Showing posts with label Mommabee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mommabee. Show all posts

Sunday, December 3, 2017

this little wiggly squirming miracle in my belly

I just stopped on the MiM website when it dawned on me, I haven’t posted in 3 months?!? What in THE world?

I realized it’s because I’ve been holding my breath for the last few months. Putting all of my energy into cooking up a healthy baby. Doing my dag-on best to not stress and submit to this process of life after loss.

I posted in August that we are welcoming our second child. This little baby is now about the size of a butternut squash, just shy of 29 weeks and the third trimester. It wiggles and flips, squirms and dips all of the time. I’m in love.

I’ve been holding my breath. The first 12 weeks I fretted every time I used the bathroom with a prayer of “please no blood, please no blood, please no blood”. And there wasn’t any blood! 4 early ultrasounds later I knew this one was a strong one with a heartbeat like it’s big brother Zo (many thanks to the sweet Ultrasound Tech at my hospital and at my obstetrics office who let me see the baby’s heart beat so many times and hugged me as I cried each time). It’s been strong since it made its first appearance with my linea nigra at 3 weeks.

Balancing part-time work with a first grader and tenure track husband is no small feat. I am so thankful that pursuing medicine has afforded me with the ability to work part-time and still live quite comfortably. I am able to eat delicious, healthy food, attend prenatal pilates class weekly., see a chiropractor for my aching back and hips twice a week as prescribed, volunteer at Zo’s school, be the Parent Teacher Association Co-Secretary, and have days every week to myself with my favorite Netflix series (Supernatural season 4 of 28 and She’s Gotta Have It!). Though I am exhausted at the end of my office days seeing pediatric patients, I am so thankful for those days. I get to see my patient grow. They get to see me grow. And I am now getting advice from everyone about welcoming another baby into our world. I love my staff. I love my patients.

I love this little wiggly squirming miracle in my belly. Here’s to 10 more weeks of us being conjoined. Please stay healthy. Please stay healthy. Please stay healthy. You are so strong. You are so strong. We love you so much. We love you so much. We love you so much.

Friday, September 8, 2017

lamentations of a community pediatrician

I am tired of hot cheetos. I am tired of juice and kool-aid for toddlers. I am tired of pizza or and wings from the local takeout. I am tired of 1 month olds being given 4 ounces of formula with cereal in it to “help them sleep” and the school aged children drinking milk or chocolate milk with every school meal even though they don’t really like the taste of it. I am beginning to see more and more 200 pound 12 year olds and 80 pound 6 year olds.

It is Well Child Check season in the land of pediatric primary care. As a private practice Pediatrician in Washington, DC I don’t actually eat those foods myself or feed them to my child (though I do love pizza and wings once a month) almost every single patient I see with elevated body mass index or abnormal increased weight gain has had or currently has some part of this in their diet.

I am beginning to worry every day I am in my office about all of the premature heart disease we are going to see in 20 year olds because I now have seen close to 10 school aged children with abnormal lipid panels due solely to their poor diet, I have seen more than my share of toddlers and school aged children with developing Blounts Disease (this is a disorder kind of like deforming kiddie-arthritis where the bones in a part of one or both knees begins breaking down due to excess weight, causing deformity of the knee), I have seen countless young women with metabolic disorder and polycystic ovarian syndrome (think bad cystic acne, hirsutism, abnormal and often heavy periods). I have seen more than my share of rotting teeth due to prolonged bottle use, inadequate teeth brushing, and poor diet high in sugar-laden beverages.

