenting a sick child after loss.
She didn’t disappoint.
I vividly remember completing a family history form during one of the first appointments and getting stuck on the “list the child’s siblings” section. I tearfully asked her if I should include his dead sister who never took a breath. “Yes. She matters to your family, Rebecca.”
She never hesitated to assure me that if I wasn’t comfortable with a course of treatment, that we could change it. If I sounded worried at all, she would let me come in just to check it out. And during the times when things did get scary–including when my youngest got RSV shortly after turning 1 year old and needed to be admitted to the hospital for low oxygen levels–she followed up to make sure he was doing better physically and I was doing better emotionally.
I’m going to miss her tremendously.
Fortunately, because I’ve been with the clinic for six plus years, I’ve gotten to know some of the other pediatricians and we’ll be transferring to another doctor who, I believe, practices with the same philosophies as Dr. E. But it made me think about how important it is to find the right pediatrician for your child born after loss.
If you’re searching for a pediatrician for your rainbow baby, consider the following:
1. Find a pediatrician who understands the worry you may feel when your child is sick – even with a simple cold.
The first cold for a newborn is always scary even without a loss history, but even moreso when you’ve lost a baby, and probably know a family who’s lost a baby to an illness like RSV. Your child’s doctor should understand that anxiety and worry and help you cope through your child’s illness.
2. Be open with your pediatrician about your loss and the feelings it might evoke.
Even a positive appointment can bring tears! I remember feeling tremendous pride and joy that Dexter was meeting milestones. I think I cried at nearly every appointment his first year of life – good or bad!
3. Make sure you find a doctor who’s willing to listen.
A pediatrician who listens to everything you’ve observed or experienced with your child is important, and someone who is willing to answer all your questions! A pediatrician who is willing to spend time with you to discuss everything is crucial to easing parenting after a loss worry!
4. Ask about the pediatrician practice’s policies to make sure they’ll also be a fit for your family.
If you have a chance to interview the pediatrician before your rainbow is here, you may want to discuss all of these things, plus the usual questions about how the practice is run, how the after-hours calls are handled, and how often you’ll see the doctor versus a partner or nurse, etc. You may want to find a way to let everyone know of your previous loss so you’re not re-telling it during a crisis time for your rainbow, or during an emotional postpartum trip to the doctor.
Finding the right pediatrician is not unlike finding the right OB for pregnancy after loss.
You may feel anxious. You may have trouble making a decision out of fear it’s the wrong one for your baby. You may just need reassurance that you’re doing everything right. No matter what, you should feel absolutely comfortable with the doctor you choose.