Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Could we be a little more polite, people?

I arrived early to Helen's appointment with the pediatric gastroenterologist because I did not want to risk being late and missing this appointment. When I arrived, I noticed two lines. The one on the right, which had about 8 people waiting in it, had a sign that said "primary care check-in". The sign on the left said "sub-speciality check-in". There were no people waiting in that line - but there was also no receptionist there.

I figured I might as well try the left-hand line, since it seemed to be where I belonged.

I went to the desk, and immediately, a receptionist that had been on the other side of the counter, working on something else, turned around and greeted me.

[Me] "I'm here to see Dr. R. Is this the right place?"
[Receptionist] "Yes. I presume this is Helen?"
[Me] "Yes."
[R] - woman pulls out folder sitting right in front of her with Helen's info in it - "She's so cute. You can wait in either waiting room and a nurse will call you in a few minutes."
[Mean lady in other line] "Excuse me, ma'am, but are you aware that it is not polite for you to go right up to the counter when there is a long line of people waiting?"
[Me] "Oh, I'm not waiting for primary care" (pointing to sign), "I'm here for a sub-specialty appointment" (pointing to other sign).
[Mean lady in other line with renewed nastiness in tone] "Well you could have asked. We didn't know that."
[Me] pause, staring at her trying to figure out what the heck was happening, finally saying "I think what you meant to say was 'sorry', in which case I will respond 'it's OK'". And I turned around and went to waiting area A.

Helen gets called almost instantly to get measured. The nurse - also named Elaine - and I chat for a bit. Then Helen and I go back to the waiting area. After playing for a few minutes, Helen gets a bit cranky and it's definitely time for her to be fed. So, I do what I always do in this situation, I feed her.

A few minutes later, Nurse Elaine shows up with a blanket. Mind you, I am holding a blanket on my lap. I obviously do not need a blanket. Nurse Elaine tells me I should cover up. I say "Sorry, it won't work, she doesn't like to have her head covered when she eats". Nurse Elaine "Well, you'll need to cover up because this is a pediatric clinic and not everyone here is used to seeing that."

Again, I pause, because the next thing out of my mouth probably would've been "this is a pediatric clinic" - but she clearly knows this. She must see the signs plastered all over reminding women that breastfeeding their baby is the best thing they can do for themselves AND their baby. I know nobody complained because nobody has left the room since I started feeding Helen.

Lucky for me, the very large loud-mouthed lady next to me who I have been chatting it up with ever since I started feeding Helen says to nurse Elaine "well they should be used to it", at which point I very lamely try and cover Helen up. Helen instantly kicks the blanket off, unlatches, and looks around - so now, rather than having an infant sitting in my lap nursing at least somewhat discretely, I have an infant looking all over wondering what the heck is going on and my obviously offensive boob hanging out. Awesome.

I had a moment where I felt like telling the nurse she should seriously reconsider having told me to cover up, and I almost used the bat phone to call my nursing friends to try and organize and impromptu nurse-in, whereby we would all just sit there nursing our babies just to annoy Nurse Elaine.

But...I needed to see Dr. R., so I didn't do any of this.

I have decided though, that if Helen is better by our follow-up in 1 month, I will let Dr. R. know that his nurse treated me wrongly and I will most certainly write the hospital. If she is not better, I will lamely wait until she is so that I don't risk having any personal issues with the Dr.

And for the record, I was not at some rinky-dink operation. I was at Georgetown University Hospital.


  1. Sign me up---I'll be there for a nurse in any time. What idiots!

  2. Oh no she ditn't. Oh no she ditn't! That nurse Elaine opened up a can of worms like she don't even know. You let me know if you want to have a nurse-in because I AM SO THERE!!! I am however, really very, very sorry, that you had to deal with that. Even though you were doing the right thing, comments can still sting.
    It seems like when the loud mouthed lady said "Well they should be used to it" she was implying that people should be used to seeing a breast-feeding mother. Or was she saying that Helen should be used to the blanket?

    And your fierceness when you said, ""I think what you meant to say was 'sorry', in which case I will respond 'it's OK'". I am SO going to use that line.

  3. Ellen - Lucky for everyone in the room, the loud mouthed lady was definitely responding to the nurse saying people ought to be used to seeing a breastfeeding woman. I was really grateful for her.

  4. I can't wait for the "nurse-in". Fin and I will be there with bells on... and since we're both still getting the hang of nursing, we're sure to offend with spontaneously exposed boobs that squirt in all directions!

  5. I am flabbergasted! Did she even hear what she was saying? "This is a pediatric clinic..." Wha? I was at a Children's Hospital clinic recently when one of the nurses asked a mom to take her 5 year old outside until he stopped crying. He had his pupils dilated and was freaked out. Good for the mom, she said, "He's not going to stop crying until he can see again. I'm not standing out in the heat with him."

    When you work in peds, you deal with crying, boobs and a whole lot more. WTH?!

    And I love what you said to the lady in line. I'm totally going to steal that!