Monday, June 28, 2010

Letting go

While I was walking home from a "lunch date" with my daughter yesterday, I inexplicably started to get pissed off about the fact that I never had a baby shower. I don’t know what set me off. There are a lot of babies in my neighborhood, so maybe that was it.

As a pregnant person, I was just starting out a new residency thousands of miles from my family and where I went to med school and college. I didn’t have many (any) friends nearby, at least not female friends. There were only a couple of other female residents in my program. I have no sisters. So really, I didn’t expect to have a shower. No problem. I got some presents independent of a shower.

Then a year later, another female resident (let’s call her Tina) in my class got pregnant. One of the (female) attendings at my residency, one who had actually been my attending when I was about five months pregnant, said to another female resident, "We should plan Tina a baby shower."

The other resident told me about this and I flew into an absolute rage. I was SO angry that this attending would show such blatant favoritism. Also, it was embarrassing for me. Moreover, Tina had tons of friends and family in the area and surely had her own shower planned. I said I was going to boycott any attending-planned shower, I was that angry. But the shower never ended up taking place, possibly because someone clued the attending in to the fact that I was angry, or possibly because most of the residents didn’t like Tina very much. (I liked Tina, but I was still furious about the shower.)

Anyway, after getting extremely worked up over this and planning out a whole MiM entry in my head, I thought to myself, "Why am I still angry about this? It happened YEARS ago!"

I’m still angry about other things too:

I’m still angry at the senior resident who verbally abused me during my first ward month as an intern (For examples, read some of my cruel resident stories). I’m still angry at the co-intern who gave me shit about taking a night off when I had a threatened miscarriage. I’m still angry at this gunner med student who stole my first delivery on OB/GYN. I’m still angry at the attending who was so slow on the weekend that I was rounding for 14 hours in a row on a Saturday. I’m still angry about... too much.

This week, my medical training comes to an end. Four years of med school, a year of internship, three years of residency, and a year of fellowship. Obviously, I’m never going to forget all the miserable moments, but maybe I can try to stop being so angry about them. Maybe I can finally let go of that anger. Maybe I can focus on the good memories, of which there are also many.

Dear medical training: You suck sometimes, but I forgive you.

Besides, I’m sure I’ll find all new stuff to get pissed off about next year.

Friday, June 25, 2010


It's not for everyone. I don't advocate it. I certainly, in my Disney princess fairy tale happy ending view of life and marriage, never dreamed it would happen to me. I really don't know many people who have been divorced - a couple of friends, maybe. My parents have been happily married for almost 40 years and that is just how I thought this was all supposed to work - especially having two kids, now ages 7 and 5.

I sat down with my Mom a year and a half ago and said, coming from a walled up, stressed out, angry, confused place, "I want out." She gave me one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received, "Go to counseling. For six months to a year. If not for this relationship, for your next one. You'll keep repeating the same mistakes over and over unless you work on yourself and your marriage." So I did that - spent over a year in counseling and six months in marriage counseling. I can't say I regret the time one bit. I am still in divorce, and even though we hadn't been working for a long time, I tried as hard as I could. I think if I had exploded without all the work, I would have many regrets. I owed it to myself, and my kids.

So here I am plugging along this alien path of divorce. I'm learning so much - hiring lawyers. Answering interrogatories. Doing house inventories. Learning the custody lingo, as well as child support and alimony terminology. Taking transparenting (Yes! The actually call it that!) classes. My ex and I, while not really on a friendly basis, are doing a great job of co-parenting the kids over the summer, and we are very good at being cordial. It was tough giving up five whole weeks with the kids, but I've now got two under my belt and the second was a hell of a lot easier than the first.

I'm not sure really what the point of this blog is other than to talk about my experience, so far, and open the table for future discussion. I haven't made my divorce a secret - it is obvious in my comments and I think I may have alluded to it in a past blog. A couple of months ago someone asked me to write about going through divorce and I was so stressed out and worried over emotionally supporting my kids that I couldn't imagine talking about it. But now I think I'm ready.

