Like many families these days, Jeff and I never had a "doctor," per se. Jeff has had myriad specialists and always has a gastroenterologist because of his Crohn's disease. I saw a nurse practitioner or midwife every year for an annual exam - as most women do - and that was it. Because I was in school for so long, I benefited from the clinics that are associated with universities. I never had to pay for these visits, but I also had no continuity of care. I saw a different person each year that I went in.
One of the things I loved about being pregnant was going to the midwife. It was like a fun little social appointment with some measuring and weighing added in. I really looked forward to those visits, and when they became more frequent toward the end my delight was multiplied. It made me realize that I owed it to our family to find a medical professional who could care for us, and with whom we had a solid, lasting relationship.
The search for a doctor for your baby starts when the baby is still in utero. They tell you to really begin calling and looking around at about six months. Most people ask some friends, check with their insurance company, and find a pediatrician who is part of a large practice that specializes in child medicine. I decided I'd rather have someone who knew our whole family, and would be able to see Vicki Jo past the age of childhood. I wanted a family doctor.
A general practitioner is surprisingly hard to find these days. Topeka is a city of about 120,000. I found exactly four family doctors. A couple were older and weren't taking any new patients. One wouldn't accept our insurance. That left us with Ryan Bennett, DO. I was curious about what those letters after Dr. Bennett's name meant. She (yes, Ryan is a she) is an osteopath. When I began researching DO vs. MD, I discoverd I much favored the approach of the osteopath, anyway. These doctors are trained in the almost-lost art of diagnosing illnesses with the hands, rather than relying so heavily on testing and analysis. Also, I loved reading that osteopaths tend to favor a more whole-person approach, finding out about mental, emotional, and physical health as part of one package.
We made an initial appointment with Dr. Bennett and it was a smashing success. I was heavily pregnant at the time, and she caught on immediately to the fact that I was quite swollen and my blood pressure was up. She was actually the first person to suggest I be screened for pre-eclampsia, just based on her initial observations.
She was also knowledgeable about Jeff's Crohn's (although, as I mentioned, he sees a specialist for that). When we explained that we were still deciding how we felt about all vaccinations for our child, she encouraged us to make informed decisions and offered resources, rather than just pushing a party line.
After the baby came along, Dr. Bennett was thorough and thoughtful. Although the baby never gained weight at the rate most doctors would have like, Dr. Bennett never freaked out on me. When we decided to slow down on our vaccination schedule, she just asked to take a look at it so she could familiarize herself. She trusted that we had done our research and found what was best for our family. The only thing she ever pushed was Vitamin D. She spends a lot of time with us at each visit, and we never feel like our baby is being pushed through a factory. I kind of love the fact that there aren't a lot of babies in her practice, because she isn't constantly comparing Vicki Jo to a million other babies in her mind and using that to judge whether she is "normal" or not.
Jeff threw his back out recently while riding the bike I got him for his birthday, and Dr. Bennett helped him regain strength and ease his discomfort through a series of stretches and exercises, rather than just prescribing him painkillers. That's the kind of thing I love about osteopathy.
All in all, I am so happy with the decision that we made. I love that Dr. Bennett can identify patterns in the health of our family, and encourage us as a unit to make better choices for ourselves. She can see if Jeff's Crohn's is making an impact on Vicki Jo's digestion, or judge whether my anxiety is causing her to have sleeping troubles. I hope that Dr. Bennett remains a part of our family for a long, long time.