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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Kindergarten lottery

Yesterday, I saw a post on Facebook about the lottery for full day kindergarten in my town.  And suddenly, all the fear I'd felt a year ago came flooding back....

What if my kid doesn't get into full day kindergarten?  (Which only goes till 2:30pm by the way--it's just short of criminal to call that "full day".)

What will I do with her for those three extra hours when afterschool doesn't start till 2:45?

What will I dooooo??????

Fortunately, we got a spot in the lottery.  Most people did.  If I had moved to our town in February with a pre-K kid, I would have been out of luck for the next year because there were no spots left by then.  Oh, and if I didn't already have my kids enrolled in the afterschool program the year before, I would have no chance of getting in.

Sometimes it frustrates me that the school systems (at least, outside of big cities) are not set up for working parents.  Most moms I know work, yet we all have to scramble.  Holidays are always rough.  And what about that stupid week between school and camp?

I keep telling myself that someday things will change.  The powers that be will realize that with so many women in the workforce, there needs to be good childcare options.  But I'm giving up hope.  Women have been in a workforce for a long time, and it doesn't seem like there's any movement to help us, at least where I am.

I'm really glad women are coming forward in the media to discuss their experiences with sexual harassment lately and I hope some progress is made because of it.  But now maybe we can discuss the sexual oppression women face when society makes it so challenging to go back to work after having a child.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Surprises

Hello everyone! Kicks here, and happy to announce the arrival of Baby! He is doing great and we are so in love. I am sitting in my rocking chair where he fell asleep in my arms contemplating how things have gone so far

I was surprised...

L&D:
...that after signing up for an induction, my water broke in the hospital with no pitocin needed!
...that I was such a puker. I have delivered about 40 babies thus far and I haven’t seen anyone puke like I did.
...how much I HATED the nurse who wouldn’t give me an epidural at 3 cm
...how much I liked her after getting me through early active labor and getting me to 8 centimeters before my epidural
...after how nervous I was to deliver at the hospital I will soon be working at, how much I am going to enjoy working with those fabulous nurses. I always seemed to have the right nurse at the right stage of the process, and we bought them all chocolates for the nursing station on day of discharge
...how well my husband did. He feels lightheaded at the sight of blood, but stayed by my side through each yucky moment. And even watched baby be born (we had a mirror at the end of the bed) which surprised us both
...how wonderful that first hour of skin to skin was. I always counsel my mommies that we will try to get them that moment but no guarantees, as many times something happens where we’re not able to make that safely work - however it was AWESOME. Baby and I cooed at each other for so long we completely lost track of time.
..how little I have learned about breastfeeding and breast pumping despite being interested in newborn care and OB. All I knew was breastfeeding is best for baby and Mom - but the mechanics were completely new. And that pump was so intimidating. I brought it out of its box a month before delivery just to stare at the pieces. And I had no idea what people were talking about “flanges” and “membranes”. Yish.
...how many interruptions we got during our hospital stay. I wasn’t completely clueless since I am frequently one  of those interruptions myself. So I expected baby’s doctor, and my doctor, and frequent nursing checks. But then early childhood stopped by to invite us to a new parents group. The discharge planner (who said she didn’t mind that I was nursing even though I was trying to make it clear I was new at this and I happened to mind at that time). Being  offered essential oils so many times I started to think the hospital was getting  kickbacks from Big Lavender (one nurse even taped a cotton ball to my little table while I was eating breakfast so I had a lavender flavored omelette). It got to the point that my last visitor on my second day was an adorable little old lady who goes around offering blessings to the baby - I was very short with her in my declining and trying to scoot her out of the room - even though later I felt bad and really wished I would have let her as she seemed so sweet and nice and I just snapped at her to get out.
...how ready we were to go home (see above)
...how hard it is to put babies in car seats

Home:
...how natural it was to slip into the role of Mom
...how hard it is to find good advice on the internet at 3 am
...how other moms survived before internet delivery services like amazon
...how defensive I was at Baby’s first doctors appointment despite the constant praise from Baby’s doctor. Must remember to try and do that for my own patients.
..how much I question everything I do with baby. Am I holding him not enough or too much? Am I giving him enough attention or should I get out of his face for a bit? Etc.
...how much Baby sleeps. And how deep Baby sleeps, where it’s still hard to resist the urge to poke him and make sure he’s still alive.
...how much Baby grunts or makes weird noises. Seemingly all the time
...how lucky I am to have family med docs and pediatricians one text away.

