I never questioned my intuition.
Whether it be womanly or motherly, I figured that when I had kids, some kind of invisible switch would be flipped and I would magically posses those instincts people are always mentioning. You know the ones I am talking about. Those times when ‘a mother just knows’ or when a woman can somehow tell when ‘something is wrong.’
After the birth of my first child, I didn’t feel a tangible change in me, but I am convinced that superpowers were somehow deposited in my postpartum mind and body. They may have been invisible, but I swear they were there.
As mothers, as parents, our days are filled with these moments. We may think nothing of them at the time, but once in awhile someone challenges those feelings and you have to decide whether or not you trust yourself more than the other person. It can be tough. Especially if that individual is a doctor. And I learned early on that you have to trust your instincts and do what YOU think is right.
When my second child was born, Eli was full term yet weighted only 5 lbs at birth. He was strong, healthy, had startling blue eyes like his father and started nursing like a champ immediately. By the end of day two of his life, his weight was down to 4 lbs 9 oz, but due to my marathon nursing, it held there and he stopped dropping weight.
Exhausted, the final morning of my hospital stay they weighed him and he hadn’t dropped a single ounce in the last 12 hours. Elated, we continued to make plans to head home. He passed his car seat test (when they check to make sure they can breathe while strapped in) and despite having to tuck blankets under his tush and around his shoulders to make the straps fit, he was ready to go.
Eli had been taken away to be circumcised and after the procedure, the pediatrician on call who was a complete stranger to us, saw his weight from the previous day and gave the nurses new orders regarding his feeding. He never read Eli’s chart or made any effort to speak to us. My son returned to our room and I immediately picked him up to feed him one more time before leaving the hospital. Then I noticed the empty formula bottle next to him in the bassinet and the full bottles ready and waiting for him in the shelf.
I turned to the nurse, confused. “Did you give him formula? You know that he is breastfed, right?”
The nurse hesitated and glanced at the doctor who raised his chin defiantly and stepped closer. “The nurse mentioned that. But this infant is too small to be exclusively breastfed and I changed the orders for him to be supplemented.” The medical student who was doing rounds with him looked away and pretended to check some paperwork.
I looked at my husband, Mike, and then back at the doctor. Eli was sleeping in my arms and obviously too full to nurse now. Still confused, I continued to questioned this complete stranger who was making decisions for my baby without me.
“But he is nursing fine. He ate almost continually through the night last night and he hasn’t lost ANY weight since he was weighed yesterday afternoon.”
The doctor stared at me and I continued, growing irate.
“His latch is good and he is doing wonderful! He passed all his tests. He doesn’t need supplementing.” The doctor, whose name I forgot almost immediately, let out a long drawn out sigh.
“This is your first child, right?”
“No, it’s not.”
“Well, regardless, I know what is best and since I am the doctor making rounds today and I say he needs to take formula, then that is what you will do. End of story.”
My jaw dropped and I could feel tears flood my eyes. Mike stepped closer to me and rested his hand on my arm.
“Excuse me?” I burst out. My husband squeezed my hand and I choked back a sob. “But he is OUR son. He is healthy, thriving and eating just fine. If you read his chart, you would have seen that.”
The doctor shrugged.
“I am the doctor and I say this is what he needs. You don’t get to make that call. I know what is best for him because I am the doctor. Are you a doctor? No. Why would you want to argue with me?”
The medical student was staring at him, open mouthed, and the nurse, clearly growing angry, left the room. Hormones, exhaustion, medication and overwhelming love for this perfect little boy in my arms all came together and I started to cry.
Great gasping sobs.
I was embarrassed that I had turned into a melting pool of tears, frustrated at this man’s arrogance and rigidity, and in a LOT of pain because I was crying with staples still in my stomach from the delivery.
The conversation continued and is too long for me to include on this page in its entirety. But I will say that it sucked. Like, big time.
At one point, the doctor started to yell, exclaiming that he alone knew what was best for ANY child because he had a medical degree. He went so far as to tell me that I would be a bad mother if I DIDN’T give him formula. He didn’t care that he was no longer dropping weight. He didn’t care that I wanted to breastfeed exclusively. The medical student was furious and had walked out, but the nurses came back in to make sure I didn’t hurt myself and tried their best to help calm me down.
By now, my husband and I had switched roles and I was the one restraining him. This doctor had walked in, made his wife cry and was speaking to me in a way that was NOT okay. It was all I could do to keep Mike from punching the doctor. While I continued to protest through my tears and drive home the point that as his parents WE make the decisions regarding our son, the doctor made his final statement.
“If you refuse to follow my instructions, I will just have to keep the baby from being discharged. You will be released, but we will keep the infant here and see that he gets formula.”
I kind of freaked out, panicked and instinctively clutched Eli closer to me. Mike grabbed my hand again and these words came out of his mouth.
“All right. We will supplement with formula at home.”
Before I could say a word, he squeezed my hand. Hard.
“If that is what you think is best, send us home with the rest and we will see that he takes it.”
I was so angry I couldn’t even form words. Hurt that he had sided with the doctor over me, I was rendered completely speechless. Mike continued to squeeze my hand insistently over and over, silently telling me to keep quiet. He and the doctor continued to discuss the situation, and my husband convinced the doctor would do whatever he wanted us to do and assured him that his orders would be followed. Feeling victorious, the doctor scribbled his name on the discharge form and stalked out of the room.
Before I could draw breath enough to start in on him, Mike raised his hands to halt my tirade.
“Relax, Brittany. I would have said anything to get him to release us.”
I blinked. “What?”
He glanced at the door to make sure no one was listening. “That guy has the power to keep Eli here for no reason. I would have told him anything he wanted to hear in order for him to sign the papers to let us go.”
Understanding dawned on me and I started to cry all over again, relieved and overwhelmed with emotion. Eli started to fuss and I raised him to my shoulder to calm him. He let out a pained cry and within seconds he began to vomit up all the formula he had been given. Stomach empty, I settled him and he whimpered, nursing gratefully. Mike chuckled.
“Well we certainly won’t be giving him formula again!” He paused and looked at me. “We know what he needs, right? We are on the same page here?”
I took a deep breath and stared at Eli. “Yes. We know what he needs and I have complete peace about it. We are his parents and WE make that decision.”
Now I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I have nothing against baby formula and have had to use it myself when there was a need for it. My issue is with the doctor and the attitude that as parents, we had no say in the treatment of our child. My husband and I KNEW without a shadow of a doubt what was best for our son and that was being disregarded. The whole situation really wasn’t even that big of a deal, but I have never had to fight to include my opinion in regard to my kids. I foolishly assumed it was a given.
It was an incredible lesson to learn and thankfully, it didn’t include any major medical decisions or a life or death situation. But more than anything, I took away the knowledge that no matter what anyone else had to say, no one knows our kids like Mike and I do. Be it a well meaning friend with baby advice, the lady in line at Target, or even your own mother; trust yourself. We are human and will make mistakes, but never stop believing that you are the best caregiver that exists for your kids.