Showing posts with label Cutter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cutter. Show all posts

Friday, May 8, 2015

Would I do it again?


I’ve thought about this a lot over the past few weeks.  Residency is ending.  It’s been 7 yrs coming. There have been many ups and downs.  The end is exciting and stressful.  The costs at the end are nearly insurmountable - thousands upon thousands of dollars for boards, licensing and moving.  The worry that you don’t know enough.  The sadness about leaving this family and the excited anxiety about starting the next step.   As I reflect upon this journey, I recognize that it has been amazing.  It is an unbelievable honor to take care of patients. I love what I do.  I love being a surgeon.  I will be starting a fellowship next year back in my hometown and I couldn’t be happier about going home and training in a field that I love.  I’m excited about my research.  I love my future colleagues!  I don’t regret my choice and I love my field and my patients.  However, I also admit that 7 yrs has wreaked havoc on my life, my family, my husband, my child, my health, and my bank account.  The direction of medicine worries me.  I think the business of medicine is crowding out the practice of medicine.  But, I realize that no field is perfect.  I understand that.  But there are other ways to live a life. Other ways that would give me a different sense of control.  There are other ways to have challenging work that is not so hard emotionally, technically and physically EVERY DAY.  Medicine is not just challenging, it is hard.

So, as I reflect upon these years in the few moments of silence and meditation, I think to myself, would I do this again.  I think it’s important to reiterate that I actually don’t have regrets about my choice and I don’t dislike my job, I LOVE it in fact.  My husband is still here, right by my side.  My daughter is a fireball of wonderfulness who loves hearing about my day.  I’ve missed many family functions and have not been there for my siblings and parents in the way I wish I could have been all the time, but they still love me and I have found ways to still be present.  But when I really ask myself, knowing everything I know - Would I leave my job in finance and go to medical school and choose to be a physician?   I think the answer may be no.  What is your answer?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Go vote!

Last week I got off early and took my 'lil bit with me to vote (aka "bote" according to her).  This is the second time in her little life that she's come with me to our local library to get her "Merican flag" sticker.  Now that she's almost 4 we had a little lesson on the drive over about how girls and people with brown skin like us didn't get to vote a long time ago.  She was adoringly APPALLED!  She said that the people who don't let girls and brown people "bote" were not acting "nicely." I agreed.  So, today, for all us moms in medicine who are walking paths blazed by amazing women before us - HAPPY VOTING DAY!!

Friday, August 8, 2014

(Don't) Hide your kids!

The first year after my daughter was born, my end of year evaluations digressed into a lot of talk about whether or not I was mommy tracking myself.  The criticism was not about my work ethic or my skills. Apparently, there was an extensive discussion about how overly preoccupied I seemed to be about my daughter.  I mentioned her too often.  The suggestion of part-time residency came up and the sentiment was that I would no longer reach my full potential.  These meetings are supposed to be confidential-ish but I was told afterwards that perhaps I should try to hide my kid.

The instructions to hide my daughter came from a good place.  It came from an attending who had my best interest in mind.  He mentioned that in this world even though I was working just as hard, family issues were going to be looked down upon.  I would be stereotyped.  People aren't used to mom surgeons, especially not as residents.  He told me a story about sneaking off from work as a fellow to pick up his sick son by making up some elaborate story to hide the reason that he had to leave.  “It is more respectable to meet friends for beer than try and pick up your child from daycare,”  he told me.  My response…I would talk about my child incessantly!

So, I did.  I figured, if the world wasn't ready for women to be both surgeons and moms, than I would help to make them ready.  The end result is that I feel this has brought me a lot closer to the other hospital staff who are sometimes more open about recognizing the importance of family.  Being closer to the hospital staff makes my job easier.  I chat with the nurses, scrub techs, office managers about our families.  I feel like it gives me a sense of legitimacy and realness which means we are all on the same team.  Also, an unexpected result was that I became the “mama hen” of the residents.  There are a few more junior residents with kids or husbands and the associated stress.  I try to keep an open door policy for them.  And we have real and frank conversations about how hard this can be.  The supportiveness of being able to have this dialog goes both ways!  Also, I find that many of my attendings take an interest in my family life as well as my surgical development.

