Everything Was Fine Until It Wasn’t: What Happend at the Doctor

**Trigger Warning**

“No. No no no NO! Please! Please don’t do this to me! Please! No, I am too scared! NO!”
“Hold her still. I’ll rip her pants down and stick her.”
“Please don’t do this to me. Please don’t do this to me. Please don’t do this to me.”

Sometimes things happen so fast it doesn’t feel like there is time to think and when it is over, you stand there wondering if what just happened, happened. My hands were shaking and both of my children were crying, bordering on hysterical. It had happened.

Let me back up, to last Thursday when I took my children to the pediatrician to catch up on some shots we had missed. My daughter really hates getting shots, so I had spent the two days prior preparing her for the two shots she would be getting, and why she needed to get them. We talked about what would happen, we talked about some diseases being very serious and needing prevention, and we planned a special reward for when it was over. We arrive at the doctor’s office and the kids go bananas because the waiting room has been completely remodeled, there is a new fish tank to press noses against, and a circular leather couch the kids deem an air hole in the Arctic ice and they morph into whales. Next they notice a small set of carpeted stairs in the corner and turn it into a stage, singing something about cats while we waited for our turn. We don’t go to the doctor very often, so the kids hadn’t been in the office in eight months or so. A nurse or Medical Assistant we had never seen called us back and roomed us.

The patient rooms were also new, and the kids were still excited and exploring everything. When I made the appointment three weeks ago I mentioned that my daughter was very scared of getting shots and that this appointment needed to happen quickly. This nurse, or MA, asked me what we were here for, and I looked at her puzzled and told her the kids needed a couple of shots. She asked if I knew which ones, and I inquired into why she was not prepared, nor had our charts pulled. I asked her to open our chart on the computer, and she seemed annoyed by the request. She opened my son’s chart first, and said “Oh my God, he’s missing like everything. I’m not sure what to do. Do you want us to give him everything today?” No, I did not. I wrote down what I wanted for him. I asked her to pull up my daughter’s chart, and Amelia had quieted down and came to my side, eyes very wide. As I looked at her chart, I noticed vaccines listed on there I had not approved (we reduce and delay, a decision that is met with indifference at this office). I was pissed. I asked to see the doctor, and was told he was on vacation until next week. I tried to calm down since there was nothing I could do at that moment, and I wrote down what I wanted my daughter to have. The nurse asked if I wanted to speak to one of the other doctors, I declined.

She then said it would take her a few minutes “to get all these shots ready”. The nurse left the room, not once addressing or acknowledging either child. Freaking brilliant, I thought.

“What does she mean, ‘all these shots’?” asked five year old Amelia, her voice beginning to tremble.

“I don’t know why she said it that way, Honey. She needs to get two shots for you and two for Benny. It will be two quick little pokes in your leg, and then you are all done.” Me

“I don’t want shots. Mom, I’m really scared,” Amelia said, and the tears started to roll. I wrapped her up in a hug.

“I understand that you are scared, but shots are something we have to do so that we don’t get very sick with a bad disease that could put us in the hospital or kill us. The nurse will do it very quickly. It will just feel like a little pinch,” I tried reassuring her.

No luck. Amelia is an deeply emotional creature. She is very bright and very intense.  She is a wonderful little girl who is deathly afraid of shots. I’m deathly afraid of clowns. I get it. I respect her, and if the child is terrified, it is my personal experience having worked with children with deep fears of water and swimming, to wrap them in love and security and ease them through their fears to get them to a place of confidence and understanding.

The nurse came back with another nurse/MA, and again without looking at or addressing either child, she looks at me and asks, “Okay, so who’s first?” I asked where the nurses where going to give the shot, and where they wanted me.

I chose Benny to go first, scooped him up, and put him on the table. The room was small and crowded. Amelia scooted under the exam table. I could hear her crying softly.

I helped Benny undo his snap and wiggle down his pants. He laid down on the table and began to cry a little. I held his hands and the second nurse had her hands on his feet. I told him to give me Eskimo kisses as the shots went in. He cried from the pain, but was otherwise a trooper. I got him redressed and hugged him, handed him a book, wiped away his tears, and sat him in one of the chairs.

Amelia was at this point crying very loudly, and had plastered herself to the wall underneath the exam table. Because the room was so small and I had been dealing with Ben, I let her go there because it seemed to make her feel safe. Since neither one of the medical staff had even acknowledged her, I’m going to assume she didn’t feel secure in the hands of two strangers who had just made her little brother cry.

With Amelia crying hard, I reached under and pulled her hand to help her out. She did not come very willingly. I tried to pick her up from under her arm pits and plop her bottom on the table, but she bucked off, and began screaming “No” over and over again. I still had her under her arms, tummy to tummy. I had my face nuzzled into her hair, and was trying to tell her that she would be okay, I understood she was scared, and that I would hold her the entire time. I don’t think she heard any of it over the crying. I could feel the nurses getting tense. I understood their annoyance, but the kid was terrified. Terrified. Not acting like a brat, she was terrified. I was hoping one of them would say something to her, or try to distract her for a moment. They just stood there. Benny was still crying a bit, too, saying his legs really hurt. I was about to ask the nurses to leave and give us a minute to get collected, when it happened.

“No. No no no NO! Please! Please don’t do this to me! Please! No, I am too scared! NO!” Amelia.
“Hold her still. I’ll rip her pants down and stick her.” Nurse.

“NO!” screamed Amelia, and she began kicking when the nurse reached for the waistband of her pants.

“What?! NO!” I said very sharply, not wanting my child’s pants ripped off her body, nor her to have a needle jammed in her leg when her body wasn’t still.

But the words of the nurse and the pleas of my daughter did it. My head swirled like when you are about to pass out, and all of my rape memories came back to me. I don’t talk about it and I don’t think about it, but the words, and the cries of my daughter, it was just enough to trigger it all, I guess. I tried to say something to Amelia, but my mouth didn’t open. I wanted to punch the nurse in the face, but for obvious reasons, did not. I turned to look at Ben, and he sat there, his little three year old body in the big chair,he had tears streaming down his face as he said, “Nama, Nama,” his pet name for his big sister.

A nurse came on either side of Amelia, grabbed a leg and lifted her onto the table. I still had Amelia by the upper body, and I numbly moved along with them.

“Please don’t do this to me. Please don’t do this to me. Please don’t do this to me.” 

It was Amelia saying those words, but it had been me saying those words in my mind 15 years prior when I had been drugged and raped. I had been awake enough to know what was happening, too drugged to move or fight back. I tried to squash all of that down, and be present for my daughter, but she had stopped fighting at that point, she had given up. I wanted to weep. The nurses had backed off, and were standing at the end of the table. I just wanted this over and these women away from my children. I could not believe we were experiencing this.

“Amelia, I know you are scared. It is okay. Mommy is going to undo your button and I am going to wiggle your pants under your bum and you are going to get your shots.” Amelia’s eyes were rolled back in her head, and she was crying, but in a way that was more like moaning now. This is absolutely dreadful, I remember thinking. But this all took place in about 20-40 seconds. I was upset myself and I didn’t know what to do. Should I tell them to stop? That we’ll reschedule? There was no way I’d ever get Amelia back in here. The second nurse reached up and very gently helped Amelia wiggle down her pants, they very quickly gave her the shots and put Band Aids on, said a short “Okay then you’re all set” and left the room.

I stood there in shock. Hurt and fury and shock. Amelia stood up, crying, fist clenched, and screamed in my face, “SHE HAD NO RIGHT TO TAKE DOWN MY PANTS!”. Amelia was righteously pissed.

Amelia should be. She has been taught since about the age of two what the rules of her body are. She knows the names of her private parts, of male private parts, and that no one should touch her nor ask her to touch them or somebody else. She knows whether it is a kid or an adult, a stranger or someone we know, whether it feels good or is scary, no one is to touch her body. She knows unless she is at the doctor and Mom is in the room, no one is to ask her to take her clothes off so that they can look at her. As she has gotten older, she has developed on her own an attack plan of what she would do if someone tried to touch her or steal her. We have talked to her about “tummy voices” and how to listen to her intuition. We have raised her to be aware and confident and not to be fearful. She knows she can ask me or my husband questions, or come to us if something occurs and that she won’t get in trouble. She has been taught this. She knows the rules of her body.

Years ago at her three year old check up, she sat in her Dora panties while the doctor examined her and felt her tummy, and when he pressed on her lower abdomen, she popped up, put her finger in the air and other hand on her hip and spouted off what we joke are her “Vagina Monologues”, which is a 90 second rant on private parts and who can and cannot touch her body. The doctor very respectfully put his hands together and backed off. Little girlfriend would have none of it.

And that is why last Thursday was so devastating for me. For Amelia. She had been taught and had embraced the idea that she was in control of her body. She knew what was right and what was wrong. She knew she had the right to say no. She knew her body was hers. Yet this nurse, in her demonstrated complete lack of respect for my daughter, was going to forcefully remove the child’s pants. Now, I’ve never worked as a nurse, but I have worked with kids consistently since I was twelve years old. That’s 21 years of kiddom. I can think of 4-5 things off the top of my head that the nurses could have done to gain the trust of my child and make the shots go more smoothly. Or they could have left the room and let me calm my terrified child down. My dogs have been shown more compassion by their vet.

Yesterday, when I spoke to the doctor, he said the nurses denied it happening and that he was unsure what to do. I said I wanted the nurse formally disciplined, and for his staff to be addressed on bedside manner to children, and having a little extra compassion for young children terrified of needles. He said he was so very sorry this had happened. I said I was furious that my husband and I had worked so hard to give Amelia a strong body image and know the rules of her body, and we come to the place whose sole purpose it is to safe guard her health, and that as the child is crying “No” all of it was undone by one nurse. The doctor said he doubts most kids would have reacted as strongly as Amelia, and that maybe that was a result of what we had taught her. He said it was usually best not to bargain and just get it over with. He said she wouldn’t need shots again until she was ten, so she would be okay and get over it. I felt completely patronized and judged. My daughter was terrified, and what happened to her was traumatic. We will not be returning to his care.

This would be a pertinent time to interject that 1 in 4 girls will be sexually molested or assaulted by the time they are 18 years old. For boys, 1 in 6. My children are taught the rules of their bodies. 1 in 4 teens will suffer violence in a dating relationship. 15% of rape survivors are under the age of 12 years old. My children know their bodies belong to them, and that they have the right to demand respect for their bodies. As a parent, I will not apologize to my doctor or to anyone for teaching them that natural born right. You’re damn straight my daughter reacted strongly.

Later that afternoon I had to go to Madison for a segment on the news. I let Amelia come to the studio with me. She had a tired and glazed look in her eye. She had stared out the window, not talking, for the 45 minute drive to Madison. She was withdrawn. In the parking lot, she asked if she could question the reporters about whales. I said we would try. After my segment the anchors called her over to the news desk, and she was shy at first as they lether ask her questions about news stories on whales. Amelia is obsessed with whales, and they were asking questions back and answering her questions and the light came back on in her eyes. She was Amelia again. Within ten minutes she was sitting on the lap of the anchor I had done the segment with, and was inviting all of them to her birthday party. They had taken the time to gain the trust of the child.

When we returned home that night, she was talking to my husband at the dinner table, and she pounded her little fist on the table as she said to my husband, “That nurse had no right to take my pants down.” My husband agreed with her, he assured her that he and I were very angry, and that we would be talking to that nurse’s boss and that what she did was very wrong. Luckily, several of our dear family friends are nurses, and we are going to schedule some time for Amelia to go in and see them at work and give them hugs and have an experience that allows her to see loving, respectful nurses at work. We took time over the next couple of days to talk with both kids about what happened, what was not right about it, and why. We talked about how Amelia could have acted differently, even though she was very very scared.

I asked Amelia if she wanted to write the nurse a letter, to tell her what she thought about what happened. She answered in true Amelia fashion.

“Smalls, I know you were so upset today. Maybe it would be a good idea to write the nurse who upset you a letter,” I suggested.

“Mom, my brain was telling me to relax but my heart was telling me to cry and I was so scared and my tummy was telling me to puke,” Amelia explained.

“I understand that. You were very upset and very scared. You won’t have to get shots for a long time, so we have lots of time to practice being calm. So do you want to write the nurse a letter?” I ask.

“No. But I do want to mail her a toad,”  Amelia says.

“What if she doesn’t understand what that means? What does that mean, by the way?” I wonder as I try to figure out where this is going.

“Oh. Oh-ho-ho-ho. Oh she’ll know what it means,” says Amelia, as she pushes away her chair and gets up to go play with the puppy.

Amelia seems to be okay, but I do not know what to expect the next time she has to go to the doctor. And now I have to find a new doctor. While I hate what happened to us last Thursday, I am thankful I was present when it happened, and can help her understand it. I am thankful beyond words it was not a more serious situation, say one of sexual molestation or assault. I don’t ever want that level of violation to happen to my cherished daughter’s body, to any child’s body. It is the right of the child to have their body pass through their childhood much loved and unharmed.


Here’s what I want parents to take away from this story:

1. Please, please get comfortable talking to your kids about their bodies, private parts, and sex. You might need to get honest with yourself and move past some issues you may have in order to have this ongoing and evolving conversation with your child. Do that.

2. Please, please teach your children about their bodies, the correct names of their body parts, what appropriate and inappropriate touches are, and their right to say no.

3. Please, please get honest about the fact that these inappropriate touches 90% of the time come from people the child will know and consider safe. Your child must know that he or she will never be in trouble for being honest with you.

4. When a situation happens that is uncomfortable to talk about, get uncomfortable and talk about it. Allow your kids to express their emotions, and ask questions about what happened. Help them interpret their actions and the actions of the others involved. Their being a child does not diminish their rights.

5. Take time to get to know the staff at your doctor’s office. If something doesn’t feel right to you, ask questions or even take a timeout to take a step back. Respect a doctor’s time spent in school and knowledge, but recognize that you are the boss of your child’s body and will have a say in their medical care.

6. Teach your child that medical professionals are there to help them, and that sometimes we have to do things at the doctor we don’t want to do, like eye drops or shots or a throat culture to protect our health. But it is possible for a nurse or doctor to step outside of the realm of professional appropriateness and your child always has the right to speak up when they don’t like what is happening to their body. If it helps, develop a code word with your child that is a signal that they are uncomfortable (also works with neighbors or coaches or extended family) and need to speak to you in private ASAP.

7. YOU are your child’s biggest advocate. You are their voice in situations they cannot fully understand. Children cry and act out when they cannot voice what is happening to them. Children see the world differently than we do. Show them respect and see things from their eye level. Use your voice to stand up for them. It may not change what happened, but it will teach your child they are worth fighting for, and that you speak up and speak out when something is unjust.


When we discussed this on Facebook last week, I received some judgemental comments saying that Amelia’s behavior was inappropriate for a 5yo and that I had allowed my daughter to act in a way that was bratty and that I need more control as a parent. I want to make clear, this wasn’t Amelia being bratty, this was Amelia being terrified. There is a big difference, and the difference is an important one. I think telling a child to “Suck it up” when they are in a state of terror directly tells them their feelings are unimportant to what adults want to do with their bodies. I will not teach my children that, and if that makes me a bad parent, I’ll take it. I am stern with my children, but not in a way that disregards their feelings, especially when that feeling is terror. I try very hard, every day, to be present and parent from a place that is loving and respectful, not intimidating and dismissive. I respect them enough to not force my will on them, but rather have them come around to a decision because they understand the situation. At 5.5 yo and 3.5 yo and both extremely intelligent, they are capable of doing this.

Let’s please not turn the Comments into a vaccine debate. That is not the point of this post. We reduce and delay our shots, these were the last on my well-researched list, and we have family that lives abroad so it was important to get these in before we saw everyone at the holidays and my kids were exposed to things they normally would not be in this country.

To all of you who expressed love and concern for Amelia last week, my family thanks you.

I will thank you in advance for being respectful with your Comments.


July 19, 2014 — I wanted to update this story with two things. One, after this incident took place we moved our care to a new pediatrician at a new office. Both our doctor and her nurses are outstanding and beyond respectful to me and my children. We love our new doctor’s office and while there are still some tears after getting shots the staff has worked so patiently with the children do diminish their fears. Amelia and Ben both still remember and talk about this incident, but as time has passed it has become less traumatic for all of us. The children use it as their benchmark for never being touched in ways they don’t like and for when adults are out of line with children.

