When you first gaze upon the positive indicator on that pregnancy test, you immediately start thinking about hearing the heartbeat and seeing the sonograms and enduring the excruciating pain of labor enjoying the wonders of the birth experience. You enlist the support of an outstanding OB-GYN, of course, but in this day and age, anybody who’s anybody just can’t get by without their own personal, at-your-beck-and-call, all-hours-of-the-night medical companion, the trusty Dr. Google.
Oh, admit it. You know you spent hours furiously typing in every neurotic query that crossed your mind during pregnancy and beyond, from “Are spinach and Oreo cravings normal?” to “Is it baby hiccups or quadruplets?” to “What is a bloody show?” (Pro tip: Never Google that last one. Just don’t.) One of my friends who is expecting now keeps me up to date on her queries regarding the differences in roast turkey and turkey breast where listeria is concerned, as well as all the Google-derived articles she’s unearthed about gender predictions and Chinese birth calendars.
As bad as all that is, let me just tell you one thing: It doesn’t get any better after the baby makes its grand debut. You know why? Because then . . . you have to take care of it. You have to keep this little cooing, cuddling, crying, squirming, food-bath-and-sleep-requiring bundle of humanity alive, and who better to advise you than your mom, your pediatrician the amalgamated results of 23,634,235 other sleepless parents desperately babbling on the message boards that appear on the first page of Google? Or the twelfth, depending on how long you spend awake and one-handed phone-scrolling during those middle-of-the-night feedings?
Listening to Dr. Google made me a wreck after my daughter was born. She was a fussy little person for the first couple of weeks, and we couldn’t understand why. Our original actual real-life pediatrician suggested a food sensitivity, which then stretched, with the help of Google, to encompass basically every delicious item on the planet and leaving me with a super-yummy diet of white rice, chicken breast, and applesauce. Every time I thought I found something new and edible, someone called “SassyNaturalMommaof5” from the far reaches of Google would point out the hidden nemesis of something like “tocopherols” in perfectly innocent and allegedly wholesome Cheerios, or the fact that something as innocuous as ketchup or mild salsa could include “natural flavors,” which are, as we should all know, just a total lurking ground for Big Tomato to be able to inject your food with hidden dairy or something equally nefarious.
On the upside, I lost weight fast. On the downside, between the famine diet and the constant breastfeeding, I was cranky, my fillings started falling out of my teeth, and I was exhausted with strained eyes from poring over online searches to find something that would make the baby person chill.
From whence then came the solution? Not Google. I actually got answers from the world’s best birth coach, when he suggested that the issue might not be allergies but instead could be overactive letdown. I followed his actual human, one-on-one suggestion for pumping briefly to keep some of the foremilk out of my daughter’s system, and lo and behold, we moved on past crankiness, crying, and supposed-colic, to the wonder-baby that she is today.
From those harrowing first months, you would think I would have learned my lesson: Rely on advice from medical professionals and trusted real-life humans, chill out on the online browsing, and use that extra baby-snooze time to do important things like, you know, sleep, and finish watching all of Gilmore Girls on Netflix. You would think . . . .
I tried to curtail it. I cut way back. I started asking real-life moms, including my own, for advice, and I found a new pediatrician whom I love, love, love and starting barraging him with emails in moments of uncertainty, such as, “We ate yogurt on vacation. It may have had honey in it. Please, please, please tell me I haven’t botulism-ed my baby.” (Yeah, I’m sure with these types of questions he loves me just as much as I adore him.)
But recently, we had an incident that cured me of Google-diagnosing for good.
There was a rash.
My daughter developed this rash that looked like a teenager-style attack of acne all over her chin. I could seriously imagine her saying, “Mom, nobody wants to take me to the spring fling . . . . Sigh. Pout.” Of course, my fears and concerns over this situation went into overdrive and, of course, my first consultation was with, you guessed it, my personal health concierge, Dr. Google. After determining that it was probably and most likely not leprosy, I went on a tireless quest to identify the Google Images result that looked the most similar to this particular outbreak. I settled on hand-foot-and-mouth disease as the potential culprit. At this point, and only at this point, once I’d settled on this conclusion, I decided to call in the reserves (a.k.a. go to the actual doctor to get his second opinion on my actual, highly professional clinical diagnosis).
Here’s how that played out:
Me: So, she has this rash, and it’s all over her chin, and do you think it’s Hand, Foot, and Mouth, and she doesn’t even go to daycare, so how do you think she could have gotten it? (Pause for breath.)
Doctor: No, because [some detailed explanation regarding the uvula].
Me: Well, what about a fever blister? Could that be it? I had one a while ago, but I tried really hard not to kiss her or do anything that would make it spread.
Doctor: No, because [more detailed explanation of actual medical reasons why not].
Me: What about . . . ?
Doctor: Has she been eating a lot of fruit lately?
Me: I guess so; she loves fruit. (Forcibly restraining myself from my phone in order to not search the latest fruit-related epidemic that has no doubt struck my precious child.)
Doctor: It looks like [insert medical word that I don’t remember here]. You probably just need to wash her face better after she eats something sticky.
At that point, I may have melted through the floor/turned beet red/died of embarrassment. And, that’s when I decided Dr. Google needed to be fired on the spot. I mean, how often do you misdiagnose a potential flesh-eating bacteria, then get your comeuppance by an actual medical professional telling you that your kid is just dirty? Sheesh. And, I guess there goes the possibility of eventually asking the doctor and his wife to be our new best friends, since they probably don’t want to hang out with the mom that lets her child apparently turn into the human equivalent of Pigpen from Charlie Brown.
So, from now on, I’m cured. No more Googling baby ailments. No more obsessively searching forums for things like, “How many words should my daughter say at 18 months?” No more scrounging for pictures of how a strawberry allergy might manifest. I’ve totally broken up with you, Dr. Google; don’t worry, though. It’s not you; it’s me.