Doing the right thing sometimes sucks.
Yesterday was a bit rough. I had the dubious honour of welcoming a new mum to Holland.
She had always suspected her little boy couldn’t see well (he’s 4 months old, and her first baby) and she had asked her Plunket nurse about it several times, and brought it up with us (the group facilitators). My co-facilitator kept reassuring her that if there was a problem, the Plunket nurse or the doctor would catch it. I’m only there every other week because I job share, so I wasn’t seeing him as often as the other facilitator. I was deferring to what my co-facilitator had seen. She thought it was a normal variation on baby’s eyesight – maybe a lazy eye.
But then, today, I watched him for half an hour, my heart slowly sinking more and more. I watched as the mum tried to interact with him the way the other mums were interacting with their babies. He didn’t focus on anything she held out for him to see. Didn’t turn his head when she put something bright and shiny beside his head on the mat. Didn’t smile when she smiled at him. Didn’t even turn his head to look when she made a noise.
I asked to hold him for a minute, and I did my best to catch his eye. He seemed to be able to tell I was up close, but with all my charms, I couldn’t get him to smile, either.
And I said to the mum, “Does he smile a lot for you?” And her tears welled up, and I knew. 😦
So I told her she needed to go back to the doctor and raise a stink, because her little boy was not focussing the way he should be doing. That her gut feeling was right, and there was something wrong with his eyes.
The other mums, my co-facilitator and I gave her hugs, and told her we could go with her to the doctor if she needed it. I called her this afternoon to make sure she was okay, and she was, and she had made an appointment for the doctor.
While I was at my meeting last night, my co-facilitator called her. She had just been to the doctor. Her doctor gave her an express pass to the pediatrician. Hopefully, that will mean some help and access to medical services.
(In NZ, you need a referral from your GP to go to a specialist, and a pediatrician is considered a specialist. Most people have to wait 3-6 months to see a specialist, unless the GP considers your case urgent. So in this case, an express pass means the GP felt this baby should be seen ASAP.)
Afterwards, my co-facilitator & I had a bit of a discussion, as to whether it was right to mention anything to the mum in the first place. Her argument was that if I had been wrong, and there was nothing wrong with the baby, I would have worried the mum for nothing.
But my argument was 1) The mum knew something was wrong. She didn’t really need me to tell her. 2) I was giving her the equivalent of “I believe in you. You believe in you, too, and go get it checked out.” 3) If there was nothing wrong, all that really hurts is my reputation (Broot’s a twit, she told me my baby was blind and she was wrong!) and I can handle that. I’d much much rather be wrong about something like that.
I’m not happy that I had to give the mum the bad news, but I am happy in myself that I made the right choice to say something. It was hard, but, tables turned around, I would have wanted somebody to say it to me, so I could go get it checked out.
But it was hard. And not fun at all.
The next few weeks will be about all of us at this program supporting this mum as she discovers which suburb she is exploring in Holland. Let’s hope we do that well.
Update: got this via email today from the Mum: “I am sorry for getting upset on Thursday. I think it was because someone else had finally noticed what i had over the last few weeks. Thank-you for saying something, it would have taken me longer to get it seen to if you hadn’t have bought my attention to it.” Her specialist appointment is tomorrow. 🙂