Work
...how fast maternity leave went. I thought I would be itching to leave the house but I really really didn’t want to go. I cried the whole way in my car to my first day back at work.
...how much I both enjoy being back and enjoy the people I work with - but also can’t wait to get home
...how much my patients asked about Baby and how things were going. And how much I missed some of my frequent patients.
...how happy I am to go back 2 days a week only for the next month. Jumping back to full time would have been overwhelming no matter how many weeks of leave I had.
...how much more like “myself” I feel after putting real pants on and using my brain a bit more. I didn’t feel “not myself” at home with Baby, but feel a little more normal now somehow.
...how much it is going to suck to try and fit things in between work and bedtime especially once I go back full time
...how awesome my family is at stepping in to take care of Baby when I go back part time and going to extra mile to help clean and cook us dinners.
...how much I love coming home to my little peanut!

Cheers!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The good kind of pain

I seem to always forget exactly how much pain I'm in over Thanksgiving weekend, after running a 10K on Thanksgiving Day. I'll think of Thanksgiving in my mind with warmness: family, food, friends (and sometimes work) but not the stifled screams of anguish that my leg muscles dare me to emit when I get out of bed on Friday morning. Repeat that with any movement all day Friday > Saturday > Sunday.

I remember one year, I was on the consult service the week of Thanksgiving and while I had Thanksgiving Day off, I had to come in on the Friday. A nurse asked me while I was making my way down the hospital hall whether I was okay. I didn't realize exactly how debilitated I appeared. Just walking a bit slow today *shuffle, shuffle, shuffle*!

This year, it has been no different. I should be more prepared after the same sequence of events every year for the past 4 years but, no, I stepped out of bed on Friday morning and was like - WHOA: IS THIS RHABDO? HOLY CRAP IT HURTS. If I wondered whether I pushed it hard or not, there was my answer. Yet, something about the pain with every step (all day and all night) is nice in a weird way. It's proof that I did something hard.

Thursday was my fifth race this year. I've realized that training for a race keeps me motivated in a way that plain old hopes and goals don't. With my work schedule and everything going on, it used to be so easy to make excuses why I couldn't run:

  • It's too late
  • It's too early
  • I don't want to do my hair again
  • Everyone else is hungry
  • I'm hungry
  • I have low energy (related to the above or separate)
  • or almost anything else
Also, my time on last year's Turkey Chase 10K was almost the same as the prior year.  That was kind of anticlimactic. So I asked my husband to help me work on speed over the last year. He's always designed workouts for his own bad Ironman self, so let's just say I was a little scared of what he might design for me in terms of training. Keeping in mind that he went to a military service academy and I went to a college where you could design your own major.

Turns out, I love me a training schedule! I run 4 times a week and have easy and hard runs each week to complete. (I particularly enjoy the easy runs.)  I train for the next race and have had PRs each time.  I really love that in my 40's, I can get better and better at something physical. (It's not all downhill!) Granted, I started from a very low bar of speed. But, it has channeled my previously hibernating competitive streak into something productive.

During the Turkey Chase this year, I tried to use my Fitbit Blaze to track my pace. At the starting line, as I was trying to start the app, it kept saying "Check Fitbit App." Awesome.  Last race, the display was showing me "Calories Burned" instead of my pace which was the last thing I want to know while running a race. So I felt that my contemporaneous race tracking was doomed which turned to be true as my watch kept giving me wrong distance tracking and pace estimates that were way slow. By just the time, it seemed as I was running fast, but I wasn't sure with all of the inaccurate data floating around on my display and my math skills have deteriorated a long way since college calculus.