Here's the toughest part - Sicily, my 7 year old, is in that age (thank god I took the transparenting class right off the bat) group that likes to play "Parent Trap." She is constantly trying to get us back together, and that is so heartbreaking to watch, even though I look back on my marriage and see that even at 3 and 4 she was trying to get us together, so this is not so different from then, only more out in the open. Here are some particularly painful examples:

"Mom, I'm going to have Dad bake you a cake for Mother's Day so you get back together." She got him to do it. That girl has amazing powers.

"When is Christmas? What I want from Santa is for you and Daddy to get back together. Can we start calling Santa now?"

"If you didn't have to work would you be going to the beach with us and Daddy?"

I know she is just trying to wrap her seven year old brain around all of this, but ugghh. Luckily she has a few key players in her life that have been children of divorce, and they have offered incredible support. I'm glad she has examples of those who have been there and have turned out OK - not to belittle their experience, I am sure it was hard.

John is of a different age - one of magical thinking. He is just 5, and his adjustment has been quite different. He doesn't talk about it as much, and at first I made the mistake of thinking that it was easier for him. I talked to a friend who has a mother with her masters in childhood development, and she said that girls usually come out better because they talk a lot more, and boys shut down. I started paying more attention, and I've had to troubleshoot some fear, separation anxiety, and stuffing emotions issues that were much more subtle, but I think that he is doing pretty well, overall. Kids struggle with divorce. But they also struggle in marriage. Attentive parenting is what matters the most.

I know marriage is hard. I've seen lots of people struggle and hit highs and lows (including my own parents). I think that if you do get married, you should try to work through the low points. I believe in those vows - but I also reluctantly, slowly, finally admitted that sometimes two people just don't work. I'm starting my life over at almost 37 years old, with two beautiful children. There's nothing to regret - and lots to look forward to. I am a pathologist who is about to be a partner in 4 months. I can support myself and my kids. I can afford good childcare and help, and am getting a lot more vacation that I've ever had. When I make partner, I will have the flexibility to cut back more if I need to while my kids are young. I'm in a great place. But it is still tough.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Becoming a single parent

A couple of months before my son was born 2 1/2 years ago, we were notified that my husband, an active duty member of the Navy, was getting deployed to Iraq. His date of departure was exactly one week after my due date. To any wife or family member of a service member, this would be difficult news - a loved one going into a war zone. But, to me, 8-months pregnant, insanely emotional, and mother to a then-2 1/2 year old already, it was devastating. I was terrified, almost paralyzed, with fear for his safety. But also, how could I handle being a single parent for 14 months?(!) How would I cover the many weekends I have to work on the wards? How would I keep my sanity and not go into a serious postpartum depressive funk? I didn't have postpartum depression with our first, thankfully, but the utter despair I experienced in the weeks and days leading up to his planned departure--I had never experienced anything quite like that before. That darkness was almost unbearable.

Then, a miracle happened. He didn't end up going. We found out 4 days after our son was born, 3 days before he was scheduled to leave. It had nothing to do with us just having a child, of course, but we were thankful nonetheless. Our family would stay together.

And it's been wonderful. A gift to be together. Yet, I had almost forgotten how easy it is to take things for granted.

In less than a month, my husband is moving to North Carolina for the next two years for his next military assignment. And we've decided that the kids and I will stay in DC. Which means, I will essentially become a single parent for the next two years.

The common response: Why don't you just all move down?

Well, it's complicated. The main factors:

- We have little to no support in the form of family or friends there. There's a good chance he could get deployed and be away for up to a year, and then me and the kids would still be alone but now with no help. Here, we have family, friends, great child care, a great school. At least here, the kids will have some stability.

-I love my job. I don't want to give it up, have to find a (most likely) less-satisfying one, and then have to find a job back here in 2 years. My career is exactly where I want it right now. I'm also the larger breadwinner, and we're more dependent on my salary to pay the mortgage, the bills, etc.

It is not an easy decision. It's going to be hard for everyone. I worry especially about our 5-year old daughter who is Daddy's girl, and I hope, hope, hope this turns out to be just a small blip in our overall happy family trajectory. And, of course, I worry about missing my husband - my best friend and love of my life. (I also worry about going insane from the stresses of single parenting but hopefully blogging will be therapeutic. See Tempeh's amazing grace through multiple deployments.)

