Hospital forms and non traditional families
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Thread: Hospital forms and non traditional families

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    Default Hospital forms and non traditional families

    A few weeks ago I took my 11-year-old son Ben to the doctor. He had been snoring so loudly that his brother refused to sleep in the same room, so we made an appointment with the best pediatric E.N.T. in the entire world. (Yes, that's what it's like living in NYC.) When we checked in, the nurse gave me some forms to fill out. I was a bit taken aback when I noticed that the forms said "Mother's Name" and "Father's Name," given that we live in one of the most socially progressive cities in the world. I did my customary sigh and cross-out and wrote "Parent/Guardian 1" and "Parent/Guardian 2," as I had done scores of times before. Ben watched as I handed the papers back to the nurse, mentioning that the forms needed to be updated. He had seen me do this way too many times.
    The nurse perfunctorily agreed and walked us down the hall to the examining room, where we waited patiently for this highly acclaimed doctor, who was indeed warm and smart and had a great bedside manner. He informed us that Ben needed sinus surgery and his tonsils removed. As we were checking out with the nurse, she suggested that we schedule the surgery immediately, because the doctor gets really booked up. (When the hell am I going to get booked up? Oh, different doctor. Let's move on.)
    The nurse phoned New York-Presbyterian Hospital to make the arrangements while we stood at her desk. At one point during her conversation, she seemed a bit uncomfortable and kept looking up at me while saying into the phone, "Sure... well... uh-huh... OK...." A moment later she covered the phone with her hand and asked me, "Um, who's the real mother?"
    Now, I have been asked that question many times -- too many times -- and when I was with my children's other mother, we would say, "We forgot," or, "What do you mean? We both are, of course." But that was when the kids were little and didn't comprehend the ignorance of that inquiry. It would happen at airports, in food courts, basically in places where people are more likely to come over and tell you how cute your kids are. But this was different. I was at a doctor's office, and I had already crossed out the words "Mother" and "Father" on the forms, and my son was standing next to me and knew exactly what the nurse was asking. I responded firmly yet kindly, "We are both his real mothers. If you are asking who is his biological or birth mother, that would be me. Don't ever ask that question again -- especially in front of a child."
    A few days later I received paperwork from the hospital that the nurse had called. I was blown away when I began to fill out the forms: "Mother's Name," "Mother's Home Phone Number," "Father's Name," "Father's Work Phone Number." Hello?! Is it 1957?! I did my usual crossing out, but this time I used a sharpie and a lot of fury.
    The day before the surgery, as I was walking to get on the bus, my cellphone rang.
    "Hello?" I said.
    "Hi," said a voice on the other end. "May I please speak to Benjamin's mother or father?"
    "Is this the hospital?" My blood pressure was rising.
    "Yes it is. We are calling to confirm Benjamin's surgery tomorrow. It will be at 3:30. Please arrive by 1. No food or liquids after midnight."
    "Benjamin doesn't have a father. He has two mothers. All your forms say 'Mother' and 'Father.' Is there someone I can speak to about this?"
    "Oh, I totally understand. Yes, there is. Here is the number you can call to file a complaint."
    "Thanks. This can get quite infuriating."
    "I bet. I get it. I really do. It's ridiculous. Have a nice day."
    "Oh, it's going to be a delightful 24 hours, especially tomorrow morning, when my food-obsessed child can't eat or drink until his surgery is over."
    I hung up and called the administrative office to file a complaint. I left a message with my name and phone number. Nobody called me back.
    The following day the three of us -- Ben, my ex (Ben's other mom) and I -- arrived at the hospital. The first person who greeted us gave us more paperwork and asked if Ben was on his mother's or his father's insurance.
    "Ben doesn't have a father," I said. "He has two mothers. The forms should all say that."
    "Oh, I'm sorry. Can whomever's insurance he's on sign here?"
    "Sure. And, you know, this paper work should really be updated."
    "Yes, ma'am."
    I don't know if I was more pissed off at the customary blowoff or that fact that she called me "ma'am."
    We sat on the couch, and the social worker came over to speak to us about what was going to happen and to put Ben at ease.
    "Hi," she said. "I'm Karen, the social worker. And you are Benjamin, right? And this is your mom?"
    "We're both his moms," I said. There is no mistaking that I am Ben's bio mom: At just 11 years old he's already 5-foot-7? and 150 pounds, wears a size-12 men's shoe and has a face identical to mine.
    "Oh, OK. Great."
    Moments later another nurse handed us one parent-sized hospital gown, so we assumed that only one of us could accompany Ben to the operating room. We asked Ben whom he wanted with him as he fell asleep and whom he wanted with him when he woke up. As usual, he said he didn't care and asked us to decide. Then I noticed a mom and a dad in hospital gowns exiting the operating room. I summoned the nurse and asked if only one parent was allowed to accompany Ben.
    "Oh, no," she said. "Both parents are allowed into the operating room."
    "Then we will need another gown," I told her. "We are both his parents."
    "Absolutely! So sorry."
    I can go on and on about how many more times that day we had to "come out" as a family. I can also tell you the palpable guilt I felt as my son had to witness our inequality over and over again. But there was one last straw. The following morning the hospital phoned to see how Ben was doing. Ben answered the phone, because I was out getting him some soup, and the person asked, "Can I speak to your mother or father?" And now it was his turn. His turn to come out. His turn to explain his family. I was incensed and simultaneously disheartened. I needed to scream from the mountaintop, so I tweeted. Some hours later I got a tweet from Dr. Robert Kelly, New York-Presbyterian's president, asking me to email him. I sent him an email with my phone number, and shockingly enough he called me soon thereafter. He expressed how mortified he was and mentioned that he brought it up in the executive staff meeting that morning. He also assured me that changes were going to be made immediately, and that it was going to take some time, but that he was going to get this done. I thanked him and reminded him that this issue doesn't just affect LGBT families but families that lost a parent on 9/11 or in Afghanistan or Iraq or in any other awful way. It affects all those families that don't fit the mold, and there are a lot of us. And even though President Obama's recent inaugural address demonstrates that minds are changing, they can't change quickly enough for this lesbian mom with a sick kid.
    Before I hung up with Dr. Kelly, I suggested that his employees take just a few seconds to look at the paper that I crossed out with my large black sharpie so that they would know exactly who they will be talking. It might just be the son of a frustrated and angry lesbian mom. Ben or any other child should not be burdened with explaining that their families are just as valid as everyone else's.
    From the comments:

