The First Visit to the Doctor

Dawn, as a pregnant woman, requires a doctor. All pregnant women require doctors--doctors are required for birth. Before there were doctors, parents found babies in cabbage patches or hanging from trees like fruit. But now that we have doctors, we can give birth to babies the normal way.
  Of course, Dawn already had a doctor, but for various reasons--mostly geographical, as between his office and our home is an area of New Jersey which can best be described as Barnum & Bailey Presents The World's Largest Traffic Jam--we thought it best to find a new doctor to help bring our baby into the world.
  We asked around for referrals and gathered information and finally settled on one doctor in particular, a woman associated with nearby Hackensack Medical Center, which we understand just put in a whole new ``birthing suite'' or somesuch which is supposed to make us choose the hospital over a birthing center. Some doctors make the Sign of the Caduceus when they hear the words ``birthing center''. Birthing centers are places where touchy-feely types go to have their babies, because there they dispense with the medical mumbo-jumbo and the idea that Doctors Are All-Knowing and let the mother and father make decisions about how they want to give birth. Of course, dispensing with all that medical mumbo-jumbo isn't always the best idea, since sometimes it saves lives. But for most normal pregnancies--what doctors refer to as ``low risk'' pregnancies--birthing centers are nice places to be, and many doctors are coming to understand that maybe they should be a little more touchy-feely, too. Hence the hospital's ``birthing suite'', which is supposed to be like a birthing center, only very close to the hospital. Like, right inside it.

So this new candidate for being our doctor is associated with Hackensack Medical Center, so we'll have some options with her, which is nice. We set up an appointment and went in.
  The wait wasn't long, which the receptionists there told us was a minor miracle. I don't like to wait, but when doctors have long lines, I'm reassured. I figure, they haven't killed any of these people yet, so they must be at least not completely incompetent. But a short wait gives me very little time to catch up on my waiting room magazine reading, which is the only place I get news besides TV Guide. I got as much reading done as possible while Dawn went in to undress for her physical examination. After a little while, I was called in to the examining room.
  The doctor was fairly young and fairly pretty. We talked a bit and she asked us if we had any questions. We were sorely unprepared on this point. We just may be the ultimate negative role models in the area of doctor interviewing. All we could ask was whether she preferred Lamaze Method over Bradley, or vice versa.
  For those of you who haven't gotten that far, let me explain what I know. Lamaze and Bradley are two different methods for dealing with natural childbirth. There are others, but these are the two most popular, right next to ``Give me morphine'' and just waiting to see what happens. Lamaze is the better known of the two, and, as you probably know, it entails having the woman focus on her breathing and her partner during delivery. Bradley is much more touchy-feely than that--the birthing centers just love this method--and involves finding a center within yourself and other semi-yogic techniques during delivery. The Bradley Method also seems to come with a whole package including natural childbirth, special exercises, breast feeding, nutrition, and a generous helping of ``Men are idiots and doctors are the biggest idiots'' philosophy.
  I am probably misrepresenting both Lamaze and Bradley here. When I get more involved, I will report in more detail and with more first-hand knowledge. What I know now comes from having had two friends deliver using the Bradley Method and watching Bill Cosby's stand-up, and so is probably not all that accurate.
  In any case, the doctor said they were both good methods, but she generally preferred Lamaze. We asked her why.
  ``Because,'' she explained, ``with the Bradley Method, you're made to feel inadequate if you need painkillers. Some women just have more painful deliveries than others, but Bradley makes you feel like a failure if you ask for drugs. I'd rather keep that option open.''
  That sounds good to me, although I'm not too thrilled with the idea of anesthesia during childbirth. Another friend of ours got a spinal during her delivery and it really messed her up, because the guy who administered it didn't do it quite right. So my feeling is, those Bradley people are a little nuts, but they do have some valid criticisms.
  Of course, I'm not the one who has to push an eight-pound baby through a space better suited for five pounds. But then, I've had my share of pain for this kid, so I feel it's only fair to spread it around.
  So, after our sorry excuse for a question-and-answer session, it was time for the physical examination. No one made any move to throw me out of the room, so I guess it was okay for me to be there. I've never seen a gynecological examination before. It is a scary thing. Luckily, from my vantage point just short of cowering in the corner, I couldn't see much.
  What I did see, though, was when the doctor pulled out this big chrome device with a crank on it. I have no idea what this thing is called, and none of my extensive research has disclosed this fact. I'm sure many women are intimately familiar with this device, but I had never seen one before. It frightened me, especially when the doctor inserted it into my wife and cranked it a couple of times. This may be standard medical practice, but as far as I'm concerned, anything with a crank on it comes directly from Mad Scientist Labs, Inc. Doctor's instruments may very well be the ultimate triumph of function over form; even so, they really should get a designer with a flair for decoration to take a stab at designing some new medical tools. Maybe something in pastels.

After the physical examination was over, the doctor pronounced everything to be okay.
  ``From the feel of your uterus, I'd say you are about seven weeks pregnant,'' she said.
  ``You can feel that?'' asked my wife incredulously.
  ``Oh yes,'' replied the doctor.
  I really don't know about this--how could she feel that? I think maybe the doctor was just pulling one of those gypsy mind-reading tricks on us. Too bad we didn't think to keep the date of Dawn's last period a secret just to test the doctor. I guess there's always next time.
  After that, Dawn got dressed again and the doctor gave us a pile of pamphlets and magazines and papers and such, all of which are to prepare us for pregnancy and childbirth, and which I suppose can be used to paper-train the baby once it arrives. I had no idea we would get so much free stuff just because we were pregnant--then I got the doctor's bill. That stuff wasn't even remotely free.
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