Every day I say or type in my instructions to countless children and parents “no juice, soda, sweet tea, or koolaid, it’s bad for your child’s teeth and behavior” and I cannot tell you the number of children and parents who argue that juice must be good because “WIC (Women, Infants and Childrens Program) gives it to me”. Or the kids that say “I don’t even like milk, but school gives it to me at breakfast and lunch so I just drink it”. Ohhhhh WIC and schools! If only we could divest ourselves of the sugar and milk lobby and give these kids what they need - gasp, WATER! Water, the only drink that other countries, with much lower rates of childhood obesity than the United States I might add, allow in their schools. It literally takes me a several minutes in most visits to share with parents that no juice is definitely not healthy even though it has “vitamins and minerals” and that no it’s not the same as eating a piece of fruit. And no, if your child doesn’t like milk they don’t actually have to drink it and they can just drink water and get their calcium from things like yogurt or cheese. And no, chocolate or strawberry flavored milk isn’t needed because if your kid doesn’t like milk he/ she really doesn’t have to drink it. And yes, the sugar in juice and chocolate milk is just as bad in it as the sugar in soda is and nope I don’t allow my 6 year old to drink juice, soda, sweet tea, or koolaid (except at the random birthday party or when he is with my family who simply won’t listen to me) and nope my 6 year old doesn’t drink cow’s milk. Seriously, I can recite these points in my sleep because I say them every day countless times.

My heart hurts. The ICD 10 codes: abnormal weight gain, childhood obesity, pediatric BMI greater than 95%ile dot the majority of my notes. Cutting out the “juice, soda, sweet tea, and koolaid”, cutting back on the take out, increasing the time outside or dancing and playing, and cutting out the cow’s milk would be enough in most cases to curb this trend.

We had a new neighbor in his mid-30s die of heart disease this summer. His obituary showed a child who has struggled with his weight since early childhood and multiple relatives with obesity. His story includes hypertension and pre-diabetes in his 30s. This story is going to be more frequent if there isn’t major policy and cultural change in America.

Thankfully I have had a handful of success stories and they keep me inspired to share healthy diet and exercise with all because honestly so many of my patients just don’t know. The toddlers who I have done intensive intervention with in my office and referred to our local childhood obesity program whose entire families have adjusted their diets and their weight gain has slowed and can run and play more. The adolescents who have lost weight since their last visit who walk in with their parents who are looking mighty healthy too and tell me about the weight they lost and how they no longer drink sweet tea every day and do take out much less. The mothers who breastfed for a few more months even though it was hard. The families who stopped giving their 2 month olds rice cereal in their formula (of note, the current recommendation is exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months old unless medically contraindicated. No supplemental foods - that includes rice/oatmeal cereal until the kiddo can sit up on his/her own usually between 4-6 months).

So while I lament, I press on because there is so so so much work to do. Now off to find a healthy early morning and I can’t sleep blogging snack for this 4 month old growing fetus of mine.

Monday, August 21, 2017

clocking

I have never been one to track my periods, but then life happened and now I am tracking them religiously.

I think back to when it all began. I was one of the last of my friends to get my period. Even though my mother had prepared me with books and talks, I still thought death was imminent when it started. So once they occurred regularly, I just went with it. No charting. No tracking.

Fast forward to my mid-twenties as a medical student. My husband and I decided to have a child before starting residency because it seemed like a good plan. Thankfully Little Zo established himself promptly after discontinuing my IUD. 3 weeks after. I had little knowledge of how truly a blessing that was.

And then life happened. The stories of loss and infertility began to trickle in. A cousin whose first child was conceived in our 20s using in vitro fertilization and who is still paying bills for it; she has been trying for years for baby #2. The friend and aunt who have both suffered multiple miscarriages. The friend who experienced a molar pregnancy and had to consider radiation therapy. The best friends who suffered a stillbirth that I wrote about here: http://www.mothersinmedicine.com/2013/07/life-loss-and-celebrations-of-love.html

Once settled into attendingdom, O and I decided to try again in order to give Zo that sibling he sometimes mentioned. I wrote in my post on December 29, 2016 entitled “(all is not) lost” about our miscarriage (http://www.mothersinmedicine.com/2016/12/all-is-not-lost.html). It was devastating.

And now, without even realizing it, I have begun tracking my cycles. 3 after the IUD was removed and then we were pregnant with number 2. And then the miscarriage.

