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Monday, October 16, 2017

High School

My daughter started high school this Fall.

I'm 43, I mean 44? Hard to keep track these days. So I'm old enough to have a daughter in high school but it is so surreal. Cecelia is 14, Jack is 12, and all of a sudden the physical challenges of raising small children has transformed into the higher emotional challenges of raising conscious human beings.

I have spent the past five years cultivating relationships with Cecelia's friends mothers through book clubs and trips. Thinking I had all my ducks in a row for the tough years. All of a sudden, this Spring, she upended me by deciding to attend high school at Little Rock Central High. Up until now, she has always been in small private schools. I longed to leave my small private school for Central when I was her age, and logistics prevented me, so I supported her.

As you might know, the Little Rock Nine are history. Bill Clinton was here last month for the 60 year anniversary, along with members of that brave tribe. We didn't make it, I was out of town, but I'm still super proud of my daughter for going from a class of 60 something tops to a class of over a thousand in a place steeped in history. I've been in the building exactly once. She's braving it solo. Attacking model UN and AP physics with aplomb. Making all new friends, to my carefully planning chagrin.

Last weekend I was added to two group texts - one tackling homecoming pre-party and the other a post party sleepover. I know none of the parents. It was a giant text stream of numbers. At one point, right before breakfast on Saturday, I replied to the larger pre-party text, thinking it was the smaller sleepover text. Got confused. Stepped on toes. Newcomer face plant. I was very apologetic to the one person I actually met for five minutes, and they were very kind, but UGH. I thought I had this all under control.

That's life right? You think you have it all under control and it changes. Control is a huge illusion. Life is life is life. We like to operate and mitigate it through our own interpretation but really? If we shut those eyes it would all go on without us. So you just have to sit back and roll with the punches.

I was on call last week. Friday night after the football game I dropped my daughter off at a house to socialize. All I want to do on busy call weeks in the evening is veg in front of the TV or a book (hell non call weeks too). But I've got to meet these new friends and their parents, one of whom was having an after party until midnight at her parent's house. Emboldened by wine, I marched in at 10 while the teenagers were dancing in the driveway and hung out for over an hour. I met a woman, challenged by fertility issues, who adopted two sons from Ethiopia. I met another women who is an airport engineer who travels all over the country. I became reassured that even though this is a brand new social circle, these are good people. I volunteered to do the 11:30 carpool the next night from the dance to the sleepover.

Six glamorous excited chatty girls piled into my car the next night. When your kids are teenagers, you glean much more information about their lives by listening to them talk to their friends than direct inquiry. So I relish carpooling them around. They appeared disappointed in the turnout, despite what looked like hundreds of teenagers hanging out around the venue, then started plotting basketball homecoming. They played music I have never heard of on Spotify. They took selfies with their phones. I got caught up in the moment - the excitement of youth.

I think I'm ready for high school. I'm glad it's not me. That wasn't my favorite time of life, but I'm going to try to make sure my daughter enjoys the heck out of it.


Cecelia and Jack, pre-homecoming festivities. He is dressed up to see Kinky Boots with my husband, myself, and his friend. We all wore jeans and nice tops but he surprised us with jacket and tie. I'm hoping to convince Cecelia to let me use this on the Christmas card this year.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Waiting Waiting Waiting




Baby's official due date is 4 days away.

We are as ready as we are going to be. The hospital bag is packed. The date night(s) have been had. My last day in clinic was 4 days ago.

And I am going crazy just sitting here, waiting.

My husband is too - a few nights ago I was feeling uncomfortable/crampy, and he read to me off Google that "being uncomfortable might be a sign of early labor" - but then I took a bath and felt better and we were both disappointed.