This past year’s evaluations had no mention of mommy tracking.  In fact, I was made chief resident.  Last night, as I sat finishing up work in the chief’s office while my baby girl bounced around watching Dora and coloring, I felt I made the right decision.  She knows all the names of the other chiefs and incorporates them into her world.  She loves coming to the office and is well known throughout the department.  She chats with me at night about her day and asks about my day.  She tells me she wants to be a doctor like me when she grows up (well, a doctor and a cowgirl of course).  I’ll never hide this beautiful girl!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Play dates: Mothers in Medicine Style

Most of the Mothers in Medicine contributors, including myself, write anonymously. I write about my husband O and my son Zo knowing that folks who know me can figure out pretty quickly who I am. I write as if my boss is reading my posts, though I have never actually told her, but just in case, I write as if she may read them, nothing too embarrassing. I write to share and get feedback from folks near and far who understand my struggles and my triumphs in ways that my non-physician family never truly will. I have been writing for MiM since I was a Medical Student and over the years I have started telling folks beyond my family to check out my posts including some trusted work colleagues.

Over the years, I have felt like I have come to personally know many of our regular contributors and even a few of our regular commenters. I hope that someday there will be a big Mothers in Medicine Conference or maybe just a gathering at a bigger annual professional conference. When I read Cutter’s posts I said, hmmmm, I think we work in the same hospital! Flash forward to several months later (and many thanks to KC) and Cutter and I had our first MiM meet up at a local museum. Her daughter is super duper cute and Zo was smitten at first glance. He quickly followed her to the slide and then he began chasing her around the exhibits.

Play dates are always good times to reflect on the joys and vent about the struggles of motherhood, but when the other parent is a MiM, it is especially cathartic. Cutter is amazing. Chief Resident, Super Mom/Wife, super hair braider (from Youtube videos nonetheless). We spent hours talking and it was so nice to have someone who understands the doctoring and the mothering because it makes for a really unique life.

I have had a few other play dates with women Doctors including several with a beloved Attending who has young children. These times are equally amazing. She has the wisdom of being several years out of residency and fellowship. The first time I asked her and her kids out for a play date, she gladly accepted. We met up at another local museum and the next time at a park. Each time there was a lot of her being a cheerleader, saying “You’ll get through this.”

Play dates with stay-at-home mothers usually involve looks of pity and many exclamations of “I can’t believe you work that much.” Play dates with 9 to 5 working non-physician mothers usually involve less pity, but still many “I can’t believe you work that much” looks. There was none of that at our MiM playdate and I liked it!

Here’s to many future play dates, MiM style!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mothers in Medicine

I haven't written poetry in many years.  This is what resulted from my last call:

Mothers in Medicine
We self-medicate with colors and sound
Suppressing every trace
until it's gone
Only to emerge the next time when we are

Creating new nightmares
Flashes of faces
Of skin
Of cords
Of inside
Of babies
Breeding deeper and deeper layers of hypervigilance
For our own

Then we step through the threshold, into the light

Cross posted at

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Question: Maternity leave

Lately every night I'm on call I seem to be the magnet for pregnant patients - trauma, acute abdomens, appys, choleys - you name it.  During my last call as we talked about my pregnancy magnet, it lead to a discussion about having babies during residency.  We happened to be a diverse group of providers with a diverse and international training background. The take away from the discussion was basically that in the US we don't value new moms, dads or babies.  Those who had trained elsewhere (in surgery) seemed to feel that it was just natural to expect residents to take 4 months, 6 months, or 1 year off (mom or dad).  Meanwhile we all told stories of post c-section residents NSAIDing their way through full operative days 4 weeks after giving birth.  We talked about how broken your body can feel so soon after giving birth, both mentally and physically.  We talked about those itty bitty 6-week old babies in daycare.

So, for those of you who have trained elsewhere in the world:
What is the attitude towards new moms and dads in other countries with more flexible and lengthy maternity leave policies? 
Are residents looked down upon for taking leave (like they often are in the US)?  
Does a culture of more family centric leave create a more equitable distribution of gender roles in the home and the workplace? 

I'm just wondering...

Friday, March 7, 2014

Daddy time!