My D&C surgery was in January 2017. And every month thereafter I prayed my cycle would return. Was that pinch the beginnings of my cycle? Was that the beginning of ovulation. 3 months later, my cycle returned. And each month that went by we still weren’t pregnant. And then. Last menstrual period May 17, 2017. We are overwhelmingly happy, frightened, joyful, petrified, and elated. Big brother Zo is happy. Thus begins a new clocking of days, weeks, and trimesters. Second trimester begins this week. So thankful.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Tell the truth, as soon as you know it

It was a Thursday evening and I had just gotten off from back to back shifts, first a full day in private practice and then a hospital training for my new gig. Zo was riding his bike up and down the street. My husband O catches me on the porch and says, “have a seat, I need to tell you something”. My heart sank, I knew this wasn’t going to be a good conversation. He proceeds to tell me about how Zo had stabbed another student in the neck at school. This is one of those students who is always crying, always dramatic, always asking for a hug. The student had cried and gotten a band-aid and Zo had gotten in big trouble.

I began crying. Ashamed. Scared. Worried. More shame. Guilt. Fear. I had flashbacks of when I had gotten into a fight in high school and the look of worry and concern on my parents’ faces. I didn’t understand then, but in that moment, I fully understood. You work so hard to raise well-rounded, empathetic, gentle humans and then they go and do something so utterly stupid that you lose your breath, you lose all sense, you feel like a failure.

O proceeded to explain to me how he had managed it. He decided to handle it while I was at work between the men-folks. He had picked Zo up early. He had talked to him first and then he even met with the the School Psychologist, Assistant Principal, his Teacher, and the Teacher’s Aide. My husband had cried once they returned home due to fear, shame, guilt, and an outpouring of emotions. He called one of our friends who has an 8 year old son and they walked through an appropriate discipline plan. O talked to Zo a lot and explained how we have to have “gentle hands” all of the time. By the time I got home things were smoothed over. I was saddened that yet again I was at work, but I was proud of my husband for the way he handled things. O is the more calm and collected parent and I begrudgingly admitted that it was good that he was the one who had picked Azola up.

Zo finally came down the street and saw me on the porch. He came to give me a hug and then put his head down and said “did you hear about my behavior?” and then we talked about how he had hurt his friend at school. I explained that I was very disappointed. He promised never to do it again.

I texted the other parent, a stepmother, who had been a little flighty in the past. I asked if we could talk about what happened and we set up a time. That time came and went. I reached out again. Same thing. Apologies. The weekend went by. We continued to talk to Zo about being gentle and that it was important never to hurt others.

Then on Monday I get a text from Zo’s teacher asking had I heard what really happened. I quickly texted back and learned that Zo HAD NOT stabbed another child in the neck, but that on Friday they had learned from the stepmother and father of the little boy ON FRIDAY AFTER SCHOOL that Zo had been dared to break a plastic fork and that a tooth of the fork had popped up and hit the other boy in the neck. The kids had thought this meant that Zo had stabbed him.

So after an agonizing weekend feeling like failures of parents, all the stepmother had to do was text me and say something like “hey, you know Zo didn’t really stab my son, right?” and that would have changed things considerably. Zo wouldn’t have been disciplined. Why didn’t the family tell the truth as soon as they learned it? I would have! Why schedule a time to talk and then miss it and not say anything?

I wish those parents had told the truth as soon as they’d known it.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

a review through the year(s)

I cannot believe it has been almost 4 months since I wrote the post about my miscarriage, 1 year since I left a toxic work environment and dove into health care leadership, 2 years since residency ended, 5 years since becoming a mommy, 12 years since graduating from college, and almost 30 years since I proclaimed that I wanted to become a doctor.

Through it all I have learned so much and I am truly indebted to the colleagues and mentors who have helped me craft this career. I am even more so indebted to my loving husband and family who constantly teach me that my happiness is worth it and at the end of the day, a job is a job, is a job and when you aren’t in your job, the job goes on, the world does not end.

Motherhood changes you. Partnership changes you. Medical training changes you. Motherhood in particular, puts a new perspective on things. And in my opinion, it makes you question things that you had never questioned before. It makes you prioritize in ways that you hadn’t before.

