Showing posts with label Keekster. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Keekster. Show all posts

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Story of My Life

Do you ever feel like your life is like a TV show, but not in a good way? More like a Seinfeld kind of way, when all you can do to keep from crying is shake your head and laugh?
Episode one. I present for a labor check at 38 weeks (determined to be false labor), and find out baby boy is BREECH when at my appointment the week prior, he was firmly declared vertex! The plan is to do an external cephalic version immediately, as I am an ideal candidate. I wait nearly 11 hours, NPO, cranky, uncomfortable, and tethered to an IV pole, and at last the Ob team assembles to do the version. AS they are putting on gloves, all their pagers go off. Oh no. No. No! It’s a gyn surgical emergency, a stabbing!! A resident returns to give me the choice to wait several more hours with no guarantee of doing the version, or to schedule it for first thing the next morning. My hangry state tells me to postpone… which in retrospect is likely the wrong choice. My “false” contractions progressively and subtly transition into excruciating ones over the next 8 hours at home (I’ve lost confidence in knowing what’s real after the false alarm earlier), and at 2:30am I find myself driving alone to the hospital, jaw clenched, sobbing, and pulling over for contractions (my husband is at home with our daughter). I am 9 cm dilated - time for emergency C section - and our perfect son makes his debut with a bang thirty minutes later.
Episode two. I find out a week after our son was born that, by some miracle, I’ve received a research grant I applied for last winter. The catch? I’m required to attend the organization’s national meeting in 4 weeks to accept the award at a formal dinner. After weighing all the options, we decide to go as a family. It’s a fun city, only a 3-hour flight, expenses are partially covered, and I‘d have the opportunity to attend an awesome conference. A two year old and a 5 week old in a small hotel room together? No problem! The reality? Every day we desperately invest hours in the possibility of achieving overlapping naptime so we, too, could sleep.

Needless to say, I don’t get to attend much of the conference. I try going to talks, I really do. It’s a lot to ask my husband to watch both of them, so I go to a few presentations with the baby strapped on, hanging out by the exit door. The night of the awards ceremony finally comes. Milk pumped, baby topped off, toddler excited, husband feeling strong. But alas, this is how the evening ultimately ends.

Episode three. The number one question I’m asked during prenatal care? By multiple people at every single appointment, from 6 weeks through the bitter end? “What method of contraception do you plan to use afterwards?” This is to the point where I can only assume they think I got pregnant on accident and are doing anything possible to prevent me from letting it happen again. Every time, without fail, I say, “IUD.” Even while being prepped for my emergency CS, crying in pain, someone manages to come around and ask me if I’d like the IUD inserted... “NOT. NOW!!!” I scream. Finally, the big day comes to do my IUD insertion, at my 6-week postpartum visit (which of course requires me to bring my newborn along). When I make the appointment, they ask again if I want an IUD inserted so they can allot enough time. Mid-way through the appointment, my Ob tells me, “I’m sorry, but the administrator who gets insurance approval for IUDs is out for the morning unexpectedly, so we actually can’t do the IUD today. But don’t worry, we’ll schedule you for next week, no problem!” CUE FOREHEAD SLAP.
The stories go on and on. I will share a few more.
Feeling the sweet warmth of a blow-out spread across my sleeve as my son, who won’t nap in the crib, sleeps in the crook of my arm as I frantically try to get through the RISE exam before he wakes up (I don't stop taking the test, by the way).

Watching cake batter overflow and drip down the oven rack gratings in a million little chocolate stalactites at 4:30am while baking a birthday cake for my mother in law.
Dropping said mother-in-law off at airport. So out of it and exhausted, I accidentally drive in the buses-only lane at departures. I have never ever done this in my life. An airport official runs over and tells me to leave immediately before I get fined ($500!!) and I get out of there… but alas, a cop is waiting for me at the very end. Sigh. (But with a wailing newborn in the backseat, I fortunately get off with only a formal warning.)
We have a few warm days last week. I smell something weird. I am fearful it is something with the sump pump or crawl space (we live in a renovated brick rowhome). Long long story short, there is a dead rat in the crawl space. Yes. A. Dead. Rat. Next door had an infestation, exterminators came, rats ate poison, and one managed to get through a crumbling brick and into our crawl space. And died. No words. This is an ongoing saga. Involving the services of a mason- I never imagined I'd need a real mason, but apparently I do. But it will be ok.
And the clincher. What inspires me to sit down and write this. What drives me to actually throw my head back and laugh with tears in my eyes. Baby has his 2 month immunizations this morning, and poor thing is angry and uncomfortable… he just needs to take a nice long nap. And THIS is what I come home to- view from his window.

