Not knowing any better, I gave birth to my first-born in one of those huge practices, under the care of a rotating cast of fifteen disinterested doctors. Becoming a mother was, without a doubt, the most life-altering experience of my life, but to them I was merely another faceless, nameless breeder who peed in a cup on command.
When I got pregnant for the second time, I decided I wanted more personal attention, so I switched to a solo practitioner who came highly recommended by a friend. “You’re going to love him,” she exclaimed. “But part of me just hates to share him.” I had no idea what she meant by that statement, but I would soon learn.
My first appointment with Dr. P was scheduled for a Friday afternoon, a couple of days before Halloween. I was twelve weeks along. Having already seen my baby’s heart beating at an eight-week ultrasound, I figured it would just be a routine appointment. In his mauve office, Dr. P smeared cold gel across my stomach and pressed down the ultrasound wand. I glanced up at the screen and noticed he was gazing intently at the monitor.
Looking up, he said, “I’m so sorry.”
The D&C that followed is a sad, fuzzy memory. At home, swaddled in old flannel blankets, I was dozing off as the phone rang.
“Hi there. It’s me, Dr. P,” he said softly, as if he were trying not to rouse me out of my state of painkiller-induced calm. He asked how I was doing. I lied and told him I was fine.
“You can’t be fine after all you’ve been through. Try to get some rest and, if you’re up to it, take your son trick-or-treating tomorrow.”
He called the following day, and the day after that, “just to check in.” Meanwhile, many of my friends were avoiding me because they thought I didn’t want to talk about it. My husband wasn’t much better at comforting me. He was concerned with our toddler son and handled his own grief with silence. It was only Dr. P who knew the right things to say.
Thankfully, our luck changed a few months later and I got pregnant again. I made an appointment with Dr. P.
After the nurse checked my blood pressure and weighed me, I waited anxiously in my drafty gown, wondering what we’d chat about once he tapped the door to come in. He had been so warm and funny on the phone. I prepared topics in my head as I tried to get comfortable on the paper-covered table. Should I bring up politics? Too risky. Maybe something more neutral, like the weather. No, I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t a clever conversationalist. Would it be inappropriate to invite him to a cocktail party? I bet he liked a nice Pinot Noir. Or coffee. Maybe we could have coffee, take in a foreign film . . .
He walked in looking like a young Yul Brenner with a smooth, tan skull and a compact, muscular frame and gave me a big hug. “How’s my favorite patient?” he asked, patting my back. I beamed.
He went on to compliment the hideous tent I was wearing: “Green is definitely your color,” he said. I made a mental note to buy everything green during my next maternity shopping expedition. Then I babbled like a scatterbrained schoolgirl: “Wow, did you see that thing about that guy who saved that other guy? Wow, huh? And what about those Knicks? Pretty awful, right? Did you see the new Bond movie? So much better than Pierce Brosnan, don’t you think? Seriously. Hmm.”
“How’s that baby?” he asked.
Oh, right! The baby.
Those visits with Dr. P became the highlight of my social calendar. The morning of our appointments, I’d bust out my flat-iron. When I knew he had to do a pelvic exam, I’d have a Brazilian bikini wax, even when I was at the end of my pregnancy and could hardly get up on the table.
In years past, I’d be nervous that I’d appear “too eager” for an internal, but at my thirty-week visit, I was more worried about Dr. P not thinking I was cute.
“I think I might have elephantitis of the vagina,” I said, trying to sound carefree about what I’m sure was the worst case of pregnancy-induced varicose veins he’d ever seen. “Waxing is definitely a killer now.”
Shaking his head, he gently scolded me: “You know you shouldn’t be doing that anymore.” I pretended to be ashamed and hoped he would rap my knuckles.
But it wasn’t only Dr. P.’s bedside manner that had me smitten. It was his gentleness, his ability to spout off statistics when I asked him about worst-case scenarios (occasionally in his office, I did worry about the baby rather than my hair frizzing), and the way he smelled. Later in the day, I smiled when I noticed how his cologne lingered in my hair. What a wonderful thing we had together. At least once a month, I got intimate physical contact and an emotional connection with a handsome man – and it was all the medical establishment’s idea! My husband even approved!
“If you ever feel that something is wrong, call me. I don’t want you suffering with any unnecessary stress,” Dr. P told me. “Even if you don’t have an appointment, just come in. I’ll always sneak you in,” he promised. No one, not even my husband, was as accessible to me as he was. It wasn’t only Dr. P’s bedside manner that had me smitten.
