Here in Canada, we don't really go to specialty doctors (i.e. pediatricians, dermatologists, psychiatrists, for example) unless there is a problem that is so severe or complicated that it can't be treated by a general practitioner. In other words, every man, woman and child goes to a general practitioner (known as a "family doctor") for every reason you can think of; and, if the illness or problem is more than what is encompassed in the family doctor's scope of expertise, they then refer you to a specialty doctor. It doesn't matter if you've sprained your ankle, contracted a rash or developed a tumor, your first stop is your family doctor. (Of course in an emergency situation you would just head straight for the hospital.)
The problem is that more than half the population doesn't have a regular family doctor. Canada is rife with walk-in clinics, and for most people, treatment at such clinics generally suffices. These clinics usually have a rotating staff of 10-20 doctors (sometimes more) and the patient just shows up, takes a number, and gets seen by whoever is working at that moment. Bear in mind that all treatment - everything from the flu, to delivering a baby, to brain surgery - is totally free for Canadian citizens. It's socialism in action and I am totally grateful to live in a country where I don't have to worry about how to pay a hospital bill.
However, in Canada, maintaining good health is the responsibility of the individual - not the system - and like most of the people here, I don't have a family doctor. Until today!
At my last OB/GYN appointment, I asked Dr. R what the heck I am supposed to do with my newborn daughter after she's born. Who's going to be in charge of her medical care? Dr. R replied that I could just take her to my family doctor. Yikes! But I don't have one, I told her. And it's really important to me that she is taken care of by someone who knows what they're doing (i.e. someone that has experience with babies and children).
So Dr. R referred me to Dr. M (Dr. R takes her own children to see this doctor, so off to a good start right away). I met with Dr. M today and I freakin' LOVED her. Her practice is largely babies and children, she also does some obstetrics, she's got two kids of her own (ages 2 and 4) and she is just all around awesome. When I met with her, I expected the usual 5 minute appointment - in and out - as per the usual custom of family doctors. But no, she took nearly 30 minutes to go over my medical history, my family medical history, and the baby's information.
Dr. M seems very knowledgeable and friendly and I was instantly comfortable in her presence. She's just so easy to trust.
So now that Maya and I are "officially" her patients, I feel a huge sense of relief. Not only has she agreed to see Maya right after she's born no matter what kind of crazy schedule she's got, she even told me to call her office when I'm headed to hospital to deliver and she will come by and meet us there after baby girl arrives. What a great feeling to be looked after. Such a rarity here in Canada!
So we've got our doctor. Check that off my to-do list!