This is when all you can do is laugh. And be grateful for health and for even the capacity to laugh. And embrace all of this self-inflicted chaos, the q2-3 hour wake up calls that still aren't stretching out after 8 weeks, the blow-outs, projectile vomit, and laundry. So much laundry. Laugh at the fact that your parents, who had lived just an hour away, decide to move to Asia a month before baby is born, leaving you again without family support postpartum (we tell each other it's building character). Accept the frustrating feeling of hard-earned knowledge seeping out of your brain even after a few short weeks, trying to have the will-power to study and attend resident didactics and research seminars (sometimes with a sleeping newborn hidden under your jacket), but often failing. 

But there are some TV/movie moments. When I sink my lips into the soft pillows of my son's cheeks, also becoming aware of my daughter's pudge melting away silently. The indescribable joy of seeing our daughter transform into a sibling. When my heart explodes witnessing first smiles and giggles. The sacredness of feeling the body of such a vulnerable little human relax in your arms. Awe that I can muster up secret stores of energy and patience that are fueled only by love when I have nothing left. And awe at the magnitude of this love. So it's time to celebrate- although it hasn't been pretty, we've made it through the newborn trenches once again.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Let the Mystery Be

Our little man will hopefully make his appearance (hopefully in a much shorter and less painful way!) in the next few weeks… I hit 37 weeks a couple of days ago, and for me, this is uncharted territory as I went into labor with our daughter at 37 days on the dot. This has really felt like a milestone- as residents, we live our lives in month-long blocks, and the past two blocks have been the most intense physically and hours-wise rotations we have in our pathology program. We're all still in one piece though, and for that I am grateful. We met with our volunteer doula this past weekend, finally acquired a car seat, and took inventory of all the leftover clothes I had stashed from my daughter (mostly gender neutral, thankfully!) that we’ll be able to use again. This is finally feeling like a reality.

I wanted to share the strangest experience I had this weekend which I haven’t been able to shake. I’m sure many with multiple children relatively close together can commiserate over how different subsequent pregnancies are from the first…  Beyond our work, our focus has been survival and spending as much quality time as possible with our daughter and being a family of 3. It’s been easy to forget about the pregnancy, and actually I’ve done a pretty good job at ignoring it so I don’t worry haha.. But this time, there have been no photo diaries week by week, no journal entries to my fetus, no shopping trips to buy anything special.

One experience we really treasured the first time around was going to one of those recreational 4D ultrasound places to find out the sex and see her face. We actually went twice- once around 15 weeks and once later on, maybe 25 or 26 weeks. I remember how much we stared at those photos- we even had one framed which I brought to my delivery haha. Her face was so beautiful... I still love looking at those photos in utero and seeing her face in them, her little button nose and full lips. Anyway a couple weeks ago, while feeling guilty realizing how little time was left and how little we had done, my husband and I decided to try to find a similar U/S place in the city we live in now. The place with the best reviews was far- over 30 minutes away- but we thought we owed it to our fetus to be appreciated for a morning and to let our daughter see him, haha. But it was actually disappointing… it was sort of a weird sterile office, not at all a warm fuzzy baby-friendly environment like we experienced back in California. Also, previously, we had to sign that we were receiving prenatal care and write down the name of the hospital and Ob practice in case there were any abnormalities that needed to be reported;  at this place, all they took was our name and EDD. And unfortunately, our little guy was totally covering his face with both hands and feet at the session, so they invited us to come back for another look in a couple weeks.     

