Monday, June 27, 2011

Doctor Visits with the Element of Adoption

Some days we go through our day like any other ordinary family. Truly there are days that I hardly even think about my daughters being adopted. Then there are other days ... like trips to the doctor. Those days are always different. Sometimes it's a nurse who says really IGNORANT things about and to your child. (thankfully we have moved and no longer deal with that nurse) Sometimes it's a diagnosis or condition that creates a constant need for educating those around you and quite frankly there are times you don't want to be "educator" .... you just want to be momma. Sometimes it's the section of the paperwork that says "birth history" and you are reminded once again of all the things you frankly don't know or have an answer for.

Birth history can be a complicated one. Perhaps you know a few things that might be helpful for medical staff, yet you don't want them to broadcast those details without grace. You fellow adoptive mommas know what I speak of. While I APPRECIATE that we live in a country where we can take our children to see a doctor whenever we need to .... I do NOT appreciate some of the carelessness and treatment of some professionals. Then there are other times that you just simply do NOT know the answers to the questions on the form. In some international adoptions (even domestic) you might not even know who their birth parents were, or where exactly they were born .... let alone details of birth parent health history. And that can sting. Both for you and your child.

So what's a parent to do? Well, after a few years of adoptive parenting under my belt, my best advice is this ..... LOVE YOUR CHILD. No doubt, you're already doing that. Continue. Here are a few practical ways this can get played out.

  1. Find an adoption-friendly doctor. They ARE out there! I would add to that "qualifier" is an adoption-friendly NURSE. We had a great Pediatrician back in North Dakota. Nurse? Failed. I should have spoken up. Walked out. Whatever it took. Our daughter was an infant, so thankfully she was clueless.
  2. Advocate for your child. It doesn't matter where your child was born, the color of their skin, what insurance coverage they have, or their diagnosis. Every human being deserves the right to be treated with dignity and respect and receive excellent care. I know this should go without saying, but I'm sayin' it.
  3. Only give the details that are necessary, unless AFTER establishing a relationship and trust is built and you desire to share more. They don't need every detail of your child's life story to treat them medically. There's a difference between a "thorough" doctor and "nosy healthcare staff".
  4. Answer anything you can ahead of time, especially if your child might feel uncomfortable with 20 questions in front of them.
We are blessed now to have wonderful medical staff for our daughters. One thing we've enjoyed is having diversity in our doctors. We see a family doctor who happens to be African American. He's gentle and thorough and cares about parental insight. He's been helpful and knowledgeable about things specific to our daughter's ethnicity (ex. skin scarring as we have one with sensory issues). I love that our oldest daughter's heart doctor is neither Caucasian or AA. I want her to grow up building relationships with people from all over the globe. He has a sweet heart for adoption, as well as being excellent in his field. We are thankful.

Tomorrow we see the eye doctor for the first time. While we've seen this doctor already for our son, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at all anxious. Mostly because I think there will be some questions being addressed related to birth-parent history and this is my daughter who cares very much about every detail being spoken about around her. :) Trust me, we TALK about birth parents!! .... but it is different doing that snuggled up together and sitting in a stark office with a near stranger firing off the questions.

Adoptive families: What has been YOUR experience with your children's doctors? Have you found it to be challenging? Perhaps you are an adult who was once adopted and have faced some of the same issues now that you're out on your own. Maybe you even have some tips of your own to share. Please do so! :)

1 comment:

  1. As you know, John and I are both in the medical field, and maybe because we see (exclusively, except for dentist) doctors associated with a teaching hospital, we've never encountered any issues related to adoption... our providers have been diverse (and, generally speaking, young), and have always treated us, Anna, and the knowns/unknowns of her history with respect and confidentiality.

    It's disappointing to hear that medical professionals fail to treat patients of any age or background with respect and privacy. I do think that because we are in the profession, some of the questioning, to us, is less sensitive than it might be to others- probably because we have heard everything out there (and there are reasons people don't know family/birth history besides adoption...) and it's so routine for us (just like I can ask my patients about the bowel and sexual patterns without being flustered, even though they might be sensitive to the questions.)

    I really think that associating with a teaching hospital is a good choice, if available. It pretty much ensures that the workforce is diverse and highly trained in racial/ethnic sensitivity, not to mention that the docs are generally younger and of a generation that cares a lot less about skin color or how you came into your family, and a lot more about helping the family be successful in their health and wellness.