There’s a public place crawling with cooties, infested with every sickness known to motherhood, and filled with ear-piercing screams that frightens me, almost worse than any bathroom (not all of them, come on now). It takes my germophobia to a whole new level. It’s the pediatrician’s office.
As my kids and I waited one day this week to find out whether my daughter had strep (she did), my hysteria settled in.
Any time my kids and I visit that box of germs, I know we are gambling with our health. It’s not like school where there is a chance of getting sick. Real, live sick germs crawl all over this place day and night. You go in there, you will touch something that a sick person has touched.
My brain goes into overdrive. What do these kids have? Is it worse than what we have? What will we end up getting on our way out? I plop my kids in the seats farthest from anyone. I shriek-whisper to them not to touch anything. Repeatedly. We hand-sanitize several times a visit if necessary.
It’s a house of horrors where tortured kids scream in pain. My kids and I slink down in our seats and hope that’s not what’s in store for our tiny room. The other day a kid down the hall was screaming, “I can’t take it! You’re killing me!” Well, we couldn’t take it either. We were about to get our coats and tiptoe for the nearest exit.
Our doctor said it was an ear problem. I nearly collapsed at the memories of someone prodding in my ears as a kid and adult and my own threats to punch them if they didn’t stop. Who do these doctors think they are?
The good news is, I don’t need a therapist to help me figure out the traumatic event that triggered my germophobic behavior either. Many years ago during our first after-hours visit, my kids and I sat crammed into “the sick room” waiting for an hour to be seen. Everyone in that room looked sweaty and miserable and coughed. And coughed. And coughed.
I thought I had died and that was my hell. I tried to disguise the fact that I was using my hand as a germ shield over my nose and mouth. I stole bits of clean air when I could. I fought off a panic attack. I fidgeted in my seat. I made sure the kids didn’t touch anything or anyone. When would the stinking nurse call our name?! We were only there for an ear infection for Pete’s sake! Don’t they have a separate room for that?
When the kids were younger, one trip to the doctor so often led to a return visit within a week with what we caught there. We could have caught it somewhere else, but my kids weren’t in preschool at the time. The pattern fit. It was a running joke when we left the doctor. “I’m sure we’ll see you in a week.” Most of the time, we did.
I’m always thankful for our doctor’s wisdom—goodness knows he has shared a lot—and the medicine. But I am always ready to run out that door and into the fresh air because that’s a long time to hold your breath.