So this weekend we went back to test our luck, and while in the waiting room, the doctor/owner of the business (radiology IMG, not practicing here; his wife seems to be the ultrasound tech) came out and asked if I could come help him with translation issues with his current Brazilian client that couldn’t speak English. He knew I had an MD, but I was caught off guard. Without thinking too hard, I shrugged and said, sure, I only had patchy Spanish and Italian to offer but maybe it could be a bridge to their Portugese. I entered the room to find a young couple with their two older sons, maybe 7 and 9. The woman looked scared. I started to feel scared. According to her LMP, she should have been around 10 weeks along. No cramping, no bleeding since. Regular periods prior. Apparently, no insurance and she hadn’t seen an Ob or PCP- only positive HPTs. The problem was that no heartbeat was detected, and she was measuring only around 5 weeks. My heart sank. It was clear they had all come to share the joyous occasion of seeing the baby for the first time as a family. I was so sad for them as I had been in the same position a year prior, the ultrasound planting the first seed in my heart of the possibility of miscarriage to follow. We tried to explain as gently as possible that time will tell whether the pregnancy will continue. But I was upset that I was in this unexpected position. I was upset that she didn’t have a doctor of her own. I was upset that she was receiving this information in this setting. I tried my best to encourage her to establish care with an Ob as soon as possible, but it seemed unlikely that it would happen.

I keep thinking about her today and wish the best. I truly hope this is a dating issue and that her pregnancy will progress. I keep thinking of my own miscarriage, the ordinariness and near universality of the experience and how isolating, unique, and devastating it still feels. I think of the miracle of our family now ready to welcome a boy just a year later. Of all the health we take for granted. I think of the fragility of our children, that this is all the beginning… by gaining so much in love we also have so much to lose. But I remind myself that the alternative, of not opening our hearts to the potential of more love and family, is also a sort of loss. I was reminded of this old song by Iris DeMent, called “Let the Mystery Be,” which expresses her coming to terms with rejecting organized religion (she grew up in a big religious family I believe) in a really beautiful way... I often sing this to myself when I feel like I need to let go and not worry... so much unexplainable mystery in life.     

Here is the brief and only glimpse our little one gave us of his face in the two ultrasound sessions. He wants to stay a mystery and I accept that. I just can’t wait to kiss those chubby cheeks and lips and see what the rest of him looks like… well, maybe I can wait just a couple more weeks :)  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Last month I did a dermatopathology rotation, a really interesting subspecialty of pathology (and dermatology!). For both the pathology and dermatology residents who rotate on the service, it is probably the most laid-back and responsibility-light rotation we have... I felt like I finally had time and space to breathe after a few tough months.

My second week on service, I noticed a familiar face around the multi-headed microscope- a mom from day care, a dermatology resident! Our daughter (who just turned 2 last week, sniff sniff!!) goes to a day care our hospital owns, so all the parents are hospital employees- physicians, post-docs, etc. I am constantly lamenting to my husband how unfortunate it is that the parents don't know each other well because, understandably, all the doctors are rushing in and out during drop-off and pick-up... also, when kids are screaming and crying, it doesn't exactly feel like the right time to have a little chit chat! Her daughter is 3 months older than ours, and had been in the same infant and toddler classroom as ours...  I had seen her in passing maybe only once or twice but with only a smile and, "Hi."

We beamed at each other and waved, and as soon as sign-out was over we started chatting. I simply felt like the floodgates had opened, haha... I had found a kindred mommy-doctor-wife-woman spirit, and a burden over my heart had been lifted. Our similarities were uncanny, from getting married in a courthouse on their anniversary date (ours at 6 years, theirs at 4 years), to both of us nagging our husbands to stop smoking their incessant cigarette or two a day during times of stress. Finally, another psycho who is reluctant to get a babysitter (us only once, them just twice) because they genuinely want to just hang out together as a family, but also hates themselves for it haha. We also have in common crazy moms, resulting in chronic husband vs. in-law issues. Both of our husbands are equally ambitious and passionate. We are both in day care without extra help, and we talked about how we deal with weeknight routine chaos, fitting in studying, etc etc.

Over that week we overlapped on service, we talked. And talked. And talked. I don't know how long it's been since I've connected with someone like her. Unfortunately, she and her family are moving an hour away so that she can start a position as an attending. I hope we will make plans to see each other and get the girls together. But it reminded me of the power of female friendship, of something I didn't realize had been so sorely missed.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hi from Keekster

Helllllooooo fellow medical mommas!