My daughter has the most beautiful relationship with her daddy.  They have their own little songs they sing together, bedtime rituals, games only they understand.  She’s his little buddy and I love to watch her chat with him in her little 3 year old way about her day or her thoughts.  I’m currently on a very long night float rotation and my little one is having a hard time keeping her sleep schedule.  Many nights my husband declares that she is going to bed at 8pm on the dot.  I often find her snuggled up with my hubby in bed after they’ve stayed up late watching “one more Dora” or having a jam session in his studio.  There is so much beauty in their father daughter relationship.  It is deep and substantial and real.  I hope their strong bond continues as she gets older and helps her to continue to be strong and self assured.   My husband and I love raising this beautiful girl together.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a fellow resident (and mom of 2) about the typical mommy guilt involved with being a resident and spending time away from your kids.  She’s struggling about choosing a specialty and worried about the damage a more rigorous specialty would cause to her kids.  Somehow we got to the topic of her husband having to comb hair and she mentioned that her daughter actually prefers her daddy’s more gentle approach to her mom’s attempts at taming her hair.  And then we starting talking about all the daddy daughter bonds both of our daughters have and reflected that without their busy mamas, our daughters may not have had the opportunity to form these strong attachments.

My daughter is proud of my work at “the doctor house.”  The time I spend with her is my most treasured and I think our relationship is amazing.  How awesome is it that she also has just as enriching and fulfilling a relationship with her daddy.  And, I’m not suggesting that dads never form close relationships with their daughters in all other work-life situations.  However, just think of how many women you know who report troubled or complicated or loose ties to their fathers.  Maybe our girls would have formed all these same attachments no matter what careers we had.  But, on those days of horrible mommy guilt, it’s nice to think of my baby girl and my hubby dancing, singing and rocking out to their own song.

cross posted at

Saturday, December 28, 2013

How motherhood changed my medicine

Better late than never.  Here is my post from topic week on how medicine has changed me...

I've been trying to think of what to write about for this topic week.  How has medicine changed me? I found myself at a loss.  I have been on this journey for SO LONG.  Medicine has grown with me more than changed me.  Then I thought to the one singular occurrence in my life that has changed me the most ... hands down motherhood has palpably and incomprehensibly changed me more than I could have ever imagined.  As a result, after reflecting on how medicine has changed me I really felt compelled to write about how motherhood has changed my medicine.

Here are my thoughts:

- Motherhood has given me an honest compassion that is different than the compassion I had before.  I find it hard to explain, but it is simpler and more organic.

- Motherhood has given me a more zen-like patience with which to approach the craziness and chaos of medicine and residency.

- NICU nurses like moms more than surgery residents ;)  I used this to my advantage and as a result, loved taking care of my NICU babies.

- My priorities have shifted.  My goals are similar, but now they must fit into a different version of me.

- I can't do it all and I know it.  However I will still try.

- I prioritize my time at home and at work with crazy efficiency.  I definitely think the constant balancing act has helped me in being a chief.

- I love sharing my life with my daughter, therefore while at work I am even more motivated to make it count for something, to "help people" as she tells me, to heal, to learn, to affect change.  She has inspired my medicine in ways that make every struggle of motherhood well worth the gain in every aspect of who I am.

Happy New Year.  Here's to motherhood and medicine.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Tribute

My program has survived a ridiculous and trying week of great loss.  Sunday, our former Chairman, a giant in the field of surgery, died.  His family was by his side.  He has lived a life full of amazing accomplishments.  He has touched the lives of many patients, taught many residents who have gone on to accomplish great things of their own.  His death was shocking for many of us, others already knew he wasn't well the past few weeks.  He is a presence in our department that will be sorely missed.  Dr. S, your legacy will live on forever.

Early Monday morning we heard that one of our young budding surgical oncologist died.  He died overseas as a visiting scholar - a huge honor that he was so excited about.  He was only 42 years old - the always beaming father of three beautiful little girls.  His death was completely random and sudden.  This was a crushing blow.  My second year I spent nearly my entire oncology rotation doing breast cases with this attending.  Listening to all three of Shaquille O'Neal's albums (yes I said THREE!!) and he knew all the words.  Again, let me repeat -  He knew ALL the words.  We bantered over our Eagles/Cowboys rivalry.  Last year when the Eagles beat the Cowboys I wallpapered his office with "Fly, Eagles, Fly" posters.  One year I operated with him after the Cowboys beat the Eagles and he wore his Cowboys hat and lanyard and brought cowboys paraphernalia into the OR just to taunt me.  He swore by the wall of 4-0's in his mastectomy closure, a move I've probably complained about but will likely follow someday in by own breast onc practice, which I plan to specialize in.  I talked to him briefly about my career plans, we were waiting to sit down and plan this year.  I haven't operated with him in the last couple of years but I have an Eagles hat waiting and specially made just for this purpose.  700 patients.  There has been immense outpouring of love and disbelief from his patients.  So many lives saved.  I pray that his girls will always know that their father's life was lived with purpose and meaning.  People can live 100 years and not touch a fraction of the women and men who have been cured, supported and cared for him.  I hope they will always remember the times they did have with their father.  I want them to know that he bragged about them constantly, that he lit up every moment he spoke about them, that he inspired us to see how the love of parenting and doctoring could go hand in hand.  He put them first.  You were his heart - his girls and his beautiful wife.  He was so proud of all of you.  Dr. A, our hearts are breaking, you will be greatly missed.  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Last Bu-bu