So, we'll make the best out of it. We'll do weekends here or there. We'll Skype. I know we'll get through it together.

I have also learned, from Tempeh, that I'll need to lean on people to help. Which involves getting over the silly hang-up of having to ask for help.

I'm working on that.

But, something also dawned on me: I'm thankful to even have a choice to stay behind. As an independent woman, as a mother in medicine, I have a choice. A career I'm passionate about. A family I adore. It means certain sacrifices for sure, but it also means the chance to be fulfilled in multiple aspects of life. Yes, I'll always be dealing with finding balance, negotiating.

But, I'm still glad for the choice.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Looking older

I've always looked young, and received countless remarks to the same as a medical student. The comments were made in a marveling or appreciative way, but as a novice struggling to project confidence and professionalism, I didn't find them helpful.
Aged 24. I am radiating something here, but it's not life experience.

Of course, it became much more tolerable a few years later when I was twenty-eight and being taken for twenty-two. And then I had three children, and I'd been in practice a few years, and comments on my age trailed off. One day last year a patient said to me, "You must be about my age - from 1974?" and I was shocked that he had nailed it. Shortly after, for the first time ever, I asked my hairdresser for a cut that would take a few years off. Now I have bangs.

Then last month my patient, a widowed Iraqi refugee with three teenaged daughters, asked me through the interpreter, "As a woman, how do you be strong, but kind and loving and forgiving at the same time?" She looked at me expectantly; she wanted an answer. And I recognized that this was less a patient asking a question of her doctor, and more a woman asking a question of another woman. I was moved that she would think I had any advice to give her. I am fifteen years her junior and certain that my life has not required the strength and forgiveness of me that hers has asked of her.

As I offered my ideas on the subject, I wondered whether the twenty-five-year-old me - ten years ago - would have had anything to say. I doubt it. In fact, I seriously doubt that anyone would have asked my fresh-faced self such a question in residency or early practice.

It is a rare moment when I acknowledge that there may be advantages to not being or looking twenty-two. If my aging suggests to patients that I have lived even a little, and have learned something from it, I am grateful for it.

Aged 35. Zoom in for crow's feet, dark smudges under eyes and four white hairs in those bangs.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

And bringing up the rear...

Ok, so in honor of our birthday here at MiM, I thought it would only be fitting that I chip in my tribute about a week or so late. Though I have been repeatedly accused of making readers cry on this blog, and in fact my favorite posts admittedly DO fall into the category of tear-jerkers, I'm not completely a one trick pony. Occasionally I find comedy in the intersection of medicine and mothering, and here's my proof. If I should be known for anything on this blog, it would have to be lateness. Every topic day/topic week, I am dead last to contribute if I manage to contribute at all. Usually it comes at about midnight on day #7, but since it's our birthday, I thought I would sleep in and make my contribution a whole week or so late. Happy Birthday, MiM! And many more!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Damn you, Facebook!!!

I'm not a huge fan of Facebook. I have an account because everyone I know has an account and I didn't want to be completely left out. I have something along the lines of 100 friends, most of whom friended me first (I swear!). I have never played Farmville and I don't even know what it is, beyond that I think it has something to do with, like, building a farm?

My main use for Facebook is finding out which of my (former) friends and classmates are getting married or having babies. That's pretty much it. And I don't even have to friend someone to do that! Because as we all know, the first thing a woman does when she's in a serious relationship is to put the guy in her profile photo. And as soon as she has a baby, the guy is removed and now the baby is in the profile photo (+/- the actual woman).

So I've got a long list of friends who now have husbands and/or babies featured in their profile photos. But lately I've been noticing a small but growing trend: TWO babies.

It all started a few weeks ago. Facebook suggested a friend for me and I noticed from her profile photo that she was holding two babies (both of whom were younger than mine). When I knew her in med school, she had zero babies. She had deleted "pediatrician" from her employment and written "stay at home mom."