Second, I wanted to share this video of a pediatrician who clearly is a master of his craft and clearly adores his small patients. This is what respect looks like in pediatric care, towards children and towards parents. This is how we teach children they are in control of their bodies and that mom/dad/doctor will look out for their health while including the child in that process as an active participant rather than a specimen.

I don’t know who this doctor is or where he is from, but he is amazing. What a lucky family to be in his care.

Thank you to PPBB Community Member Jill S for sending me this video.


  1. Yes. To all the above. Yes.

  2. Thank you for writing this. I know it was traumatic for both you and your daughter. She sounds incredibly strong and I hope she always feels empowered to say no when she means no. Tell her I’ll mail the nurse a toad, too. 🙂

  3. I appreciate this post. I had a similar experience this year with my 9 year old – in a new state, at a new doctor’s office, with a new doctor (female) who insisted that she be able to do a visual vaginal examination. The tears started rolling down her face, I saw the fear, the discomfort. After much discussion with her and thought, I told the doctor NO. I was insulted to the nth degree by the doctor for making that choice. I was told that I shouldn’t let her “get away with it” and that if I let it happen this time it would, “only happen next time” and choice words were also said to my daughter.

    I tell everyone I know about the practice and the doctor and her utter lack of professionalism, and I feel in my heart that I made a good call. It’s not something a child “gets away with”, it’s something that has to do with personal space, boundaries and comfort. She is in control of her body. Now, if there was a serious medical issue to address, I may have tried a different method. But a “quick peek” of a 9 year old’s private parts? Nope, not happening.

    • Good for you, mama. I remember a neurologist looking down my pants after commenting on freckles on my arms when I was about the same age. Not sure what that had to do with my headaches, but my mother never said a word and I had no idea I could have said no.

    • Oh come on! Its a doctor! Doctors HAVE to make sure every part of your body is clean and healthy, even if that area causes discomfort. I’m 13, and I had a virginal check up when I was 9, and I was a scared, but unlike you, my mother taught me that sometimes we have to do things we don’t like to do and push ourselves to tough it out. That’s why my doctor was able to stop a yeast infection in my vagina. Also, my mother is the only reason that I ever got enough courage to go to overnight camp, went night snorkeling, and rock climbing.

  4. A powerful post, which has certainly made me think. Thanks,

  5. I give you a LOT of credit for your attitude toward the nurses after that comment. I know neither I nor my partner would have been nearly so restrained if anything similar happened to our daughter.

  6. This was a great post to educate parents. I will stress #1 for you: studies show that kids who do not know proper body part names are more at risk of not being understood if they are trying to disclose sexual abuse. I encourage everyone to look up their local Child Advocacy Center (http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/ click on Find a local National Children’s Alliance Member Location.). CACs deal with child sexual abuse victims and their families, and will have resources for you about how to talk to your kids about personal safety, their bodies, and other issues.

  7. Teresa Zencuch says:

    As a victim of sexual violence at a young age, I can surely understand how Amelia being upset immediately brought back your experience. It was a trigger and you can relate to how violated and how helpless she was feeling. And I agree that the nurse should never have even thought to pull down a kid’s pants against their will. As a Mom and nursing student, I take issue with the fact that you had talked to the office and told them your concerns with Amelia and none of that information had been passed on. It’s a peds office for Pete’s sake…when a parent says a kid is terrified, they need to acknowledge and listen to that parent.

    You said in your comments that when you said “no” that the nurses or techs backed off. Which was good.

    You also said that you told Amelia you were going to unbutton her pants and pull them down. And then the second nurse (hopefully not the one who commented she would snatch down Amelia’s pants), “very gently helped Amelia wiggle down her pants”. That doesn’t sound like the nurse snatched down her pants. That does not sound like, at that point either you or Amelia resisted.

    Sadly, the medical professionals cannot read anyone’s mind and have no way of knowing your history and what all of this triggered for you. Sadly, you were so upset you were paralyzed and were not able to ask them for a moment to calm down. But it sounds like, what you were able to get out “NO”….caused them to take a moment to pause. It’s an awful situation.

    But I think it was more of a situation where emotions were high, there was not a great deal of communication and what was there was minimal and not effective. Terrible, terrible situation and I’m sure upsetting for you and Amelia.

    • Right, after the first nurse made the comment about “ripping her pants down” and Amelia and I both yelled “No!”, she stopped reaching for Amelia’s waistband. I don’t think I said that her pants were forcibly removed. After we laid her on the table, I undid her snap, and the second nurse helped to gently pull Amelia’s pants down while I held the waist of her panties in place so they would not come down with the pants. Amelia and I were not resisting at that point, as I stated in the post, Amelia had stopped fighting at that point and I had gone numb.

      I don’t understand your point?

      It was a situation of two nurses being in the room with a terrified child, neither of them making an effort to be friendly to her or help her through the situation, and not until things were completely out of control did they finally back off. That doesn’t have to do with minimal communication, that has to do with complete disregard towards a child by medical staff. It may have still been an unpleasant shot visit, but it did not need to be traumatic. That is not our fault.

      • Teresa Zencuch says:

        My point is that your original comments on FB and the thought you and Amelia seem to be continuing with is that the nurse ripped her pants down. When in fact, she didn’t. Did she say she was going to? Yes. And was that out of line? You bet ya! Totally, completely and 100%.

        You tell us that Amelia says ” SHE HAD NO RIGHT TO TAKE DOWN MY PANTS” and you agree with Amelia. And I agree, the nurse did not have the right to take down her pants when you and she were resisting. But then you didn’t and you made the first move to take down Amelia’s pants. And the nurse continued. The nurse did not take down Amelia’s pants without permission. Which means you, as the cooperating legal guardian of Amelia, gave her the right. The nurse did not take it. I understand why you weren’t resisting…sometimes things are so overwhelming we can’t think straight enough to get a cohesive word out of our mouths.

        And I totally agree with you that the nurses did not have any bedside manner. I know I always appreciate it when the staff at our peds office talks to my kids and asks them the questions and interacts with them. It’s a sign of respect towards the child and their body. And the nurses not talking to her is minimal communication…they were only doing exactly what they needed to do to get this over and done with…without regard for Amelia and her feelings and fears.

        • Teresa,
          I see what you are saying now. You are talking about the second nurse. This post is about the first nurse. Amelia’s anger is over the first nurse’s *failed attempt* at trying to force her pants off, saying she “was going to rip them down”. THAT sentence is what caused Amelia to rocket out of control. That is what she is furious about. That is what goes against what we have taught her, and that is what this post is about. That is why Amelia will angrily say, “She had no right to take my pants off”. The first nurse had no right to take Amelia’s pants off. Whether or not it happened, she had no right. That is what Amelia is referring to.

          She knows it was me that actually removed her pants, we talked about it afterwards. The second nurse gently helped Amelia slide her bum out of her pants, and yes, did so with my permission.

  8. Since I read about this last week on FB, I’ve given a lot of thought to these events. Amelia has every right to protect herself and you, as her mother, have every right to expect that will happen. Had there been a little compassion of the part of the nurse, this situation could have been avoided. I’m proud of Amelia for talking about it and I’m sure the nurse would know exactly what the frog was about. That actually makes me laugh. You are a good mom and you are preparing both your children for the real world while providing them a safe environment to live and learn and play in. Bravo!

    One of my daughters was frightened of a lot of things and it helped her to talk about them, learn more about them, experience them with loving support and sometimes wear my special necklace when I could be with her … You are doing this in your own way for your children and I would hope other parents are, too. As you said, it’s not about the shots, it’s not about being bratty, or any of those things … it’s about feeling safe and knowing you have a voice in what happens to you. That’s true no matter how old you are or aren’t.

  9. My daughter had to be catheterized when she was 2. It was *horrible*…I explained what was going to happen, and I was there holding her hands and talking to her…but it just went on and on (they couldn’t get the catheter in place) and she was screaming and crying and hollering “nononononononono.” But it had to be done, and she was too young to really understand the whys & wherefores. And even though she was seriously upset and wailing, I’m sure the fact that the nurses were constantly trying to reassure her as they went about it sank in somewhere.
    It may very well have been easier and faster to whip down her pants and just stick her…but that was very much not the nurse’s call to make. It was yours. And honestly, even without this episode, if they were that impersonal when dealing with children on a regular basis, I’d be changing practices too.
    Not to mention, a physician is responsible for the actions of his staff. A doctor who refuses to take responsibility for what goes on in his offices is not one I would keep around!
    I’m glad you have friends in the medical field that Amelia can interact with, and see that they’re not all bad. Doctors wonder why patients don’t trust them…well, that sort of treatment as a child is a good indicator of why!

  10. I’m so sorry that you all had to go through this. Thank you for doing the hard work of processing it, writing about it, and turning it into a learning experience for the rest of us. I’d not yet heard of that book (“My Body is Special…”) and will order it.

    I’m so glad you’re changing doctors. What a patronizing [blank]head!

    Thanks, too, for reminding parents to teach their kids the correct words for their own body parts. This has long been one of my pet peeves – the substitution of faux names for something that is so important. Do we call a tree by something else? A bird? A car? As a culture, we seem ashamed of our own bodies and sexuality, while still allowing our kids’ eyes and minds to be invaded by sexual images and memes. It’s something I’ll never understand about the USA.

  11. ::sigh::

    my friend, i am reading this and weeping for you. you are a survivor and you are a warrior for your babies. i love you very much. hugs and kisses to your sweet ones.

  12. Melissa-

    Good for you!!! And, good for Amelia! My 7-year old daughter,Emma,is also terrified of shots and of getting her blood pressure taken! I make sure everyone in our pediatric pratice is aware of her fears. And, the doctors and nurses are absolutely incredible with her. They take their time to reassure and talk to Emma with the respect she deserves.

    Your blog post reminded me of the first time I took Emma to the dentist. She was about 3. She was so nervous,and started crying. The dentist suggested I wait in the reception area – that it would be better for everyone involved. I was so nervous and upset I listened to him! When we left Emma was still upset and said she never wanted to go to the dentist again. So, I found a new one. A wonderful women who has 3 daughters and told me she would expect my husband or me to want to be in the room with Emma at all times. And, we are! Emma now absolutely loves going to the dentist.

    I think your doctor needs to speak to all of the nurses. Or perhaps a better idea would be to shut down the practice!

    People have to understand that kids have fears – and that they are real, legitimate fears. We have to treat all kids as people – because they are! I love you website, blog and ideas! I have shared it on Facebook with so many friends. Keep up the wonderful work!


    • Thank you, Kelly!

      This might help Emma, a friend just sent me this link. I didn’t even know about thing like this, but it is a Pain Relief and Distraction Tool — a cute little buzzing bee. I haven’t tried it, but my friend has heard good things about it and I think it looks brilliant: http://www.buzzy4shots.com/

  13. I am so angry at your pediatrician and his support staff right now.

    I don’t know how I would have handled that, and I will not judge you for how you did. You are brilliant with the aftermath, and your children are blessed to have such an aware mom.

    The lessons of your story are worth learning.

    Thank you for sharing.

  14. I know parenting styles and how we interact with our kids in public is a very controversial topic, and we all love to judge what other mothers are doing. I’m sure there are people who will say that you were not managing your daughter, blah blah. But I will say that when I read this account, my blood actually chilled. If a child is screaming, “Please, no, I’m too scared!” then the professionals in the room should be listening. ESPECIALLY when the needed procedure involves the removal of a child’s pants, something that can make her feel physically and/or emotionally vulnerable.

    Our kids have a few places where they can learn and practice skills for interacting with adults and advocating for themselves. The doctor’s office is one of them. I cannot in my wildest dreams imagine the staff at our office acting like this. Our family uses a small family practice comprised of one doctor, one nurse, and one receptionist. With all of us having the same doctor, we are in the office frequently enough for the staff to have an established relationship with our small daughter. Both the doctor and the nurse address our daughter directly, discuss her care with me and her, and would never grab or intimidate her.

    What happened to you guys is totally unacceptable and traumatic. And I hate that the doctor acted as though the problem was on your end. Now a fear of needles has been solidified (and added to), rather than the child being given an opportunity to be heard and possibly even empowered to get through a tough situation successfully. Disgusting. Can you imagine how additionally traumatized she would be if you hadn’t been talking about body safety and ensuring she isn’t embarrassed or insecure with her body and rights?

    • Thank you so much, Penny.

      Your doctor’s office sounds wonderful.

      • I’m glad you’re getting so much support here on this topic and not a bunch of ‘you shouldas’. I hate, hate, hate judgement on mothers for the way we parent – you know what is best for your kids. Pet peeve of mine.

        Anyway, as a p.s. I just want to say that I brought up our doctor’s office as a validation that we should expect quality care, and that your doctor is full of it to suggest otherwise. I didn’t mean to brag, just in case it came off that way. ; )

  15. Excellent article. I only have one suggestion/thought. When it comes to terror, it might have been better to have OPP go first. The terror of waiting and seeing it upset her brother may have compounded her own fear. I probably would have said, “oh OPP is going to go first. I know this is scary for you. Can you help me show your brother that we can be scared and do things we need to do anyways? That would help mommy and make her so proud of you.”

    I am glad you are leaving the pediatrician. He should NOT say he doesn’t know whom to believe. Who has the incentive to lie here? You or the people whose job are dependent upon his decision. I would make the formal complaint and include the doctor for failing to take action.

    • Jenny –
      I know, that was my bad. In hindsight, OPP should have probably gone first. I was hoping she’d see Benny go through it, be okay, and be able to do it. I chose Benny because I thought, if Amelia goes first and all hell breaks loose, there’s no way I’ll get him to go. You win some, you lose some.

      In this case, I think I was going to lose either way.

    • This is exactly what I do when I take my two in.

  16. Oh,…I am heartsick and a little speechless.
    I’m horrified that a pediatric clinic would be so ill prepared for the appointment and beyond shocked that a pediatric nurse would deal so roughly with a frightened child.
    I cannot believe that, in the aftermath, the “care providers” (boy, do I question the use of that term in this) denied the whole thing- and that the doctor actually placed the blame on Amelia’s awareness of her ownership of her body- What were you supposed to tell her? That there’s a time when it IS alright for an adult to forcibly remove her clothes?

    I am so very sorry that this was visited upon your family and I’m sorry that it raked up your own traumatic memories (as reading this did my own) and I hope that Amelia’s next doctor is a wonderful, gentle, funny person who can help her be less fearful of neccessary ickiness and sharp things and can restore her belief that doctors and nurses are there to help people get healthy and stay healthy. I hate to think that this horrible and very traumatic incident might affect her willingness to seek out appropriate care down the road.

    I see nothing “bratty” in Amelia’s behavior (I cannot believe anyone would place the blame on her or you for what was so patently frightening a sequence of events)and I’m as proud as a stranger can be that, even in her terror, she still knew that it was her body and said so.

  17. Gragedanwyn says:

    I feel for Amelia! I remember when I was about the same age, I reacted similarly to receiving shots. Absolutely terrified! So terrified that they could not hold me down (and they did try pulling my clothes off as well) and I ran out of the office into the waiting room (almost outside the door) while in my underwear. It has nothing to do with being taught about your body and rights (’cause my parents never had that talk with us kids), or about being a brat – it has all to do with being scared.

    Glad to hear you are switching practices. I recommend interviewing your family’s potential pediatricians and ask about how they would handle such situations. I also recommend complaining about what happened at the office to your insurance company as well as on any online review boards (a. the insurance company might drop them if there are concerns about the practice, b. other parents should be aware and informed.)

    Good luck and Ameila is awesome! Is she “sending” the toad to a nasty witch? 😉

  18. Elizabeth T. says:

    I read your FB post last week; wow – one of those scream-at-the-monitor moments. I was glad that you were able to get feedback
    respecting your experiences;
    supporting you while coping with the emotional trauma;
    believing the veracity of your story;
    concerned about the emotional welfare of your child;
    inquiring about your future needs.

    NONE of which apparently was forthcoming from the doctor.

    My only thought, while reading your discussion with the doctor, was: oh, my god – it’s just what women fear about admitting they were raped. The first response is to immediately questions her reality. Are you sure it happened? Aren’t you exaggerating, a little bit? Didn’t you ask for it? Given your experience with rape, the conversation with the doctor must have been utterly traumatic for you, on top of the initial event. I’m terrified just reading the words.

    There are so very, very many different ways the doctor (office manager, whomever is in charge) could have handled your discussion. Medical practitioners have a mental image that “we’re not a business, we’re doctors!” b.s. they’re a business, and as a business ought to want to keep you as a customer.

    • Elizabeth –
      This is exactly why women and girls do not speak out when they are raped. And it is shameful, on the part of those who blame the victim.