WE DID IT!!!  When I started breast feeding I was determined and optimistic!  But, as I persisted I got discouraged more times than I could remember.  There were latching problems, cracked nipples, thrush and the pumping!  PUMPING SUCKS!!!!  I celebrated when we hit the one year mark and I stopped pumping.  My plan was to allow my baby girl to self wean.  Well, she wasn't interested.  I stopped pumping but kept making LOTS of milk, so we persisted with morning and nighttime feeds.  When my baby girl was a year and a half I left the lab and went back to surgical residency hours.  My initial stint on transplant kept me at work around the clock and I felt for sure that my milk would dry up.  Miraculously it didn't and "bu-bu" time became a special time with me and my baby girl in the midst of all the chaos.  Well, the time has finally come.  Baby girl is losing interest, I've basically stopped making milk and my baby girl is a smart, amazing, beautiful big toddler now.  She hasn't had bu-bu in a week.  I put her to sleep by telling her princess stories or stories about my "doc-tur house" while she lays her head on my chest.  I'm a bit sad our "bu-bu" time is over but amazing grateful for the two and a half years we had of this amazing connection.  I'm incredibly proud of our accomplishment that survived even the insanity of residency and as always I am crazy in love with my beautiful child.  I can't wait for all the new memories we will make together.

Now off to pick some strawberries!  Happy Saturday!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Cutter's extra random top 10 list of imperfection!

1. I've allowed my daughter to watch 4 hours of consecutive Dora while I half sleep on the couch post call (unfortunately this one has happened more than once!)

2. The tired mama: In the middle of telling my daughter a princess story to help her go to sleep I heard myself say "prepped and draped in the standard sterile fashion" to which my baby girl responded with "WAKE UP!  More PRINCESS MOMMIE!!!!"

3. A happy meal 

4. Letting baby girl sit in a dirty diaper for about 30 minutes to long because I was just TOO worn out to change it

5. I understand mom jeans now - how else do you rein in all that belly!

6. I can't do it all, which means I struggle to read enough and I'm sometimes late to work - especially when I go to kiss my baby on the way out the door and discover that she has collected a mountain of poop right by her head!

7. Occasionally I wear swim suit bottoms to work as underwear.

8. I'm really bad at dictating in a timely fashion once I get behind.

9. I owe lots of library fines.

10.  My hair looks terrible nearly all the time!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Motherhood changes you: cooking and hair braiding

This is not a story of the profound and amazing ways that motherhood changes you.  Its about two simple ways that it has changed me.

Before I had my daughter I had NO domestic capabilities.  I could read directions from a cookbook but my husband was the adventurous one in the kitchen.  Also, despite having a lot of hair, I was completely incapable of controlling it!  When my family members found out I was having a girl, after the congratulations many of them laughed at me and said they felt sorry for my future child and the ridiculous hair she was bound to have!  However, on this almost last day of my vacation I find myself cleaning the kitchen to prepare for tonights culinary adventure and tonight I will engage in a hair-braiding adventure with my beautiful girl in order to be ready for church tomorrow.

My daughter LOVES food.  She is the smallest child in her daycare class but requires two breakfasts in addition to the one dad gives her on the way to school, gets a double portion of lunch and eats two snacks and an adult portion of dinner.  She is a rail thin ball of energy.  She devours everything I make. She smiles and licks her lips and yells things like "SO GOOD MOMMIE!!!!  YUMMY IN MY TUMMY" and my favorite, "I LUB IT!!!!!!"  She loves all the different cuisines I try, Spanish food, Indian dishes, Caribbean dishes, attempts at French cuisine - and it just fuels me to cook more and more.  Thanks to the Pioneer Woman and my Le Creuset pot (a gift because there's no way I could afford one), I am a cooking machine.  My mom gave me a recipe book of family dishes at my bridal shower, I had barely touched it before my daughter was born, and now I use it once a week and I've added a few dishes of my own.  With my busy schedule its something I enjoy and can share with my daughter and provides her with meals even when I'm away from home.  Motherhood made cooking about love.

