Gender matters

1:39 PM

My daughter is sick this week, got a big bad cold and throat infection and fever galore, so much so that on Wednesday we went to the Dr because she kept us up all night with restlessness and probably a solid dose of drama queen attitude (she knows we melt at the knee when she is sick and will try everything not to upset her).
And this is precisely were gender matters, in my experience I prefer having a male paediatrician, over a woman. We had quite a few since she was born as for immunization and such, we walked in the OPD at Manipal hospital in Bangalore a lot before having a friend recommend a lady, at which point we shifted to Navi Mumbai 6 months later.
in all the peds we’ve seen, only one lady was friendly and professional at the same time. All the others had that kind of matronly condescending attitude as if their being women on top of being Dr made them far more qualified in childcare than you, made them so arrogantly confident in themselves that whatever you reported about your own child was of little significance or importance. Things like us going in for immunization only to have the Dr ask what kind of cream we used to treat rashes on the face, and when telling her it was a product trusted by mommies back where I come from to sneer and sermon me about how only coconut oil is good for it. Or the fact that Ishi always had been a skinny girl and that it was of course that I was no feeding her right because yup we all know that hereditary factors are just a bunch of bollocks and that as a foreigner I of course had disastrous eating habits myself that is sure to kill my own kid…Simply put, these women paediatrician I saw knew best because of who they were and that dispensed them from needing to ask anything about family history of anything. Highly recommended lady Doctor included.
A thing that I never saw with any of the male Doctor we saw, who for some reason are far more detached and professional and don’t let whatever hormone bout get in the way. They are Doctors, they don’t feel the need to be superior in their approach, all knew that parents know their child well enough and that it is worth asking the right question. None of the male Doctors we saw felt the need to lecture me for her 3rd percentile weight, sure some found it odd, but instead of immediately accusing me of not feeding her properly, they asked how she was eating, and how active she was, and how many diapers she soiled a day, and upon getting normal answers to all the above ask if there was a family history of being underweight during childhood, which yes indeed there was, in my case at least, DH can’t remember in his case. In this light Ishita’s weight isn’t worry some, but none of the ladies in the paediatric lot seemed to want to consider that option, I was in their eye the one at fault, one even suggested that I spoon fed her ghee to fatten her up to meet the standard (if that isn’t quack advice what is?). the one we saw last Diwali in Lucknow was the worst of the lot in the condescending department, we came in for an emergency viral fever check as my in-laws were getting panicky, turns out that apparently having a nearly 2.5 year old weighting just 10kg was all bad, I tried to explain that it was hereditary, only to be met with a once over look taking in my slightly overweight figure (PCOS makes it hard to stay trim sorry!) and then lecture me about the importance of nutrition and that feeding a kid junk food wasn’t it…at no point did she even ask what Ishita was eating, nope, my lack of desiness was proof enough that I was a barbaric lady feeding her kids potato chips and soft drinks the whole day long! She then pointed out that it was my daughter drinking water from her sippy cup that was making her sick, and the fact we stopped sterilising bottles when she was 6 month old, never mind that between the age of 6 month until the time we saw that particular Dr Ishita has never been sick, when I pointed it out I got a lecture on how I cannot behave that way here as it’s not like in the west and I must adjust to India while staying there, DH tried to point out that Ishita was born in India, but apparently we still had a tourist attitude, all because of how I looked.
She was right no matter what and I was by default wrong, never mind that she saw us a grand total of 10 minutes altogether, she acted like she was the ultimate expert on everything related to my daughter. She was the worst, but not the only one.

So this Wednesday the ped we saw at the hospital was a guy, and he asked all the right questions again, didn’t bother over the weight issue, because we came for a cough, fever and earache in the first place, he asked how she was eating these days of sickness, told us that her lack of appetite was normal, to keep offering food as she asked for it, but focus more on fluids intake, we walked out with a prescription for cough syrup, an antibiotics for the massive throat infection, and a fever reducer, no lecture on how sippy cups caused whatever and that my being a foreigner means that surely all my daughter eat is crap.

Could it be that a lot of women embracing the profession are more likely not to be able to separate the profession from motherhood instinct and let the fact they had kids before their patient get in the way? I personally would like to think so.
Men going in the field might be fathers in their private sphere, but perhaps the fact that they don’t have the same bonding with their kids as a mom do makes them see all kids and parents in a more objective way and not feel like they need to give condescending advice to their patient’s parents. Their field of expertise is paediatric medicine, not lecturing parents on the merit of coconut oil over whatever specially formulated lotion they are using. I can see how the particular issue would have gone if the ped I saw back then was a male: “I see your daughter still has newborn rash on her face, are you following a special treatment for it?” to which I would have replied “Yes I have this ointment we use for rashes and dry skin in Switzerland” to which he would in all like hood have replied “Have you seen any improvement with it?” to which I would have replied “Yes it seems to be going away fine” at which point the doctor would have been satisfied because the purpose of the consultation in the first place was not newborn rash it was prescribing an immunization shot and see if she was fit to receive the shot in the first place.

