Yesterday my 2-year-old told me, “You don’t go to work. You just my mom.”
Today my job is to sit on my couch and talk on the phone. I absolutely hate talking on the phone. I’d much rather do it face to face. I can never seem to judge how long of a silence to leave while on the phone before checking to see if the other person is still there or did I miss something that was said. Is she waiting for me to respond? So I start to say something at the exact moment the other person magically comes back to life. Then she thinks what I have to say is important and insists that I go first even though I only wanted to know she was still there and not waiting on me for anything so I panic and make up a ridiculous question that further detours the information I was waiting on in the first place.
Today I’m doing all of this while stress-eating mini marshmallows and chugging blueberry lemonade seltzer which is giving me unbelievable gas that I try not to belch into the iPhone that’s starting to make my cheek hot and my shoulder ache. My bladder is currently under attack from a squad of tiny octopus that beat and dig at it before turning into an itzy-bitzy alligator who barrel roles over and over inside of me; churning up more marshmallow and seltzer gas.
All of these tiny, water-dwelling creatures are actually, somehow, a tiny little parasite of a person. I know she doesn’t mean to cause me discomfort. She’s reacting to my stress. And all the sugar I’m forcing upon her. This poor, squished up little baby with her poor squished up little limbs. I feel her kicks and find it hard to imagine the feet that are inflicting them. Two bony, misshapen feet.
“Your baby has clubbed feet,” Dr. Takoudes told me over the phone when I was 26 weeks pregnant. She wasn’t in her Falmouth office that day but was able to read the ultrasound in real-time from Boston. If you’ve ever had an ultrasound you know that they ask you to wait in the waiting room after the imaging. “So the doctor can make sure we have all the right images.” They tell you. But really, it’s so the doctor can phone in a diagnosis when those images don’t come out right. When you’re baby isn’t going to come out right.
“She’s a beautiful baby,” Dr. Takoudes assured me. “This is not a life-long issue. People born with clubbed feet go on to walk and run and play sports. Sometimes they don’t even need surgery if it’s mild.” Surgery? That’s when I broke down and started crying into Dr. Takoudes’ ear while sitting at her Falmouth desk, staring at her empty chair.
Since that day in January I’ve spent so much time on the phone, and the computer. Researching clubbed-foot, talking to doctors, making appointments, dealing with prior authorizations. That’s what I’m doing today. Right now. One the phone. I’m trying to get an ultrasound and consultation with Children’s Hospital in Boston approved with a prior authorization. It’s not working.
Before I left Dr. Takoudes’ empty office in January she told me, “You want Children’s. They’re the best. I’ll set something up for you.” When I double checked with my midwife she said “Definitely go with Children’s, they’re the best.” The director of the Family Center where I reached out for support told me that after talking to the former head of Early Intervention she suggests bringing the baby to Children’s. When I mentioned it to a friend she replied with 47 forwarded emails from people she’d reached out to who all recommended we go to Children’s. Now, at T minus 48 hours until the appointment I’m being told the denial of my prior authorization can be challenged but the hearing date won’t be for another month.
As I call each of the providers who recommended Children’s I can hear at first the determination in each woman’s voice. “Don’t worry. Let me call. I’ll figure it out.” And the resignation when they call back to tell me it’s not going to happen. “Mass General Hospital is a great hospital,” they tell me. It’s a revision of their original statements about how MGH doesn’t have a pediatric orthopedic department and how I really want to go to the best which is Children’s. They all apologize to me despite their efforts. It’s not their faults. They wanted the best for my baby. They tried their hardest. But there is a cheaper option for my state-supplemented medical insurance so that’s who we get. “It’s kind of nice,” the nurse at the OBGYN tells me, “because they’re right off the highway so you don’t have to drive in the city!” I thank each woman for her efforts and hang up to another, final apology from each one.
Before I can finish my thanks and acceptance of apologies from my primary care provider’s office I hear a DING in my ear indicating I’ve missed another call and have a new voicemail. “You have an appointment with Dr. Albright at MGH on March 27th.” The voice tells me. I scroll past all the office visits and non-stress-tests in my paper day-planner until I get to March 27th. I see the number 37 written over the week. I’ll be 37 weeks pregnant before they see me at MGH? I could go into labor just getting there!
On the phone with Nick I start crying when he tells me “Look, either way we’re having a baby. It’s awesome and it’s probably the last time you’ll be pregnant so try to enjoy it.” I log back into the timed-out medical schedule website to distract myself from the tears and notice something odd. An appointment for Tuesday, February 27th. “Shit!” I yell into Nick’s ear. “Either they gave me the wrong date or I just heard it wrong because my ears are wringing from being on the phone all day. It’s not March 27th, it’s February 27th; as in this Tuesday!”
The nervous excitement starts up the little octopus army all over again as I realize we don’t have child care for our daughter on Tuesdays, my mother-in-law will be away, and Nick starts to swear about how they need to realize we live on an island and can’t just jump-to for an appointment. “Can you even get a reservation for the car for Tuesday?”
“I have to go.” I tell him. “I have to make some more calls.”