My youngest daughter has developed a phobia of medical professionals. It doesn’t matter how many in depth conversations we have with her about the fact that they are they to help people, her mind has been made up: they are out to hurt her.
I know exactly where this stems from. I remember the moment well: her preschool jabs. Much as we all hate the idea of taking our tiny babies to have their injections at 8, 12 and 16 weeks, in our case at least, this ultimately proved to be a reasonably painless affair. A brief temperature spike maybe, but nothing that a bit of Calpol wouldn’t solve. Crucially, babies at this age (again, maybe just mine) have the memory of a goldfish and are rarely emotionally scarred by the experience. Not so for 3 year olds.
3 year olds are move savvy. In Faith’s case, her preschool jabs went like this:
Go to doctors.
Wait to see the nurse.
Listen to her comforting chatter and her reassurance that it won’t hurt because it’s ‘just a scratch’.
Be jolted into righteous indignation on being injected and discovering that yes, it did hurt (albeit momentarily) and therefore, this nurse just conned you.
Never forget and never forgive.
I am not sure when and how Faith came to put such importance on other people’s honesty (it certainly it doesn’t appear to go the other way and she is more than happy to con, manipulate and tell little white lies herself), but she does not take kindly to feeling like she has been misled. If you tell her, for example, that it is supposed to be sunny in the morning and she probably can wear the summer dress she has picked out, then woe betide you if the rain falls the next day. This change of circumstance will be a source of considerable irritation to Faith, leading to aggrieved complaints that you have ‘tricked’ her followed by a sulky silence in protest at your dishonesty.
If we now re-visit the preschool jabs incident, it may be a little clearer why this event proved such a game changer in Faith’s mind. From her perspective, the nurse had intentionally lulled her into a false sense of security before callously stabbing her in the arm. No amount of friendly chatter after the event, or even compensatory chocolate buttons provided by yours truly was going to make up for this blatant deception. The medical profession had duped her once, but Faith would not let them do so again.
And so began years of ‘doctor phobia’ where the merest hint of injury would instigate panicked cries of “Don’t take me to the doctors!”
When Faith started school and began attending her new child-minder, I could only be grateful that she was not the first of my children to be in her care given that Faith’s frantic cries of “don’t tell Mummy!” when she fell, bumped into things, or hurt herself in some way would otherwise have surely led to a quick referral to Social Services!
Aware that this situation would cause considerable problems if Faith ever had real need of medical attention, I decided to implement a plan of action to convince her that doctors and nurses are actually very nice people. One week, as I pondered how best to do this, I had a light bulb moment. My brilliant plan, based on 11 years of Psychology teaching, was to take Faith to watch me give blood, thereby curing her of her phobia of doctors (particularly those wielding needles that they might stab in her arm). Genius!
It wasn’t long into our 40 minute wait at 7.30pm in a busy church hall that I started to wonder if this really had been my best idea yet. Faith was tired after a day at school and tiredness, in this particular child, seems to induce mania. She bounced around, asking odd, incoherent questions of anyone who would listen and when we finally made it to the blood donation beds, produced her pièce de résistance. As the nurse instructed me to lay down on the bed, Faith piped up and declared ‘Don’t worry, Mummy. You just have to close your eyes and think about Jesus’ at which the lady putting the needle in my arm collapsed in giggles and I tried to look as far from being a Christian fundamentalist as possible!
After this adventure, things did appear calmer, but when doctors are mentioned, Faith’s old mistrust still surfaces even now 3 years on from ‘jab-gate’. I can only hope that, with time, this resentment will slip from her memory and the medical profession will attain their proper place in the mind of my youngest daughter as a group of people who are there to help in times of need.
If not, well, she can always close her eyes and call on higher powers….she’s not called Faith for nothing you know!