Parenting

Breaking up with Dr. Google

After 10 years of Googling symptoms (hers and now Sophie’s), Katie has decided enough is enough.

Sophie. Photo courtesy of Katie Dupuis.

One of my best friends, Erin, once told me that “having a child is like having a piece of you walking around outside of your body.” She’d just given birth to her first a few months earlier — a gorgeous little girl named Quinn — and I’ll bet I said “Oh, I’m sure!” or something to that effect. Fast forward a year later: I’m holding my wee Sophie in the hospital and wondering why the heck she’s sleeping so much, considering the possibility that there could be something wrong with my little bundle, and it clicked. Of course. This is like having my heart thumping on the outside of my chest. So bizarre. And so stressful.

That night in the hospital, I did what I have been doing for way too many years. I Googled. I’m not even going to pretend I didn’t. I unabashedly typed ‘1 day old baby sleeping too much’ into my phone and waited anxiously for the glorious search results to pop up. Of course, it scared the crap out of me to read the forums, to hear that sleepiness in babies of other parents meant illness or, in one case I dug up (and I mean dug up, after sifting through pages of links), brain damage. I hit the call button with amazing speed considering my state of recovery and Soph dozing soundly in my arms. The nurse showed up minutes later, checked her over and told me she was fine. “She had a long day yesterday,” she said, with a reassuring smile. I was not reassured.

Instead, I continued to watch my tiny girl’s every moment, listen closely to every sound. Did I sleep? Not really. Did I drive Blaine crazy? Absolutely. Has it gotten any better? Marginally.

Okay, who am I kidding?! No, it has not gotten any better. My name is Katie, and I’m a Google addict.

I won’t regale you with the whole story of how my addiction began — in summary, a bout of dizziness a few days after an all-night study session in university was the culprit — but I will tell you that I’ve struggled with this for a decade. Ten years! Ten years of paying Dr. Jerkface Google way too many visits. If he were a doctor on RateMyMD, I would give him sad faces across the board. His records aren’t up to date, he doesn’t hear what I’m saying — it’s just words to him — and, worst of all, he’s NEVER right. Don’t even get me started on the time I Googled ‘weird-smelling sweet breath’ for Blaine. Dr. Google said “scary, possibly deadly heart condition.” After a little investigative kitchen research, we discovered it was a new brand of sour cream and onion chips Blaine was trying that week. So, why do I keep going back? Because he’s full of answers (albeit wrong) and I can always get an appointment.

Now, with this little smiley bundle of baby to consider, Dr. Google wants to get his hands on her too. I can’t tell you the dozens of things I’ve searched since Soph’s arrival on the scene. I admit, sometimes Dr. Google offers up a helpful chart or article, but it’s coming from the Mayo Clinic or MotherRisk, or another government or official foundation site; most of the time, Dr. Google is just spewing junk. Sometimes it’s even sensationalized, fear-mongering junk. The best kind.

If I didn’t Google things, I wonder if I’d give health issues as much air time. I obsess. So much so that I’m afraid for Soph’s and Blaine’s and my health most of the time. That’s no way to live my life.  It’s robbing me of lovely moments that are currently tainted with an “Are you exhibiting any weird symptoms?” undertone.

So, I’ve made a decision. I’m breaking up with Dr. Google. He’s stealing my joy. We have doctors — real-life doctors and emergency rooms and hospitals — if there’s something wrong. I need to learn to trust my instincts and stop searching for obscure information to legitimize my worry. If my heart is going to be walking around outside of my chest, I need to make sure she’s safe but not neurotic, like her mother.

Here’s how I’m going to do it: Whenever I want to Google, I’m going to do 10 of something — crunches, jumping jacks, etc. If it’s really bad, I’ll go for a walk or a run. I need to get away from the computer (and I need to lose about 15 more baby pounds, so it’s killing two birds with one stone). Colleagues, if you see me doing lunges at my desk, I’m not crazy. I’m actually trying to be the opposite of crazy.

It’s going to work. It has to. But I can’t do it alone. If you’re also a patient of Dr. Google (I know there are thousands of you out there), let’s show him who’s boss. Are you with me?