And then yesterday, I noticed that yet another former classmate had added a second baby to her profile photo. And this woman was going to be a freaking SURGEON, not exactly the type who pops out lots of babies. In fact, she's probably just about finished with her surgery residency (or not, considering she broke it up with two babies).

I couldn't help but notice that both of this woman's babies were also younger than my three year old. And suddenly, I felt an immense pressure. Women don't have one child and wait a long time to have a second. They bang 'em out fast: baby, another baby, another baby, bam, bam, bam. Every single woman I know who was pregnant at the same time as me or shortly after now has another baby or is pregnant. All the kids in my daughter's daycare have siblings and she wants a brother or sister. I feel like everyone is looking at me and wondering, "Where is #2?"

I've written about this on here before. I obsess over it unhealthily. It's awful.

But the thing is, I don't want a second child right now. I know I don't. I think about how sick I was when I was pregnant and I don't want that right now. I think about how newborns wake up to cry all the time and I don't want that. We have no diapers in our home right now and I love it. I finally have time to read fiction, exercise (a little), and cook dinner every night. I like not having to hand my salary over to a nanny. I'm starting a new job soon and I want to be at my best, not vomiting and exhausted like I was when I started residency. I don't want my first year on the job to contain a maternity leave. I miss breastfeeding, but I don't miss feeling chained to that awful pump. Yes, I find newborns cute, but not achingly so. When I hold them, I usually want to give them back pretty quickly. I find my preschooler much more fun and interesting than a newborn. And she's such an easy kid, who gets sweeter and more fun every day. (Our latest game is competing who loves who more. She loves me a thousand million. I love her a million billion, which she swears is less than a thousand million.)

I do want another child. But not now.

Yet I feel like I'm on a clock. I don't want my kids to be too far apart in age. Four years is good, five is okay, six is pushing it, seven and they'll never be friends. And then I worry that they won't want to do any of the same activities because they'll be too far apart. Also, I don't want to wait until I'm too old and at risk for infertility. (I'm 30. Well, almost 31. Damn birthdays just keep coming.)

Sigh. Why do I have such stupid worries? Why can I never just sit back and enjoy life?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My "Maternity Leave"

About 3 weeks after my son was born I read this post on our blog. At the time I was extremely jealous as I read about the author’s extended leave. As I began to consider my ‘maternity leave’ I realized that I could quite possibly have a truly unique situation on my hands.

I work in private practice and my husband is an amazing SAHD. We had been waiting to adopt a baby for 3 years, then one miraculous day in November we got THE call. Your baby is here… pick him up tomorrow. We were beyond excited. Wait, did you say Tomorrow? As in ‘24 hours of notice’. As in my schedule is booked solid for the next 3 months including a massive number of December surgeries. Yes! That was the big News. As I gave my office manager the wonderful news she hugged me tears streaming down her face but quickly after the congratulations was the question… what are we going to do with your schedule? Hmmm. Let me get back to you on that.

So, of course, I cancelled by patients for the next 3 months so I could bond with my child? Ummm, actually ,no.

After a couple of days I realized something… I was essentially a man here. I am the sole bread winner. I didn’t need to recover or breast feed; and there is a parent home full time with the kids. How would other men handle this? I thought of my own patients whose husbands took a week, maybe two off at the most,* when their babies were born. Being in private practice was great, I make a good living, I set my own schedule, I am my own boss….. but if I don’t work I don’t get paid**. I strongly considered taking an extended leave and taking out a loan, but realistically I wasn’t sure that was wise in this economy. Also, so many of our patient postpone surgery until they have met their deductible, that the surgery schedule in December is full. Asking my patients to see some other provider in our office for their pap smears and minor issues is one thing, but when someone is having surgery they want THEIR doctor. So this was my dilemma.

So, essentially I compromised. I took 3 weeks ‘off’ (I did run in and do a few surgeries), then worked 2 days a week for a few weeks. After a month I went to 3 days a week then returned to working 4 days a week (my usual schedule) after 6 weeks. I’ve also taken lots of other random extra days off here and there. This plus my husband home full time and several weeks with grandparents visiting has actually lead to an amazingly smooth first 6 months.

