Self-advocacy is not a natural gift of mine. I’d rather not rock the boat or make waves, so speaking up for myself isn’t easy. But I knew when I had kids that I needed to finally figure out how to advocate– if not for myself, then for them. They are completely reliant on me to get them the help they need, and beyond that, they also need to see me setting a good example of speaking up so it comes more naturally to them.
One of my children has a condition that we see a specialist for, and even though our doctor was considered one of the best, I was unhappy. It’s not that the care wasn’t good, but the relationship between doctor and patient was severely lacking. I left every appointment feeling overwhelmed, unheard, and defeated.
I dreaded having to go to appointments. I asked my husband if he would go instead of me. I would have to give myself a pep talk before walking into the office, promising myself it would be better this time, but it never was. I desperately wanted to switch doctors.
But this doctor is one of the best, my inner voice would argue. Why does it matter if you don’t like the doctor? Suck it up and get over it. Your child is not being abused or neglected or mistreated. Why are you such a baby about all of this?
It would take effort to switch doctors. Even though medical records would carry over, we would still be starting from scratch with a new doctor learning my child’s history. There was the risk that I may not even like a new doctor, and we’d be back at square one. Ultimately, I decided that even though there wasn’t anything actually preventing good quality of care for my child, I would be a better caregiver if I had a better relationship with our doctor. So I put on my big-girl pants, and we found a new doctor.
I think for some people, this would be a very easy decision, and some may be wondering why it took me so long or why I agonized over it. All I can say is I wish I had done it sooner.
It’s not that our new doctor had a totally new outlook or different treatment plan (although there were certainly some differences that I was on board with). What brought me the greatest relief was that I left our first appointment with our new doctor feeling heard and more empowered to better care for my child.
If you ever feel like you are not being heard or think things could be better, particularly when it comes to medical issues, take my advice: your advocacy for your child could lead to big changes, and big changes can lead to better care. Even if I’m still figuring out how to speak up for myself, I know it’s my responsibility to speak up for my kids!