Unexpected Blessing: How I Met My Doctor

By Margaret Bishop

Our eyes met across the children’s clothing racks at Macy’s – my belly ripe and swollen in the last month of pregnancy – she was wearing that content but tired look that is characteristic of moms of young children. I can’t recall how our conversation began or what it was about her demeanor that made my anxiety and fears about the upcoming arrival of my newborn pour out of me like a sieve, but there was “something” there. Maybe it was an immediate sense of trust? A sense of camaraderie? Maybe it was just two moms that sensed they shared the same viewpoint on what it means to be entrusted with the care of a precious new life in this crazy, beautiful and sometimes scary world? It wasn’t a traditional way to meet your child’s pediatrician but that’s how it happened. And 18 years later, it’s proof that sometimes the most valued relationships in life arrive in the most unexpected of ways.

I remember getting into the car with my older sister that day when we left the mall and telling her that I thought I’d chosen my unborn son’s pediatrician at Macy’s. She was gentle with me as she was well aware of the stress and anxiety that my son’s life-threatening diagnosis had placed upon my pregnancy, but she couldn’t resist questioning. “Isn’t that a little weird to choose your child’s doctor while shopping for clothes?”

I was silent. It just felt so right to me.

She began again with loving concern in her voice. “I mean, is this doctor legitimate – trolling for patients in a shopping mall?”

Phrased that way, the whole idea of making this important decision based on a fifteen minute conversation – a decision made even more important by the fact that we’d already been told that our son would be born critically ill – seemed ridiculous. And yet, I couldn’t let it go. I held tightly to the business card I’d received from my new acquaintance and made a mental note to schedule an appointment to visit her pediatric practice before our little bundle of joy made his appearance.

As it turned out, I never visited the practice. Life intervened. Time got away. And the next thing I knew, we were giving birth to an 8-pound baby boy with a complex congenital heart defect in the operating room of MUSC’s Children’s Hospital with a NICU and surgical team on standby. We held our son for the briefest of moments before he was whisked away from us to undergo a battery of tests to ensure the best possible start to what began as a fragile life, and we didn’t actually get to hold him again until a few days later as we sat joyful and frightened amidst the constant commotion of the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care unit.

Ten long and yet short days later, we were discharged with complete care of our very special heart baby. In some ways, it didn’t seem right. What were they thinking sending a twenty-something husband and wife home in charge of a baby whose every heartbeat was a miracle? Before we were allowed to leave the hospital, we had to have a local pediatrician on record for our son’s care. I’d never made any of the planned office visits to numerous practices to “interview” providers, and we had no references on physicians except for the word of mouth recommendations from friends. But I did have that business card and that inexplicable feeling that the woman I’d met in Macy’s could possibly be the lifeline we so desperately craved as we left the children’s hospital in Charleston for the two hour car ride home. To my husband’s credit, he never questioned why I felt that a brief conversation among the clothing racks superseded any recommendations from friends. In fact, he too seemed to have that “feeling” that we should trust our gut and go not with what we knew in our head but what we felt in our heart. The matter was settled before we ever set foot back in our home. The doctor from Macy’s had become “our” doctor.

In the weeks and months and years that have followed, that brief conversation in the mall multiplied into I don’t know how many conversations and office visits as we approach eighteen years under the care of a woman that we absolutely adore as the pediatrician for our entire family. She is kind, knowledgeable, competent, and our trusted medical guide. The two of us have chuckled through the years at the unconventional beginning of our relationship. She has echoed the sentiment that she doesn’t typically “pick up” patients in public places, but that there was some connection between the two of us that day over the clothing racks that made our exchange seem entirely fitting.

As we have gotten to know each other better over the years, I suspect that there must have been something in my manner that day that awakened her desire to help a person in need. It may have been a hint of anxiety in my eyes as I hesitantly answered her innocuous pleasantry of “When are you due?” It may have been a slight quiver in my voice. It may have been any number of things that I may never identify or remember, as often the most important of moments don’t actually appear to be all that important when you are in the midst of them. Whatever it might have been that day – a random coincidence or a gentle nudge from heaven above – I’m so grateful that fate conspired to place us among the shopping racks of Macy’s together. Whatever I purchased is long gone, but what my family was gifted from that brief interaction with a stranger has endured.

About this writer

  • Margaret Bishop

    Margaret Bishop

    Margaret Bishop lives in her hometown of Camden, South Carolina, with her husband, Matt, and three children – David, Olivia and Thomas. She is going on four fun years of teaching 3 year old preschool and is an occasional writer and avid reader in her spare time.

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One Response to “Unexpected Blessing: How I Met My Doctor”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Your story is heartwarming. I taught pre-k for 40 years, and thought of it as my dream job.

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