It was just another routine visit to the doctor.
I headed to the pediatrician’s office at the end of the day for my youngest’s one-year checkup. My masked four-year-old tagged along to get her flu shot and avoid a separate visit. Check-in was quick. Vitals were taken without incident. The consultation with the pediatrician went well. She even let my preschooler mimic her checkup on the one-year-old, always cordial and accommodating. Even among the million questions and the squirminess of the baby, we were able to talk about his development and next steps.
Then, the time for vaccines arrived.
I had talked to my daughter about it beforehand, and she chose to get her shot after her baby brother got his. It would be on her arm, instead of the leg. We talked about the need for vaccines, how they help us and help others. She didn’t love the idea, but she was ready.
First up was baby brother. I laid him at the end of the bench, legs pinched. His hands rested on mine and I sang and hummed for him. He had four shots coming, and I was ready for the tears and to comfort him.
First shock, then cries. I noticed one of the legs had liquid on top–not a lot, but enough to make me wonder if that little bit of missed vaccine would make an impact. My priority at the moment though was calming him. Bandages on, I grabbed him and rocked him. He calmed down within a few seconds.
Next up was the toddler. She came to the bench and I removed her arm from her shirt. She was definitely upset, so I talked to her. I reminded her that I’m right here, to help her, to comfort her, that she can hug me if needed. All this, while still holding the baby with one arm and hip.
There are two nurses in the room and they both ambushed us. My daughter immediately freaked out, wriggling and screaming, tears falling down. The nurse doesn’t back down. My mind is racing, trying to comfort her, calm her down, wondering why this nurse is trying to poke a needle into a moving target.
It all happened so fast that I just didn’t have time to react.
Then, they were gone. I was left in shock with two crying kids. I was kind of numb moving through the motions of comforting and gathering our things. My daughter grabbed a sticker on her way out and some candy while my mind was still processing.
We got to the car when I remembered that they forgot to send me to labs for the one-year old’s bloodwork. I’m still shaken up by the experience. Both of my kids are calm, but my heart is still racing. Can’t go back now.
I start driving, and immediately wonder “Why didn’t I react sooner? Why didn’t I advocate for her? Why wasn’t I vocal about giving us room to breathe? Why did I let things happen the way they did?” I was mad at myself and disappointed in how the staff handled the situation.
I was so ashamed that I didn’t advocate for my kids. I felt like I had failed at protecting them.
I’m writing this today, the day after the experience, to let you know that even though my kids are fine, I’m not. I keep reliving the moment and picturing how I should’ve made it different. I’m making it a point to give myself permission to be the angry mom if I need to, to scream “Stop!” when my family feels threatened, to be loud and clear about my children’s needs.
The doctor’s office will hear from me. They need to understand how traumatic small experiences like this can be, how a patient that comes in at the end of the day deserves the same care and attention as the patient that comes in after the morning coffee has kicked in. Even though she might seem fine now, this could all come back the next time she needs vaccines. The doctor’s office needs to cater to kids’ comfort levels.
I vouch to fight for them now and always.
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