All this post to say that yes I much prefer dealing with male doctors, and that Ishita is sick this week which means she is not setting a foot in school until next Monday, as I don’t want her to generously give her germs to her classmates and get other parents to have to deal with cranky fussy sick kiddos, because they aren’t fun days in the life of a mother.
All of which of course mean i probably won’t be blogging much until Monday.


  1. I will remember this for the future.

    India is a judgemental nation. While I do not suffer the brunt of being foreign like you, I have been judged multiple times over the course of my life for being left-handed. In South India, it is a common practice to change a kid's dominant hand to the right hand - so if the kid were to start eating/writing using left hand, then the kid is constantly hit on that hand (as is the practice in old days) until the kid realizes that left hand is not correct and the right hand is used at least to eat and write even if by nature the left hand is more predominant.

    This was the idea for me as well, only I started developing "stammering" as a side-effect because all the confusion regarding which hand to use had started affecting my brain as a child and my parents were forced to give up on changing me to a "right handed" person..

    Eating with your left hand is considered impolite in front of elders in my culture, it starts with people frowning upon you, then your parents for not bringing you up right, then with them taking offence that you have the audacity to do it in front of them, finally with a retort targeting your "bad" behavior effectively ending your appetite. I have been on the receiving end enough number of times that I have learnt to lend a blind eye and ear to such people. Unfortunately, your story reminds me of that and I am sorry you have to undergo judgements like this just because of your skin color!

  2. I heard this thing about left handed people, and the confusion it creates in the brain, it is baffling that with all the scientifc facts today people still stick to this practice.
    It existed at one point in Switzerland too, my Grand Ma who was born in 1930 was forced to write with her right hand in school, so much so that now she just can't write with her left at all, but she is a lefty for everything else, her handwritting at age 82 still look unnatural and forced, so was the effect of pushing kids to write with the right hand.
    I myself am almost perfectly ambidextrous, I can use right or left for a lot of tasks and often switch from one hand to another mid task, especially in the kitchen, if I am holding something in my right hand then I use the left for something else without switching hands. I can write with my left hand, though of course because it is less convenient I never made it my dominant hand for that activity and lack a tad of speed, I think the thing that bothered me the most on the few occasions I tried writting with the left is the fact that as I wrote my hand hid the text I just wrote down unless I twisted my wrist a little, but I have caught myself sitting with Ishita tugged under my right arm asking me to draw flowers and what not on paper and ending up doing it with the left.
    And yes I also remember that on occasion I did hand money with my left hand and some auto drivers and shopkeepers in Bangalore were a little unsettled by it.
    As for the medical assumptions, it's not just my daughter's diet that is apparently linked to my skin colour, I had a gnecologist who at first tried to dismiss my steady unexplained weight gain to the fact I was a foreigner and that it was due to the fact I was eating junk, she even looked surprised when I told her I cooked my own food with fresh veggies at home, because apparently foreigners don't cook! I had to put my foot down with her so she would at least investigate PCOS which I had been suspecting for years. Turned out I was right all along. I changed Dr after that though. When I was pregnant with Ishita my OB-GYN had to tke a leave for a month and had lady filling in for her, and I got the massive lecture on how I had to eat right for the sake of my baby and I mentionned enjoying mediteranean type cuisine, steamed veggies, grilled meat, and salads, only to have her sternly tell me that the only healthy food was Indian home cooked food, nevermind that at the stage at whcih I saw her was ight at the end of the 1st trimester when the smell of dal leave alone the taste was enough to make me want to throw up, along with the infamous 2 glass of milk she wanted to drink me each day, I never liked milk in my life, the smell of it while pregnant was enough to make me make a run for the bathroom, but apparently I was all wrong for prefering my calcium intake in the form of cheese, which was my ultimate mad craving while pregnant, she went as far as telling me to put as much sugar or chocolate as I wanted in the milk to be able to bear the taste but to stick with milk...thanks but no thanks :-) When my OB came back she was puzzled to know why exactly I was advised to quit cheese for milk in the first place, but then I knew better and never followed the milk advice thing, DH brought the fact that I didn't drink milk up at that appointment :-)

  3. HAH!
    I am an American OB physician whose primary focus is research- even I am not spared the Indian dietary lectures that make absolutely no sense. Some of the HORRIFIC advice I've been given by Indian physicians and have heard Indian physicians give their patients is just unbelievable. What awful advice is eeding your daughter straight ghee? How to give her steatorrhea- fatty diarrhea?
    Most Indian OB's have no idea what PCOS is, what to look for or how to treat it.
    I do think many Indian female physicians 'over compensate' and are quite overbearing.