My baby girl was born with a head FULL of hair.  At two she has a beautiful head full of soft curly hair that stretches down her back.  My husbands hair wrangling abilities are measly at best so I needed a way for her to get to daycare looking un-hobo-ish in my absence.  So with the help of wikipedia and my dads response to my mom mentioning my hair braiding insufficiencies that "She can do anything she wants to do, no reason it will be any different with hair braiding" - I decided to figure it out!  Now each night after bathtime, we sit and watch Dora and I braid like crazy.  I treasure this time with my baby and when I'm done I tell her to go show daddy her "princess hair" (everything must be princess something right now).  She smiles so big and touches her hair and runs to the mirror.  All love.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Yesterday I worked with one of our part-time attendings.  She had two cases scheduled.  The first went smoothly.  It was a bit complex and atypical of an operation but it went well and the patient did well. The second case...different story.

Back story: This attending is a part time surgeon, an enigma that you hear about but never see.  She became part time after her second child was born and I've been told I should get to know her ever since my daughter was born.  Now, I've finally gotten the opportunity to work with her.  Mom surgeon mentors are still still nearly impossible to find, especially those that are relatable.  She is a regular person - her husband isn't independently wealthy, she doesn't have 4 live-in nannies and a stay at home dad, she is a regular person, awesome surgeon and a mom.  With a bit of timidity, I've had the occasional opportunity to pick her brain about her career choices when I've taken call with her and she's been an amazing resource.  I also know that she recognizes the career advancement sacrifices that come with her choice to work part time.  She seems a little frustrated by the trade-off but not at all regretful.  

Back to the present: Ok, second case, she decides to try out a different approach she read about to increase exposure.  Unfortunately the change in the approach makes some parts of the operation a lot more difficult.  However, we press on.  Then we hit a key part of the case where a structure needs to be identified to ensure that it isn't injured, and we just couldn't find it!  She called for back-up.  I hear her mutter under her breath: "Can I just get through one case without asking for help!"  One of the senior surgeons came in and helped out.  The remainder of the case proceeded with continual second guessing her every move - "does this look right" "I think I'll go here"  "do you think this looks okay?"  She was reduced to what I like to call 'resident uncertainty.'  We finally finished.  All went well, the patient was fine, the final result actually looked great but I could tell she was defeated. She apologized to me at the end of the case.

Its not uncommon that attendings help each other out and scrub together.  Its one of the things I like about the group of surgeons at this hospital.  I tried to tell her I thought the case was fine that no apologies were needed.  But, I could tell she was disappointed in herself.  I wanted her to know what a great teacher she is, what a great role model she is to her residents and her children.  I wanted to remind her of how her patients gush about how amazing she is.  This attending trained at my institution and I have literally NEVER met a single person - faculty, resident, nurse, administrative staff, who had anything but extremely positive comments about her skill and her judgement.  I wanted her to know that I have operated with senior surgeons who have come to work every day for the past 20 years and still occasionally need to call in back up.  When I think about the two cases we did that day, I think that there are two people that may no longer have cancer because of her.

I read an article recently about how motherhood completely and utterly changes your life.  No matter what you have invested in your career prior to having children, being a mom will profoundly change your career and who you are and every decision you make.  This is so true.  I feel like I'm struggling with it every day.  Fulfillment in two places, work and home, often at odds with each other.

As she walked out of the OR my attending told me that she was on call tomorrow night and that unfortunately I would be stuck with her again.

My response ..."It would be my pleasure"

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A post for those in the trenches with us...

This post is for my husband and my beautiful daughter.

To my daughter:

Thank you for running and screaming "MOM-MIEEEEE" with complete happiness and joy each time I make it in time to pick you up from daycare.  Thank you for your constant big beautiful smile.  Thank you for thriving despite my many absences and nights on call.   Thank you for telling me "I love you mommy,"" GOOD JOB mommy" (one of her favorites), and "com wit me" with your outstretched little hand.  Thank you for this unconditional love.  Thank you for changing my life and making me whole.

