Don’t Be Afraid to See a Specialist

When my daughter was tiny, I knew that her eye crossing was normal.  Even though she has mostly grown out of this, as time went on, I occasionally noticed her eyes crossing in pictures.  At least I thought so.  It was one of those things where I would snap a photo and then show it around like, “Am I crazy, or are her eyes crossed?”  But then one friend told me that he and his wife had noticed and wondered about our baby crossing her eyes, and that really worried me.

I shared this all with my daughter’s pediatrician at her 15-month appointment.  He listened to me with concern on his face, which was not the reaction I was expecting.  I had sort of filed this one under “normal things that I’m unreasonably worried about.”  At the end of our visit, he declared my daughter’s aversion to walking at 15 months completely normal but handed us a paper with referrals for a pediatric ophthalmologist.  Eek.  Our first specialist – another major parenting milestone reached.

Crossed or not?
Crossed or not?

On the afternoon of the appointment (which took me over two months to get, by the way), we arrived at the office, and I was very pleasantly surprised at the calm and quiet atmosphere that we walked into.  I guess because I was so stressed about the appointment, I had some preconceived notions about what it would be like.  I know that this is only one example of one office, but it was nothing like our sometimes zoo-like pediatrician’s office, which was a huge relief!  I immediately felt much more calm.

After a short wait, we were called into an exam room, where I sheepishly explained my worries to the nurse.  He simply listened to me and typed some notes for the doctor.  The next part was the worst of the whole visit – eye drops!  My girl needed to have her pupils dilated.  She was not happy about it, but it took all of 2 seconds, and the nurse quickly calmed her down by saying “bye-bye!” even though he wasn’t leaving the room quite yet.  Smart man!

Crossed or not?
Crossed or not?

We had to wait a while for my daughter’s pupils to dilate, and then we met the doctor, who was really friendly and patient with me as I explained my worries.  I had made a photo album on my phone of eye crossing pictures, which the doctor said was a really good idea (motherhood win!).  He did some quick tests involving flashing lights and lenses and even a visit from Elmo.  I was really impressed with his and the other staff’s skill in working with children so young.

The doctor concluded that my daughter’s eyes are normal.  It turns out that I was basically seeing an optical illusion in her pictures.  Because of the shape and positioning of her nose and eyes, there were times when they appeared slightly crossed, even though they weren’t.  He pulled up a couple of the pictures I shared and zoomed in to show me that the light was hitting each eye in the same place in relation to her pupils, which his a really good indication of not crossing.  I learned something new!

An enlarged photo that looked cross-y to me.  Can you see how the triangle of light is in the same spot in relation to each pupil?  No cross!
An enlarged photo that looked cross-y to me. Can you see how the triangle of light is in the same spot in relation to each pupil? No cross!

Overall, my biggest worry was that there was something going on with my baby that required correction, and I am incredibly relieved that that’s not the case.  But my second biggest worry was that I was going to get laughed at or brushed off by the doctor – because feeling less competent as a parent is really what I need.  Actually, the opposite was true.  He praised me for bringing her in and let me know that I could always come back if other concerns came up.

My point in sharing this with all of you is to spread the word that getting a referral to a specialist isn’t necessarily so bad.  If you are worried like I was about being scoffed at, know that you aren’t the only one in your position, and when it comes to health, no question is a dumb question.  If you are worried about having to face a potentially serious medical issue, know that you will be in the right place.  Also, it struck me while I was there that, not only are specialist doctors specialized in dealing with difficult medical conditions, but the doctor we saw seemed much better prepared for and sensitive to stressed families.  I wouldn’t say I’m sad that we don’t have to make a return visit to the pediatric ophthalmologist, but now it feels like if we had to, it would be just fine.

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