      Obviously what happened to my daughter in the office was nowhere near that severe, but the doctor’s response sends the same message.

      • Uhm.. actually, it was not much less severe than a sexually motivated assault- the primary difference being that you were there and backed her up and that nobody told her she should keep it secret but all the elements of shock and terror and helplessness were there. To someone of Amelia’s age, there probably is not a lot of difference and, if you don’t mind a stranger sticking her nose into a situation you certainly appear to have well in hand, if Amelia should display any worrisome post-traumatic symptoms, if it were my child, I’d seek the guidance of a therapist with experience in helping young assault victims. It seems so awful to even consider needing someone of that specialty but my instinct is that, should professional advice be needed later, that’s who you’ll want to talk to about helping Amelia feel less fearful… though I get the impression that she’s more apt to display some rather healthy doses of residual anger (SO proud of her- Took me 15 years to get good and pissed about it when someone took MY pants down against my wishes)

        • Bonnie –
          I don’t mind the suggestion at all. Amelia still seems to be doing really well, but if we felt she needed theraputic help we would absolutely get those services for her.

  19. Mountain Gopher says:

    I am proud of you for teaching your daughter about her body, her ownership and rights to control it. Her response, and her ability to articulate it, in a time of utter terror, shows more clearly than anything that your message got through.

    I, too, was raped quite a few years ago. I wish I had possessed the will and courage to say “No” over and over. It would have happened anyway – but I would like to think that I would have felt better about myself afterwards. I hope that your daughter takes strength in the fact that she did stand up for her Self, even if she was violated anyway.

  20. You can’t sue – but you sure as HELL can write & blog!

    I can imagine you should expect a formal apology – but I doubt that you’ll ever get such a thing.

    The “toad” might elicit a different response.

    Yup, the nurse will know what it means.

    This is an incredible story – you and your children are doing incredible work – and I hope to hear more as time advances.

    Good things can result from blogging!


    Stay well.

  21. Mom of three says:

    This story makes my gut hurt. I am so sorry you and your children had this experience. One of my kids has a lot of fear issues and he has thrown some fits in public while I held him tight and tried to sooth him. I saw and heard people judging us and saying some horrific things about “the good beating” he needed. A parent knows the difference between terror and a tantrum. You are a good mom. Your kids know you have their backs, and that will go a long way towards healing this experience.

    I also had a horrible doctor at one point and intended to switch. Before I got to find a new doctor, the kids came down with a horrible cough that needed checked out. I tell you this just so you make sure you get a doctor lined up soon since this is cold, flu and ear ache season. And your idea about visiting kind health professionals at work is brilliant.

    Parenting with love and respect is never wrong.
    Hugs from NYC

    • Thank you so much. Isn’t it awful, that not one person came up to you, in those moments with your son, and asked if you needed help, or picked up your purse for you? I used to nanny for a little guy like that, and know that very situation. I would have approached you and asked if there was anything I could do to help. We need more love, less judging.

      Children never need beatings. They need love and consistent rules and the knowledge they will always be safe.

  22. Reading this gave me chills. I had an emotionally similar experience with a dentist as a young child. I had to get X-rays & I hated it. Always made me gag. I was crying, which became somewhat hysterical. The dentist came in & told me if I didn’t calm down he was going to make my mom leave the room. I was more terrified of my mom having to leave than anything else. I don’t even remember if I got the X-rays. I do know it was the last time we ever saw that dentist. I’m 35 years old & I wasn’t even in school when this happened. Your doctor dismissing what your daughter went through is an ass. Yes, I’m fine. I’m strong & confident but I remember being terrified of a man threatening me thirty years ago.

  23. How could you?! You FAILED your daughter! You held her down! You could have stopped that nurse and you didn’t. You FAILED YOUR DAUGHTER.

    I’ve been in your daughter’s situation AND I’ve been raped. Reading what you allowed to happen to your daughter was triggering for me too. How COULD YOU?! Mothers are supposed to PROTECT their children! I still remember when I was a child and I tried to escape the doctors. Instead of making eye contact or trying to calm me they yelled for more nurses to come hold me down.

    Your daughter seems fine now but she will not forget this. Shame on you! And as a rape survivor! How COULD you allow that to happen to your own daughter?!

    Yes, the staff needs to be disciplined and instructed on bedside manner, but it is not ALL their fault. YOU allowed them to take your daughter’s power. YOU assisted. YOU are just as guilty as the nurse.

    How could you.

    • I have been in a similar situation..when my children were six years old…the nurse…not our regular nurse…gave my children their vaccinations before I had a chance to even blink…..M’s situation was more stressful than one can imagination…two young children crying…people in “pretend authority” demanding a certain behavior. I certainly can sympathize with the situation….and know it happens more often than not. This situation has brought about a clarity and a learning experience for all that read it….I am so sorry this happened to you….betrayed by the very people that you trusted. Melissa’s relationship with her children far outweighs the long term memories of this sad/terrible moment. As the memory reoccurs they will talk…and comfort one another….and never return to that pediatric practice!

    • I did not fail my daughter.

      She was in my loving and safe arms the entire time. Once the nurses shifted gears, I assisted them in giving my child the medical care she needed. She was laid on the table, she was never ‘held down’ or forcibly restrained when laying down.

      Your comment is unnecessarily cruel.

    • Ouch. M, I guess you didn’t read the blog story that closely. Melissa did protect her child. She held her the entire time and screamed “NO!” to get the nurse away and to indicate that taking the little one’s pants down was not an option. She did the best she could in a 30 second experience that was triggering her own trauma history. Seriousy? Your comment is unhelpful and way off base.

    • Wow M. You really should read Melissa’s post for actual content and not invent your own story. She’s sharing something clearly painful and intense, and your on a witch hunt. Also, try fewer ALL CAPS and proper punctuation.

    • Really? You’re a rape survivor too? Is that what turned you into such a raging b***h? That you really can’t commiserate with someone who has been through a similar experience must mean that your experience was traumatic enough to draw out all of your humanity and smash it under bricks until you were as soulless as your rapist. Good for you.

      Melissa, don’t listen to any of it. I know that having a blog means you are inviting criticism, but this M person is just a troll.

    • M…I am sorry for your terrible, terrible experience…however, this comment you have made is completely inappropriate. It is hurtful and Melissa does not need to hear such horrendous things…I cannot for the life of me understand your reasoning for posting this comment. There is a lot of anger in your words, which leads me to suspect that more counselling or at least someone to confide in about your own experience is in order.

    • How could YOU post this? I, too, have been raped, and I had a similar experience as a child. Amelia is an incredibly lucky girl to have a mother as loving, caring, concerned, and empowering as Melissa.
      Your comment is unnecessary, cruel, and serves no purpose. I’d think that a sexual assault survivor would know better than to attack someone, especially when they are as vulnerable and open as Melissa is.

      To Melissa – don’t let this hurt you. You are a wonderful mama, and most people wouldn’t even be considering this incident. My own parents were angry with me for making a scene. As I’ve said, your little one is very, very lucky to have you.

    • Woah, M. You are WAY out of line here. I am sorry to hear of your own traumatic experience but it is inappropriate to scold another mother like that. You may disagree with Melissa’s actions, but that is not a justified excuse to be downright nasty.
      I always enjoy this blog because it is a chance for level headed women with a common cause to debate and engage in important and necessary dialog about the world in which we want our children growing up. It amazes and saddens me when there is bickering and nastiness HERE because this is a prime example of why we have such an uphill battle of gender stereotypes such as “women just being catty” or “going through her time of the month” and many other ridiculous things we have been told all of our lives. Be civil in your disagreements and your point is much better made.
      M, it appears that you are holding on to a lot of anger yet from your past and while you might feel momentarily better to anonymously lash out at strangers on a blog, it would probably benefit you in the long run to seek trauma counseling.
      For the record, Chelsey, you too were way out of line.

  24. I had the same thing happen at the dentist (well, not quite the same thing but instead they threatened my then 3 year old who was terrified).

    If you don’t stick up for your kids, no one else will, so your response now is what counts. Also, when you find a new doctor, make sure you inform them of this incident. I found with the dentist thing that they paid special attention to her at the new place and even let me go back with her (which they dont’ ever normally allow but they understood that the situation needed it). I also want to add that I too had a terrified 5 year old I had to pin to get flu shots a couple years ago, so I’ve been there!

    Also, how old is your daughter? I ask because my 4 year old gets his vaccines in his arms — not his legs. I am wondering if there is any reason why they couldn’t have completely avoided the whole pants thing at all!

    • Lisa –
      My daugther is 5, which is why I wasn’t expecting the shots to go in her leg. I thought only babies got them in the leg, and bigger kids got them in the arm. Clearly, I was wrong. The doctor told me giving them in the leg is routine (at this office) because there is more muscle tissue to absorb the medicine. And I don’t know why, after seeing the distress Amelia was in, the nurse could not have changed the game plan and done the arm.

  25. I wish I could just give her a big old hug. Very scary. Hoping you find a new doctor ASAP!

  26. I am so, so sorry.

    The behavior of these so-called “medical professionals” – the nurses, of course, for being so flippant about the feelings of your children and their complete disregard for Amelia’s feelings, and the doctor for basically writing off your concerns – absolutely disgusts me. I have close family, my mother included, in the medical field and was up until recently exploring similar options as a profession. Things like this, though, are why I’m changing my mind and considering alternative options.

    I’m glad you’ve chosen not to return to that doctor’s office. If they treat one child like that, they will do the same to others, and would likely insist on treating your daughter the same way when she turns ten as they did now when she’s five. They don’t care. They might have when they started, but it has obviously gone beyond help and understanding for them, and tiptoed into the realm of “file them through as fast as possible”. That is completely unacceptable.

    I’m sorry, too, that you have been through things bad enough to keep you from feeling as though you could properly discern the situation and your feelings. I have not been through the same situation but I understand, to a degree, the sensation you experienced. It is heartbreaking, and afterwards you can’t help but keep double-thinking yourself, trying to figure out – in hindsight, always perfect vision there – what you SHOULD have done. It is so easy to judge those who have felt those 20 seconds extend into all of eternity, but the fact is that those of us who have experienced some kind of past trauma often lack the ability to respond as immediately as we should be able to. It is awful, it’s horrible – but you did everything else as best you could.

    Last but not least, THANK YOU. I hate that parents teach their children such meaningless phrases for their bodies, inserting cutesy words for things that seem too “vulgar” for them. My boys both know the proper names of all of their body parts and we are working hard to instill a very deep sense of personal space (of which my four year old, who has lingering and some as-of-yet-unknown damage from head trauma when he was not quite two, has absolutely none; the boy does not know a stranger, which terrifies me!). We instill a sense of personal shame in our children when we waste our time and energy trying to teach them silly words when in fact we are just teaching them another layer to use to cover up their bodies. Besides, my kids think the word “penis” is way funnier than “peepee” any day. 😛

    You are an awesome mom. I hope your kiddos are doing all right now, that the whale experience went well, and that everything turns out okay. I think it will – and I think that things will continue to improve as Amelia gets older and you can better discuss the situation, her feelings, her fears, and what happened with her. 🙂

  27. Dear Melissa,

    Thank you for this most important post. As parents and educators (one overlaps the other) we are the advocates of our children’s rights. It seems of late more and more of these rights are being whittled away…people telling us what to feed, what to wear, what to teach our children…totally disregarding our abilities and rights. Your post is one that should be circulated throughout the world…reminding people of how to respectfully deal with our children and how to stand up for them in a moment of confusion and emotion. Adults are not always rights…children must be given more respect…thank you again for your post.

  28. I have a support group that has kids with all kinds of physical and mental illness, requiring trip after trip to the doctor, shots, bloodwork, medications, and more. Our kids *must* learn to advocate for themselves – we won’t always be here.

    I think you’re doing a wonderful job. I also think you should file a complaint with your medical association; NO ONE – not adults and ESPECIALLY not children – should be treated with this level of callousness.

    I agree… SEND THE TOAD. (But don’t pay too much shipping…)

  29. I am sure you are aware that the very same thing happened to Amanda Peete (the actress) in her doctor’s office. She turned her back for a moment to deal with her second child and the nurse gave her son the vaccination without permission. It is a shocking moment to think this could happen to anyone. The story is in the book “Not my Boy”.

  30. Debra VanSandt says:

    I’ll share my own experience, if that’s okay.

    I was terrified of needles as a child. It took two nurses, the doctor, and my mother to hold me down to get my shots. I have no memory of why I was afraid of needles, but I’m sure knowing that I’d be held down like that was part of the problem. Today, I am 56 years old, a grandmother, and I still remember that terror.

    I also, as a mother, had some bad experiences with my son and his medical treatment, in hospitals and labs, as a child… things happening so fast that I didn’t have time to think it through before it was already over with, and so on. I wish I’d had your insight back then. I think that how you handled this afterward was awesome.

    Your plans to help the OPP recover from her trauma sounds very promising. Hopefully, when she goes in for her next shots, she won’t be afraid and can get past it, not be traumatized for life, like I was.

    If I were there, I’d ask if I could give her a hug or if she could hug me and I could hug her back. I’d tell her that she was right; they were wrong. End of story.

  31. Wow, my stomach tells me it wants to puke, too, reading that story. I am so sorry Amelia had to endure that at her own doctor’s office – that is simply obnoxious. You are raising some amazing kids, and I hope I can teach mine the same lessons you have taught yours.

  32. God, I am so sorry. I swear some of my most traumatic moments as a mom have been at the doctors office, when sometimes my trained obedience to medical personal overwhelms my otherwise very loud mommy instincts. That nurse was out of line, and have either of them had any training on how to deal with children! FFS! I’m so sorry for you, and for Amelia, and for Benny.

  33. Thank you for sharing this story. If I were in your shoes, I have a strong feeling I would not know what to do, and things would have played out in a similar way, if not worse. After reading your story, if I am in a situation where someone is about to do something to my daughter and is not considerate of her, I will err on the side of caution and reschedule long before there is a scene.

    Thank you. She is not even a year old yet. I’ve made sure to stay on this page long enough to allow the message to sink in. Consider one little girl saved. 🙂

  34. I think you handled the whole situation with grace. The lessons you have taught your children are of the utmost importance. You and your husband are wonderful parents. If we expect our children to grow up and treat others with respect, they must understand respect by receiving it themselves.

  35. Amy Kinzel says:

    Dear Melissa,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I am not at all surprised about the behavior of the nurses, but I am very angry and frustrated. I am so glad you are looking for a new doctor. “The doctor said he doubts most kids would have reacted as strongly as Amelia, and that maybe that was a result of what we had taught her.” He is probably correct, most kids would not act like that. But they should! And thankfully you have taught her how to protect herself and identify things that are not right! I am passing on your post, and I am glad others will too. I am 4 months pregnant with my first child, and just about to turn 40. I have worked with children off and on for many years, and now with seniors. It infuriates me when our most delicate are ignored, mistreated and abused. Thank you for being an advocate, a teacher and a voice. I am so very grateful I stumbled upon your facebook page, and I love reading your posts. Thank you for setting an example for this soon-to-be new Mom, and for giving me hope. I don’t know you, but I love you. Be Well, Amy

  36. I’m trying so very hard to not cry right now.

    As you know I have a daughter that has lots of fears. Lots and lots and lots of them. I’ve had to tough love her through a ton of them. BUT I ALWAYS acknowledge them. ALWAYS. It makes me so mad and… sad, for lack of a better word, that these nurses did nothing to reassure her and support her and help her face her fear. My daughter’s therapist made it very clear it is okay to be afraid and that the most important part is facing your fears. They did not even give her a chance to conquer it on her own.

    Since I also have a daughter that is very sensitive (and can be super dramatic), I know the difference. I know when she is afraid and I know when she is “playing” me. Recently I had someone tell me I needed to “cut the apron strings”. It took everything in me to not tell her to shut the f..k up. The only reason I didn’t was because she was a family member of a very close friend. As moms we know our kids better than anyone and our opinions should be respected.

    The other reason I hate this so much is because I hate to know there is a doctor’s office out there where things like this occur. My pediatrician and his nurses are so awesome. We delayed vaccination too, and even though my pediatrician didn’t think it was necessary he totally supported my decision and helped me work out a schedule. I can’t imagine not being able to trust their doctor.

    • Jennifer –
      There is no shame in being fearful of something. Facing a fear head on is so important. There is absolutely a difference between drama-rama and terror, and I’ve worked with kids long enough to know the difference. I’m so glad you respect your daughter, allow her to be the person she is, and come into her own. xo

  37. Hard to read, brutal to experience.

    Thank you for providing such clear action items for a new mom. You turned this horrifying experience into something that made an impact on other families. Thank you.

