My son was a difficult baby to feed: he would frequently pull his mouth off the nipple and arch his back, transforming what would normally be a brief experience into a frustrating ordeal. He was obviously hungry, but something kept him from an easy feed. He also spit up a lot. A lot. Our pediatrician told us that it was likely acid reflux, and suggested we try different brands and types of formula.
Over the course of weeks, we found that some formulas turned his poop slate blue, others seemed to work without giving him heartburn for a day and then he’d return to arching his back, and yet others made no difference. After a month of muddling through we hired a doula to spend the day with him to see if we were doing something wrong. It was silly at the time, but when you’re sleep-deprived and frustrated, you go with anything that might help.
It wasn’t us, obviously. The doula thought that our son had a problem with his jaw, and recommended a course of expensive physical therapy that might or might not work to correct the issue. After assiduous Google searching, my wife and I found that this was a suggestion that doulas frequently made when dealing with a problem like my son had. You’ve heard the expression, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail,” right? Also, there was a minuscule chance that this treatment might kill him.
When we took our son to the pediatrician for his next checkup and explained what the doula said, the pediatrician’s face took on a very careful, bland expression. She said that such a thing might work, or it might not; she wasn’t familiar with the treatment. After the appointment, my wife and I talked about it and had independently come to the conclusion that the pediatrician thought the doula was full of shit, but didn’t want to say it straight out. Eventually my son grew out of whatever problem he was having and doesn’t complain of heartburn of any kind, though for some reason he doesn’t like carrots. I mean, who doesn’t like carrots?
Remember: when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The corollary is, “When you have an expensive piece of equipment you’ll find thousands of reasons to use it.” With that in mind, I asked the dentist (once she’d taken the hook and mirror from my mouth), “Will my gums heal over time if I return to regular flossing?”
The dentist and the dental assistant shared a look with each other over my recumbent form, and in that moment I knew I had asked the right question. The dentist carefully allowed that such a thing wasn’t unheard of, but it would still be better to zap the hell out of my horribly leprous gums with laser fire just to be sure. I told them I would take that under advisement, wiped the infected drool from my chin, and left to buy more floss.
Pleasantly, I still have all of my teeth, including the wisdom teeth.
Face-to-face, most people don’t want to disagree with you. They’ll mask it behind that careful facade, even when pressed. When you’re observant, when you examine not just what they say but how they say it, you’ll sometimes get to the truth.