The race results posted yesterday, and I was thrilled to see that I beat last year's time by almost 6 minutes! That felt great. Mentally, not physically, since physically I'm still decrepit. But, it's a good pain, the kind that comes from trying hard and accomplishing something. I may even miss it when it's gone.

Not pictured: heavy labored wheezing/breathing

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Guest post: Mommy guilt - the struggle is real

One of the first things I did when I got a job that paid money was hire a cleaning lady. It was a given that I would, since I hate housework, and am no good at it. I actually suck pretty hard at it.

As time went on, I outsourced more and more stuff. Some of it was because we suddenly had things we never had before, like backyards–who’s got time to mow that? Landscaper!–and children. Oh, children. They’re outsourced more than anything else. They’ve got daycare, tutors, and a babysitter. And right now, we’re pared down, because there is only one babysitter. There was a point in time when I had two: one for drop off and one for pickup.

Apparently, getting a cleaning lady is a source of shame or guilt for some people–women, mostly–because they take it as a point of pride that they clean their own house, even if they could afford help, because it makes them a real woman. Or something. Some even insist that they [airquote] like it or even that it [airquote] relaxes them. (You should see the face I’m making right now. Hint: it’s full of skepticism) I work in a highly Portuguese area, and these women are nuts about their houses. But not me. I hate cleaning and I outsource it. And I never felt badly about it, until I was told I was supposed to, that is.

Same with being a working mommy. Everyone always worked in my family, and I never thought it was any big thing, but now that I have kids, apparently, I’m supposed to be torn apart by guilt, or so TV, BabyCenter.com, and social media tell me. And you know what, their influence is not to be ignored, because the struggle has become pretty darn real.

Any working mother knows the awful tug and pull of the mommy guilt. You’re tired and you need the help, but you also want to do things for the kids and the house because it makes you a true mom. Or something. The more you suffer, the more it shows that you’re a tough mother, so to say.

The guilt is terrible, and it has so many layers. It’s a freaking milhojas. Behold: a) you feel guilty that you’re not doing enough for and with your kids; b) you don’t want to do stuff with your kids and you feel guilty about that; c) you work and you feel guilty that you’re not home; d) you know you’d suck at being at home (because see the first paragraph. I suck really hard at all that stuff), and you feel guilty about that; e) you don’t want to stay home anyway, and… you guessed, you feel guilty about it.

And do not underestimate the power of other mommies. The good ones say, “Everyone makes the choices that are right for them and their family,” with the subtext being “the only right choice is my choice.” The mean ones straight up put you down for your choices. “Nothing like being with mommy!” vs. “Contributing nothing to society.” It’s a big deal.

Just the other day, I ran into a fellow young doc at the hospital, and via smalltalk we figured out that he had just had his third baby, and that his wife was staying home.

“And let me tell you,” he adds. “The behavior in our younger children? Huge difference.”

Now granted, I was annoyed and due to my own insecurities, so the next statement does me no credit.

“Oh,” I say. “So should I quit my job and go stay home with the kids?”

No sooner were the words out of my mouth, and Fellow Young Doc didn’t even have the chance to utter some PC comment, a random nurse, whose name I don’t know and who was not a part of the conversation, sticks her nose, literally, between the two of us, and says, emphatically:

“YES!” I kind of looked at her, open mouthed. She then elaborated, in case I didn’t get the point: “Yes! I stayed home with my kids, and let me tell you, it’s always better when mommy is around!”

She said it a couple of more times too.

Fellow Young Doc removed himself politely from the conversation, and I was left to pout and seethe.