For example, for my whole life I’ve known that I wanted to become a doctor. I never waxed nor waned in that belief. Though it was hard at times, I knew I would achieve that goal and I did. But I also realize that it might not have happened. My heart cries for the countless young medical students who don’t match into residencies. For the countless applicants who go into super extreme debt to attend post-bacc programs or use private loans to finance medical educations in international schools (I know far too many!) and then to not match?!? I can’t fathom that. But that could have been me, could have been any of us. It has happened to some of my friends. But now as a mother as I reflect with other women physicians, so many of us question our decision. In particularly frazzled moments, we say emphatically that it was not worth and we would not do it again and we would discourage our children from pursuing medicine. What was it that shifted our beliefs? Was it aging? Was it pregnancy hormones? We may never know.  

I started residency with a newly crawling baby. I began questioning things that I had learned, that seemed so dichotomized, so absolute because caring for my snuggly little Zo taught me that everything and I mean everything is shades of grey, covered in drops of breastmilk and smeared in shea butter and kisses. There was no more black and white,no more textbook answers to lull me into a false sense of security.

And the changes continued, each moment and each role took on new meaning. Weekends off from work took new meaning. I had a baby to raise and learn and love. I had an amazingly supportive and successful husband to dote on and love. Each moment became more precious because when I was at work, I had to completely be present caring for and keeping alive someone else’s baby. Time at work took on new meaning. Every time things got rough, I would say to myself “this is someone’s baby! This is someone’s baby! Do your freaking best! Love up on this family and this baby! Do the right thing by this baby!” and it worked. I was able to care for countless patients and their families.

I started my first attending job. The one I knew was going to be my dream job. And it wasn’t. From the very beginning. The burn out was palpable among my partners, the check in staff, the medical support staff, the nurses. In my first few weeks, I was warned by various members of the staff to literally “get out” before the patients lured me into staying forever. I didn’t know how to process it. This was my “dream job” at my dream institution, a top 10 children’s health system in a highly desirable area. The one that I was supposed to stay in, rising through the ranks, being a tireless advocate for my patients and their families. But I looked around at the colleagues who had trained me as a medical student and no one was happy.

Everyone was raging against the machine of big-institution medicine without the tools they needed and without the support of the administrators. There were partners who were months behind in charting on the outdated electronic medical record. There were partners who worked hours from home each night and who spent more time charting than seeing patients. There were incompetent team members, difficult to work with management, and mountains of red-tape and bureaucracy at every level and it frustrated us to no end! We were understaffed at every level but the message from the higher ups was “do more, see more patients! You’re not meeting your numbers!” while we providers questioned the safety and quality of fitting in another patient, of overbooking overbooked slots, of opening earlier and closing later. This scenario isn’t unique. I hear countless stories from other physicians in private and academic medicine, from friends working for nonprofits, I could go on. And when you hear it from so many people in so many industries, you realize that we are all workers. We all struggle with the same things, but it is up to us to find our niche, our space where we can deal with the “particular brand of crazy” of an organization.

My mama heart made me extra courageous, extra fierce. I began to network and met a group of other outstanding physicians many of whom were mamas who had experiences just like. They found the strength and courage to craft professional lives that were more in line with their beliefs and their experiences gave me strength and I began to let go of the made up dream as I began to develop a new dream.

If it weren’t for my husband and my family, I never would have had the courage to leave. But I did. I spent countless time and even significant money on legal fees fighting and it’s not even over yet (always, I repeat, always consult with an employment lawyer early when you first begin to worry about retaliation or have safety concerns, just do it! Human Resources works for your employer and unfortunately not really for you). But you know what - MY HAPPINESS IS WORTH IT! I trained too long and too hard to not be valued, to be underappreciated and you did too! We are worth it. We must advocate for ourselves and our happiness as a matter of survival. Physician burnout is on the rise and unfortunately so is physician suicide. Your life is worth it! You should not be miserable in your job! Being a mama made me more courageous. What would I tell Zo if he was going through this? I would tell him find a new job, it’ll be okay! You’re worth it! I know they tell us it’s our calling and although that may be true - a job, is a job, is a job!

