The hugging gyno and other curveballs

After moving five years ago, I was due for an annual exam, and I decided to try and find a gynecologist close to my new home. (I know what you’re thinking: geography shouldn’t be the primary determining factor when choosing a physician. But it seemed to make sense at the time.)

Though I would have preferred a female doctor, the closest one that was listed by my insurance carrier, who was also taking new patients (red flag?), was an older man. OK. It wasn’t that big of a deal. So I went – and it was like a blind date gone horribly, terribly wrong.

Why? Nothing was all that strange initially. He seemed a little too paternal while asking me questions, and seemed annoyingly critical of my choice to wait a few more years before seriously considering the “having children” question, but that by itself didn’t throw me.

No, what ultimately did him in was when, after the exam, he said, “I like to give my patients a hug at the end of an appointment, as long you’re comfortable with that.”

Shocked, and not wanting to seem cold or rude, I reflexively held my arms out for this doctor’s bizarre, cursory embrace. Honestly, I didn’t, and don’t, think he was a dirty old man who got off on hugging women. I really do believe that he thought that this would foster an ease between patients and himself.

But that didn’t make the moment any less weird and uncomfortable. I couldn’t help thinking, “You were just elbow-deep up in my business. I need you to have some professional distance, sir, or this whole house of cards comes tumbling down.”

So I knew I wouldn’t be back, despite spending a good deal of time filling out paperwork. Alas, my first appointment with the hugging gyno was inevitably destined to be my last.

Why am I telling this story? Well, for one thing, it’s funny. But for another thing, it demonstrates how often things just come out of nowhere and throw us for a loop.

This has been all the more true since I became a parent. A couple of weeks, ago, for instance, we had a truly wonderful, fun weekend with Lily. She was a doll both days – playful, affectionate, talkative, active – as is summed up nicely by this short video I shot of her then. (By the way, she’s sporting camo shorts over the pink, orange and purple striped pants, but you can’t see them because of the electric pink and green tutu she pulled over the ensemble. I love when she chooses her own outfit.)

See? She was a happy little bug all weekend. So imagine our surprise when, an hour after we put her down to sleep on Sunday evening, we heard her whimpering over the monitor. I went up and saw her sitting up in her crib, shaking. “Do you want a bink?” I asked, reaching out to touch her and feeling that she was wet.

Wet? Why would she be wet? Holy cow. She’d gotten sick.

I flipped on the light and tried to yell for Joe, but somehow, he didn’t hear me. Meanwhile, poor Lily was crying quietly and trembling in fear and saying, “Messy” repeatedly, looking at her soiled pajamas. “I know, sweetie,” I said. I grabbed a towel from a nearby cabinet, unzipped her pajamas and lifted Lily out of them, wrapping her in the towel. “I know. It’s yucky. But we’ll clean everything up. I promise.”

We got downstairs, where Joe was shocked to see us; and while he volunteered to clean up the crib, I sat on the floor and held Lily, who was shaking like a little leaf. Being awoken by vomiting is a terrible experience for anyone, let alone a not-quite-two-year-old who has no idea what’s happening.

I couldn’t get her drink any water, but she did willingly take some Tylenol (she didn’t seem crazy-feverish, but a little warm, and we figured it couldn’t hurt), and I read several books to her. When Joe came back down, throwing crib sheet, pillow, pillow case, and pajamas into the washer, Lily had calmed significantly, though she still spoke in a scared little voice that cracked.

We got her into new pajamas, and Joe took her back upstairs. He’d set up a pillow and blanket next to her crib, ready to lie down there and hold her hand until she fell asleep. And indeed, Lily was a little skittish about getting back into her crib. But she was exhausted and eventually settled in, gripping Joe’s hand through the bars.

She wasn’t sick again, so we’ve been left scratching our heads as to what happened. We’ll never know. She could have eaten something that she shouldn’t have, or too much of something … who knows? Her eating had been a bit dicey that day, but I wracked my brain and came up with no really viable answers.

I’m a cause/effect person. When something goes wrong, I want to know why and how to avoid it from happening again. But parenting has limitations in this regard. So you have to assume a mental at-the-ready stance at all times, like some sort of preparatory martial arts crouch. You don’t know in what direction you’ll have to spring at any given moment, but you always have to be ready to jump.

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