I never understood women that were "so done" with pregnancy until I hit 38 weeks. After all, childbirth doesn't look like a whole lot of fun and I've never seen the point of trying to hurry it along. However, at 38 weeks, all of a sudden, sitting sucked, standing sucked, walking sucked, and so did laying down. My clinic patients would catch me wincing at work while waddling from room to room. One of my most complicated patients who has multiple serious concerns at each clinic visit told me I should probably go home and take it easy. Another one caught me making a face while I was auscultating his heart and told me he was afraid I was going to have the baby right then and there. No longer scheduling me in clinic was probably a good idea.

The rest of the last three weeks have been filled with research elective time. I thank my lucky stars my program director has had enough pregnant residents to know that research would be a great use of my time leading up to baby. I have probably been driving my research mentor crazy - I have nothing else to do to distract myself from the waiting and the constant discomfort, so I've been working ridiculously hard on my research project and I have a tendency to send her these long detailed emails only a day after we've met and hashed out the details on the last one.  I also find myself spending a lot of time on Google reading terrible parenting/pregnancy advice on blogposts (obviously not this blog!) and also relevant medical literature on PubMed to my situation (Fun facts: 30% of women will try some kind of non-pharmacological measure to try and start labor. And there is good evidence behind "membrane stripping" with a number needed to treat of 8 to prevent a formal induction!).

I haven't had this many nights/weekends off in a row since before med school clerkships. We've stopped making any sort of plans on the weekends. Last weekend I couldn't handle the not busy-ness any more and spent a day making 10 of those freezer meals for when we don't feel like cooking (never done that before).

I know I will want to cherish these moments of quiet, of resting, of the calm before the storm, but I still find myself silently pleading with baby to hurry up and meet us soon.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

No big surprise, but…I’m still tired

I’m currently mid staycation with my daughter, and I disobeyed my own advice.  I overplanned.  As a result I set myself up for constant disappointment because, I AM TIRED.  I’m now re-grouping and re-thinking.  Just getting done what I can, hanging out with my girl and enjoying her warm little hugs - realizing it doesn’t matter if we make it to every museum and live kids music performance and puppet show imaginable.  She just wants to hang out and read Rainbow Fairy books.  I have the same bleary eyed overwhelmed tiredness of residency staycations, and it’s a little bit of a revelation.

Attending life is full of new challenges.  I have called patients and set up appointments and reviewed pathology this entire break.  I can’t emotionally separate from what is going on.  There are many good changes - I do have increased control over my schedule, autonomy, and there is a more personal sense of fulfillment.  But, I am still so tired.  I feel constantly behind at home and at work - there is always more to do.  Part of the reason we’re having a staycation is just I didn’t have the energy or time to plan a proper vacation.

So, I’m writing this post as proof that from this moment on I will close my laptop and try to unplug.  And in a few days I will be back, hopefully energized just a bit so that I can keep moving.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Mindfulness or multi-tasking as a mother in medicine

And then she said, “Wait what?”   

As a mother in medicine, are you engaging in mindfulness, or are you a multi-tasker?  Perhaps that’s too simplistic of a question, as it’s not necessarily an either/or.  The complexity may rest in which of these two are you striving for? 

My challenge is I find I’m striving for both.  I want to be more mindful and present with the people I’m with, but with things I want to multi-task.  When I’m with my family, I should be with my family.  When I’m with my students I should be with my students.  When I’m with my patients I should be with my patients.  When I'm in a meeting, I should be with the meeting members... that last one is a hard one!  What if you find yourself with people and it’s not worth your while?  When it’s not engaging.  When you have sooooooo many competing priorities and demands.  Do you exit (physically or mentally)?  Do you meditate or do you multitask or do you make your way out the door?

And, what about when the people aren’t fully present with you?  I’ll wait… And I’ll aim to make being there, being here, worthwhile. 

Maybe the key is to be mindful and fully present with people, and to multi-task effectively with things. But that may also mean you have to be around the "right" people and do the "right" things... the people and things that give your life meaning!

I guess it’s kind of a topic or conundrum for us, the busiest people.  And on that, do we agree that the busiest are the mothers in medicine?