I feel extremely bonded with my son and feel this “maternity leave” was so much less stressful than my maternity leave with my older son when I was recovering from a c-section and having breastfeeding issues. My partners and nurse practitioner were wonderfully helpful in seeing my patients when I was on a reduced schedule. Luckily my son has been a good sleeper and the transition has gone quite smoothly.

I realize that a lot of women are forced to take a reduced maternity leave because of school/training and don't have the advantage of having control of their schedules. I feel lucky that mine worked out so well and my son has such an amazing dad as a primary caregiver.

*I recently had a patient schedule her c-section for a Friday so her husband could “have the weekend’ to bond with the baby?????

**My overhead is quite high. I still have to pay my employees and malpractice even when I’m not working. Taking 3 months off work would but me at least $50,000 in the hole.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Guest posts, bottling moments, and Facebook

As we wrap up reflections of this past year, I'd be remiss not to mention all the guest posts that have sent in that have become part of the fabric of our blog. I love all of these posts that give voice to this greater community --and encourage you to send yours too whenever inspiration strikes. Each guest post has been wonderful, real, authentic (26 in total just this past year!), but I think my favorite might have been this one, by neurosurgeon GCS15, writing so honestly (and heart-breakingly) about a very difficult day as part of our Topic Week on A Day in the Life. I think all of us reading could instantly understand and wanted to help, to be there to help,to help by the comments we left behind.

I guess my favorite post of my own was writing about a moment in time that I wanted to last forever. Well, I did. And I didn't. Our children grow up way too fast and I find that writing about a moment can serve to bottle that feeling to keep in your pocket and whip out at a later date (like when he's begging for the car keys to go out with friends) *hyperventilate*

Being a mother in medicine (capitalized and uncapitalized) has been so rewarding.

(Non sequitur update: As some of you know, I write humor in my spare time and, incidentally, have an op-ed in today's USA Today on why patients should not friend their doctors on Facebook. Perhaps the topic of a whole other post some other would be a future post on "spare time.")

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

More Fun Than Playing Polo With the Duke

I hope it is not too late to toot my own horn, and say that of my own posts, I most liked the Laws of Mommodynamics. I really love it that this blog has let me pontificate, ruminate, contemplate, exasperate, adumbrate, and simply prate. I look forward to our third year--we rate!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Little Fizzy

I'm on vacation this week and have gone back "home" (when will my parents' house stop being "home"?) to give the grandparents a crack at their granddaughter and score some free babysitting. While I'm here, my mother has gently suggested that I clear some of the crap out of my old bedroom.

I won't bore you with stories of rediscovering my old sticker collection (stickers!!!) or a large bag of rocks that I've inexplicably been saving for the last two dozen years. However, there were a few (embarrassing) gems worth commenting on, in which stupid naive young Fizzy contemplated the future. The following snippet was written when I was nine years old:

I can't remember ever wanting to be a psychiatrist. Although I think the most amusing thing is that my misspelling of the word made it dangerously close to my actual specialty of physiatrist. (I had no idea what a physiatrist was when I was nine. I'm still not entirely sure.) By the way, this was what I thought a psychiatrist did:

I showed this writing assignment to my father, who commented, "See how dumb you were? Wanting to fast forward through time..." But actually, not so dumb. (And also, I predicted the plot of a future Adam Sandler movie.) In any case, I sure as hell wouldn't want to do any of that schooling over again. I'm pretty glad it's all behind me. Well, except for some parts of college. Ah, college.

Of course, I've saved the best part for last, because I just can't stop until I've completely humiliated myself:

So apparently, at nine years old, I had two goals: to get through med school to become a phy(s)iatrist and to have a daughter. Check and check.

High five, little Fizzy!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Two years and counting...

Two years? Already? I look at this number in the same way that I look at my age on my driver’s license – where did the time go?

But, unlike the grey hairs and fine lines that I see in the mirror, this blog has been a welcome addition to my life. I love knowing that I’m not along in my experiences. I love the varying viewpoints that we share. I love that I have been able to get to know such an array of women.

I would be remiss not to mention KC’s leadership through this time – this is her brainchild and I am grateful for the opportunity to help nurture and grow her idea into the success it has become (and grateful as well as her intermittent reminders about posting!).

