We were so lucky to find a lovely pediatrician when we got here. She was so kind and understanding, and was so empathetic that she cried with me once. Later, I found out it was because she was pregnant. As it turns out, her baby would change everything (as they do), and that after her maternity leave she would move her practice closer to home, making the distance much too far to travel to see her. We would have to find a new doctor.
After a period of denial, I decided to begin interviewing. Now, I am not the easiest patient – and an even worse mother of a patient. I ask a lot of questions, request clarification, take up lots of time and don’t much care for conventional medicine when it can be avoided. So, basically your typical French doctor’s worst nightmare or “maman (chiante) exigeante”.
When I realized I needed a doctor’s letter so that my son could participate in the 1/2 day program at a local private crèche, I figured it was time to intensify my search. I came across a jewel on my first attempt, and it is she who has inspired this little piece of literature.
I entered a very small waiting room, one that immediately activated my germ radar. It was very hot, and sickly children were squeezed in and sitting within inches of each other, playing with the books and toys that were clearly not disinfected from the last set of boogers and viruses.
I said my “bonjour”, and took a deep breath to hold while I looked around. I wanted to get a sense of this doctor and her philosophies, and what better way than to analyze her taste in art and déco! I noticed a few things. First, in the corner of the waiting room was a changing table. Initially I thought this was a nice touch for those who needed to change their sick baby (I think?), but then I noticed A4 sized posters adorned with multiple pink arrows, outlining the steps we must take before entering the exam room.
This doctor required us to strip the babies to their diapers before entering, hence the super high temperature. It was to prevent the naked and already sick little ones from being too cold while waiting in just their couche. “Um… no”, I thought to myself, and I continued my investigation. By this time, my boy was beginning to get restless and had of course spotted the gros paquet de jouets à la gastro in the corner, and began asserting himself about it. He was flailing back and forth, just as a poster entitled “Prière secrète d’un enfant à sa mère et son père” caught my eye. This document (typed in Comic Sans, no less) was perhaps written by the doctor herself as a declaration of her philosophies.
I won’t get into the entire thing, but let’s just say that I, who baby-wear and adhere to quite attentive and compassionate parenting principles, couldn’t get on board with, “Maman, papa, je vous en prie, prenez le risque de me frustrer et de me faire de la peine en refusant certaines de mes demandes”. (Mommy, Daddy risk frustrating me and hurting my feelings by refusing some of the things I ask for). In reading this, I somehow didn’t feel like we’d be on the same page.
I left and went to wait in the hallway as a health and safety measure. When I was eventually called into the office, she asked my last name and said that she couldn’t find our appointment. It was now 16h30, and I explained that we were booked for 16h. When she searched further, she went silent for a moment and I could see her jaw muscles flexing.
– Madame, je vous attendais à 10h40 ce matin!
– DRATS! I’ve been mom-brained again, I thought. Because her throbbing mandible was threatening me, I had no choice but to lie through my teeth. I asserted that I had an appointment at 16h, so she’d better check with her secretary.
Through clenched teeth but and in an effort to take a very professional tone, she told me that she didn’t have time to see us. I pleaded, explaining that it would be “très rapide” as we just needed a letter. Naive little Torontonian, I am. At home you can go to a walk-in, have a popsicle stick placed on your tongue, say a little “Ahhhhh!”, and then get your letter (and maybe a lolli!). But non, non, non – not here.
– Madame. Il ne faut jamais jamais dire à un médecin que ça sera rapide. C’est un moyen d’être sûre de l’énerver!!
-Ah bon? I am not here to make you angry. I can just go?
– Non mais, c’est juste pour vous dire… Vous êtes déjà là. Mais je ne travaille pas comme ça, de façon rapide.
– Euhh… Aren’t appointments 20 minutes long? (Merde. Shouldn’t have said that!)
– Oui, mais…
– Franchement, je trouve ça super rapide! (It’s all about the follow through, fuck it!)
Silence, blank stares, mandibular throbbing, regret and remorse ….
– I can just go (eh!)… Pas de soucis.
– Non, restez.
The remainder of the appointment was relatively pleasant. She was sweet with the toddler, put him on a baby scale, he hated that, and according to her calculations, he shrunk 4 cms and his head grew 2!
I should mention that when I got home, I checked my handy dandy agenda and I did in fact have 16, as in 16h written, but that was the street address and not the time of my appointment. #NOREGRETS!