Here’s a paradox, catch 22, predicament for the modern woman today. We’re supposed to have all this choice, but what happens when we make the choice? If we choose motherhood and family – we’re wasting female brainpower and negating years of the feminist movement. Don’t you want more for yourself? If, on the other hand, we choose career and work – we are a failed unfulfilled woman. What is a woman without a child? If we do both – we are doing a half assed job at both. What’s the point of having kids if someone else raises them? (which, by the way, is something I have heard multiple times as well from random judgmental people). And if you’re working part time, do you have the best or the worst of both worlds? Or are you just doing a half assed job half of the time?

So, here I am feeling guilty about the fact that yes, I work, but I don’t work that hard, and I still have a nanny, a cleaning service, a landscaper, and now we’ve even found a service that will deliver delicious home cooked meals twice a week. And I’m all, Oh boo hoo, I only see my kids for an hour each day….

Then, I picked up Mary Poppins to read to my son. By the way, have you ever read the actual book?? Julie Andrews has it all wrong in the movie with her sunny disposition. The real Mary Poppins from the book is very unpleasant, and I really don’t understand why the kids were so smitten with her because she’s kind of mean to them, and she’s always sniffing and paying herself compliments, and looking down her nose at everyone.

Anyway, the book starts with the old nanny leaving, and Mrs. Banks being incredibly stressed about that. Meanwhile, remember, Mr. Banks had told her that to have 4 kids they’d have to live in a shabby house because they aren’t rich. So they’re living in a shabby house with 4 kids, a nanny, a cook, a maid, a lady who does, and a gardner. And the mom presumably doesn’t work, because people didn’t back then. And she’s so stressed out about having lost one of her 5 staff, and having to spend time with her children. And not an ounce of guilt.

Yeah, so now, I feel guilty about feeling guilty. I really seriously cannot win. Can’t we all just give ourselves a break? I have no helpful advice. I just wanted to point out the struggle because I know I’m not the only one.

-Sasha Retana, MD.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Better Than An Affair: My DIY Budget Kitchen Makeover

Genmedmom here.

I'm nuts. But in a good, doctor-mom-nuts way. 

I just started a DIY budget kitchen reorganization and makeover, in the midst of Hubby's busiest time of his workyear, the kids' busiest time of the schoolyear, and my own perpetually crazy clinical/research/writing career life.

Yes, the kitchen looks like it blew up. Yes, my hands are covered with "Apollo Blue" paint. Yes, I've already gone over my $500 budget. Yes, Hubby is raising his eyebrows every time another package is delivered.

But I am having so much fun.

This has been such a delicious, decadent creative treat. The stolen time for planning and plotting, poring over colors with the Benjamin Moore guy at the local hardware store; guiltily perusing the Ikea website catalog during work hours; lying in bed after the kids are asleep sneaking peeks at Pinterest kitchen remodel pins... This is the type of affair for me!

I haven't for one second regretted tackling what is the largest household project I've ever undertaken. It's consuming every spare second of time I have, and there's not much.

I will be asking family for help, especially when it comes time to painting the walls and hanging heavy shelving, yes, that is true. Lucky for me, I'm related to several carpenters and contractors! But thus far, this project is MINE.

So, lately I've been wondering why it is that I'm so freaking happy about this craziness, and I think it's for several reasons:

One, the news cycle is so freaking depressing, this project helps me to focus on something over which I have actual control, and is actually positive.

Two, while Hubby is supportive (I did ask his opinion first), this kitchen makeover is essentially mine. It's visibly, tangibly, MINE. It's the first time in my life I've had a bit of extra cash to do something like this, and I am ecstatic. I can't go over $1000, but I'm ecstatic anyways.

Three, a large part of the undertaking is in order to get organized. Our family is so, so busy, and the kitchen is central station. Yes, it especially looks like it blew up lately, but, it always kind of looks like it blew up. My goal is to change that.