My favorite recent post is actually the topic week* where we answered questions posed by women who are considering jumping aboard this road we’ve been traveling. I think these posts distill the essence of what this blog has endeavored to be since we started – a collective forum of opinions and experiences that we can all learn from, no matter where we are in our lives.

It is the blink of an eye – it is two years.
It is my history – it is our experience.
I am a mom who is a physician – we are Mothers in Medicine.

*Please click here

and here

and here

and here

to get a taste of the week!

Happy birthday to us!

Happy 2nd birthday, Mothers in Medicine! I actually didn't find the twos to be so terrible for my kids. I thought the ones were more difficult, since my boys were much better at being mobile and into trouble than comprehending and obeying at 18 months. You can bribe a two year old.

I think my favorite post of mine at Mothers in Medicine is my advice to a mom starting her pre-med. I like that I was pleasantly surprised how much I like being a mother in medical school, most of the time.

I have a lot of favorite posts by other contributors, but if I had to pick one, it would be the alternative career post by fizzy, and its comment thread. I love playing dream backup career, and everyone else's answers, contributors and commenters, were hilarious.

Reading, commenting, contributing, and just being part of the experience of Mothers in Medicine is such a wonderful and rewarding experience. Thanks, KC! Pass the cake!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Combining words and at least half intelligible

That's a TWO YEAR OLD for you! MIM is two now, and my favorite posts are all of yours, especially finding out what each of you do on a typical day-in-the-life. I am thoroughly honored to have been surrounded by such talented, funny, thoughtful, thought-provoking women.
A lot has happened since I saw the gaping cavity (a lot of brushing and flossing and visits for fluoride varnish), and it's May/June/July again where I remind myself to slow down. But when I reflect on "my" accomplishments over the past year, these include successfully taking the training wheels off the bike (Daughter, this weekend!), actually playing tennis again (Me, last weekend), renewed job satisfaction (Husband), memorizing the entire Beatles box set (Son), and learning to read and reading for pleasure (all of us). And there are also the accomplishments and needs of my patients and students that keep me going.
And being with MIM turning two, indeed growing and developing exceptionally well. Beginning to show some defiant behavior and increasing independence. Walking so well that we're running. Some make believe play, following simple instructions, and scribbling on our own. And enthusiastic to be in the company of each other. Alas, KC, though an internist in real life, is no doubt MIM's pediatrician and highly skilled at it. Thanks for guiding and serving as a role model for us all. I hope you see us all through adolescence...

Rh+ Year #2

This has been an amazing year for me. I began the year with several posts about my struggle to find peace in my life as an OB/GYN; daily delivering babies for others, all the while my heart aching for another child of my own. Then in November our lives changed in 24 hours, we we got the call from the agency that now was the time (yes we waited 3 years to adopt, then got our son with only 24 hours notice). I'm still adjusting to life with two and have half a dozen half- written blog posts saved on my computer that I promise to finish 'soon' (a relative term with a new baby).

I have really enjoyed following the blog this year. MomT wrote an excellent post on her maternity leave, though I found myself extremely jealous of her lengthy time off. I seriously will not read any post by Tempeh before work, because I almost always cry and have to touch up my makeup; causing me to run late. Fizzy cracks me up. Gizabeth has a wonderful way with words. Of course, my soul sister and fellow OB/GYN, Dr Whoo is the bomb.

Thanks again for letting me apart of this wonderful group of women!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

MiM's a toddler!

When I was looking through my posts over the last year, I started to get a little concerned that I sacrificed quality for quantity. No post really jumped out at me as being fantastic in any way. I guess the truth of the matter is that I haven't been using this blog to write groundbreaking essays on being a mother in medicine. When something in my life happens that I think would be interesting to the MiM reading public, I write about it. I feel like I've shared a slice of my life on here. So I hope you've enjoyed reading, even if you haven't felt a need to tweet my posts. (Did I use "tweet" correctly there?)

However, since our lovely and fearless leader KC has asked us to select our favorite of our own posts, I have to choose PM&R: The Holy Grail? because I can't resist any opportunity to plug my specialty and what a great choice it is for a mother.

