Speedy and I got home about an hour ago from Gail‘s and Marc‘s wedding. Gail’s mom was teary-eyed during the program at the wedding reception and we were talking about it on our way home. I asked Speedy if he would cry when our girls get married and he said he most surely would.
“Wouldn’t you?” he asked me.
I said, “No, I won’t. I’d look at it as a new adventure for them.”
That’s really how I feel about it. I’m sure I’d miss them terribly but that’s life. I would be excited for them. Not about the wedding per se but about their new roles, learning to live with the husbands they chose, and the greatest adventure that would lie sometime ahead — parenthood. If they choose to have kids, of course.
I look back at our wedding day and the months that followed — learning that I was pregnant, the pregnancy, giving birth, raising Sam and Alex after her… Glorious, glorious years. Not that they weren’t peppered with lessons that we had to learn the hard way. And I’m not just talking about coping with new emotions. I’m talking about practical things too like how to deal with doctors and hospitals when the baby is born. When Sam was born… oh, that is quite a story. A lawyer story and a mommy story all in one.
To begin with, it was a difficult pregnancy from the very start. I was on the verge of having a miscarriage from the first month. I was in and out of the hospital, I spent more days getting a “complete bed rest” than going to the office… and I was was already confined in the hospital a week before the scheduled Caesarian section, on IV drip waiting to complete my eighth month of pregnancy. Yeah, eight months. The ob-gyne decided it was safe enough after that. To wait for the ninth month was too risky because I was bleeding non-stop. You can just imagine how happy and relieved Speedy and I were when she was born normal and healthy — normal size, within the normal weight range and with a headful of hair to boot. We were so excited to take her home.
Perhaps, because it was our first experience of birth and parenthood, Speedy and I didn’t think that anything was amiss when the attending pediatrician (the obstetrician’s choice) never showed up in my hospital room from the time I gave birth to the day I was discharged. I mean, for all we knew, it might have been normal practice not to bother the parents unless there was something wrong with the baby. So, we thought nothing of the pediatrician’s absence and silence until the day I was discharged when we were told that we couldn’t take Sam home because she was suffering from jaundice. What the heck was jaundice?? Speedy and I had visited Sam in the nursery several times while I was recovering. I breastfed her there three times a day. She was fine. She looked great.
The day we were scheduled to go home, Speedy and I were having lunch in my hospital room and waiting for the bill. We sent Sam’s clothes to the nursery so the nurses could change her. We were halfway through our lunch when a nurse came in to return the baby clothes. Shock would be an understatement. I think my mind went blank for a couple of seconds, not comprehending what the heck she was talking about. I called up the nursery and that was how I found out about the jaundice.
I don’t remember anymore whether we actually agreed that Speedy would go to the pediatrician’s office and I would go to the nursery, or whether we just acted without really talking. I do remember that Speedy called up his mother to ask what jaundice was. Assured that it was nothing life-threatening, we agreed we would take Sam home and bring her to our pediatrician of choice — a friend who lived right across the street.
You know, the stitches after a Caesarian section, they hurt like hell even when just walking normally. But I went to the nursery and… well, I asked for blank discharge forms and said I would sign a waiver but I was taking my baby home. I threatened to sue everybody there with kidnapping and I don’t know what else… every crime I could think of, I guess. I told them I wanted my baby in my room in 30 minutes, period. Then, I turned my back and walked, you know, proud and straight like the stitches didn’t hurt. But they did, really. I was flinching from the pain, I could feel the tears stinging my eyes from the pain, the anger and the frustration, but I didn’t dare show it. I went back to my room and waited.
When Speedy returned, he told me he had seen the pediatrician and, well… Speedy is mild-mannered compared to me but he told her off in pretty much the same way that I told everyone off in the nursery. I mean, gee, this was our first baby and, for five days, we had been led to believe that she was just fine and then a bomb like that would be dropped on us?
The pediatrician arrived a few minutes later — full of apologies. She could not see us earlier because there had been a death in the family and she hadn’t been in the hospital all that much. She was getting progress reports over the phone. I admit that I was shouting — shouting at her and she was more than twice my age. I’m not proud that I couldn’t control my temper (I’m better at it these days) but I was really, really angry. What did we care? Unless it was she who had died, she should have been there. She should have seen us and told us. If she couldn’t be there, she could have asked that some other pediatrician take over her patients. That would have been the responsible — and professional — thing to do. Why she didn’t, well, we would find out not long after that.
Sam was brought to my room, all dressed, within the 30-minute deadline I gave the nursery staff. The bill arrived and Speedy went down to pay. When he came back… what do you know? The freaking absentee pediatrician charged P4,000.00. That explained why she didn’t pass on her patients to another pediatrician. Damn it, really. The gall. But, anyway, we just wanted to go home with our baby. She could stuff the P4,000.00 up her ass for all we cared.
Why am I writing about this? Told you, marriage and parenthood are full of practical lessons. And one of them is that with the current practice among doctors and hospitals, although we choose our ob-gyne, often after first checking out his/her credentials, we do not choose the attending pediatrician. The ob-gyne does that. And we have no say in the matter unless our chosen pediatrician is also connected with the hospital where we give birth. Otherwise, the choice is made for us and we are not even apprised of the pediatrician’s credentials. I don’t know what kind of unholy alliance ob-gynes and pediatricians have but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that ob-gynes choose their friends or the ones close to them.
So, what did we learn from that experience? When Alex was born a year and five months later, we made sure that the ob-gyne wouldn’t enlist the same pediatrician. In fact, we were given the name of the new pediatrician before I gave birth. And I’m sure that the new pediatrician had been told what she could expect if she gave us the kind of treatment that the other one did. Result? Oh, she showed up everyday and gave us progress reports personally.