Choosing a Pediatrician

Of the many things that need to be done before the baby is born, perhaps the most important is choosing the baby's doctor. You have to somehow find and evaluate a doctor for someone who isn't even here yet. This is like inviting someone you've never met over for dinner and then making the meal based on what you like. And yet it must be done.
  When the pediatrician gave the talk to our Lamaze class, we were watching him with an eye toward his worth as a baby--as our baby's--doctor. Meanwhile, I had both of my eyes watching my classmates for their amusing stupidity. I don't know what Dawn's other eye was doing.
  He failed on two counts. First, one of the questions asked by one of the brighter legumes in the peanut gallery was how soon after her birth they could get their daughter's ears pierced.
  ``Well,'' he said brightly, ``I don't suggest going to those mall places to get it done. In my office, I've pierced babies' ears as early as a month old. Why, the last one I did, the holes ended up almost halfway up her ears as they grew--but I had centered them perfectly.'' He chuckled at this.
  Survey says--BUZZ! Wrong answer. I wanted to hear: ``You can wait to get her ears pierced. Why not wait until she's about a year old--there's no hurry.''
  The doctor's second mistake came when he was discussing formula, and how some babies are allergic to milk-based formulas and therefore have to be put on soy-based formulas.
  ``If that's so,'' one of the attending rocket scientists queried, ``Why not just start all babies out on soy-based formula?''
  ``Well,'' he said--most of his sentences seemed to start with ``Well''--``Well,'' he said, ``Soy-based formula is more expensive, so we try to start babies out on the least expensive formula.''
  Two for two. The answer I wanted to hear: ``Because soy-based formulas are not as nutritionally complete as milk-based formulas, since plant proteins are more difficult to absorb than animal proteins.'' (I suspect many vegetarians would argue this point. Well, so far, this is what I've learned, and I haven't seen much evidence to the contrary, except for one really gigantic vegetarian bodybuilder at my friend's gym. So I'm sticking to my story, as long as I'm not in front of him.)
  So that doctor turned out to be only slightly smarter than his audience, present company excepted. Dawn set up a get-to-know-you appointment with a group practice.

With doctors, I have one general rule: By their waiting rooms ye shall know them. I didn't like this practice's waiting room. It was dark and windowless, and the furniture looked shabby. And they didn't have Highlights. I guess I compare all waiting rooms to the waiting room of my beloved pediatrician, and he had Highlights--although with all of the puzzles done--and little chairs and tables for us small people and he used to give me Army figures or cowboys and Indians after each visit, and before I left he'd dim the lights and hold a pen-sized flashlight in his mouth and have the shadows of the figures fight on the wall. His was a tough act to follow.
  After getting to inspect the waiting room we were ushered into an examining room where eventually we were joined by a small mousy doctor. She answered our questions as best she could, but she seemed nervous, always flashing us a small smile and looking at our shoes. Our shoes aren't very interesting.
  Nervous doctors make me nervous. Dawn too. We left that office unanimously declaring that our search was to continue.

Dawn made another appointment with another pediatrician, this one working solo. Her waiting room was spotless--rather frighteningly so, actually. She didn't have any copies of Highlights. She did, however, have four perfectly arranged copies of a nature magazine of which I'd never heard and which appeared to be over even my head.
  I didn't have time to read these magazines, though, because we were promptly ushered in to the doctor's office. If her waiting room was frighteningly clean, her office was preternaturally so. Her desk had only one item on it and that appeared transitory: A small bottle of pills in one corner.
  The doctor herself was trim but sturdy and spoke in an accent I placed as German, or maybe Swiss or Austrian. She wore a tweed jacket with an attached belt. This was a very serious person.
  As we spoke to her, though, we found that she thought about things very much the way we did. She answered nearly all of our questions before we even got to ask them, and the ones we had to ask she answered perfectly. After a little while, our questions started to sound silly--of course she supported breastfeeding, who doesn't? Her only fault seemed to be her willingness to go on at length about things we were already clear on, like how to bathe our baby. Since we were only there for a meet-and-greet, this seemed like far more knowledge than we needed--especially since bathing a baby is not a very complicated activity. You wet them, you soap them, you rinse them, you dry them. Aside from items that require waxing, this is how one cleans pretty much anything.
  As we left, Dawn clearly had found her doctor. I thought the doctor might be a little severe--sort of the Arnold Schwarzenegger of pediatricians--but overall I like a woman who can wear a jacket with an attached belt and make it work for her. So we chose her for our doctor.
  If only everything were this simple.
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