As for my favorite post by a fellow MiM-er, that is much harder to choose. I love every entry posted on here and they all speak to me in some way. But Mommydoctor's post Anesthesia residency by the numbers brought little tears to my eyes, so I have to mention that one. Also, I know it's older than a year, but I really adored ZT's post I want to be a homer, because it spoke to me as both a working mom and a daughter of a working mom.

I've loved blogging here and I thank KC for starting such a wonderful community. Two years ago, I was admittedly a little bitter, but find a group of women who are like me posting their stories has made me feel better about myself. Thank you to all my fellow bloggers and thank you to the readers as well!

The Sleepover

I am being all sentimental, here. This is not a MiM post, but it is a post from my own blog that I sent to KC by e-mail last November, at the suggestion of my blogging friend Ramona. KC invited me to join MiM the next day. Being a part of this community of Mothers In Medicine - both mothers and readers - has meant so much to me, over the last few months. It is the perfect example of "give a little, and receive thousandfold."

Last Thursday afternoon Mike called me at work.

"Sicily's been invited to a sleepover."

I was mortified. "What? Who?"

"Her friend Emmarie. The one that came to the Halloween party." I had thrown a little Halloween party for Sicily - well, not me really. Sicily made the invitations and cajoled me into throwing the party for three of her friends. She picked the fabulous lantern art activity. She made the goody bags. I just chaperoned - cannot take a single bit of credit. One of the girls was a new friend from her school. I met the dad for the first time when he picked her up, and I hadn't yet met the mother.

I frantically asked Mike, "When is the sleepover? Does Sicily know about it?" I was thinking maybe we could just make an excuse to the parents and never tell her about the party.

He replied, "Yes, and she's really excited. It's Emmarie's seventh birthday party. There are four other girls going. It's tomorrow night."

My head went into a tailspin. I wasn't ready for Sicily to spend the night at someone's house, other than a family member. Sure, she had been begging for a long time, but I actively avoided the subject. And I thought her first one would be a friend that we had known for a long time, and we knew the parents, like Helen or Phoebe. Or Annika. People I was comfortable with, and trusted that they weren't murderers or child molesters. But at the same time, she is over six and a half. I had to let this happen at some point. But six and a half is still so young, I thought. I didn't remember doing this sleepover thing until I was at least eight or nine.

While I was taking her to her stroke technique class Thursday night, she was complaining about her day. I love telling people that I need to leave early so I can get Sicily to her stroke class. They look so puzzled, and I wonder what they are thinking. Is it a class where one learns how to gracefully survive a brain infarct? Or a lesson in the proper etiquette of soothing one's cat? Sometimes I jump in and just tell them she is learning swim strokes, and sometimes I make them suffer and ask.

I was tired of listening to Sicily complain. So I started whining. "Listen to my day. I had one of the biggest caseloads I've ever had. And I'm tired from traveling. I was working crazy hard and busy this afternoon, and your Dad called and told me you were invited to a sleepover. I was so upset and worried, and wanted to try to hide it from you. I don't know the parents, and I am not sure I want you to sleep in a house with people I don't know. I'm scared, Sicily."

She was clearly shocked. She doesn't hear me complain, often. "Mommy, why are you acting like a child? I'll be fine, I really want to go. I've been wanting to do this for a long time." I said, "OK, but I'm taking you over there. And I'm warning you. I'm going inside to meet the mom. If something seems off to me, or I don't like the look of the place, I'm leaving, and you're coming with me."

"Mom, what would have to happen for you to not let me stay?"

"Well, if there are children hanging from the kitchen ceiling bleeding, or screaming in the back room - not excited, party screams, but 'I'm being tortured' screams, then you definitely cannot spend the night."

I looked in the rear view mirror to gauge her reaction. She was smiling and rolling her eyes. "Mom, you're crazy."