  38. How disappointing that the issue wasn’t better addressed when you spoke with the doctor. Is there a higher authority you can appeal to? The board of directors?

    • Hi Emily –
      I was actually quite surprised by his response. Yes, I will be taking the issue to a higher level. I’m not really sure of the process, but I have a friend who used to work for this health care system and will be helping me.

  39. I have tears in my eyes after reading this. I cannot imagine what I would’ve done or how I would’ve handled this situation if it were me and my daughter. I too am a survivor and I can totally relate to the triggers these kiddos can tap in to. It seems I look at *everyone* as a possible threat to them and I know it is because of my past; but I’d rather keep them safe and know that I have done everything in my power to protect them and educate them so they can protect themselves.

    My heart goes out to you and Amelia, luckily she has you and your husband to help her process it. I am so thankful for our doctor and nurse who respect our decisions and our children. I hope you find a good replacement.

  40. I’m so, so sorry – for you and Amelia. I am glad Amelia has you to be there for her, before, during and after. You should NEVER have to apologize to your doctor for advocating for your child. I was very glad to hear you wouldn’t be returning to that practice.

  41. Mom of three says:

    To M,
    How could YOU? I am sorry for your terrible experiences too, but don’t you see that when Melissa’s memory was triggered she became a victim all over again? She and her children were victims of that doctor’s office. She is trying to heal from it, heal her children, strengthen the voice of their entire family, and learn from the experience. She didn’t claim to have handled it the way she would with hind site, but she is speaking out, talking it through with her kids and others, and doing it with love and strength.

    I feel bad calling you out on this because you were obviously triggered by your own unforgivable experiences. I am so sorry. But, I am really believe we should never blame the victim, and you did, which is giving the power of doubt to the attacker. I hope you received more compassion when you were the victim. If you did not, you were wronged in many ways, and I hope you recognize that.

    Wishing you love and healing from NYC.

  42. All my support and respect for making the best of a very bad situation.

    In regard to #6, “Teach your child that medical professionals are there to help them…”, I would like you to remind everyone that sometimes timeliness matters. Twice now I have had to deal with situations where taking a couple of extra hours to reassure my children and allow their feelings to dictate how and when treatment would occur could have had serious (in the one case, fatal) consequences. Preparing for that moment by discussing the possibility of excluding their thoughts or feelings ahead of time bears serious consideration. I wish I had.

  43. Ana Monahan says:

    First, I am so sorry for both you and your children in experiencing this. Thank you for sharing it. As I wrote on FB, it’s important that these stories be told. Fear is NOT a behavioral issue that should be corrected and “dealt with.” My 6-year-old is intelligent, creative, dynamic, and incredibly emotional. She feels everything intensely and deeply, especially fear. At 6 we are just starting to have her lay down in her bed alone- she is terrified of the dark (she has a very active imagination and intense dreams). We stay with her in the room until she’s asleep (she and her 3 year-old sister share a room), and we are often awakened in the middle of the night- one of us sleeps with her and the other with our little one. We’ve been criticized by friends and by our initial pediatrician for this (we were told it would lead to our daughter being manipulative, etc.). Fear is such an intense and such a valid emotion and it’s so important for it to be allowed to be real for kids, whatever the fear relates to. Obviously there are so many complex issues raised here- from the issues of who controls my body to respect to… Thank you for giving us the chance to revisit our own approaches to all of them.

    I hope that you will find a doctor and practice who understand and fit your family. We’ve struggled with that a bit, and know how frustrating it can be. And kudos to you and your husband for instilling such a strong sense of what’s okay and what’s not okay in your children.

  44. Thank you so much for posting this. Thank you. I am going to incorporate more talking about how sometimes medical things need to be done. Thank you again from a mom of two girls who is trying very hard to instill them with the idea that their body is their own. cannot say thank you enough

  45. Yeah, definitely don’t bring your kids back to that doctor. YOU definitely should go back though, tell him that if his nurses denied it happened they are liars and you will report his entire office to the state medical board. He can discipline his nurse, respect your complaints, not treat you like YOU are the liar, and make his office staff better OR he can have this whole thing on his medical record. He had no right to critique your parenting, he wasn’t there and apparently didn’t get the nurse’s side of the story since she said it never happened, so where does he get off telling you what he thinks did happen? REPORT HIM. Please. For the sake of everyone else out there. Bad doctors keep practicing medicine because patients think there is nothing they can do, and there is. And if it were me I might go back and yell at him first. Because I want to yell at him and they aren’t even my kids. I want to throw bricks and Molotov cocktails through the windows and I wasn’t even there. Granted I’ve had a really bad day on my own, but OMG, I don’t know how you didn’t hit someone considering what you’ve been through yourself.

  46. I have four girls, and taught them from day one the proper anatomical names of their body parts, and the entire ball ‘o wax about private parts. That they could come to me if anything happened. I was very open about sex, about what molestation was (I had been molested as a child, and was determined it would NEVER happen to my children).

    What I was not prepared for was that their FATHER ended up molesting them. And it didn’t matter how much we talked about it, how much we said you could go to a trusted adult, it just DIDN’T MATTER. Why? Because they knew that it would cause problems between their parents.

    So they said nothing.

    You can try and try and try to protect your children to the very best of your ability, but pedophiles are EVERYWHERE. Including in your own home.

    Sorry for the downer. But this is reality. 🙁

  47. This post brought up some bad memories to be sure…the first, being sexually assaulted as a young child and again as a 16 year old. The second is more directly pertinent: I had chronic ear infections from birth until age 10 or 11. When I was eight, I was taken to my doctor’s office for yet another infection. This time the doctor was a new one – my regular doctor was off that day. I have no clear memory of exactly WHY it was necessary, but he needed to get what looked like the metal hook they use at the dentist to scrape your teeth, into my ear to ‘clean’ around my ear drum.
    First, he showed me the instrument…and I freaked out. I still have vivid memories of the fear I had. Long story short, I was held down by four nurses and another doctor while the one I was seeing stuck his hook in my ear. It was painful, I was screaming my head off, and no one would listen. Add to that being held down forcefully (I was thrashing so much they had do, or he would have done severe damage to my inner ear)…it was terrible.
    Your daughter is very lucky to have you! I was taught that when a doctor asks you to do something, you do it. After that incident, I was chastised for letting my emotions get the better of me. The reaction from my parents is, I think, a large part of why I still find it unpleasant to think about. Reading this made me so, so sad for your daughter, but also happy for her. She has a strong Mama who is willing to fight for her, and who is raising her to be a strong woman who knows her own boundaries.

  48. Do you think OPP would be okay with sending a drawing of a toad? She could make it super warty and oozing pus, with poisonous slime dripping out of it’s mouth. It seems unfair that any more living beings need to suffer in this situation. 🙂

    Thank you for processing and writing this post. I’m so sorry you and your family had to go through this, and am furious at that practice and their idiotic response to your complaint!

  49. Hillary S. says:

    I commend you, Amelia, and your entire family for being open and honest about the whole situation. Amelia has the right to have her feelings made valid and her body respected. You made the best choices you could in a moment that was brief and incredibly traumatic. That is what all parents hope to achieve.

    Send the Toad!

    (Why? Because toad’s eat slugs and that toad would have one fat happy belly!)

  50. I have a son who is delayed and has autism. He has some serious behaviors and can really upset a dr. clinic. Our doctor’s office has visual pictures used for kids who have delays around the clinic. Their staff has helped us establish a routine that is used EVERY time, even when our doctor is not available. (he is measured/weighed, goes to waiting room with ILS worker when younger,now alone…I go to exam room and prep nurses and doc for what concerns are for that time, he comes in just to get buisness done.) I am so sorry for Amelia and I hope that other clinics will start to listen to parents concerns and realize they know their kids best. They should have been all set up since you had prepped them. Really clueless IMHO. Good for you for defending your children. That lesson is at least a great take away for them, even though there were many upsetting parts.

  51. Natalie Bojesen says:

    Thank you so much for posting and raising awareness about this. I was chilled too as I read the first half of the blog entry and commend you and your daughter for how you are handling this. I am looking to go into nursing and it seems such a basic thing a nurse should have:empathy. Why would you want to deal that way with a screaming kid? It’s beneficial for EVERYONE to calm the child first. So upsetting to think of nurses out there that are so stressed or immune to the cry of a terrified child. Again, thank you.

  52. After reading your post for the first time I was upset to the point of being ill and then very angry. My son also had very a similar reaction to getting shots as your sweetpea. One time he even ran out of the room. It took us quite a bit of searching to find him in a doctor’s personal office under a desk. He too, is very sensitive to his environment. Thank God we have never dealt with nurses/asst/doctor’s like you had too. You would think these people would be equipped to handle this type of situation correctly and compassionately. Really the doctor’s response to your complaint is “the nurses denied it”? Why would you lie? It all just baffles me. They must just be a bad apple. As others have suggested I’d change doctors immediately. But keep up the good fight. Through your actions you could be protecting someone else child down the road. And for the record, your child isn’t the only one that reacts this way. And it’s OK to be scared. And you haven’t done anything wrong. What a bunch of jerks.

    And just as an aside, here are some things we did to easy my son’s discomfort…numbing cream 15 mins before the shot and a couple of lollipops. The sugar helps with any residual pain and keeps his mind occupied. Plus, in the beginning we used a reward (going to the park across the street) if he had a good visit. Ultimately he outgrew it. And now he’s a great example for his younger sibs. Thanks for what you do.

    • Hi Kat –
      I never knew that numbing cream could be used. I do now! I will definitely go that route in the future. I’m glad to hear your son outgrew his fear.

      • Lidocane cream is wonderful, but you will need an Rx. Get some Tegaderm as well (sheet of plastic to put over an IV) to cover it while you wait for it to work. It takes about 20 minutes to really work. So I put it on Miss P’s arm at home’ then cover it with Tegaderm. Then we drive 5 minutes to the doc and by the time we are in and to be seen, it’s working. It is a strange sensation for little ones though, so do a practice run.

        And I certainly hope you have the option of shopping for a new Pediatric practice!

  53. Thank you for this blog, and for your insight. This was timely for me in a freaky sort of way. I am helping my 4 year old daughter through a very scary time right now and cried as I read your advice about “body rules.” I was planning a conversation with her tonight, and your advice will be very much on my mind. Thank you for helping a mom and a little girl you’ve never met. Please tell Amelia that through her ordeal she is helping another little girl learn to fight for herself and make others respect her body.

  54. Hugs to your family. I know from experience that those who are never taught about their bodies and what is a right vs. wrong touch never know what it means to feel in control of situations like this. Even at the hands of an abuser, a child would feel uncomfortable but accept the situation as normal. We need to teach our children that they can say no, they can refuse rough and unacceptable behavior. Just because they are smaller and younger does not give ANYONE the right to treat them or their body with disrespect.


  55. I’m confused. You are very angry at the nurses but you were right there telling her they were going to do this and she had to do it. While it sounds as if they had horrible bed side manner… it sounds as if they were doing their job with your approval. You told Amanda what they were going to do and then the nurse did it as quickly as possible (it sounds like). I know this was probably a horrible and traumatic visit for everyone (especially with flashbacks for you) but I think that the nurses are being unfairly blamed for ‘violating’ her. Maybe I misread something?

    • I agree with Bobbi, it did feel as though you had explained it and that the nurses were doing it with your permission. I too, had a daughter ( now 17) who was deathly afraid of shots. I applaud your teaching her the rules of her body, (and laughed pretty loud at the “vagina monologues” reference) but it seemed as though one of the exceptions was at the doctor’s office. You were with her and even your own reference to the nurse who actually pulled her pants down was that she did so gently. The first nurse did appear to be lacking an appropriate bedside manner for a pedatrician ( and for that alone, I would be looking for a new office.) But I think your past influenced not only her reaction but your response to her fear. I assume she knows nothing of your past, but I imagine that your recollection and fear/outrage/shame/loathing was palpable to your bright and intuitive young daughter.

    • bobbi –
      I think you missed the part when the nurse said she was going to forcibly rip down my daughter Amelia’s pants and jam the needle in her leg while my child was hanging in my arms, and I yelled no. That would have been violating her. I prevented it from happening. I highly disapproved of it.

      I was talking to my child and trying to explain what was going to happen in an attempt to calm her. I was acknowledging to my child that I understood she was very deeply scared while at the same time reassuring her she would be okay while the shots happened, and that the shots were going to happen. That is not the same thing as approving of the nurse’s conduct.

      I never rescinded my permission for them to give the shots, but I in no way approved of how they treated my daughter.

      • Well… I guess the story is confusing as to the timing and sequence of events. It seemed as though you said no in the beginning and then were ok with it moving forward.

        Regardless, it sucks that you both went thru such a traumatic event needlessly.

        • I apologize if I was confusing. It is still emotional for me, and I was writing this at 3am this morning. I said no to the nurse forcibly removing my daughter’s pants. I never said no to the shots. And maybe I should have, but at that point had gone into shock over the rape trigger. Also, please remember this all happened in 20-40 seconds. I was already numb, and didn’t have time to think. I didn’t know what to do, and did the best I could in that moment.

      • Melissa has my compassion and understanding. There can be a kind of shock that happens, where we go into a sort of “Autopilot” mode. I remember a similar situation for us where I couldn’t think past “What will it take for us to get through this quickly with the least amount of damage?” I felt terrible for holding my son as still as possible while the vaccine went into his arm and spent days analyzing and doubting myself afterwards.

        We, as moms, can intervene and advocate for our children. We can minimize harm and allow the opportunity to move forward with a new perspective, even ask for forgiveness as appropriate. But none of us are fully in the right to cast the first stone when one of us does the best possible in a bad situation and then makes public the thought process, request for suggestions and proposed resolution process so that others may learn from it.

        I commend Melissa for allowing us to consider “What would I do, were that to happen to me?” without actually living with the shock and trauma of the moment which would color our reactions. Now I have letter to write in preparation for an upcoming pediatrician visit. And I shall make plain what I will consider acceptable behavior under these circumstances.

      • You know, I totally agree that we need to teach our children to own their bodies. I have always taught my children not to touch others in a way that they disapprove. I have taught them proper names for all body parts, and which parts are appropriate to touch on other people, and which are private only for themselves. I totally agree with everything you *felt*, but you didn’t listen to your instincts during the moment. Red-lights were going off in your head the entire time. Obviously, we decide what is best for our own families, and we all have baggage, and background that makes us unique. But just reading your comments, I can tell that you were entirely uncomfortable with the whole situation. Why did you let it go one? Listen to your internal cues, you were right to say “NO. STOP. This is not something I want to hurry through.” Who cares what the nurses think. Who cares if they think you are a pill, or Amelia is. At the end of the day, they are getting paid to give you service. If they want their paycheck from your insurance company then they can slow down and deal. You want to be proud that you’ve taught your child(ren) to own their bodies, but you allowed her to be treated this way – YOU allowed it. You wrestled her out of the corner. YOU didn’t listen to her. The very person that taught her about owning her own body made her sit there and be treated that way against her will. It wasn’t the nurses fault, it was your fault. I know you do not want to take the blame, but honestly, it was just as much your fault as it was wrong for the nurse to do that. You were letting them continue. You did not tell them to stop. You did not stop the nurse from pulling her pants down.

        I get the “numb” feeling. My sons are intact, and I had a doctor push back on his penis at a checkup. I was shocked, floored, horrified. I stood there staring. He didn’t say he was going to do it, he just did it. My other son was next, and I told him that pushing back foreskin is outdated, and not recommended. He asked me where I got that information, and I told him it was common knowledge these days, just to look it up on the AAP website. He did not do it to my younger son, which is good because his foreskin was not retractable at the time. It could have really hurt him. It was hard to admit to myself, but it was my fault that it even happened in the first place. I should have told the doctor that when/if touching genitals, that my child needs to give permission first, so to ask first. But I messed up – and it WAS my fault. I admit it freely now, and I’ve learned from that. I hope you don’t find this totally offensive, I don’t mean it that way – but I do think you should admit that this scenario was partially your fault. I think if you admit it, it will help you in the future so that this never happens again.

        That being said, I am so sorry this happened to you, and to her. I am amazed at how the medical personnel feel like they own peoples bodies. I am so glad your daughter is still mad and knows that it isn’t okay what happened to her.

        • Anon –
          I did not allow her to be treated in ways I was uncomfortable with. I helped her out from underneath the table so she wouldn’t bump her head, and so that we could talk face to face and so that I could hold her and calm her. I was listening to her and talking with her the entire time.