And four, I think it's a healthy doctor-mom thing to have a personal project on the side. I was reminded of an old post by Fresh, MD, a popular one titled "Ten Guidelines for Medicine-Life Balance", where she recommends having at least one non-medical creative project going on at all times. Usually I'm planning a birthday party or hosting a special meal, smaller stuff like that. This DIY thing is a bigger deal, but it is still just another personal, creative thing. I think she's totally right that we type-A intellectual overachieving dorks really need an outlet like this.

I'll definitely post about it when it's done, and let you all be the judge of my creative effort!


Thursday, November 2, 2017

MiM Mail: How to ask for part-time?

I'd love for advice on the topic below. Thanks MiM!

I recently started my first attending job (anesthesiologist). I interviewed at many hospitals and ran the exhaustive lists of pros and cons with my husband before accepting a position at a large, academic tertiary care hospital near extended family. My reasons for picking this position were many, but a large part was the better work/life balance it seemed to offer over the private practice model (some private groups were regularly working 80 hours/week!).

Fast forward to now, when despite this being my best option, I'm still working 60 hours a week, my husband is still working full time, we are struggling to manage the day-to-day shuffle of having two kids. It's just as exhausting as residency! I need to cut back my hours for my own mental health and for my family, but how? I'm the newest attending. I'm the youngest attending. I'm female. I fear the "mommy track" label that will come with it, despite the fact that I will still be working more than 40 hours/week. I also resent the massive pay cut to work what any other professional would call full time.

I can get over all of my misgivings, but I'd love advice from people who have had this talk with their bosses. When is acceptable to ask? How long do I have to wait? How did you do it?

Thanks, ladies!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Harvey Effect

I can't help weighing in on the news cycle over the past few weeks. The number of men being finally held accountable for sexual harassment and assault is making me dizzy and ecstatic (with respect to those women who are being triggered, I know from personal experience that can be pretty intense and awful). I wrote about sexual harassment in the workplace in 2011 on the blog in this post, and why it is easier to speak out when you are finished training than when you are in training. I haven't had any encounters with harassment in the workplace since then, but I can't help but think it's my professional standing and reputation that prevents me from this behavior - my word could be a lot more damning at my hospital than many women around here without as much power, at least in society's perception.

Every day a new scandal erupts. The quiet woman's network that tries, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing to warn each other of predators finally seems to have a voice worth listening to. One day Hollywood producers, next the local legislatures, television journalists, magazine editors, the art world, movie stars - the momentum against misogyny is at an all time high. I hope it continues. No workplace on the planet should hide and condone this type of behavior yet it is ubiquitous. I like to think there are a lot of serious offenders out there shaking in their boots, waiting to be called out and fired, dare I hope also prosecuted for past misdeeds.

I have a lot of female friends and I've heard a lot of stories of assault and harassment over the years. Some subtly angering me, others shocking me to tears - all whispered in confidence. Every single one left scars and doubt and shame. I have a 14 year old daughter who makes me proud. She is so much more confident than I was at her age, but I still fear for her. Enough to tell her not to drink anything that is handed to her at a party - it has to be a container she opens or brought with her. I warn her about sexual abuse and harassment and talk about the buddy system. I want her to enjoy her teenage years but I also want her to be on guard and to know what actions by men are not normal, and that nothing she tells me about alcohol or drugs or men or any situation she might fall into at any point in her life will make me love her any less.

The news cycle is giving me hope that society will protect my children (I know there are female perpetrators and male victims but their numbers are much less) in a way that many generations of children and women have not been protected in the past, only hushed and shamed. Every day I breathe a sigh of relief that women are continuing to be heard. I hope having to summon bravery to report this type of behavior will someday be a thing of the past.

I read a story in the New York Times years ago by a woman from another country who was telling a story about being a victim of sexual assault. It happened to her (gang rape if I recall) and when she told her family they hugged her and cried and asked how they could help her. It happened also to a girl down the road whose family shamed her and labeled her an outcast. She became a respected professional in society with a family. The girl down the road committed suicide - she burned herself to death. That story had a profound impact on me. If we just listen to the women around us, believe them, how much higher could we lift them up?