Sometime in college my friends nicknamed me Mama Bear, usually the youngest person in the group, I seemed to always be the one keeping track of everyone (whether you got too drunk to function, needed help with a paper at 2 am, or were having a meltdown as college students do I was there) and making sure that all was well. The nickname stuck and soon enough got applied to me at work. As an 19 year old team lead I was the youngest leader in the building and was often having performance conversations with people who were older than myself, one of my employees said that I was the “no child left behind” enforcer in the building. As life went on I saw that I was often the one who was the Mama Bear in most situations, there were exceptions but I had a real knack for being in charge.
Fast Forward to August 2018: I have a seven-week-old infant that is projectile vomiting with a belly button the size of a ripe cherry and no idea what to do. It started out as projectile vomiting every morning when he woke up and two days later he was projectile vomiting after every meal. As a concerned parent who felt that an infant might need the food that they consumed I placed a call to my pediatricians office where I was promptly told that I was overfeeding my child and that I needed to pump and only give him 3.5 oz of milk per meal, even though we had been recently visited by a stomach virus that had left most of our family debilitated. Like a good mother I quickly found my pump and began to pump while googling the likelihood of this being the issue and texting my boob guru Amy – as I scrolled through the results and read the text messages that came in I quickly realized that this was very unlikely due to the fact that 1) I hadn’t been pumping so the likelihood of oversupply was very slim and 2) he was puking whether he latched for one minute or ten. As if the frustration of having a sick boob fed kid wasn’t enough I felt as though I wasn’t being listened to as a concerned parent.
My Mama Bear instincts went full force and I called the doctors office again explaining my concerns, where I was turned away again and told that as an infant the likelihood of him catching the virus was low due to the fact that he was breastfed. Immediately disheartened I reached out to my mom community and they sprang into action, from herniated belly buttons to pyloric stenosis (which ran in Big J’s family) we were exploring the options and I was planning a trip to an emergency pediatric facility near my house – Mama Bear was not going to let her baby cub suffer any longer it was time to take things into my own hands. As I got my boys ready to visit the emergency pediatrician my husband stepped in, he felt that our son needed to be seen by his own doctor and said that a diagnosis from her would make him feel better. So as we unpacked the boys we decided to wait for the morning and try again – Mama Bear was not happy. The following morning I placed another call to the pediatricians office explaining that at this point we had 4 days of projectile vomiting under our belt and that I would like to come in, again I was offered the same advice about overfeeding angering me to no end, I insisted on a visit at this point.
As soon as the nurse laid eyes on my baby she seemed to come up with a diagnosis of jaundice, here I pause to let you know that this poor child has been visually yellow since birth—I have an olive skin town and my husband is very tan, I didn’t bother to explain and patiently waited for the nurse practitioner to come in. As she did a full physical on my child I explained that 1) my husbands family had a history of pyloric stenosis and 2) my child’s belly button was quite frankly freaking me out she seemed confused about why I hadn’t been told he was herniated, she quickly checked for pyloric stenosis and asked about our recent health as a family – as soon as she heard we had had a stomach bug she seemed to become more at ease, she ordered a set of labs to ensure for the third time that all my son had was breastfeeding jaundice and to ensure there was nothing more – and as easy as that Mama Bear was turned off.
Now you may wonder why I am writing this, why I feel the need to share about how my kid was sick and how my doctors office handled it and here’s why as parents we are responsible for our children’s health and wellbeing, we are stewards of their bodies for them and more often than not we (moms especially) are labeled as dramatic and over analytical. Parents are often brushed to the side by medical professionals as if their only goal is to waste their time. I have heard so many stories about urgent cares and doctors half listening to a parent who is trying to explain why they felt the need to bring their son/daughter there and being rushed out the door as if they are an inconvenience, there is no need to be condescending towards a concerned parent. I promise you the last thing I want to be doing is explaining to a doctor that there is something wrong with my child and that I do not know what to do about it. I do not spend my days looking for things that are wrong and googling symptoms, I want to lead a normal life where I don’t have to worry about my kid but if something does pop up I want to know what it is and how to fix it, that is all I am asking. If I were a doctor or knew what was wrong and how to fix it I wouldn’t need you, I would take care of it myself. As my husband often likes to say “I must have missed that day of medical school. As a parent in this society all I am asking is that I be treated with dignity and respect and that I not be belittled due to concern about my child, don’t try to tell me that my kid puked because he was eating too much or because he’d been bounced around in a car too soon after he’d been fed – I am not an imbecile, take my concern seriously. I can assure you had my child been harmed by the blatant disregard I was met with on the phone my Mama Bear behavior would have gotten me banned from the office.
Have you had an experience where your concerns about your health or that of your child have been treated as if they were unreasonable or unfounded? What did you do?