          It is not at all my fault that the nurse made the move to rip down her pants. To say so is hugely unfair. Hugely unfair.

          This post is about THAT moment, not whether or not she actually got the shots.

          She got the shots, because once she was on the table and the second nurse and I had gently removed her pants, she had stopped fighting. I removed her pants. Please get your facts straight if you are going to judge me in the way that you have. The second nurse was very gentle and helped scooch the pants down once I had them past Amelia’s bum. Amelia was still scared, but she was wrapped in my arms and safe. We were not holding her down, forcing her still. Amelia was at that point laying there quietly. I don’t have an issue with the nurses actually giving her the shots. Had Amelia still been kicking and screaming at that point, it would have stopped and I would have told the nurses no shots.

          The issues was the manner she was treated by the first nurse, and the move the nurse made to forcibly remove my daughter’s pants.

  56. I completely agree with your horror over this situation. There have been nurses who wanted to do that to my kids. The first time it happened I was not prepared. We had moved to a new state and I was totally shocked. MUCH research shows that when a child is held by a parent, shots are not as painful – that being held by the parent is a huge help to the process AND to how the child’s body reacts to the pain. We had two nurses who tried to hold my son down while a 3 more nurses gave him 3 shots at once. I realized it as they were forcing him down on the table and I got between them. I am NOT someone who fights, but I found myself making fists and being prepared to use them. I stopped them by telling them I would file assault charges if they did not let him up immediately. We left w/o shots that day.

    I would probably have wanted to help her mail the toad myself. What they did was assault your child. The fact that they were violent enough to bring up images of your prior sexual assault means that they went WAY over the line – and IMO the denial means they knew it. If they thought they did nothing wrong they would have told the docs what had happened. I don’t know that you can get them disciplined, unless other parents also complain and are willing to come forward. But i woudl NEVER return to that practice.

    I don’t 100% agree with not “imposing your will” on your kids at their ages. there are times when getting them to understand and agree with you is not going to work. Times when they won’t be capable of grasping the consequences and/or there won’t be time for you to get them to understand. But the doctor visit for the vaccines is NOT one of them, and your reaction was totally appropriate and they were totally in the wrong. But your daughter was NOT being bratty and was NOT being allowed to act inappropriately. She may or may not remember this forever, but she WILL remember that you taught her to respect her body, her intuition, and to speak up and self advocate.

    There is a special place in the afterlife for people who treat children the way the medical professionals in that office treated you and your children – both the nurses AND the doctor who dismissed your concerns. It is NOT a fun place.

    • SD –
      Thanks for your comment. Of course parents have to take the reigns and sometimes children just have to do things because we are in charge and like you said, understand consequences or in an emergency. What I meant by not forcing my will is not forcing my children to eat something they don’t want to eat, forcing them to hug someone they don’t want to, forcing them to play soccer just because I like it, etc.

  57. Melissa,
    As a mother,midwife, child and family health nurse, and accredited immuniser (in Australia) I felt horrified to read that you and Amelia had such a frightening experience.
    I love seeing people parenting consciously and lovingly and how children blossom when raised in a respectful environment but I feel the need to contribute my thoughts and hope they are accepted in the spirit in which they are intended.
    When mothers ask me for advice on how to prepare their child for their shots my first response is always: DON’T spend DAYS discussing and preparing your child for this event. A lengthy build up with lots of reassurance and explanation says to the child that this is a really big deal and even Mum’s a little nervous about it. As your little girl said “my brain was telling me to relax and my heart was telling me to cry”. She’d had two days to ruminate and no matter how hard she tried to be brave, her feelings just overwhelmed her to the point she was completely hysterical with fear.
    In my experience it’s much better to leave it till the day of the appointment, give the child a BRIEF, SIMPLE, explanation of what is about to happen, and get it over and done with before they have time to build it up in their imaginative minds. This experience clearly triggered some overwhelming and terrifying memories and feelings in you too and the combination of your fear, and hers, made for an experience you’d both rather forget.
    Sometimes kids just need you to keep it simple, make the decision for them, and get it done as efficiently as possible so it doesn’t get blown out of all proportion.
    I hope you and Amelia have both recovered and know that there are lots of nurses out there who DO care, and that my message resonates in a helpful way.
    Fond regards,

    • Hi Sally –
      I do appreciate the advice, and think it is wise advice at that. We didn’t spend two FULL days talking about it, I mentioned the kids were going to the doctor on Tuesday evening at dinner to my husband, and my daugther overheard me. The day before the appointment, we briefly discussed it at breakfast. The day of the appointment, we again briefly discussed it at breakfast before we headed to the clinic. I was trying to balance answering the questions of my 5yo who is very science-minded and currently very interested in germs and microscopes, and giving her too much information or building up too much drama.

  58. This story breaks my heart. I am terrified of shots, too, so I completely relate to Amelia. I work myself up into a mental and physical frenzy before any shots or bloodwork (you can imagine how great this phobia was being pregnant), I’ve passed out multiple times, and I’ve actually gotten a cavity filled without Novocaine just to avoid a shot.

    Your daughter needed to get her shots, even if she didn’t want to (I did when I was little too- they terrified me always), but the way the nurses handled the situation was awful! My daughter is terrified of her nurse (she sees the same one each time we go to the doctor), but the nurse does her very best to calm my daughter and treat her gently. The nurse feels just awful about it all- she made another nurse do the shots last time because it makes her feel so bad that my daughter starts crying as soon as she sees her face. What I’m getting from this is that’s the kind of attitude you were expecting- one of care and concern. An attitude of yes, we have to give her a shot, but no, we don’t have to terrify her further.

    They could have backed off, seen to another patient, and tried again once you got your daughter calmed down. They could have sat down on the floor with her and commiserated and talked with her. They could have touched her gently and talked calmly instead of yelling and pulling.

    They couldn’t have possibly known what you were going through (and my heart just breaks for you that you had to flash back to that, making you feel so helpless). But the point is that they weren’t even trying. They were completely focused on get in, give the shot, get out. That’s not true health care, especially from a nurse.

    My doctor’s office lets me hold my daughter for shots, which I started doing after a couple visits of her crying on the table. I hate the laying on the table thing- I think that was one of the traumatizing parts for me when I was little- to be so scared and uncomforted. I needed closeness. I hug my daughter through the whole thing now, and even though she’s upset, it’s not the terrified screaming she had when she was on the table. Can you try that next time?

    • Oh, and also, please complain to a higher level. It doesn’t matter that the nurse says it didn’t happen. You have a right to lodge a complaint against her and she needs to go through a formal hearing to determine if she was at any fault. They will weigh all the evidence. I would also lodge a complaint against your doctor for dismissing your concerns when you called. The AMA should be able to help you.

  59. Dear Melissa – Your visit to the ped is similar to one my two girls, ages 4 and 2, had recently. I, too, thought i had prepared well ahead of time by discussing what would happen. I, too, made the decision (after being asked “which”) to have my younger child go first, realizing that it might be a rock-and-a-hard-place either way. My older daughter reacted in almost exactly the same way as Amelia – obvious fear, loud crying, resistance – verbal and physical. It took three nurses and myself in the room to accomplish the goal, while she screamed, while my 2yo sobbed and tried to reach for me, while my stomach was in knots . . . and yes, the moment is over so quickly, you don’t have time to think. If I could relive it, my now-wiser self would certainly make changes to the way things were handled. There are, however, two major differences in the way our situation proceeded. First, the nurses on hand were faces I had seen before (although I doubt my children recognized/felt familiar enough with them) and attempted to interact with and help soothe my girls. And second, there was no need to undress (willingly or forcibly!) my child. It seems incredibly ill-conceived to attempt such a manuever. And i find it absolutely preposterous for your doctor to say that most kids don’t have such a strong reaction – all you have to do is sit in a waiting room and listen to the wails echoing in the hallway. Now – and please forgive me if this seems insensitive in any way, but I was wondering if you think you would have had the same reaction (and memories of your personal trauma) if they were giving Amelia a shot in the arm? If they were trying to roll up her sleeve, instead of remove her pants? I very firmly believe that children should feel in control over what happens to their own bodies, and should be treated with respect, and that medical “professionals” especially should behave in a much MUCH better manner than you were subjected to at all levels. Furthermore, I agree that sexual assault of any kind is a very serious issue that must be addressed appropriately. And it is extremely important to educate our children as a measure of protection against predators. I just feel that the connection you have drawn here between the two topics may be a bit of a stretch. While our daughters deserve to know that they have a RIGHT not to be violated, that was not the nurses’ intention (nor yours). I think it’s a very important distinction, and I’ll be spending some time now puzzling out how to approach the idea for discussion with my own pigtail pals. Your thoughts would be much appreciated.

    • PS – It apparently took me so long to compose this, that you have responded to a similar theme in other comments. I just want to be clear, the nurse should have already known how to treat your daughter with humanity and not add to her terror, and your doctor should have taken immediate action to remedy the disastrous results of her insensitivity. And I love the idea of the toad drawing.

    • Sara –
      Had the nurse tried to force my child out of her shirt, I would have still been angry and intervened. Would it have triggered a rape memory? Probably not. I don’t really know. I also don’t really see the relevance. A trauma memory can be triggered by a great many things. For me it was my daughter begging for compassion using the exact words I did in my head 15 years ago while I was drugged and being raped.

      She used the exact words I did while I was being raped. I don’t see that as much of a stretch.

  60. I read your story when you first posted it on Facebook and was horrified then and am now. What resonated with the most is how easy it is as a parent to get thrown by situations that you thought you were prepared for–trying to stay present when the nurse didn’t listen, going along with what was happening even though you didn’t want to. It is so hard to stay present and to be our kids advocate at all times.

    I especially liked what you had to say about ownership of our bodies, and your list of things to take away from this experience. My daughter is 3.5 and I am already trying to instill respect for her body in her, but it is so hard and culture is filled with so many conflicting messages, especially regarding speaking up and standing up for ourselves…

  61. Your story reminds me of being 14, when my male doctor crossed a line and humiliated me in the office. My most vivid memory of this was how my mom tore into him and promptly found me a new doctor. Good for you for standing up for Amelia. I can absolutely understand the “numb” feeling you got in the moment; terrifying memories can be powerful and incapacitating. But talking to her about it, encouraging her to express her feelings, calling the doctor when he got back and deciding to switch doctors is exactly what she needs. You rock.

    It’s important for kids to have a doctor they can trust, and to know it’s ok to move on if you don’t feel right about the one you have. I’ve had many doctor appointments in the past couple years, and I’m frustrated and discouraged by the lack of compassion and understanding that occurs. Doctors are often part of very private, unpleasant parts of your life, and you need to trust him/her to listen and take you seriously. I’m lucky to have a fantastic, patient pediatrician and she is not only taking care of my daughter’s health but teaching her by example how a doctor should treat his/her patients.

    I enjoy reading about your awesome kids, and I hate that you and Amelia had to go through this. But I love how you’re handling it. Thank you for sharing such a personal story – it helps remind us how important it is to empower our kids.

  62. I had a similar situation that I will never forgive myself for. My 4 yo son needed eye surgery for lazy eye, and the dr ripped him from me screaming to take him down the hall to surgery. I just kind of went into “authority autopilot”. However, I laid into her when she came back, crying and hysterical. She assured me that he would not remember, but he remembers all of it. I swore at that point that if I ever had to take a child to surgery again I would BE in the OR when that child was put to sleep.

  63. Well… I guess the story is confusing as to the timing and sequence of events. Regardless, it sucks that you both went thru such a traumatic event needlessly.

  64. I live in Australia and was just wondering, is there a particular reason they give the shots in the legs?
    Once my children were out of nappies the nurses started giving them their shots in the upper arm.
    This removes the need for the child having to have their pants down and in my opinion makes it less scary! They get to sit wrapped in Mumma’s arms and press their face into her shoulder whilst the nurse just lifts their sleeve and it’s over super quick.

    • That is a really good question and I honestly don’t know. I was expecting it to be in the arm, which is why I intentionally dressed the kids in shirt sleeves that would lift easily. I was expecting to hold them exactly as you described.

      • My daughters’ peds clinic gives most vaccinations in the leg as well, which is why I try to make sure my girls are wearing shorts or dresses when they’re getting shots. Certain vaccinations need to be given in a large muscle, and the muscles of the bottom or the thigh are two common places.

        I strongly sympathize with your ordeal. When my older daughter last got shots at age 6 (and I got scolded for not getting her those shots sooner, even though the appropriate age range for them was 4-6 years), she was extremely nervous. Even though I didn’t mention the shots till we were leaving the house for the appointment, she worked herself into such a nervous frenzy that she spent most of our time in the waiting room and in the exam room with the doctor quietly crying. To make matters worse the doctor (the one who scolded me) was brisk and businesslike and all but told my daughter she shouldn’t be such a baby.

        We were very fortunate in our nurses, though. They saw how nervous she was and they explained very carefully exactly what was going to happen. They let her pick out her reward stickers beforehand. They had her sit on my lap with my arms around her, and offered her a lollipop to suck on during the shots. Then they waited for her to give them the OK before approaching her with the needles, and administered the shots as quickly and painlessly as they could. When they were done, they praised her bravery to the skies and let her choose which bandages she wanted.

        I’m so very grateful to those nurses. I wish now that I’d written their boss a letter commending them. I ended up leaving that practice as soon as I could, though, because the doctor’s manner was so off-putting.

    • It is my understanding they do them in the legs or bottom because there is more soft tissue and therefore less pain or achiness afterward. My 11 year old daughter prefers to have her shots in her thighs because her arms are so thin and lean it hurts much more. But, I always discuss it with her and the nurse and let my daughter make the choice of where to have them administered.

  65. melanie levy says:

    Wow! What an intense experience and sounds like both you and your daughter need time & space for healing. I recently experienced a similar intense period with my six year old. Your doctor’s response to your daughter’s experience/reaction…that she responded in a hyper-sensitive way…and the negative responses you received on facebook…that you created this and your child is bratty and manipulative – THESE are strikingly similar to what I experienced when my child entered first grade in the public school system. She completely broke down. She was shutting down…after three days. My friends and family said, ‘Just see her through; She’ll be stronger and more confident in a few weeks; It can’t be that bad….etc etc.’ Yet my six year old was pleading for her life. I swear, she was pleading for her life. She was throwing up and begging not to go to school. This wasn’t a kid being manipulative…this was a kid who knew her potential and had a visceral, gut reaction that the school setting I was sending her into wasn’t going to meet her needs. Her intuition was telling her to RUN, RUN fast away from a situation and a system that was going to break her. And no…not every kid reacts this way but on day six, you bet your *ss I yanked her from that school and found a setting in which she could feel comfortable & safe. And I’ve not looked back. Kudos to you for recognizing your daughter’s voice and loving her so profoundly.

    • melanie levy says:

      the tipping point was when her school teacher, though seemingly supportive, said, ‘we just need to encourage your daughter to do her best in the classroom. she can’t be crying all the time….’ this ‘sound’ advice was given on day three of school. i wasn’t encouraging my daughter to do anything but BREATH and remember that she was safe….who cared about completing the 7 worksheet of that day.

      it’s situations like yours and mine that reinforce my belief that we ask TOO much of young children these days and expect TOO LITTLE out of adults, especially adults in roles of authority.

  66. Kimberly Herbert says:

    Please file a complaint with the regulatory agency for your state against both nurses. If you stay at the same practice, make it clear these two people are to never treat your child.

  67. Chelsea CJ says:

    Amelia may be onto something wise beyond her years in regard to the toad.
    I’m a social justice major, and this analogy is used to describe socialization and its impact very frequently, especially in terms of gender–I think that’s just where it seems most pertinent, but it is literally pertinent in all forms of oppression/ discrimination/ negative socialization:

    The truth about toads and frogs (girls and boys?):

    If you throw a toad/frog into a pot of tepid water, then heat the water to boiling, the frog/toad will remain in the water and be boiled alive.

    If you throw a toad/frog directly into a pot of already boiling water, it will jump out and save itself. It can recognize the heat and the danger of the situation; it is not fooled.

    I would love to get in contact with you and/or Amelia–or Benny, for that matter. I’m a WI native living in the Seattle area right now, but I do go home frequently and am reachable through various virtual connections. 🙂

  68. Chelsea CJ says:

    If I want to expand on the analogy fully, I should note that this is true even if the toad/frog comes across the water by accident or can’t avoid coming into contact with the water. It should also be noted that one cannot necessarily recognize the temperature of water based on sight alone.

