Recently, Kate and I spent some quality time together at her 18 month pediatric visit. Thankfully, our tiny little “Bird” is our third baby; otherwise our visits to the pediatrician would be fraught with anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I love our pediatrician. You really couldn’t ask for a better experience and believe me; we’ve gone through enough pediatricians from Boston to Maine to know the good from the bad. Historically, the problem with the pediatricians tends to be the nurses. I shouldn’t be saying this because my mother is a nurse and of course, I have nothing but respect for the people who make enormous sacrifices to work in such an admirable profession. I’m just saying that the nurses we’ve encountered have been all over the map. They have run the gamut from the older, Nurse Ratched-esque women, to the flighty, deer in headlights woman, to the overzealous-just graduated from nursing school nurse. Those younger nurses can pose a real challenge for new parents. She’s generally in her mid-20’s, has no children and she’s still living by the book. New parents might make the common rookie mistake of reading too much into her facial expressions. Beware of falling prey to the new pediatric nurse’s facial expressions!
Our little Katie Bird is 18 months old and weighs in at a whopping 19.5 pounds. I know because New Nurse weighed her three different times to make sure. With a furrowed brow and pursed lips she carefully entered this information into her handy dandy computer, then a look of concern promptly washed over her face. “Ooooooh do you see?” she slightly winced as she turned the growth chart in my direction. She raised her eyebrows, slowly shook her head and shot me a sad, I’m-so-sorry-smile, “She has actually lost weight since her last visit.”
Now, six years and three babies ago this would have entirely freaked me. Her look of concern as she delivered the tragic news of a 5 ounce weight loss would have paralyzed me with terror. I would have rushed home and Googled “baby and weight loss”, searching for illnesses to explain why…why for the love of God is my baby so teeny tiny? What’s wrong with her?! Why did that nurse look so worried?! What are they not telling me?!!
Instead, with six years and three kids under my belt, I’m no longer prone to that kind of rookie mistake. Now I know that New Nurse’s pained expression would be more appropriate in another kind of medical office, not when my baby is being weighed. Nonetheless, I smiled and pasted a similar (pretend) look of concern on my face so that we could move along and see the pediatrician.
Next was the 18 month developmental checklist “interview”. We were moving along at a spectacular pace since I answered “yes” appropriately to each of the required milestones that Kate has successfully mastered. New Nurse was beaming with delight as the perfect specimen of toddler development sat before her throwing crayons across the room. Then she asked, “Is she speaking at least 15 words?” I laughed. Wait, no…I think I actually snorted, then laughed, “Uh…no?” Clearly, I forgot who I was dealing with. My laughter subsided as New Nurse’s smile faded into renewed concern. “Well, not fifteen words…I don’t know…we haven’t actually counted her words….” I faltered. I found myself stammering under the very serious gaze of a 24 year old professional. She clearly saw no humor in Kate’s failure to speak the required 15 words. My bad. I shrugged my shoulders apologetically and rattled off a few of Kate’s “maybe” words and then I made a few up to make New Nurse stop looking at us with such sorrow.
So being mindful that this young nurse is at the dawn of her new career, I patiently listened to her discuss the weight loss and explain how growth charts work. She informed me what children of Kate’s age are “usually” saying by now and I nodded my head in response while casting a fake regretful glance in Kate’s direction. (She’s now standing on the table and stomping the paper). I decide I like New Nurse and even ask her a few questions. I like that she’s passionate. She’s feeling good about herself and her hard-earned expertise. Her passion is evident in the way she interacts with my little Bird. She tenderly plays with Birdie’s toes as she sits on the exam table ripping the crackling paper to shreds. The young nurse plays peek-a-boo and can’t help but smile and laugh when she’s met with Birdie’s funny little frown.
Of course, Kate’s pediatrician chalked her weight loss up to her new found running legs, picky toddler palate and a decrease in milk consumption. She looked at me, noted my own petite stature and told me precisely what I already knew. Kate is a tiny, perfect little human with big blue eyes, curly hair and a fully functioning, albeit slightly loud voice box. She toddles, babbles, plays, points, eats, drinks and climbs like a normal 18 month old. She’s perfection wrapped in a tiny package.
On our way out Birdie waved bye-bye to New Nurse who handed her a lollipop and a sticker. Kate screamed at the pop and then I think she said, “Mine?”