The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Dreaded Dermatologist Can't Spot What a Mother Sees

I know my way around San Francisco's 450 Sutter, an art deco building that I frequently haunted in my drug-peddling days with Parke-Davis. On every floor you’ll find doctors’ offices stacked like building blocks, and a stream of patients with bad teeth, intestines, hearts, arteries, bad breath, poor eyesight, permanent acne.

In the dermatologist’s office I fill out a form for my son, Alex, who at six months has been afflicted a mosaic of skin problems -- baby acne, hives, heat rash, and cradle cap. I sit cross from two men, one stout and dark, the other tall and stiff, each menacing in their quiet way.

“Mr. Alexander Lovett,” the medical assistant announces, looking down at my baby. I’m embarrassed by the white flakes of cradle cap, the tender pink spot on his temple that he keeps rubbing every morning with his fists. How do I tell the lady that he’s really a congenial baby that I couldn’t have passed on any of my compulsive tendencies to my little cherub?

She just smiles and waves at Alex, and I proceed behind her down the hallway.

We sit in a sterile room where the only color is the kaleidoscope red and purple of the stroller, and the pink cheeks and oozing spot on my son’s head. The wait is mind numbing as Novocain when you’re afraid of the dentist’s drill.

When the doctor comes in, I meet his gaze and shake his spider-veined hands.

“He’s had four kind of rashes,” I say, “starting with hives, really bad. Now it’s this.” I point to my son’s forehead. “What do you…”

The venerable doctor cuts me off, “Now it’s not so bad.”

Except that my son’s head is festooned with patches like lily pads in a pond. “I know you’ve seen it all,” I say politely, but inside I’m crying out at the beast that has turned my young prince into a warty frog. “He had a terrible heat rash when we took him to Las Vegas to see my parents.”

“But he doesn’t have it now, does he? What’s to worry about?” The doctor gave a knowing smile, and turned around before I could “but” him back. As he walks out of the room, I realize that he’s the mad-scientist Billy Crystal character who has walked right out of “Princess Bride” with wooden clogs and a shock of white hair.

Somehow I’d become a moving shadow on his wall. After sixty years in practice his patients and their moms must have turned into streaming video, put on mute. I could jump up and down like an unwanted pop-up ad, and he would only come back with, “Bad skin, no problem!” Or, better yet, “No insurance, no service!”

When he hobbles back into the exam room, he leans over Alex in the stroller. Right away, my congenial son erupts into a wail.

“He doesn’t like doctors,” the old fellow chuckles.

Now I’m not so sure I like them, either. Certainly not the kind that pats you on the head when you’re recounting your firstborn’s troubles. In my early twenties, I knew that doctors were at the top of the totem pole, while we sales reps in our slick pantsuits -- who pestered them with freebies and questionable claims -- were at the bottom. With the dreaded dermatologist, it didn’t matter if I was a parent, patient or pesky salesperson; he was the esteemed doctor, no questions asked or allowed.

The doctor hands me a prescription, but I can’t make out his scribbles. I slink out of the office before my son can shed more cradle cap on that polished floor.

Flash forward six weeks. It turns out that the medicine prescribed by Dr. Dread has worked, although it’s so potent that I have to wash my hands of the steroid-containing stuff, or else they might lock me up with Barry Bonds. I haven’t told our pediatrician about this experience, but we’re grateful that he’s easygoing and respectful, the antithesis of the old-school dermatologist. Next time, though, I think I’ll try some aloe vera for my baby and, if I can muster it, a thicker layer of skin for mom.

By Li Miao Lovett

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