  69. Melissa,

    I am reading and re-reading this story and have to stop as I’m getting more and more angry. I think the experience of being disrespected by the doctors/ nurses is far too frequent, especially for children. We have a 17-month-old boy, who is terrified of the doctors. We took him in for a check-up and he got a bit scared and started crying, as she quickly grabbed him and tried to undress him without explaining anything or giving any warning. I was not present, my husband was, and he was stunned, but stopped it. As our son was crying the doctor was giggling and said: ‘oh, come on, don’t be silly’. We never went back there again. yes, he is small, but he is a person, and deserves every bit of respect. And yes, it takes longer to get the exams, shots etc. done with children than it does with adults, so be it.

    I admire how wonderfully you have raised your daughter in understanding what can and what should NEVER be done to her. I’m sorry both of you had to go through it. But I’m grateful that you shared. thank you.

  70. Joanna Pitt says:

    Wow. I know I commented on your fb page when you first talked about this, but feel compelled to write again. I am truly horrified about how this played, and the associated back story, and that your complaints were not taken seriously. I do think you have made the right choices in dealing with it. I’m not sure if it is down to differences in national practices (I am in Bermuda and our pediatrician trained in Canada), but my daughter has always sat on my lap for vaccinations. Also, vaccs were given in the leg when she was very young, but have been given in the arm since she was 3 (I think – it’s hard to remember back to the 2 yo check up). Perhaps you could ask about this. It avoids the pants down awkwardness, and might help Amelia during her next shot if it is in a different place. The way it plays with us is check up with the doctor, get dressed to t-shirt level, then a nurse comes in to do the shots. Theory here is that the kids don’t end up afraid of the doctor because of associating them with shots. Useful I think. And the nurses are more interchangeable, so if there is a bad experience with one, then you get a different one the next time so no negative associations. So far we have had great experiences will all medical PROFESSIONALS we have dealt with (including the various emergency room visits!). All the best going forward.

  71. I am an adult woman and (somewhat) reformed in my intense fear of shots. I, too, am curious as to why the heck the shots were given in the legs? I’ve never heard of this nor have I ever experienced it. I mean, perhaps when I was an infant, but never beyond that. That would be traumatizing for anyone at any age!

    So sorry to hear about this. I’m a new, regular reader of the blog/facebook page and feel am fond of your voice when you write, especially of Amelia. It has been my experience that as exhausting or drama-filled as fighting hard may be, it is always worth it. I would go as high as I could through the “food chain” of that doctor’s practice and take legal action.

  72. I feel for you, and I totally understand how you can freeze due to your own background experiences and feel helpless all over again.

    Two things to add:

    1. You don’t just need to change your doctor, you need to delete some people from your Facebook. Nobody who’s a true ‘friend’ will hijack a serious message like this into a vehicle for their own agenda.

    2. Let her send the toad. (Not a live one, of course. That would be cruel.) I’ll be surprised if she goes through with it, but I’d let her cope with her rage, humiliation and sense of violation in her own way.

  73. As a young girl I was often called “dramatic”. My outgoing nature and friendliness were encouraged and praised, but my feelings of sadness or those more unpleasant were a source of…disappointment, maybe, to my parents, or at least seemed that way to me growing up. When I would be upset or scared or uncomfortable, I was often treated as though I was just being “moody”. When I expressed discomfort around certain people, I was told to be friendly and that I wasn’t acting like the wonderful daughter they knew I was. Any misbehaving was met with anger and yelling, and thus I learned that when you made someone mad, you were wrong.

    And so when I was 11, and my mother told me to go borrow something from a neighbor, I felt silly when I expressed how uncomfortable I was and asked to PLEASE not be sent. I didn’t know how to tell my mother WHY my neighbor’s husband bothered me so much, but he made me scared, no matter how nice he was to all the kids. She thought I was just being “dramatic” again, and told me to obey.

    And when he touched me in horrible ways, I just stood there quietly and didn’t fight back. Because I was afraid of what he was doing, but more afraid of making him angry. To me, making someone mad was the worse of the two, and my mother had sent me there after all, so it didn’t REALLY matter how I felt. Fighting or talking back was “disobedient” and I just stood there because “I don’t really have any rights anyway, he’s an adult and I don’t want to be ‘dramatic’ and cause a scene”.

    The doctor insinuating that your daughter should be taught NOT to fight back as much or to be less vocal…that terrified me more than anything. Maybe “most kids” DON’T react as strongly as Amelia…that does NOT make her wrong!!! Teaching children to submit to adults simply because they ARE adults is a dangerous lesson, and acting as though you may treat a child in a way that invalidates them or their feelings, because they will ‘get over it’ shows that you do not see them as PEOPLE with rights to their own beings. PLEASE do not stop teaching your children that they are FULLY in control of themselves, and that NO ONE may violate their personhood and justify it. Thank you for setting this example.

    • M-
      If you were my daughter, I would have taught you that your voice matters. I would have taught you to fight like hell. I would have taken you up to the roof top and let your scream your lungs out. YOUR story is the reason I wrote this post today. Yours and so many others I know like it.

      Thank you for sharing your story with us, and for using your voice.

  74. I’m shocked that they put the shot into the leg/bottom at 5 years old. My daughter is 5 and all of her shots since she was about 3 have been in her arms and I live in the USA. Even my son’s flu shot (age 2 1/2) was in his arm – and they are skinny kiddos. For a nurse to say those things, it’s insane and I would definitely file a complaint against her license and with the practice, including the office manager.

  75. Awful, I’m so sorry that your kids and YOU went through that experience. We had a similar experience over a strep throat culture that my then-6-year-old daughter would have nothing of. Similar to you, the experience was of her being held down and the terror and words (NO!!) were incredibly triggering for me and I blindly went along with the nurses. After calming down though, I vowed that next time I’d stand up better for my kids and did a lot of practicing: “could you give us a minute?” We also found another doctor’s office. Our actual doctor does shots now and is FANTASTIC about it with all kids. She even throws in an apology afterward, not for doing it, but for having to do something that hurts. Hope you find a place of care that respects you and your daughter a lot more. And, way to go about teaching your daughter all about private parts and the rules of her body. It’s incredibly important for all children to be well-versed in that. Knowing those rules allowed a close family member of mine to tell her mother that someone broke the rules, even though he had sworn her to secrecy. She’s still in therapy now 3 years later and gets very triggered, but I shudder to think what would’ve happened if she hadn’t known that his touch was NOT ok. There are ways to talk with kids about this stuff, and I’m glad you’re sharing about it!

  76. Tab Martel says:

    America is such a brave girl, my heart breaks as I read this, and had I been her nurse, she would have been reassured and comforted..I was raped at a very young age, so I know exactly where you are coming from, and my kids are educated to understand what is and is not acceptable, and that they control what happens to their bodies..I am proud of your daughter for expressing herself so clearly, and disappointed she was not respected..glad you are seeking a new medical team, I’d be considering pressing charges. Any nurse or doctor ripped my pants off without my Vincent’s they would be chargedbwith assault, I wonder why that’s different for children? This could have been done so much differently, and she deserves and rightfully demands to have her body respected.. :'( I also agree, huge difference between a scared child and a bratty child.. huge, anyone who doesn’t know this, does not know children…

  77. Tab Martel says:

    My phone changed Amelia to America- Auto correct strikes again

  78. When my daughter was a baby she was part of a vaccine study. She got no extra shots, there was just a combination shot that was different. If she nursed while getting any shots she was fine, but if not she was VERY upset. When she was a little over one I had to go in to get the last one and we had a new nurse. She WOULD NOT let me nurse her. No amount of reasoning or down right begging on my part helped. I asked for another nurse but I was told there was no one else who could do it because of the study, and that if I didn’t do it right away then we would be out of the study. I let them pressure me into it, and it is one of those parenting memories that haunts me. I just felt so helpless and mute.

    • What a horrible scenario for you and your baby girl. I never knew you could nurse while the baby gets immunizations. That is brilliant!

      • Yeah, when she nursed she just sort of grunted and ignored it! If not she wouldn’t stop screaming for hours. The funny thing is that she is 4 now and could care less about shots. She has asked for them before because she wants stickers. But that is also because of a wonderful nurse who made it something fun and special one time when she was 2. The nurses really make a difference!

  79. I am so sorry that you and your children had to live through this traumatic experience. Have you ever read the book “The Highly Sensitive Child” by Dr. Elaine Aronsen? Your daughter and my daughter (also 5) sound very much alike, and we have had similar experiences at the drs., although we have not vaccinated yet, but with other routine check-up procedures like checking ears and taking temperature. We love our pediatrician and she and her staff have always been very respectful, I hope you find an equally wonderful new dr.

    • Jenn –
      Thank you so much for that book recommendation! When Amelia was three, she would start to cry if we drove past an empty, abandonned building saying she thought it was so lonely. She is an incredibly picky eater, like, epically picky. She is sensitive to the feeling of certain clothes, and she despises loud noises. At her birthday party, we have to hum ‘Happy Birthday’, because that many people singing is overwhelming to her.

      A lot of people think she is a brat. She isn’t a brat. She is a beautiful and wonderful little girl who just lives on a different plane than most. I think I need that book!

      • I wasn’t going to respond just because I agree with so many of the commenters here – I’m so sorry to hear that this happened and I agree that they absolutely violated standards of good pediatric care. Having worked in a physician’s office, while they definitely should be spoken to by the practice manager, it is extremely unlikely that any board would determine that this violated their licensing, as that doesn’t generally cover bedside manner – which doesn’t make it less inappropriate or unprofessional.

        Anyway, I specifically wanted to respond to this comment as an adult who is sensory defensive. I have ALWAYS had a lot of trouble with various types of sensory input, and she sounds very similar – I would highly recommend “Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight” as an incredible resource not just for her as a child, now, but as she grows up. It has been so useful to me in understanding why my body reacts with extreme anxiety to what seem like perfectly ordinary stimuli. And FWIW, earplugs have saved my life, and it HAS gotten better over the years – but it takes a long time, and more power to you for listening to her. You sound like an amazing momma!

        • I will absolutely look into that, thank you!!

        • Even as an adult, I think I will read those books. I would cry at every birthday simply from the overwhelming activity of it all, and have wondered why “normal” things sometimes bother me so much. The example of Amelia crying over an empty building is so strikingly similar to me as a child, and I didn’t know that it wasn’t just that I was weird and moody and crazy.

          The upside is that we gain a depth of understanding of human experience and feeling that many are not even able to grasp.

          And happily, many who “live on a different plane” go on to be the highly creative ones who leave us with epic works throughout history.

  80. My daughter and I had a very similar experience to this about a year ago when she was in the ER for some breathing complications. Without warning, she was held down and given a shot on her bottom and was hyperventilating. I as well have a similar past as yours and to be quite honest, I got sick. I feel like we should have had known what was going to happen before that point so I could at least warn her. I think it’s affected her in certain ways, and until I read your post I thought it was crazy to have all those same feelings come back…I called my Mom and bawled my eyes out. God bless you both <3

  81. Andrea Vigneault says:

    This story makes me want to vomit. I have Trypanophobia so I can relate to your daughter’s terror. I can’t even be there for my own kids when they get their shots and it kills me just to let them go. My husband has to bring them. It’s not easy and there are some pretty hard characters in the medical world who don’t give a darn. Especially if you are a full grown adult. I’ve heard it all from supposed “professionals”. The disbelief that a person could act so “crazy” or be so “childish”. It really just compounds the problem. I don’t even go to the doctors anymore. I hope that you and Amelia find a way to work through it. And I really hope you send at least a picture of a toad. I’d love to send a few out myself! I’m relived that she’s retained her spunky and outgoing personality anyway! She really cracks me up and that is the greatest way for kids to be!

  82. My daughter is special needs. She doesn’t comprehend things very well, and fights like a tiger, but I’ve seen the bad and I’ve seen the good, and any nurse who thinks it has to be that way needs reeducation.

    The bad: A metabolics specialist needed a skin biopsy for some specialized testing. So he put on some emla cream and walked out of the room…and didn’t come back for a while. When he came back, he had a little metal cylinder. He’d been gone too long, and the anesthetic was starting to wear off, but he pushed ahead anyway with taking the biopsy. Had he had the sense to send her to a dermatologist for the test, the biopsy would have taken a few seconds. No, this man spent 5-10 minutes drilling a piece of skin out of my daughter’s arm with a metal tube. With insufficient anesthetic. Then he sent us downstairs for blood testing. I said, “Just let me nurse her and the draw will be easy.” The nurse was snide and rude and got four orderlies to pin my daughter to a table, and jabbed her repeatedly until I told her that if she didn’t get that draw, she wasn’t going to.

    My daughter developed a white coat phobia that day. Who could blame the kid? And this kid, who has such a hard time learning, didn’t end up back there for almost two years. Two years later, different doctors, same clinic… and she was fine right up until four people in white coats marched in, one of them started touching her without saying a word, and she flipped out, slithered right out of my grasp, crawled over their feet and was off down the hallway in a second, on all fours. They didn’t even try to further examine her, told me everything was normal, sent us a report indicating that my child who at 4 years old was not walking or talking was developmentally normal and in no pain, and we vowed never again to darken that clinic’s doors, nor did we pay them for their “service”… the last time they sent us a bill, we told them if they sent us another bill we’d sue them for malpractice given how piss poor their analysis, bedside manner and skills were. We will never, ever, ever go to Doernbecher’s children’s hospital again. EVER. I wouldn’t send a dog I hated there, let alone a child.

    Contrast that with our local lab. They let Shiny sit on her sister’s lap, were delighted we would sing to her, got their best phlebotomist in there, and spent 5-10 minutes just looking at her veins before trying with their smallest needle. It took ONE jab, and she didn’t even cry, though she was clearly terrified, they took the time to make it as painless as possible.

    Or with her fantastic pediatric dentist. Who takes the time to explain everything to my terrified, not-very-verbal little girl. Who gets her so comfortable that my orally defensive little girl will LIE DOWN AND OPEN HER MOUTH for him. Who takes the time to make sure that not only is she numbed when necessary, but that when she has a procedure under general, she has adequate pain relief after AND that they get me back to recovery so I can translate for her ASAP. Who will call companies to get ingredients to make sure she is not allergic to things, rather than just assuming they’re fine. Who never, ever, ever argues with me when I give him information about my daughter.

    Seeing it done right makes me so much less tolerant of people who do it wrong.

  83. Oh, dear, dear girl! 1) Here’s what my sister’s pediatrician said to the kids, and we loved the language so much, we repeat her words verbatim: “Even when a doctor or someone trying to help you asks to see your private parts, you should say ‘No’ if you don’t feel good about it inside. I’m always going to tell you why I need to see your body, what I am going to look for and then ask you if it’s ok. Now, is it ok if xyz happens?” And THAT is how you model respect and healthy body image to a child! Have you thought about letting Amelia and Benny write down questions for you to ask the next potential pediatrician?

    I’m so angry! Since WHEN is it ok for an adult to put her needs, especially her need to follow an arbitrary schedule, above the needs of a child? Which brings me to:

    2) It terrifies me that not one, but TWO medical professionals failed so completely to recognize the signs of panic. Maybe they did see it but didn’t care. That terrifies me even more. Panic is a completely real medical event. “Bratty” doesn’t look anything like it. You know that I work with kids, too, and difference is this obvious: a child over four yo who is screaming and crying in order to get something she wants focuses the “tantrum” at the adult. They use words like “You can’t make me take my nap! I’ll just stay awake! You’re mean!” Sometimes, they lash out with their bodies *at* us, hitting or kicking US. A child who is genuinely terrified of something shrinks into a tiny space inside, has no idea what to do with her body (hence the thrashing) and cannot use her words to express what’s going on. Repeating the same phrase over and over is just about the best sign there is that a panic attack is happening. I have probably suffered from panic disorder all my life, so I know what I’m talking about. My go-to phrase is also “No. No. No. No. No.” No to whatever is happening. Make. It. Stop. No other thought is even possible. I’m not saying Amelia has panic disorder, on the contrary: you don’t need a disorder to panic about something that is genuinely scary and painful! I don’t think my fainting episode in science class had anything to do with my panic disorder: I am afraid of blood, and we had just cut open a cow heart.

    And don’t even get me started on how I feel about adults refusing to believe that a very young child can have a genuine, medical panic attack. What you describe here is a panic attack. If you think it would help, please tell Amelia that her friend Anne-Marie is a grown-up who has cried and said “No” over and over to doctors who managed to be very nice, very respectful and still do their jobs.