To my husband:

Thank you for coming to meet me as I sob to you through post call tears at the violence I unfortunately sometimes see the results of.  Thank you for coming home for lunch every day I'm post call and bringing me lunch, tucking me in and putting on soft relaxing music.  Thank you for allowing me the complete and utter assurance that my precious baby girl is always remarkably cared for in my absence.  Thank you for going on this journey with me.  Thank you for surviving the many bumps we encounter.  I believe we can make it through.  Thank you for making me whole.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Dear Moms, How do you cope?

I'm currently doing the dreaded stint as the chief resident in the burn unit.  Its a particularly grueling rotation, lots of getting called in from home, crazy sick patients and lots of terribly sad stories.  It is taking an emotional toll on me, and I've been missing out on seeing by little peanut.  For the first time since I've come back from the lab I've gone two full days without seeing her.  I have cried a record number of times after countless family meetings at the end of hours of doing everything we could.  Thankfully, I've had a fabulous and amazing team of interns, nurses, chaplains, social workers and support staff to be on this journey with me.  However, despite the support, the one thing I haven't managed to cope with very well is the non-accidental injuries.

I have always found child abuse unbelievable horrifying, but as a mom, my horror about this has reached new levels.  In particular, a recent child I operated on, who is very similar in many ways to my own, has left me having nightmares every day in which I see her injuries on my precious daughter.  I wake up gasping and anxious and immediately go hug my daughter or go to her room and stare at her while she sleeps.  I've talked to other moms with similar experiences, a pregnant NICU fellow fighting the nightmares about her unborn child mirroring the illnesses she saw each day, the burn unit nurse manager who I sat and chatted with in her office about how this unit makes you so hypervigilant about protecting your kids, but the one thing we fail to come up with is a solution.  How do you make the nightmares stop?  I even talked to my own mom, who doesn't need to be in medicine to understand the disturbing fear a parent feels anytime they see another child harmed.  (My mom is awesome by the way, just want to throw that out there because she is my greatest mentor as I navigate this crazy journey of motherhood!)

So, tomorrow I will go to the spa, and try and lose my thoughts and replace them with relaxing calm.  I will continue to listen to my mindful meditation CD's as I drive home from a particularly horrifying day of work.  I will continue to delight in my beautiful, amazing blessing of a child each moment I see her.  And, I will pray for the beautiful children who have endured hurt and pain and pray that they someday receive the love they deserve.


Saturday, September 29, 2012


I've been back to residency after my time in the lab for a full three months now.  This transition has been quite a roller coaster.  Here is my reflection of transitioning.

#1 Our lives have totally changed.


  • I have managed to keep breastfeeding and actually making milk.  I have no idea where my body finds this milk reserve, and I can no longer breastfeed in the mornings because I leave before she wakes up, but this has allowed me to maintain a very precious part of my relationship with my daughter.  With all the change in our lives right now,  I cherish being able to continue our "bu bu" time.
  • I truly LOVE surgery.  I love operating and as a more senior resident, it is even more clear to me how much I truly LOVE being a doctor to my patients.  I now get to see my patients in clinic, operate on them, make decisions about their post operative care, and meet with families in a much more meaningful way than I did as a junior resident.  
  • Being a mother has CLEARLY made me a better doctor.  I have an additional way I can relate to my patients.  It has enhanced my empathy.  There are so many intangible, hard to describe ways in which I have become a better person, and I can already see this reflected in my work.
  • My husband and I have become CLOSER!! Yes, I said closer!  We were struggling post baby.  As my love was exploding for this little perfect human we had created, my husband and I were having a hard time relating to each other in these new roles.  The strain on our relationship was significant.  This is another thing on the list of stuff people never tell you about having a baby (up there with peeing when you sneeze).  One of our issues was me feeling like he didn't respect the work I was doing in the lab. Well, his support of what I do as a resident is unquestionable, he is constantly building me up and teaching our daughter that when I'm away I'm doing something that matters.  We also appreciate each other more because we are both working so hard to make this work.  I appreciate how he takes care of our daughter and our house when I can't be helpful. He appreciates how hard I work to contribute when I am at home.  This has been probably the best outcome of me going back to residency because I seriously worried what would happen to our relationship as I got busier.  
  • It is such a struggle to balance.  Trying to study, prepare for work while maximizing my home time with my family involves lots of juggling and making choices to do something less well.  I'm developing strategies.  I sometimes come home after work, have family time, and then set a certain time where I do back to work to finish paperwork and notes and prep and study.  I also have times where I choose to spend time with my beautiful girl knowing that I will suffer tomorrow.  Evidence - this Friday, I BOMBED my case conference presentation - BOMBED IT! But the night before I let my husband stay at his work function because he already gives up a lot for me. And since I hadn't been home before 9pm all week, my daughter literally refused to sleep.  She wanted to play princess with me, watch Dora with me, read books, you name it.  She was literally forcing herself to keep her eyes open.  So after hours of fighting it.  I just let her hang out with me while I tried to prepare for conference.