    Apparently Indians are NEVER supposed to question their physicians- not even for educational purposes. I am reminded when an old Indian aunty patient I saw at a clinic told me- "You can't possibly be a good doctor because you ask too many questions!"

  4. Yeah I seriously questionned the straight ghee advice, what kind of Dr advise for such a thing?
    And I find your Aunty patient scary, how is a Doctor supposed to make a proper diagnosis without asking all the question they need? By way of mind reading?
    I'd say a lot of non OB-GYN doctors also struggle to understand what PCOS is. And even those OB who seem to understand what it is think it's only associated with reproductive issue, and that a woman suffering from it need no treatment if she is not pregnant or trying to concieve. I have insulin resistance associated to PCOS, and my main concern is getting that insulin and blood sugar into check, but after my daughter was born my OB told me to not go back on metformin as I went back on the pill. She told me that just diet and exercise will be enough, sure enough 3 months later despite working out and eating right I had gained 3kg! Kilos that refused to go no matter what, I went to an endocrinologist who submitted to the same glucose challenge test preggo ladies go through, verdict: insulin resistance indeed!
    Even then back on metformin, weight is something i constantly struggle with, not that I am obese, but with all the care I put into taking care of myself I am still in the slightly overweight category. I find those Dr who judge me on my skin colour absolutely disgusting because in their mind it is like "Oh she is a foreigner...of course she is fat, they eat only crap" Sigh!

  5. I'm left handed but have somehow been spared the judgement on that because I'm a foreigner. You know they just figure I don't know any better or wasn't raised right to begin with. I'm mostly ambidextrous for convenience sake but I can not use cursive with my right hand. And for the life of me I can not use left handed scissors. I hear all the time though from my husband that I can't do this or that right because I'm left handed. Based on your disruption he must have been a female pediatrician in another life because he is full of all those platitudes founded in old wives tales rather than fact and science and has no problem dolling them out to anyone who'll listen. I really think I just crushed his heart recently informing him that ghee was intact saturated fat and there for not what the doctors are talking about for healthy development of the brain. I'm sorry you have to face so much trouble with pediatriticians there.

  6. Akshaya Borkar5:49 AM

    Hi Cynthia, The issue which you face is common, nothing to do with being non Indian... female Dr are typical the way you have mentioned to everyone, b'coz not many girls were allowed to educate up to that level in their times, so they are still proud of the fact that they r lady doctors , so have more brains than all ordinary women. Also being women they have motherly instinct too which they think empowers them further to boss around, whereas men doctors are not confident about going in further depth regarding child bearing and growth issues (they think its thier mother's expertise) so they stay professional and just work on the book theory. My sis-in-law's husband is general physcist in India and he refuse to check his own wife during her pregnancy and still refuses to treat his own child. also he follows his mother's advise on child health matters(even though his mum is not a Dr). So he referred to gynac and peadetrician for all types of health requirements for his wife n daughter. I just hate his attitude. Also I feel very insecure abt taking my girl to doctors in India. Hope Ishita is feeling well now and you have a bearable week to go.

  7. Yeah i have a feeling they are, but funny how the instant they see me they make the junk food assumption, I bet they aren't thinking that way about an Indian woman. Had one of two doctors I was seeing for myself actually shocked when I told them I could cook! What the hell?
    I think however that your SIL's husband is wise refering his wife and child to specialist, I would avoid potential for drama too if I were in this case. Not to mention that he is probably too close to both of them to really make an objective diagnosis.
    I feel uncomfy going to a Doctor in India period, be it for me or my daughter, because it inevitably end up with being prescribed antibiotics even if the fever is due to a virus, at least this time around there was a big time throat infection and a possible start of ear infection so they did work, but there have been many instance of me being prescribed antibiotics for a common cold, hello a cold is a virus, won't work! In 8.5 years in India I have been prescribed more antibiotics than I ever had in 24 years in Switzerland!

  8. I like the sound of being ambidextrous like you... Wish I could do that :) Well, the only thing I have accomplished so far is to be ambidextrous while eating :D not sure if that word can be applied when that is the only task I can do with ease using either hand - but of course if you were to offer me a cookie right now, I would pick it up using my left hand and I need to consciously remember to use my right hand to feed myself in front of guests because of the aforementioned likelyhood tat they would get offended..