    “A person’s a person. No matter how small.”

  84. Melissa Spiers says:

    Melissa, thank you so much for this. It was obviously hard to write and very hard to read. Thank you.

  85. Sympathetic mom says:

    I had to read your blog post twice as I wanted to be objective and see if I could find something in your telling to perhaps explain what these trained nurses were thinking. Nothing in your posts leaves me with the impression that you were unclear in that moment about busily trying to get your daughter in the mindset of preparedness. I can’t validate at all two trained staff tearing your child’s clothes aside and sticking her with needles while you were objecting at that time. I’m incredibly sorry for your daughters experience and terribly sorry that you too experienced this.

    As a fellow rape survivor I can relate to teaching my children about appropriate touching, boundaries and the right to make all decisions regarding our bodies. I do suspect with your obviously attentive parenting approach that you will help this become a bad but distant memory for your child. It’s what is moms do best, reassure our children. I also suspect you may be much like me and this will stick with you longer than with your child.

    If I could recommend something for future doctors visits for shots? If you could time your children individually it may help lens less stress to both kIds. I’m sure it must have been even scarier to hear her brother cry too. My kids were good with shots so taking them together made them feel like troops going to battle as a team. For kids who have that shot phobia it might be better with them one on one.

    I understand completely getting a new doctors office. If your daughter doesn’t outgrow this next time she needs a needle I would probably tell the doctor simply she is not good with needles so this is how it must go. Nobody comes to the room until you had her are ready. They come in shot ready to go upon you opening door to say its time. In the door, shot done, and minimize talk with them in front of her. I think it might help her build less anxiety and having the time alone with you to prepare may make it easier on her. The numbing cream is a good idea also as a positive experience can really help to minimize the fear for future shots.

    I am sorry you faces criticism for the feeling of violation of your daughter that you felt. I think often people who havent felt cause to need to protect their bodies from violation may not understand why some of us feel so strongly about having absolute control over our physical selves and teaching it to our children. My children have been taught much as yours have and I remember zealously guarding my daughters right to be in control of her body while hospitalized for appendix removal. She knew things had to be do e for good reasons but that she could take a break, she could say when etc. empowering our children is never a bad thing.

    • “I am sorry you faces criticism for the feeling of violation of your daughter that you felt. I think often people who havent felt cause to need to protect their bodies from violation may not understand why some of us feel so strongly about having absolute control over our physical selves and teaching it to our children. ” <— This, completely. And while I'm happy for them, I wish they would pause for a moment and realize there are other, VALID, possible perceptions and experiences to the incident described.

  86. Couple of thoughts.

    Your post has made me appreciate my kids’ doctor so much. She talks to them about body rules, explains doctor can only look at their private parts when mom or dad is there AND says it is OK. The nurses are equally wonderful, cconnecting with my kiddos first. I am going to send them a copy of this post in a thank you note to reinforce how important their current practices are.

    One of the best things we can do to protect our kids against predators is respect their wishes is to make sure all the trusted people (parents, grandparents, dentists, doctors) treat the in ways that are respectful and safe. I had something similar to Amelia happen when I went to the dentist, and it created a huge fear. To this day my mom regrets not stepping in because she couls hear me screaming from the lobby.

    I think vaccines have locations to be administered in case there is a reaction.

  87. That’s totally horrific for you both. Poor Smalls! And you were caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, what with desperately wanting to do the right thing for your child competing directly with your history and the psychological trauma that was being triggered. Both of you were put in a no-win situation.

    I think you and Smalls both did the best you could, and sometimes all you can do is learn from the experience. Does she know that you were triggered and put into a place of helplessness?

    • I just told her it made me really sad that the two nurses were so disrespectful of her because I think kids are important people. I told her that I would always keep her safe, and never ask her to do anything that disprected her body.

  88. Thank you for writing this. It really resonated with me too. One of my biggest parenting fails was an incident at the dentist with my daughter. At 3, it was her first visit so we had discussed and role played beforehand. My daughter has social anxiety as well as a neurological issue that is exacerbated with stress. Basically, when my daughter expressed fear and did not want to cooperate, the dentist gave me a lecture about how I would be harming her by allowing her to not do something that is necessary and would be making it worse if we rescheduled(it was just a “getting familiar with the dentist” type of appointment — and she didn’t even know my child). So she had me hold her down while she cleaned her teeth and she cried the whole time. I regret not listening to my instincts and rescheduling or — better yet, finding another dentist. The dentist also told me that for future appointments my daughter would come back by herself and I would stay in the waiting room. My daughter is 3! I found out that this is common practice. I would NEVER allow a young child to go with a doctor or dentist or anyone else she/I don’t really know by herself. I cannot believe this is a common policy with pediatric dentists (after first appointment, parents stay in the waiting room). Fortunately, I’ve found one who doesn’t have this policy. Thank you for bringing attention to this issue. Unless it’s a medical emergency, there is no excuse for a practitioner or any sort to force a child — or an adult — to submit to something he/she does not want to do. I’m so sorry that happened to your daughter. Thank you for bringing attention to this issue. I believe it happens every day. Maybe if more parents speak out, pediatric offices will develop procedures and policies that treat children with respect when they’re apprehensive/fearful about medical procedures.

  89. Michelle Ludwig says:

    I find the some medical professionals working with children do not understand the developmental aspects of the child in relations to the procedure, etc. You can ask to do a comforting positoning when getting iv’s, needles, etc. Child life speicalist use the in the hospital and in clinics. Some dr’s, etc are open to some are not. I believe teaching age appropriate about what is going to happen – if the child needs it, distraction during procedure if necessary, and relaxatio techinques, blowing breathing counting and most of all having the support of the parent. As you wrote we are our child’s advocate – if something like this happens we need to speak up and start getting systems changed.

  90. I am SO sorry for you, your son and especially your daughter. How traumatizing! My daughter just turned three and although both my husband and I are very comfortable with talking about anatomy, sex, etc. I’m not sure how explain to my daughter about what ‘ok’ touching, nakedness, etc. is. I’m thinking about things such as how her preschool teacher may help her get her pants down to go potty or how my dad may help her wipe after a bowel movement and how that is ‘ok’ versus “not ok” touching and feeling empowered about your body, having a voice about how it is touched, etc. I don’t want to confuse my daughter but want her to be safe as well. Do you have any books or web sites that you would recommend?

  91. Reprehensible. I have always told not only my daughter, but also my students, that they have the right to say “no” to any unwelcome touches. Always.

  92. P.S. My daughter is 5 and all of her shots have always been on the front of her thighs, in the fleshy parts. I did not know that was unusual.

  93. Melissa,
    Thank you for sharing. I HATE that this happened to you and Amelia.

    I don’t have much to say, but thank you for making me realize that I need to speak to both my children as they grow about this very important issue of having control over one’s own body.

    I will remember to be my childrens’ advocate- even with the medical ‘professionals”.
    Thank you again.

  94. I’m afraid of shots too! Anyway near my mouth. I had a dentist that was irresponsible when I was 10, and when I said “I can still feel it” (aka I needed to be numbed more) He didn’t pay attention and started drilling. I screamed, and then finally he went to numb me some more. I got out of the chair and left. I now associate every dentist with Little Shop Of Horrors. I get told that “I’m a baby.” and that “It won’t hurt.”. I’m not and it did. He didn’t listen to me! A child told him straight out what the problem was and he ignored it. At 17 years old I still refuse to go to the dentist unless I am in severe pain. Although I do have good teeth and have only had a handful of cavities in my life.
    Luckily normal shots don’t bother me, and neither do other doctors.

    As a soon to be nursing student I am appalled. My grandmother (who is reading this over my shoulder) was a nurse for 25 years. “I gave most of the shots, because I could do them quickly and painlessly. Your concern is for the patient. This nurse should not be working pediatric. Compassion is needed. When working pediatric you are not just dealing with the child, but their family…. It’s why I never liked working pediatric and stuck to Med-surg, and the Cardiac unit.”
    If for something as simple as a cold, when working with a child you are also working with their parents. Nursing 101.
    I honestly would complain higher. If the doctor doesn’t believe you go to the heads of the office/hospital. Go to the county or go to the state. I’m sure your complaint will be hear somewhere.

    And Amelia. I would love to mail that dentist a frog too <3


  95. OMG, so sorry about your experience. How horrible. My youngest (now 5 years old) was/is very afraid of doctors after some bad experiences. Our current doctor is very good with children. He explains to the kids what he is going to do and they don’t feel anything. (seriously). He puts the vaccine in their upper back, pinching the skin first. My sweet youngest daughter screamed to have her vaccines done. My doctor didn’t force anything. He said, “it can wait”…What is a week or two for a vaccine? Not much.
    Stay strong. The nurse should leave her profession or change the age group she works with. She is obviously stressed or incompetent to do something like that to a patient/child.
    Good Luck

  96. Fortunato says:

    I was chilled too as I read the first half of the blog entry and commend you and your daughter for how you are handling this. I believe teaching age appropriate about what is going to happen – if the child needs it, distraction during procedure if necessary, and relaxatio techinques, blowing breathing counting and most of all having the support of the parent.Thank you for bringing attention to this issue. I believe it happens every day.

  97. Ugh, I’m so sorry that this happened to you. On a practical level, I too am baffled that they wouldn’t use the upper arm, although that would have been more difficult if she was struggling. A shot can even be given right through clothes if need be so there was really no good reason for any of this. I agree about the EMLA cream/patches too… we were part of a vaccine study and they used to send them out to us before each visit. I think the patches are more effective than the cream, and they last longer (not 100% sure though!).

    Regarding the aftermath, I would absolutely take the complaint higher. But I think the most important thing here is that you took her 100% seriously and validated her feelings. That is so important for building her defenses.

  98. I think the hard part is to prepare ourselves and our children for what is going to happen at the doctors and to explain what is going on. We’ve been reasonably lucky with the staff at our pediatrician’s office; also, I think all the shots have been on the arm after the age of 2, which although a little more painful, don’t have that interfering with the privates aspect.

    I thought your article was very thoughtful, especially in terms of paying attention to your children’s feelings. I’m all for necessary medical care, which is sometimes unpleasant. On the other side it is important to remember you (and they) can always refuse any medical procedures and go back another day for them.

  99. First, what happened to your daughter was awful and sickening. I too have triggers.

    My son freaked out at his last visit when he needed his shots, BUT (and this makes all the difference to me) he only became hosed after he was on the table, pants down and the needle was coming towards him. I did help to hold him down, and tell him it was okay. But he wasn’t feeling manhandled or violated by the experience, he only became upset at the anticipation of pain. At that point I felt it best to help him get it over with. Had he been upset about taking his clothes off of being manhandled I probably would have freaked out on someone.

    I’m not shy telling doctors what I really think, and I have more than once fought for my rights and or kicked doctors to the curb. Good for you for doing the same!!

    • Also, I have to say the biggest trigger for me in this story is how similarly violated and disrespected I felt after having delivered my first child. Doctors and nurses would enter my room, perform procedures and not acknowledge me or ask permission at all. If I am conscious, they are LEGALLY required to receive my consent. Even for things that are common place, like a bp reading. My postpartum care was so appalling after 3 days I was hallucinating, locking myself in the bathroom to cry and screaming at any medical professional who came into my room. Unfortunately there are so many providers with sh*t bedside manner.

  100. You go girl!!

  101. Thank you for this post…as a nurse I appreciate your child’s fright and think that this situation could have been handled so differently.
    I apologize for nurse’s who have forgotten how to touch their patients whether it is an adult or a child.

    Children should be treated with respect and understanding along with an understanding of their developmental age and stage.

    Your daughter will hopefully process this event with your guidance but I am afraid that she will not trust healthcare workers, doctors and nurses for a while.

    I have experience with children who have developed a paralyzing fear of medical procedures and doctor visits due to childhood experiences that were unavoidable. These are children who were injured and needed invasive procedures.

    I can totally understand your memories of rape invading your mind as you watched this event unfold…your child was violated…it is good that she can talk about it.
    Hopefully, you understanding her feelings and validating of them will help her. I am sure that you know that it is important not to let her hear your horror over the event so that it does fuel her anger. It will be a fine balance for you to support her anger but not encourage her to hold onto it.

    My good thoughts to you and your daughter….by the way, how old is she?

    • Hi Lorette –
      My daughter is five and a half years old. She seems to still be doing well, and in a couple of days we are going to visit a friend at work who is a nurse so that Amelia can just walk around and say hello and get hugs from all of the nurses. She is going to bring her beloved stuffed bunny and my friend is going to help her give a check up. We’re hoping bit by bit we can build trust back up.

    • I love, love, love this reply. I do volunteer work at our local hospitals under circumstance that are very difficult for the families, the nurses and the volunteers. From what I have seen most nurses are or have the capabilities to be angels here on earth. I know everyone can see what they do as “just a job” and become closed off to the people they serve, but I have seen what truly good nurses can do and have come away humbled that they do it everyday. Lorette, you sound like one of those nurses and God bless you. Doctors and nurses that deal with children should be able to put themselves in the child’s place. If not, they need to work with other patients besides children. Adults prefer a nurse that can empathize also, but at least they are not easily traumatized by one. Mom, I can tell you as someone who is one of the 1 in 4, you are doing the right thing. Until they can protect themselves they have no advocates better suited than their parents. No one knows you child like you do. And you are teaching her to protect herself. Sounds like a new doctor is in order…

  102. Hello,

    I just want to say while reading this post I could feel my cheeks getting hot and my stomach getting sick. I also have a little girl and I would be livid if that happened to her.
    I am so sorry she and you had to experience that.

    I wish you luck in finding a new practice that will treat your daughter and you with respect and care.

  103. I really appreciate your blog and this is an important post. I totally agree with you- the way those nurses handled the situation was traumatic and unacceptable. It reminded me of an experience I had at my first prenatal visit when I was pregnant with my first child. The doctor was cold and distant and during the exam she inserted her fingers into my rectum without warning me first, and when I cried out she told me to be quiet and stop moving. I begged her to stop and she did not, then finally went from that to a vaginal exam as barked “what’s wrong with you?!” because I couldn’t stop crying. Even though I was an adult I felt totally violated and was so upset that as soon as I was out of her office I started throwing up. I am an adult, I know the exam was for medical purposes but I felt totally violated and traumatized- so i cannot even imagine how it must feel for a five year old when a stranger violates their control over what’s happening to their body. I think this is a really important issue and I’m so glad you brought it up.

    • Hi Kristina –
      That is really upsetting, and the doctor’s demeanor was horrible. I’m very sorry you had that experience. I think I would have felt and reacted the same way you did. I hope you have been able work through the trauma feelings, and that you found a much better OB!

  104. i don’t have a child yet but this for sure is great head up, that i will keep in mind. thanks for sharing your story.

  105. My heart goes out to Amelia. What a heartbreaking story. And it could all be avoided with the proper training of medical staff. Compassion…well, I don’t know if you can teach that, but you can teach common civility. As the mom of needle-phobe (and a recovering one myself!…at age 5 I squarely kicked a male nurse where he ought not have been kicked…and still remember the needle breaking in half in my knee)…I completely sympathize. Here’s hoping it gets better for Amelia. It did for me and did for my now 11 yr. old (finally…and with MUCH support, much role-playing, many tears, and some VERY loving, kind and understanding medical folks…oh, and a little bit of EMLA CREAM, too….look into it!).

    As for the whole “violation” thing, I know that you are addressing it with a vengeance. You are a great mom and terrified kids (or any kids, for that matter) should not be treated as if they are non-entities. Oh, there is a laundry list of issues that this doctor’s office should take note of. How very sad, disappointing and DISGUSTING. (We had a similar situation with a dentist.)

    Melissa, I am sorry you were raped and that this triggered that for you as well. I hope that justice was served in that situation.

    Keep fighting the good fight.


  106. Oh how awful. I truly felt sick and horrified that these people are nurses. I am a nurse and everyone requires a unique approach. We are all time poor and busy but we are in the business of human service. That is our core business and no matter what we should at all times remember that aspect, not view our role as nothing more than a series of tasks.

    To date I have only ever encountered one Dr who lead to misdiagnosis and a collapsed lung for my child, never again will I allow myself to be run roughshod over by so said professionals. It is unfortunate that it always takes an adverse event to give us this strength.

    I am a mother of two little girls and recently had an unfortunate event happen to my four year old. It was perpetrated by the 12 year old son of a friend, no longer will we see this family as I promised my child to always keep her safe and that she would not have to see someone that hurt her.