I am so excited to be a new voice in this community which has been such a haven for myself and countless others. 

A little about me... I'm a "military brat" (specifically a Marine Corps brat!) from a very non-medical family, and grew up moving around all over the place every couple of years. I'm one of those annoying people who just KNEW that I was destined to be a doctor- specifically a surgeon- since elementary school. My early inspiration? I am embarrassed to say it was Dr. Nancy Snyderman... yes, I was inspired by Dr. Snyderman on Good Morning America as a small child. She was so smart! And I was told by my parents that she was a surgeon! I had to be one too. And a medical correspondent, at that.   

Image result for dr nancy snyderman good morning america 90s

My 7th grade careers project? How to remove a brain tumor, complete with step by step instructions in how to perform a craniotomy. Gray's Anatomy was my middle school bedtime reading (a birthday present when I was 12). For Christmas one year, I received The Visible Woman model kit (even with a special insert for pregnancy!!), perhaps the most beloved gift I have ever received.

Image result for visible woman model kit  

You get the picture. I shadowed surgeons in high school. In college I had the enormous fortune of being mentored by one of the most accomplished pediatric plastic surgeons in the country, and spent many early Saturday mornings in the OR. I also happened to fall in love with the world of academia, basic science research, and PhDs, all completely foreign to me. 

Fast forward to medical school (after working abroad for a couple years with my now-husband). The pre-clinical years were tough for me. Why couldn't I get credit for narrowing the correct answer choice down two answers? Is it really my fault I always picked the wrong one?? Standardized tests were not my friend. I prevailed, however, but began having doubts about surgery. Was there something else for me? I am a major self-help book addict and found this book:


Hmm... general surgery was actually not really sounding like a good fit for me. Maybe ENT? Or derm? The one chapter that piqued my interest, however, was pathology. Pathology?? Wasn't that just a course in medical school? Had I ever even met a pathologist? 

I mentioned I love research. I received a wonderful fellowship that allowed me to take time away to work on a project. One year turned into two, and at last I returned to my clinical years. Surgery was my first rotation and I was in absolute heaven in the OR. However, I happened to have strange circumstances with the surgical specialties to which I was assigned- no overnights and even two months without rounding (no residents on-service)- not exactly a reflection of reality. I continued to plan for applying to surgical residencies (met with the program director, started getting letters, etc) but as my third year went on and I gained more clinical experience, little voices started popping up in my mind. Taking care of patients was not as gratifying as I always imagined. When specimens were removed for surgery, I wanted to follow them and slice into them and feel them. I wanted to diagnose disease, think about mechanisms of disease, find causes of disease. And as selfish as it sounds, I also plain and simple just wanted to sleep in the same bed as my husband! And I finally remembered pathology. I remember I was hiking alone one day after being post-call for psych, and said to myself, that's it. I have to pursue this... and I took the plunge.

As I've alluded to, I have a husband- we met when I was only 19 and here we are a decade later! He has a PhD and has his own lab (academia). And yes, there is a little person in our lives too... a daughter. She is perfect in every way of course :) Her 2nd birthday is coming up right around the corner. She was born at the beginning of my 4th year... lots of stories surrounding that experience and the interview process! 

I think my family is still in mourning that I am not a surgeon- I am convinced they believe I changed my mind because of my pregnancy. I know in my heart that is not true. I did take a leap of faith though and trusted my instincts- now that I am at the end of my first year of residency, I know I made the right choice, though I initially had doubts. We all have to find our little niches in medicine- I am convinced more than ever that there is a place for all of us. 

Over the weekend, we took our daughter to a big science museum, where there was an exhibit on the marvels of the human body. We watched videos of bronchoscopy, held models of brains, looked at disease aortas, and pieced together a skeleton. It took me back to my teenage self and my obsession with the Visible Woman model kit... I felt proud and happy that now, decades later, I am doing professionally what I loved so much all those years ago. I may have never dreamed of being a pathologist, but that's only because I didn't know what a pathologist was :) 

Looking forward to sharing stories!