One of the harder things about transitioning back to residency is managing the daily transition from home to work.  With less quality time with my family, I want to try to be the best version of me that I can be when I'm at home.  This can be hard to pull off after a crazy day.  It requires a mind-shift.  It requires me pushing out of my mind the patient who I watched realize his own mortality as he prepared to go to hospice for what will likely be his last few weeks, it requires pushing out of my mind the berating I received at the end of the day from my least favorite attending, it requires forgetting the young moms with cancer, letting go of my mental step my step operating in preparation for tomorrows cases.  It requires me realizing the importance of princesses and shapes and coloring and bath time.  Sometimes I go to Dunkin Donuts, buy two munchkins and sit in the parking lot in silence for 10 minutes just to clear my head.  Sometimes I stop by Krogers on the way home and walk around aimlessly until I feel like a grocery shopping mom (that's when I know the switch has occurred).  Sometimes I listen to breathing exercises on the way home.  And sometimes I fail, and I come home all revved up and worn down and I feel like a bad mom.  

This is hard.  Being a working mom is hard and rife with guilt.  But we have to do it.  We have to find ways to do it our way.  I receive encouragement all the time which gives me the little push I need to keep going.  Yesterday, the coffee cart lady who brings coffee to patient families on the floor just randomly tells me I'm setting a beautiful example for my daughter and that I'm a good doctor, just because she overheard me talking about my beautiful girl.  I had never even really spoken to her before this.  It can be hard to find role models, but occasionally I do and they keep me going, and encourage me to be a role model for those that are to come. 

Thats all for now.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Apparently I’m only worth ¼ of a man

This weekend I attended a surgical conference in a beautiful location.  I had been looking forward to bringing my family with me to enjoy a nice weekend getaway.  I barely got out of the hospital on Friday in order to get there, and as a result I felt totally rushed and nervous about the talk I was supposed to give Saturday morning.  I was slated to give my talk right after the big state of surgery update talk by a surgical big wig.  He talked about the health care reform, the surgeon shortage, the effect of hours restrictions on surgeon proficiency at the end of residency and then he talked about the detrimental effect of the influx of all these pesky women into medical school and now SURGERY!!!! Yes, I’m actually serious.  This dude got up in front of an audience at a major meeting and had a slide that said that four female surgeons were required to equal the productivity of one male surgeon .  Yes, these words were on his slide.  He prefaced the slide with a line about it potentially being controversial, but asserted that it was based in statistics and facts that were not cited at any point in his talk.  One of my mentors was sitting beside me and made an immediate rebuttal in addition to commenting again at the end of his talk.  She made it clear that she was a productive female surgeon and that statements like his are what lead to unfair hiring practices.  I whispered to her that I planned to take one more dig at him when I got up to talk.  And she smiled and told me to “go for it!”

I then got up to do my talk after my introduction by a very prominent female surgeon leader.   Suddenly, all my prior nervousness was gone - I’ve always been good at making waves!  So, I loaded my talk, got behind the podium and calmly mentioned that I was never one to shy away from controversy and that as a former economist I was well aware that statistics can easily be manipulated to support your agenda.  I then mentioned that I would now present the research I completed while pregnant in the lab and more productive than anyone else with me.

It is ridiculous that we continue to fight against these types of stereotypes and misinformation.  The only reassuring thing about the entire situation was that so many people came up to me afterwards in support of what I had said.  Women add value to medicine in so many ways, we are essential.  I don’t have to say much about it.  I’m preaching to the choir here.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Last Day: Part 2

Ok, lets try this again (yes, I'm over posting myself).  I just finally put my daughter to sleep.  Its as if she knows something is up.  She has been adorable all day!  

Today I had a marvelous day with my daughter.  We read books, danced like crazy, had a morning sleepover (which involved playing and jumping around on a comforter and pillows on the floor in her room), slow danced to Miles Davis, belted out some Etta James, played catch in the yard, ate munchkins outside in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot, called family to say "I lu y-ooo" and just basically had an awesome day.  Tomorrow I go back to residency after my two year lab hiatus.