    I hope you take care of yourself and allow yourself time to heal from this event. xxx

  107. Shelly Marion, MSN/Ed, PHN, RN says:

    Reading this upset me on several levels. I am a nurse. I am a mother. I have two daughters who are petrified of needles.

    As a nurse I was appalled by how you (all of you) were treated by those “nurses”…I hesitate to use that word without quotes when references them because, they didn’t “nurse” that day – they bullied! To nurse is to nurture and care for and heal…those people did nothing of the sort – I am grateful you informed the physician of their behavior and I am not surprised they denied it.

    As a mother my heart cried for what you were suffering for your daughter. Seeing a child suffer – any kind of suffering – is uber painful for the mom. Because I was lucky enough to have TWO girls afraid of needles I most certainly feel your pain on this one! It’s a fear I cannot comprehend as I have never been bothered by shots…but both of my girls completely meltdown when faced with immunizations, or injections of any kind…the last time I was present (both are adults now) for a shot my younger daughter was 13 and needed the Hepatitis series of 3…i was there for the first shot. She hyperventilated and shook all over and cried hysterically. The nurse practitioner was called back into the room by the nurse (who gave her best efforts to calm Katie down) and she was amazing. She spoke in soft tones and stroked Katie’s hand (I had her other one) and they decided on an imagery exercise to talk her through the shot – after 45 minutes it was done and on the ride home Katie cried again – this time because she felt like an idiot for being such a baby…she used that imagery technique for the 2nd and 3rd shots (my mom took her for those as I was working) and had no problems. I request that nurse practitioner now – she won me over that day. Both she and the RN who tried first gave it their all and were calm presences for my daughter.

    What your daughter experienced was WRONG and those women should never be allowed to do that to anyone else – I would consider it an assault of sorts. The word NO was uttered…YOU (as the patients parent) were obviously upset – they had no right to continue forward and SHOULD have taken a step back. Their behavior gives nursing as a profession a bad name and it makes me sick.

    When I give shots…I ask my patients about fears or hesitations, if they don’t want to see the needle – I make it happen. If they prefer to watch, fine. If they are beyond afraid – I sit them down and we talk a bit (I am learning Healing Touch and find this helps calm nervous patients) before I proceed. I’ve learned techniques that lesson the discomfort of the actual injection (can’t help what happens once the medication goes in). There is a right way and a wrong way to go about this…what you experienced was wrong. I am so sorry that someone walking around calling themselves “nurse” did that to you!


    p.s. a little irony to add humor – both of my girls have multiple tattoos…guess they aren’t so much afraid of needles anymore huh?!?! ;0)

  108. Thank you so much for this blog post. It was pretty tough to read — I’m not a parent, but I’m a sexual abuse survivor, and I have a lot of anxiety with stuff like getting shots, even now. (I used to have similar difficulty taking pills, until my mother realized that having to bodily hold me down was too much work for something that I’d only vomit up from fear anyway.) Open communication about this stuff with kids is something we all should be doing, and I’m so glad that you are.

    (Also, your little girl sounds fantastic! Toad-mailing!)

  109. Forgive me, but I just can’t understand why you didn’t intervene on behalf of your child. The entire narrative is about how the nurse violated her trust by forcing her, but in fact it was you, the parent, who had the power to stop the situation, and you didn’t. Why? You go on and on about being your child’s advocate but in this situation you just let the nurse do whatever she wanted to her. I’m completely baffled. It does your child no good if they are taught to “speak up,” if no matter how much they speak up, you let whoever do whatever they want anyway. YOU’RE the one who violated your daughter’s trust, not the nurse.

    (You mention being triggered, but if you were so frozen you were unable to help your daughter, it’s certainly not clear from what you wrote.)

    • No, Violet, the nurse did not do whatever she wanted to my child. I stopped the nurse from tearing off my daughter’s pants. I did intervene on behalf of my child.

      Then my daughter said the same words I did, 15 years ago while I was being raped. So I suppose you skipped over the part where I said that I couldn’t speak for a moment. And you skipped over the parts where I said my head swirled and I went numb and was trying not to cry.

      Once Amelia was laying on the table (and had stopped fighting) and the nurses had backed off, I put my face next to hers, gathered my wits, reassured her, and then it was me who gently removed my daughter’s pants. I cradled her while the nurses then quickly administered the shots. My child was never held down or forcibly kept still. My child never left my arms. I did not violate her trust.

      It was never my intention to stop the shots. I was trying to calm and reassure Amelia and get the situation of a terrified child and very rude nurses under control. It didn’t go exactly as planned, but I did the best I could in an impossible situation. I understand how easy it is for you to judge and berate a woman whom you have never met with the clarily of disinvolvement, but understand that I did the best I could in an extremely emotionally stressful situation.

      • I reread it and reread it before I made my comment, and it just doesn’t read that way at all. I would be extremely sympathetic to you if you had written “my child had a horribly violating experience at the doctor, and I feel terrible because due to my past history of trauma, I froze up and was unable to intervene for her the way I should have.” However, you seem to want us to congratulate you for having your child go through with having her pants taken off and getting shots against her will. That’s why I say it’s you, not the nurse, that violated her trust. You wrote that your child was pleading with you to stop, that she was bucking off the table and screaming NO and then: “Amelia, I know you are scared. It is okay. Mommy is going to undo your button and I am going to wiggle your pants under your bum and you are going to get your shots.” Amelia’s eyes were rolled back in her head, and she was crying, but in a way that was more like moaning now,” and that’s when she got the shots. How in the world could anyone think that she was okay with that? It seems pretty clear to me that she wasn’t–it sounds much more like you just wore her down and forced her, even though I do understand that maybe that wasn’t your intent and you were traumatized yourself. You even wrote “he had stopped fighting at that point, she had given up.” Is it supposed to be okay because you forced her instead of the nurse? The nurse has no right to pull down her pants but you do? I don’t get it.

  110. when i was a child (probably younger than yours) i got so tense I BROKE the needle as the person was giving me some shot. to this day i can’t watch as a needle goes in my body, but i have gotten to the point where a blood draw every year or two is ok.

  111. Melissa-I’m sorry this happened to your daughter. However, I have to agree with violet’s sentiments. From your account it sounds like you weren’t able to advocate for your
    kiddo. We also delay vaccinations; I just had to tKe my very reluctant five
    and three year olds in for shots. My three year old
    hates them. I had to pull down her pants and restrain her as I
    quietly explained in her ear that she needed a shot
    to make sure she doesn’t get measles, and that babies can’t get these shots, so we have to
    keep them safe. She whacked me in the head in her struggle to get free.
    Point being we make choices for our kids. We need to own them. I think it would be a lot better for your daughter to hear that you should’ve stopped the appointment, that you heard her
    upset, but were unable to help, but that in the future you’re more prepared, than to blame some

    • Hi Erin –
      Thanks for the added judgement. I think I have owned where I made the mistakes that morning. I think I have admitted things did not go like I thought they would. And I don’t think you have been privy to the conversations my daughter and I have had after the appointment, where we did talk about how things should have gone differently, and what each of us could have done.

      I blame the nurse — focus now — on the ONE specific moment of this story — the one where she said she was going to rip my daughter’s pants off and stick her with the needle while the child hung in my arms, still moving and kicking. Aside from this being unbelievably unprofessional, it is unsafe to stick a needle into someone not laying/sitting still because the point could break off in the muscle. THAT moment is what this post is about. THAT is what I blame the awful nurse for.

      The rest of the appointment was upsetting, but once the nurses had backed off and Amelia had calmed, the rest of the appointment and administration of the shots went more or less by the book and I didn’t take issue with that part. I have conferred with three other nurses and two doctors about what happened that morning and have been assured I was not in the wrong, and was given a list of options the nurses could have taken to ease my daughter’s discomfort.

  112. I had a similar experience at the age of four. I was being tested for hypoglycemia and by the last test, the combination of having had at least five needles injected into me that day and extremely low blood sugar from medical fasting, I had had too much. This was close to twenty years ago, and someone had the wise idea to separate me from my parents, making it all the more scary. I am sorry that your daughter had to experience this. I honestly believe that part of the problem is that we, more often then not, are told since high school, that there will always be jobs in nursing. Therefore, some people go into it not because they want to be a nurse, but because they know that there will always be a job, and they often don’t ask themselves if they have the necessary compassion and patience to respect the human dignity of those they are treating, even in the most difficult situations.

  113. I was led to this post after I went through a similar experience with my son a week ago. A doctor wrenched him from my arms, forced him onto the table, and held him down in order to do an exam. My 3 yo son (who is very sensitive and very strong-willed, and very afraid of doctors and really any situation out of his everyday realm)screamed bloody murder the entire time. I was in complete shock that it was happening, trying to console him, yet processing the fact that this should NOT be happening. (I am not a rape survivor, but I do have social anxiety and find it very difficult to speak to people who may be viewed in a role of authority. It is something I have been working on tremendously since becoming a mother.)
    It took the doctor doing it again (same visit) for a throat swab to snap me out of my shock and get my child the hell out of there. But not before telling the doctor exactly why I was reading.

    So I am so sorry that you and your daughter went through this. And I am so sorry that some of these women are judging you so harshly and telling you it was all your fault. They are obviously lucky enough to have never been in a situation like this one. One where you are so shocked that your body, your mind, your everything just freezes for a moment. And it can only take a moment for a child to feel violated.

    My son and husband and I have had many talks since that day about why what the doctor did was wrong, how his old doctor used to do things (we just moved), and the fact that we will be finding him a “nice doctor” very soon.

    I respect that you have taken the time to talk to your child about their bodies and how they should be treated. It is something I plan to do with my son. But I have not found the right way yet, as he is so sensitive, I am afraid he will become too afraid.

    I hope your daughter has forgotten the whole thing and that you never experience anything like this again.

    • Jen –
      I am so sorry about what happened with your son. It is so hard, isn’t it, when you are experiencing something traumatic in your own head, but also have to “Mom” and be present for a little body who solely depends on you in that moment…..I really appreciate your kind words and your understanding.

      I’m glad you and your husband have talked over with your son the ways that he was disrespected, and I wish you luck in your search for a new doctor who will care for him as a small human being, and not just a “patient file”.

      You know your son best, but please make sure you do start the conversation with him about his body belonging to him. I can help you with ways to frame the conversation in a positive way.

  114. I think your first mistake was going to a clinic that “meets your vaccination decisions with indifference”. Find a doctor/clinic that truly respects your decisions – they are much more likely to respect your children as well.

    At my son’s preschool physical, the doctor attempted to examine his junk. When he said, “no”, the pediatrician looked at me for support. I simply said, “he said no.”

    • You do have a point! Luckily our health insurance is changing a bit and a new clinic under a different medical group is opening up in a month. When this incident happened, there was really only one show in town. I’m very much looking forward to having more (better) options.

      I love that story about your son. Brava!

  115. This is a heartbreaking and insightful post. I was that child. I’m also at risk of being the mother who goes against my instincts and allows my child’s wishes to be disrespected. I have a seven-year-old and I’m pregnant again. I think that we too will probably be doing delayed/extended vax to some extent, but it leaves me in a quandry as to what to do if I have a child who has the same fears that I did as a child. In all honesty, I don’t think I can justify the certain psychological harm for a reduction in risk of physical harm. I can explain, I can persuade, but I don’t think I can override my child’s wishes once he/she is old enough to express them.

    I have a dreadful fear of hospitals. It is one of many reasons that this birth, my third, will be a home birth. Just the smell of them is enough to trigger me. I feel as though the midwife I had with my daughter raped me. I was sensitive to anything like that beforehand, and she made it worse. I hate her. I hate anyone who would deprive me of my rights to MY body. I remember horrific fights with my mother, a nurse, when I had to get shots or blood draws. I remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach. I remember the hostility it caused between us. Thank you for this blog. I need to listen to, and respect my daughter more.

  116. Melissa, I am so sorry, both for what happened to you and your daughter at the Dr and for the totally unnecessary way some people have attacked you in these comments. For what it’s worth, I think you’re a great mum and a strong advocate for girls everywhere. God be with you and your family.

  117. I have been the child on the receiving end of that needle and I still struggle with needles to this day because of it. I have no idea what will happen to your daughter and I hope she will not harbor such feelings in the future. One thing I take away here is there really is nothing a parent can do other than try to empower the child to do what needs to be done and face the fear. Otherwise taking a child’s power away like this will most likely show a similar result for any child in this situation. Maybe at various levels as it was with your son in comparison to your daughter. Still, I believe it sets up a relationship to the event and the circumstances that may produce that fearful reaction in the future. We all feel anxious at the Dr’s office for some reason or another and my guess is it relates to our own past experiences. What interests me the most here is your disclosure of a deeply horrifying event that came up for you amidst the shots being forcefully given. What was triggered for you was emulating the fear your daughter was experiencing in that moment. Not to be too forward but, in my experience we adults carry many traumas and our children will often try to work them out. Its no accident in my opinion that this happened and its a great opportunity for you and your daughter to recognize a deeply traumatic event that is in your family field. Your personal Trauma as a rape victim was basically replayed in that moment with your daughter’s equivalent terror. I highly recommend that you work with that energy that came up for you and I will bet anything that your daughter will experience a deep relief here as well. It may be hard to test this theory but these things are absolutely tied together here and the nurse was just a pawn in a deeply important family story here. Once you can begin to shift your own terror about your past Trauma of the rape you spoke of, your daughter will experience freedom as well. All the best with this and many blessings to you and yours.

  118. I absolutely agree with you. When I was a little girl, my parents told my brother and me that we had voices, that we were people, and that no one was allowed to touch us if we didn’t want them to. Not only did they say that they’d always have our back if it was my brother’s or my word versus an adult’s, they lived by it. If someone made either of us uncomfortable, they stressed that it was important to listen to that feeling, because we had it for a reason. My mom explained everything to me, so I knew about bodies and how they worked (as well as how to tell if something was wrong). She also gave me the “you’re the queen of your body” talk, which I plan to give my own kids someday. Basically, what you’re doing with your children is what my parents did with my brother and me. Both of us are now grown, and we turned out well. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to ignore your kids in situations like this. They’ll remember that you stood up for them, that you considered their thoughts and feelings valid, and feel more able to trust you later in life because of it.

  119. oh, Melissa, this is so so similar to my experiences. I also taught my children that no one has the right to touch their bodies without their consent. and yeah, maybe that did make it more shocking for them when they were treated so horribly by the medical professionals we trusted. Because they are not accustomed to being held down and having things done TO them- maybe other children have learned to deal with this in the same way survivors of sexual abuse cope- by dissociating, leaving their bodies. It looks less traumatic but is it really? My kids have been taught that they are the bosses of their own bodies. We have had this awful experience with multiple dentists (one strapped her to board and pulled a tooth while she screamed until she was throwing up into the air and the staff just turned the board sideways and continued. I was there because I refused to leave her but I never would have consented had I known), later a different dentist in the same practice promised to stop putting in spacers if asked but just continued- afterward I was shaking and crying. We never returned. With the new dentist, a hospital anesthesia nurse (after I had worked out a detailed plan with the child-life person at the hospital- who later apologized profusely- and child life IS a wonderful resource), new dentist was there and told me to stop (not the nurse), and pediatricians (what I later learned was an unnecessary catheterization- they asked me to hold my baby down which I could not do but I let the whole thing happen when it didn’t feel right- it was torture), a metal instrument to the eye while my daughter pleaded “Im not ready!” and I said, “wait!” I do believe I would need a minute to collect myself too if someone were coming at my eye with a metal instrument! Each time they continued to hold her down and do whatever exam or procedure was planned over my repeated objections, over my child’s cries to stop. Each time I felt totally shocked and violated and hurt and guilty that I had failed to protect my child. In every situation, the only thing I did not do was to physically push away the arm of the provider. At least once this would have put my child in danger as the doctor had an instrument in my child’s eye. Each time, I think how can she trust me that I can keep her safe when this keeps happening? And how in the world do they think being treated this way will impact her willingness to seek medical or dental care when she’s older? My child insisted on writing a letter to the pediatrician the last time this happened. Reading it broke my heart. I know providers are busy people but why is it so hard to think about the bigger picture message about a child’s autonomy over her own body. Thank you for writing this. Maybe I will print it and send it to each of those providers.

    • Melissa Atkins Wardy says:

      Julie –
      I am so very sorry that you and your children had those horrible experiences.


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  2. […] that their bodies belong to them alone. Respect them when they say “no”, even if it is at a doctor’s office for needed shots and even with hug-inclined relatives over the holidays. An adult’s hurt feelings is worth […]

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