When my wife and I were going to have a baby each moment was savored. Okay, maybe not the morning sickness and the mood swings, but everything else – the swell of the belly, the dreamlike sonograms, the careful lovemaking – all tangible memories culminating in the birth of our daughter, a sum infinitely greater than the parts. Like many Americans we were referred by our doctor to an obstetrician within our insurance plan. A pleasant woman, she was a stranger when we met. Both of us liked her at once. Her warmth was genuine. Her medical competence was obvious. She asked a million questions as doctors will and called us by our first names with a disarming smile. When she asked if we ever used drugs we answered truthfully. We didn’t drink, didn’t smoke cigarettes, didn’t do hard drugs but we smoked marijuana. We told the doctor – truthfully – that the moment my wife found out she was pregnant she stopped smoking pot. She accepted this information without comment.
By the second trimester we were heavily invested in this doctor. There was so much to do and so much to learn. We did what we were told and looked forward to each regular office visit watching with amazement our daughter’s progress in the womb.
“Everything is perfect,” the doctor assured us, “Just as it should be.” We had grown used to the endless tests so we weren’t surprised when she said, “We’re going to do another blood work, take a urine sample and do a drug test and I want you to start exercising…”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa” my wife and I chimed in unison. My wife said, “You’re going to do a drug test? For what reason?”
“It’s standard,” the doctor dissembled. “Just to be sure.”
“Be sure of what?”
“Well,” she explained, “You’ve indicated past marijuana use.”
“We volunteered that information!” I snapped.
“I told you I stopped smoking as so as I found out I was pregnant!” My wife was getting upset.
“In cases like this, it’s good to have a negative drug test on file,” our obstetrician said. “Just in case.”
“In case of what?!” I couldn’t possibly imagine.
“Well, when you deliver your baby at the hospital, suppose the child welfare agencies came in and saw on the chart that there was drug use. It’s good to have a negative test on record.” She was unblinking and without guile. This woman was a doctor and I really believe she really believed the bullshit that was coming out of her mouth. We had private medical insurance, neither of us had ever been arrested, we were gainfully employed, we were not on the public dole… and even if we were what Goddamn right do you have to show our charts to anybody without our permission?!! Perhaps I phrased the question a bit more politely.
“If you gave up marijuana like you’ve said,” she reasoned, “then I can’t understand why you wouldn’t want to take the drug test.”
She was serious. She saw nothing bizarre or draconian. She saw no contradiction
“Why would I tell you I smoked marijuana in the first place if I was going lie about stopping later?”
“I don’t know,” she said, “but I would like you to take a drug test for me.”
There was a moment of deeply conflicted silence. My wife would have passed the test, no doubt, but she hated the idea of drug tests and so did I. But we weren’t going for a job at Walmart – we were having a baby, and the doctor with the specimen cup in her hand had been running this show from Day One. Were we really going to change doctors over taking a drug test?
The Doctor chimed in to resolve our confusion.
“You don’t see the damage that drugs do to people,” she said. “You don’t see the emergency room admissions. You don’t see the crack babies.”
“Crack babies!” I looked at my wife. “Did she say crack babies?”
“I think she did.”
Then one of us said what both of us were thinking.
“Are you out of your fucking mind?”
And we fired that quack on the spot.
Six months pregnant, we went shopping for a reasonable mind. We met with another obstetrician within our insurance plan, answered the same set of questions truthfully and then told that doctor upfront that Mom would not be taking a drug test. We said found it invasive, misused and a fundamental breach of trust between a doctor and a patient. We told this physician that we fired his predecessor over this issue and that we were prepared to keep looking until we found someone who was sympathetic to our view.
The Doctor smiled and said, “That won’t be a problem here.”
Three months later our daughter was born, blissfully unaddicted to crack, temporarily unaware of marijuana and genetically impervious to intellectual myopia. Her education began in the womb.