    Stop saying the kid doesn't have a father. I get his father may not be or never have been in his life but he wouldn't be here without a biological father. She's upset that the papers say mother and father. What would you like them to say. Sorry but the medical professionals don't care about the second mommy. They care about the kids family medical info. Usually they ask about famiy medical history. The medical history of the second mom isn't going to matter when you're talking about the dna makeup of a child.
    While I can empathize that this must have been frustrating for her and her family, I cannot help but think she's over-reacting. These changes will take time to be more widely supported but we are getting there. And why the frustration with the receptionist for showing respect and calling her "ma'am"?
    Honestly, she's not the only parent to feel 'discriminated' against or rebuffed or disregarded....change takes time! She assumes that anyone looking at her and another woman standing beside their son 'obviously' must 'know' that they're gay! Most of the time people I know, and myself, aren't wondering what someones sexual orientation is, let alone if they're widows or not, for pete sake! She sounds perturbed that no one seems to notice her lesbianism! lol
    I thought that the article made a valid point, and was surprised that these three comments were the ones with the most "likes" on FB. What say you? Is this Mother making an issue over nothing, or is this a valid and important issue?

  2. #2
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    I think it's a little of this and a little of that. In NYC, I find it especially surprising that they don't have updated forms, but on the grand scale, I can't even get my kids' school or doctor to stop calling and asking for "Mrs. H_____", which is my husband's last name that I didn't take. They are looking at a file with my number and my name next to it and they STILL just automatically assume I'm Mrs. H_____.