I couldn’t get Dr. P out of my head. In every situation, I wondered, What Dr. P Would Do? One day, I confessed my crush to a friend. She surprised me by saying that she, too, had a crush on her OB/GYN. She’d had a scary experience with pre-term labor. After hours of being hooked up to a drip of Magnesium Sulfate, her doctor woke her up to get her vitals. She was completely flustered because she had morning breath. “Of all the things to be concerned about,” she shamefully admitted.
And when I started talking about it, I found out we were far from alone. Another woman I know confessed to a crush on her OB, who also happens to be a Mohel, the same one who circumcised her sons. “Everyone wanted an invite to the bris to see the holy hottie,” she joked.
But neither Dr. P. nor my friend’s doctors were drop-dead gorgeous. None would make the cast of Grey’s Anatomy. They were attractive to us because they were tender and competent when trusted with our most intimate body parts and our very children.
Pediatricians, too, are prime for this kind of projection. My best friend lusts after her children’s physician, who she swears looks like Anderson Cooper. She has him dubbed Dr. Sax-y and says she longs to run her hands through his silvery hair.
My own mother confessed to a crush on my childhood doctor: “When you’d come down with the flu, I’d put on a full face of makeup and travel forty minutes to see Dr. M,” she gushed, as if it was yesterday and not thirty years ago. Why? Because he made her feel special, which wasn’t difficult, considering my father was more concerned with expanding his business than he was with the various maladies of his five children.
On the day I went into labor with my second child, Dr. P met me at the hospital. He removed his beautiful grey wool Armani jacket, rolled up his sleeves, donned a glove and performed an internal exam. In between contractions, I noticed he was looking awfully dapper for someone about to deliver a baby. All I could think of was not embarrassing myself while in the throes of labor. What I prayed for most – besides, of course, a healthy infant – was not to have a bowel movement on the delivery table.
After waiting the entire night with my husband at my side, Dr. P delivered my beautiful daughter. My husband and I were so excited and in awe of our new baby that Dr. P had to remind us to take pictures.
Dr. P then went out of his way to book me the nicest room in the hospital, because “I deserved it.” He was like a rich playboy with connections who could make a phone call and get me comped at the Bellagio’s penthouse suite in Vegas. My husband playfully teased me that “my boyfriend,” as he’d started calling Dr. P, had taken extra special care of me.
About four months later, I was on the playground of my son’s nursery school when I overheard Dr. P’s name. Someone was talking about his never-ending turnover of nurses and how it was due to his insanely jealous wife, a woman who was rumored to have a black belt in karate.
My ears perked up, and I said, trying to sound casual, “Oh, you go to him, too?” One cute, low-rise-jeans-wearing mom-to-be said, “He just makes me feel like I’m the only person on earth.” I wanted to throttle her. Another mother sighed and added, “Isn’t he the best dresser? I wish my husband wore Armani instead of Dockers.” The third woman in the group told me she gave her two sons the same unusual monikers as Dr. P’s boys, but swore (unconvincingly) it was “just a coincidence.” I felt so betrayed. It reminded me of the time my mother assured me I was her favorite daughter, only to learn later that she’d told my three other sisters the same exact thing.
But I got over my horror. There was enough of the good doctor’s attention to go around. And what was I going to do? Be jealous like his wife? Switch to another practice? Never. At the playground, the conversation again veered to Dr. P – specifically, his cologne.When I told my best friend about my situation, she sang a few bars from the ’70s song “Dr. Love”: “He ain’t got no competition, only he writes my prescription.”
The next time I was back in the playground, the conversation again veered to Dr. P – specifically, his cologne. “I think it’s Prada,” said one of the other mothers. It turned out she’d actually gone to Bloomingdales in search of the mysterious scent to give to her unknowing husband.
Now, almost a year later, I only visit Dr. P every six months for an exam and to renew my birth control pills. When I see him, it’s like meeting up with an old college boyfriend after a successful diet. I breeze into the room, dressed up and well groomed, and hop up on the exam table, fifty pounds lighter than I was when I was pregnant. We talk about my sex life, flirt a little and then I get to run off and talk to my fellow playground mothers about what he was wearing. Medical care, boundless compassion and a secret thrill, all for a $20 co-pay; now that’s value.