Crying at Doctor's Appointments

I love my son, but there are two things that I especially hate doing with him. The first is getting his hair cut (although we're making a bit of progress on that). The second is taking him to the doctor.

See, J hates his doctor. He cries at the sight of her and absolutely refuses to let her touch him. It wasn't always like that, though. He used to be okay with going to the doctor. He'd cry when he got his vaccines, but he pretty much got along with his doctor. I noticed that the fussing and crying started after he was hospitalized when he was 9 months old for pneumonia. Since then, taking him to the doctor has been a real trial of patience. I'm guessing that the experience of being poked and prodded and hooked to a dextrose probably traumatized him. (An alternate theory posed by a relative was that it bothers him now because he is old enough to recognize people and associate the doctor with the vaccines, but I think my theory fits better.)

So, yesterday was his latest doctor's appointment and as usual, he was scheduled to get his vaccine shot. We're pretty much okay so long as we're in the waiting area outside the clinic. He's also calm when we're in the outer office with the secretary. But the minute we step into the actual clinic, my son turns into a banshee.

We were in the outer clinic getting his weight checked. Then I made the mistake of peeking into the inner office to say "hi",  where the doctor was waiting for her first patient (we were second on the list). As soon as J saw the doctor, he started crying and signing "out", meaning he wanted to leave already.

Since we were still supposed to wait, we took him back out into the hallway. His yaya was carrying him then, but he reached out to me, so I carried him, rubbed his back, and explained in calm voice why were were there. Following the advice of another mom, I explained that the doctor is a friend who helps keep him healthy and that Mommy wouldn't take him to a bad place ever. (A few days before the visit, I also tried to hype it up and tried to make the doctor's visit sound like a good thing.) He eventually stopped crying but he just clung to me. Despite my grown-up's understanding of why we were there, my heart broke a little at his distress.

We gave him a bottle of milk and he settled down with his yaya. When it was our turn, we went inside the clinic and he was still fine. Until the doctor touched him to check him lungs (a.k.a. hello-hello with the stethoscope). He forgot about his bottle and started crying again and reached out for me, so I took him into my arms to comfort him. Again, my heart was twisting painfully at J's crying pleas to leave, but we held on until his vaccine was administered.

Over his cries as he buried his face in the crook of my neck and shoulder, I managed to shoot off a couple of quick questions to the doctor about some of my urgent concerns. We left soon after that.

When I told Big C about the latest check-up, we discussed the possibility of switching to another doctor, one that J was more comfortable with. I have to admit that our pediatrician was nice, but she's a bit old and doesn't take the time to ease J's fears. She'd just go through with whatever needs to be done and send us on our way. It would also be nice to have a doctor's appointment where my son comes out smiling instead of wailing and to have a decent conversation with the doctor about any questions I may have. As it is, if it's not really urgent, I just save it for the next visit because my immediate concern is to get J out of there.

On the upside though, Big C and I appreciate the fact that our pedia has years of experience under her belt, which makes her very confident of her decisions when it comes to my son's health. We also appreciated how decisive she was, especially when J got really sick and had to be hospitalized. I know some moms frown at doctors who immediately prescribe medicines or forms of treatment, but when your kid is as sick as J was at that time, you need to see that something is being done to make it better. Also, we considered the fact that J was mostly "hiyang" with this doctor. He's (knock on wood) generally in good health, active and developing as he should.

So, mommies, the question to decide now is whether to switch to another pediatrician. I have some time before Little C is born to meet with other doctors and bring J with me to find someone that we are both comfortable with, but as it is, we're unsure about switching. In the meantime, I'm hoping that in time, he'll grow out of his fear of going to the doctor.


Oskar Aarden said...

Aw. Poor J. He must have had some bad memories during his visits. Some children develop a fear of going to the doctor because they get overwhelmed with the instruments and the procedures. The best way to calm him is to explain to him, in a simple manner, what has to be done, and how it will help him become healthy and strong. If it helps, you can bring his favorite toy or story book, so his attention will be diverted while he is being checked by the doctor.

-Oskar Aarden

Chalice Lindgren said...

It can be very traumatizing for a child to go to the doctor’s if all he remembers from the experience is seeing needles and getting the shots. The best thing you can do to calm your child is to give him comfort and be patient. Getting comfortable with the doctor and the entire process cannot be done overnight. You have to slowly make him feel at home with seeing the doctor and being at the clinic.

Chalice Lindgren

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