    I think she's overreacting a little. Yes the forms needs to change and A+ for her for being proactive about it and complaining, as that is the only way they WILL change. So I think that part is great.

    But I think her level of emotional distress about it is overplayed. Two of my siblings have two dads, this happens a lot, they just correct people and move on. It's annoying but it doesn't have to be such an emotional trauma.

    It absolutely needs to change though.

    When my dad married his husband, the MARRIAGE FORM said "bride" and "groom" so one of them had to be the bride. STUPID! The world is slow to change, I'm all for pushing things along, but it sounds like this woman found nothing but understanding from the people she spoke to about it and that is a good sign. Now if we could only get people to READ the forms they have with contact info before making assumptions, that would be a great step.
    Laurie, mom to:
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    Mega Poster mom3girls's Avatar
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    Asking about the bio dad is a valid point. If the bio dad has any legal connection to the child then the hospital or doctor has to have his permission as well. The forms can change to reflect different family make ups, but they will still need to cover their bases and aske the question.
    I can see why this mom is upset, I think it is great she is trying to get this resolved.
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    I can understand the frustration in having to re-explain a family situation repeatedly because someone won't look at the form. It really sucks to have to do it in front of your child.

    My friend is a single mom with a 5 year old. Her DD hasn't realized yet that there is a man out there who is a bio-father. She has no dad and never has. But when people ask about her dad or insist that she write christmas cards to her dad at school (thanks parent volunteer!) instead of her grandpa who was listed on the form, it creates a really crappy situation for the family. And what if a family has just broken up due to an abusive father? How does that affect the mom and kids to have him repeatedly asked for? What if it is a widower dad and kids and the hospital keeps asking for the mom? How would that feel? I don't think this is just a LGBT issue. It affects all kinds of families.

    When institutions are dealing with families they need to actually read the paperwork and ask appropriate questions. What is the point of filling all of that out if they aren't even going to read it!?
    mom2robbie likes this.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mom3girls View Post
    Asking about the bio dad is a valid point. If the bio dad has any legal connection to the child then the hospital or doctor has to have his permission as well. The forms can change to reflect different family make ups, but they will still need to cover their bases and aske the question.
    I can see why this mom is upset, I think it is great she is trying to get this resolved.
    It's not a valid point. It's an assumption people make that's unfair. When a straight couple adopts kids, no one asks about the biological parents. It shouldn't be any different for gay couples. They are the parents.
    mommytoMR.FACE likes this.
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    Posting Addict Rivergallery's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by freddieflounder101 View Post
    It's not a valid point. It's an assumption people make that's unfair. When a straight couple adopts kids, no one asks about the biological parents. It shouldn't be any different for gay couples. They are the parents.
    They don't? Of course they ask about the bio parents, especially in times of serious illness.. Haven't you seen the forms you have to put medical issues your parents and grandparents have? I had to even do it at the eye dr.
    bunnyfufu likes this.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rivergallery View Post
    They don't? Of course they ask about the bio parents, especially in times of serious illness.. Haven't you seen the forms you have to put medical issues your parents and grandparents have? I had to even do it at the eye dr.
    I'm not talking about their medical histories, I'm talking about contact #s and permissions, which is what I think the post referred to.
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    Quote Originally Posted by fuchsiasky View Post
    I don't think this is just a LGBT issue. It affects all kinds of families.

    When institutions are dealing with families they need to actually read the paperwork and ask appropriate questions. What is the point of filling all of that out if they aren't even going to read it!?
    This I agree with 100%.
    bunnyfufu likes this.
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    Posting Addict Rivergallery's Avatar
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    I read it as complaining about any forms with that information on it. But I do see your point and the difference.
    DH-Aug 30th 1997 Josiah - 6/3/02 Isaac 7/31/03

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    I agree with Laurie. I think it is great that she is going through the proper channels and getting the change because families have all sorts of different make ups. It's not always just mom and dad.

    I don't think I would react this way though. I would be furious to have to keep explaining everything I wrote down to people because they can't read the form. This wouldn't be my priority before my child's surgery though.
    mom2robbie likes this.

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