Friday night I raced home to get her - I had to drive her 45 minutes away to a gated community in a suburb. Mike and I had looked at a house there many years ago, so at least I knew the area. It was nice - large lots, giant houses. Not that this fact calmed me down - evil people transcend socioeconomic status. We had a long drive, so we discussed manners. I quickly glossed over the basics - "If you don't like something they are offering to eat, say no thank you. Use the word please if you need help." We did some role playing, and she gleefully mimicked her most horrible screams at foods she did not like as an example of what not to do. She was having fun. "What else, mom?"

"Well, the goal of spending the night out is to behave well so you will be asked back again, if you like it and are having fun."

"So what would I have to do that they wouldn't ask me back?"

"Well, I wouldn't blow your nose on their cat. They might not like a snotty cat."

"Mom! How do you know they even have a cat!"

"I don't, that's just an example. I also wouldn't poop on any one's head."

She cackled. "What if I pooped on their head, and then had diarrhea on it?"

"Then you definitely wouldn't be asked back. In fact, I might be required to take you to the doctor."

"Oh, mom. Would they give me a shot?"

"No, but he or she might make you talk to him or her. About why you pooped on some one's head. It's really not done, in polite society."

I checked the mirror. It was dark and rainy, and her eyes were glowing. She caught me watching her, and looked away and shrugged. She gave me my favorite response, to the information I dole out to her. She looked away, scrunched up her face, and said nonchalantly, "Hmm."

When we arrived there were lots of girls jumping around animatedly, and the mom was busy with make-your-own-pizza fixings and cupcakes, so I didn't keep her long. I just introduced myself and wrote down phone numbers. I could hardly get Sicily to say goodbye to me - she was having so much fun.

After a family dinner, Mike retired early in preparation for a big hunting weekend and I stayed up. I was watching Escape From Alcatraz, and it was so much fun to see a movie set in the place I had visited Monday night. I think Clint Eastwood was thrown into the same solitary cell that I had spent time in, on D Block. At about 11:15 p.m., my cell phone rang. It was Emmarie's mother. "Sorry to wake you - Sicily just wanted to talk to you." She passed the phone before I could reply.

"Mommy, I miss you! I love you! Can I talk to Daddy and John?"

"No Sicily, they are long in bed sleeping. You should try to go to sleep, it's really late. Do you need me to come get you?"

"No, I just wanted to tell you I missed you."

"I'll be there first thing in the morning, I promise."

"No, mom! Not first thing! I'm always the first to leave. Come a little late so I can play, OK?"

I smiled. "OK sweetie. Try to sleep. I love you. Goodnight."

Whew. We survived. I hung out with the mom the next morning, for a half hour or so, and she seemed nice. She was pleased with Sicily, telling me amusing stories from her observations, and I reciprocated by sharing some stories about her daughter when she was at the Halloween party. She assured me that she was the second to last, not the last kid to go to sleep. Oh the trials of motherhood. I don't know what I'm gonna do when Sicily goes off to college.

I love all the posts I have read since I joined this blog. Every. Single. One. Have to say my favorite fun addition to my own blogs that I follow are Fizzy's cartoons. That girl's got some seriously hilarious cartoon talent (and I notice her artistic skills are developing quite nicely)!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Happy Birthday, MiM!

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it has already been another year! Did you know that MiM was born under the sign of "Gemini," with described traditional traits such as being "adaptable, versatile, communicative, witty, intellectual, eloquent, youthful, and lively?" Personally, I could not agree with this description more! Also, based on my long list of friend birthdays this week, this is a great time to be born. Looking over the last year, I see that I've not been the most prolific of bloggers, but I do like the blogs that I have written for the site. I would have to say that my "Tips for Surviving Call During Pregnancy" post was the favorite of my contributions for the year. I also have to mention The Mommy Doctor's post "Why do you have to go to work, Mommy?" because it really touched a chord with me, and I love the discussion generated by the post itself.

I love writing for this blog because I feel as though I am in a great company of not only great writers, but wonderful physicians, mothers, and friends. It is an amazing experience to sit and put my thoughts and experiences as a physician mother to words and to sometimes help another woman who may be struggling with the same thoughts and/or dilemmas. So, thank you, KC for inviting me to write for the blog (two years ago!) and thanks to all of you, dear readers, for making this site such a vibrant and supportive community.