As I held my little munchkin tonight, after breastfeeding her to sleep, I couldn't stop thinking of the meeting with the scheduling chief a little more that two years ago.  During our meeting we discussed the feasibility of me going into the lab.  I remember thinking that if I pulled this off, the little 10 week old peanut inside me would be a year and a half by the time I started back - practically a grown-up.  Well, here we are.  I am the mother of the greatest 18 month old baby that ever lived.  I can't believe I'm already at that year and a half mark.  I look back at myself then and realize that I am UTTERLY CHANGED.  Completely and utterly changed.  She has changed me in every way.  She colors ever decision I make, she is such a huge part of what defines me, what motivates me, what matters.  During my last trip home for my mom's surgery, my husband taught my daughter how to say "Mommy's a doctor"  or more like "Mah-mie uh dahktur."  Tonight as he handed her to me for our bedtime routine he must have given her the sign, because she said it again, in her cute beautiful little voice.  I nearly melted.  I love her SO MUCH.  I pray that through all of this I can be a good mom and a good doctor.


Last day

I’ve half drafted about 4-5 entries that still are unfinished in my MiM folder.  I definitely plan to eventually post the ones about my journey as daughter and doctor dealing with my mom’s recent breast cancer diagnosis.  It has been a difficult, emotional, strengthening, family building, strange, roller coaster of an experience.  So far, things are going well.  However, I’m writing just a short entry today.  Today is my last day of “freedom.”

Tomorrow I’m back in the hospital, a resident again after my two year lab hiatus.  I start off as transplant chief.  I am completely terrified and completely excited. My life has changed so much in these two years. My special necklace with a pearl and my daughters name on it just arrived from Etsy yesterday.  I love my beautiful girl so much!!  I hope I’m doing the right thing.  I’m completely motivated to make her proud.  My life these two years has been a roller coaster of emotions.  I’ve gone from loving my anesthesiologist who put in my epidural so much that I was convinced anesthesia was my new calling.  Then I was convinced that I must find a way to be a stay at home mom - otherwise I thought my life would be impossible to balance.  But, now the hormones are fading, the Zoloft is working (prob TMI - but you’ll hear more about that if I ever post the post-partum depression entry I wrote), and I’m amped up to be a surgeon.  Two years of cancer research has given me some clarity.  I feel confident that I want to be a breast surgeon (also one of the entries on file).  So, I have 3 more years to get as much out of all the other amazing types of surgery that I also love.

Wish me luck!


Friday, May 11, 2012

A tired American - an angry rant

Ok, so this is risky, and I’m likely to attract plenty of debate but here I go.

First, why am I writing about this?  Because I took an oath to be a healer.  To me this means tolerance, justice, acceptance in order to achieve a greater good, in order to promote a healthy society.  So, I am just a little irritated today as I look at my country which appears to be at odds with itself.  My anger started while listening to NPR on the drive to work this morning and hearing about all of the discussion resulting from the TIME magazine cover of a model-like mom breastfeeding her three year old standing on a chair.  Criticisms flying everywhere about extended breastfeeding and self-important moms. There is the typical sexualization of breastfeeding with lots of reference to the attractiveness of the mom on the cover, and the usual “if they can ask for it” type comments.  (side note: newborns ask for it too - its called crying!!)  So funny, that anyone who decides to formula feed their infant gets nearly stoned for not going the “breast is best” route.  Then we flip it around and hate on the moms who keep breastfeeding.  I realize I’m using the proverbial “we.”  If this doesn’t apply to “you,” then feel free to ignore.  But for all the rest of us: Lets STOP THIS!  Mothers are always criticizing mothers - breastfeed or not breastfeed, work or stay at home, work a lot or a little, nanny or daycare or grandma, etc, etc.  Even Fizzy’s post last week, illustrated how quickly we jump to judgement.  As clinicians we do know the literature and the evidence, but the first step in being able to do no harm is gaining the TRUST and RESPECT of our patients, and in order to do this there needs to be more tolerance and listening.

Anyway, I’m just all revved up.  I live in the Amendment 1 state.  Justice, tolerance.  I won’t say anymore than that.  Our political system is full of polar opposites, butting heads and refusing to compromise.  We’re arguing over reproductive rights of women... AGAIN!  WHAT IS GOING ON!!!

Can’t we all just get along?