Waiting for the Pediatrician

by Jennifer Carsen
Originally Published: 

I’ve wasted hours waiting for the pediatrician. I’m not sure if this is a problem common to all pediatricians, or just ours. Maybe the theory is that parents of children young enough to need a pediatrician are rarely spot-on punctual themselves, so they’re not going to break their necks to keep things running like SwissRail at their end.

In any event, I recently found myself hanging out in the waiting room with Lorelei before her six-month checkup. She was chilling in her carseat, and I was slowly sliding into a Mister Rogers-induced stupor; the show plays in a seemingly endless loop on the small TV in the corner every time I’m there. Why, certainly, Fred – of course you and I can be friends. Love the new cardy.

The trolley was just heading into the Land of Make-Believe when another mom came into the waiting area toting a roughly-Lorelei-sized baby in a carseat. After she and I exchanged the usual pleasantries and stats (weather, age of our respective carseat-bound offspring, appropriate exclamations of mutual admiration for the babies’ cuteness), she started rolling – not just rocking, but really enthusiastically rolling – her baby’s carseat back and forth on the floor. The baby loved it; I heard a lot of squeals and giggles.

I was impressed. It had actually never occurred to me to do this, but it seemed like a winning concept. Subtly, so as not to look like a copycat mom who lacks original ideas of my own, I tried something similar with Lorelei’s carseat while it was resting on my legs. It wasn’t a similarly big hit at our end. Lorelei’s expression could best be described as something akin to “Punch my give-a-shit card.”

During the rolling, however, while Lorelei was tipped way back, I noticed something that looked like a pencil-eraser-sized hole in the very top part of her left ear.

Well that’s weird, I thought. Surely if my baby had a hole in her ear someone would have noticed it by now. I certainly hope I would have noticed it by now. Then again, I did initially attempt to leave the house this morning without shoes.

I took a closer look, my head by now completely under the bonnet of Lorelei’s carseat. I can’t be sure, as there is little peripheral vision when your head is burrowed in a carseat, but I think rolling mom and her baby at this point crossed over to the “sick” side of the waiting room to put a little more distance between us.

My examination revealed that the dark area was not in fact a hole, but dried blood.

Well, that’s a relief, I thought. I’m glad my baby doesn’t have a hole in her head we’ve never noticed before. Wait a second – what the fuck? Dried blood isn’t exactly happy news, either! What the hell is wrong with me? Whose bright idea was it to let me actually leave the hospital grounds with this baby six months ago?

Lorelei is a pretty mellow kid. She gave me a few funny looks while I was tugging and poking at her ear but was otherwise occupied with gazing at her own hands, as if assessing a recent manicure. It certainly didn’t look like she was in any pain, and the blood was high up enough that it didn’t appear that she’d sprung any kind of a serious leak.

As we continued waiting for the pediatrician, I debated whether or not to tell him about this new discovery. If I tell him I just discovered it now, he’s going to think I’m a bad parent. If I tell him I discovered it a while back but did nothing to remedy it, he’s going to think I’m a bad parent. And if I don’t tell him about it at all, but he discovers it himself, he’s going to think I’m a bad parent who’s trying to cover something up. He may even think I did it to her on purpose, Münchhausen-style.

I opted for honesty (leaving out the part about my initially thinking it was a hole in her ear; why make a bad situation worse?), figuring I’d rather appear plain old incompetent than sneaky and incompetent. The pediatrician was completely unfazed.

“Oh, I bet she got herself with one of her nails. Look, she’s about to do it again.”

I looked over, and Lorelei was indeed tugging at the top of her other ear, as if she was doing a misguided impression of Carol Burnett.

“Happens all the time,” he said, reassuringly.

I like to think his subsequent questions about the possibility of lead paint in our house are something he asks all parents at the six-month checkup, and not just me.

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