I have a quirky confession to make. I love going to the pediatrician. Over the last two years, I’ve gleefully counted the days from one appointment to the next for our regular well baby (now well child) check-ups. Shots aside, those precious minutes in the sterile confines of an examination room are often the highlight of my month. I know, you’re probably thinking, this woman needs to get a life. But you see, it’s in those expectant moments when my wiggly twins are stripped down to their diapers waiting to be weighed and measured, that I can take stock of just how much we’ve accomplished over the weeks and months that have passed. I can step back and marvel at how much growing and maturing has gone on from one appointment to the next ... for them and for me.
As the nurse lays each one out on the scale and then on the crinkly white paper to measure them, each inch and each ounce they’ve gained gives me confidence that I’m getting this motherhood thing down. And when our doctor observes how much the kids are starting to talk as she entertains them with a sparkly stethoscope or noting how they’ve quickly progressed from toddling babies to fearless walkers, I feel triumphant. It’s like that pat on the back you need every day but rarely get when you are in the trenches of caring for a baby ... or two, in my case. Suddenly, all of those times that I question my evolving parenting skills seem far off. These visits help me make peace with decisions about everything from bottle-feeding to exposing the kids to the occasional episode of Sesame Street to making use of time-outs ... all of those rites of passage that eventually shape an insecure mom into a confident parent. When I see how well my son and daughter are doing through the lens of these regular check-ups, I can let some of the agonizing go and just relish the fact that we are so blessed to have happy, healthy kids.
Sadly, now that Ian and Samantha have reached age two, our regular visits with the doctor will trickle down to once or twice a year. The odd ear infection or stomach bug will merit some face time. But I know those meetings won’t provide real moments for reflection. That’s not the purpose. Rather, sick appointments will be quick in and out of the office affairs with prescriptions scribbled and directions gently advised. I’ll miss my own check-up as a mom. But I am so grateful that I’ve had access to an excellent, caring physician during these formative months for my children and for me, as a new parent weathering the transition.
I think about all of this against the backdrop of the healthcare debate raging in this country during this most historic election year. I know my family is blessed to have excellent care and that we can afford it. It is a gift. Now that I am a mom, I know from my own personal experience that access to quality healthcare for children is essential to good parenting. While Medicaid and State Health Insurance Plans (S-CHIP) may provide a safety net for millions of families, there are still many more whose children are either uninsured or underinsured. This must change. Not only do regular well baby visits prevent disease and ensure early screening for lead toxicity, anemia, TB, hearing and vision loss and a host of other concerns, the visits are often the only time parents have the chance to really discuss their young child’s development—and to prepare for what the next stage will bring.
I think it is fair to say that every mom could benefit from the guidance of those well visits. I look at it from the perspective of well baby, well mom. As our babies grow, so do we. And it is essential to be able to both reflect and gain insights on where we’ve come from and where we are going on this long and winding road.