    I liked your sentense : "foreigners don't cook!" and " the only healthy food was Indian home cooked food," :D Lol at your husband bringing up the fact that you did not follow the said advice of replacing milk with cheese.. Husbands tend to that even though they mean well :) Seriously it must suck to deal with such people who are constantly judging you with a superior attitude just based on skin color. On a similar note, you go to most dieticians associated with gyms in Bangalore - they give you a standard "diet chart"
    (eat oats/cereals for breakfast, 3 chapatis for lunch, 2 for dinner with raw veggies ) and if we were to follow it to the T we would definitely lose weight :) Apparently the fact that we are all unique individuals with different taste buds and possible gluten allergies and different appetites dont count, not to mention any medical history leading to weight-gain like PCOS that you and I suffer from... If we are not dropping the pounds, then that means we are not following their prescribed diet!

  9. Sharell8:20 PM

    The pediatrician at Hiranandani Hospital is really sweet. I'm wondering if you saw him? Dr Ahuja. He gave me my rabies shots when I got bitten by the monkey! lol.

  10. Yeah thanks to PCOS I'm sure their diet would not work too well, I gain weight on half the food DH eats in a day while he stays the way he is! What kind of dietetitians are these? Aren't dietetician take illnesses and other factor into account before handing out a standard diet chart? I think at one point I was following the diet you mention above after Ishita was born and before being back on metformin, it was oats and a fruit for breakfast, 3 chapati no rice and one vegetable and one dal for lunch, and for dinner I often had a soup and a fruit, or 2 slices of bread with a salad..I was doing a workout video for 30 minutes, walking the dog for another 20 or so, and I still gained 3kg ugh!

  11. That was him indeed :-) So he does give shots to adult patients as well. He seemed like he is a busy guy being all over the hospital at all time.
    And ouch for being bitten by a monkey, never happened to me, but I would not want to get in the path of their sharp teeth because these fangs they have are really scary looking.

  12. Akshaya6:12 PM

    Hi Cyn, glad to know that ishi is fine now. Yes the overload of antibiotics is a big issue. This the reason my folks kept me on Ayurveda for all my life n only time the herbal medicine seemed to be slow or ineffective I was switched to milder does of antibiotics. So even today I can't cope with more than 250mg of antibiotic.
    The female dr will have image of women from every strata of society. So the minute you say u/ur hubby is in IT industry, well to do family, then it's to be assumed that the diet will be bad and based on junk food or take away stuff. So it's very obvious for the lady to make such assumptions for you too. It's difficult to point out if it's gender, caste, religion or ethnic fascism one may face at any given point of time. But yes Indians r brought up in system where the rascism is imbibed in ppl from birth.
    Another theory at antibiotics for viral infection I hv heard from doctors is; India is very polluted than those foreign countries you visit so, the viruses here are very resilient and hence need high antibiotics. My hubby had some viral fever when we were in India and he was prescribed high IB antibiotics and admitted to hospital. This is where they gave me this theory when I refuse to inject him with the high dosage second time. My in laws hated me, but I had to print medical info to prove my point that the doctor is duping and playing with my hubby's health. So till to this date that doctor hates me, and has refused to see my FIL

  13. Yeah but antibiotics regardless of where one lives are totally inefective against a virus, they work only on bacterial infections. The reason some doctors have been trying to serve me is that the antibiotic is prescribed "just in case" to prevent a secondary infection that could develop when the immune system is busy fighting a virus. The problem with the heavy use of antibiotics for ridiculous "just in case" scenario is that it leads to some germs becoming resistant to antibiotics and mutation into superbugs. In many cases when the Dr told me I had a common cold I simply didn't buy the antibiotics, because frankly in the begining I used to go to the dr only when a fever developped to make sure it was just a cold and not some mosquito borne disease or something, common cold was a relief and I just knew I had to take rest, drink fluids, keep the fever down when debilitating and wait for it to pass :-) I take antibiotics only when it is serious enough for me to take some the last time being 3 years ago when developping 2 mastitis in a row while nursing Ishi, the first one I have been prescribed the wrong antibiotics by a hasted gynec, the second time it was probably just the worsening of the first one, it floored me and the senior gynec who saw me feared there might be some surgery reqquired to drain the abcess, but decided to first put me on 1500g a day of antibiotics (the right kind this time) for 3 days, before checking again, then seeing we avoided the surgery but were still not out of the mastitis prescribed 1200g for another 7 days to really clear the infection...that was one of the very few times where antibiotics were highly needed, and one of these few times one would be very happy not to have been on antibiotics so much in the past that they do no longer work because that one time the fever and pain was debilitating to the extreme.

  14. Sharell1:30 AM

    Yes, he does give shots to adult patients. But I think he might be a bit scared of them. I tried engaging him in conversation (cos I hate shots and wanted the distraction) but he was really shy and didn't quite know what to do with me in that regard. He was awesome at giving the shots though.. fast and gentle. I have no doubt he'd be wonderful with kids. He's lovely!

  15. He seem to be good with kids, Ishita usually cries and scream when we go to the doctor and I think the only time she protested was when he wanted to check her throat, and even then that was a slight protest, she kept quiet for everything else.


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