Refusing What the Doctor Ordered

I didn’t have a clue how I was going to get up and walk out of that exam room—let alone what I was going to do after I left the office. I had intentionally made an appointment just to go over some developmental concerns I had about our newly adopted son, Mark. I had no inkling or warning about what was about to happen.

While we had started the adoption process when Mark was five months old, it had taken well over two years to complete. By the time Mark was finally home with us, he was over two and a half years old and displaying a wide variety of concerning (and utter lack of) behaviors. He wasn’t trying to vocalize or communicate at all. Mark rarely even cried. He would simply stare or smile. That was it.

Mark was missing developmental milestones, too. All the colorful toys designed specifically for toddlers sat entirely untouched. Desperate to try and engage him with something, I thought, “Okay, we’ll just start at the beginning.” So, I ran out and bought a bunch of infant toys from a local thrift store. But those sat unexplored too. Mark appeared completely uninterested—or maybe incapable, I feared—of interacting with anyone and anything.

But that wasn’t all. I was concerned about Mark’s physical health, too. Mark was visibly very frail and tiny, so small that even 3 to 6-month clothing hung off his slight frame. All the 18 to 24-month clothing I’d laundered and tucked away for his arrival would have to wait. Sadly, I’d already given away all of our oldest son’s smaller clothing. It was back to the store for me. I went to purchase infant clothing for my two-and-a-half-year-old Mark. Yeah, I had a lot of concerns to bring up with the doctor.

“I just can’t help you anymore,” the pediatrician said. “That boy doesn’t need help. YOU do!” Then, he threw Mark’s chart in the air and left the tiny exam room, slamming the door shut behind him.

Wow.

Just wow.

Looking back now, I can see that the doctor’s reaction was very much more about him than it was about Mark or me. It showed an utter lack of professionalism. But at that moment—as I felt utterly alone, abandoned, and humiliated—things just sucked. They sucked BIG time. And the tears that were welling up inside my eyes showed it.

But I had to get up.

I had to leave that office, and—most importantly—I’d ultimately have to find a way to manage the situation and Mark’s mysterious special needs. So, before I did, I took a deep breath, glanced down at Mark, who was currently perched on my lap staring up at me, and tried to formulate a quick exit strategy.

I had to get the heck out of there and fast. And honestly, the quickest way to make that crappy situation any better was to take back some of the control that had been ripped away from me. The doctor had very much left me in control, whether I liked it or not. He had utterly abandoned Mark as a patient and me as a new adoptive mother. But the stunning shock I felt in response to his little temper tantrum left me feeling out of control of the situation.

As I sat in that cold little room reeling from what had just happened, I had to latch onto the only thing I could control: me. I forced myself to stop thinking about that stupid doctor and his idiotic actions. I had to think about myself and the tiny little guy who was still clinging to me for dear life.

I began to bounce my knee to entertain Mark for a few more seconds. He was understandably upset from the doctor’s loud outburst of anger and frustration. Then, I noticed that the office staff had gone quiet on the other side of the door. I was going to have to face people when I walked through that door. I would have to walk through the waiting room area, packed with other patients and parents. No one could’ve escaped hearing what just happened. And I felt as if everyone was waiting with bated breath to see what happened next. That was my cue—whether I liked it or not.

I eventually made it out of that doctor’s office. It wasn’t easy. In fact, after I was in the safety and privacy of my car with Mark buckled in and before I even put the key in the ignition, I completely fell apart. I bawled. I sobbed out of anger and frustration. I banged the steering wheel out of hopelessness. Then, I turned on the radio and drove home.

That was over 13 years ago.

What I wish I could go back and tell that younger version of myself is that I had nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. And I say that because those were the true feelings that caused my cheeks to burn red in that moment. I was worried about what the doctor thought and had said. I was worried about what the office staff and other patients were thinking. I worried that I had done something wrong, stupid, or worthy of shame.

But if I could go back, I’d simply say one word to myself before I even exited that exam room: NOPE.

Nope to taking on any shame. Shame on the doctor for giving up on his patient, my son.

Nope to feeling embarrassed. I had done nothing wrong.

Nope to allowing myself to give into any of these unwarranted and entirely unearned feelings. I let that doctor bully me into wasting a tremendous amount of energy struggling with emotions and feelings that simply weren’t mine to bear.

Sure, the emotions hit me.

I felt the feelings.

But I would’ve done myself a huge service if I’d checked those emotions and feelings in with my head, too.

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