This last year in part-time health care leadership coupled with part-time direct pediatric primary care has been a whirlwind. Scary and beautiful, overwhelming and exhilarating. Exhausting and empowering. I have been getting my lean-in on! And the view from my first big girl office is the bomb!

And because I have been courageous enough to sit myself down at the big-kids’ table I realize that we really do have expertise when allow ourselves to do what we are good at. Working with a major managed care organization, I understand why providers are asked to check off certain boxes in our patient assessments and I realize that this information must get back to the providers.  I realize how essential physicians such as myself are in re-envisioning health care.

Everyone has a boss, every organization has a parent organization and auditors to respond to. The system is such that major revision is needed to truly improve outcomes. Though my overall happiness has increased tremendously, the job is still a job. And I don’t think enough physicians, especially those in training, fully grapple with that. You still have people who are burned out; though honestly, much less here in my new office. You still have issues with incompetent people and I had to terminate my first staff member a few months ago. But “this particular brand of crazy” is one that I can deal with and is one I am thriving in. It’s one that my family can deal with.

Thank you for sharing in my self reflection.

Have you done your own personal review lately? If so, please share. What have you learned? How have you changed?

Monday, January 23, 2017

G2 P1011: life after loss and D&C

This post may be a trigger for those who have had an abortion, miscarriage, or fetal loss. I wanted to share my experiences because in the weeks following our fetal demise, I read several blogs by mothers but couldn’t find a single post written by a physician mother. This post is also part of my healing process. In it, I will share some of my challenges and also will explain my D&C*. I have found over the past months that many of my friends and colleagues have experienced pregnancy loss. Almost every single friend I shared it with have experienced their own loss. We are not alone. I hope that this post helps someone in need.
____________________________________________________________________________

It’s been 2 weeks since my D&C, over a month since we learned that our little kidney bean sized fetus-baby had died, and 3 months after finding out we were pregnant with our second child.

Thankfully, the nausea has resolved, the fatigue has ended, and the waves of grief are less intense and less severe. But sometimes the grief washes over me and I can’t breathe. And I fall into my husband’s arms or I call him or my mother or my best friend A and I weep. And then I wipe my face and I go on.

Zo asked enough questions for us to know that we needed to tell him something. So, I recalled my time during residency with the Palliative Care Team and did my best at providing a 5-year-old appropriate explanation of miscarriage. “Mama, there is no baby anymore.” “No, there was a baby growing but it stopped growing and then it died and the doctors helped my belly feel better and now I’m feeling a lot better.” He pauses, looks around. Says “okay” with a smile and a hug and then “I’m going to go find my Wolverine so we can play.” And then we move on. Now that my belly has started to rapidly deflate, I’m not exhausted or nauseous anymore, his questions have become less frequent. He is satisfied with our answers.

One of the hardest parts of this process has been all of the changes my body underwent that feel downright wasted. Big old breasts that won’t nourish a baby and that sadly have deflated just like my belly. A big old belly that poked out immediately and still makes some strangers pause. I pray incessantly that no well meaning elder asks “are you pregnant?” because I have stopped telling friends about our miscarriage (I am allowing the message to be passed by osmosis because at this point, I’m tired of retelling it and everyone who needed to know now knows) and I’m not sure I won’t either curse them out or start crying. New stretch marks that show my body underwent a change and unlike my breasts and belly, they are permanent. They will always be with me.

The hardest places to go for me have been the gym and the Ob-Gyn office. The gym because all of the mirrors show me exactly what I look like. I tend to sit in the car for 30 minutes before going in. I usually have my worst cries there building up the courage to go inside to work out. Losing weight after having Zo was so easy. He nursed like a champ and I weighed less than my pre-pregnancy weight within 4 weeks. This time. No such luck. At the gym there is no cute baby to tell other people about. I see the eyes on my belly (folks probably thinking “this pregnant lady knows she needs to be at home). I see the bulge in my shirt. The popped out belly button. The widened hips. I know I have to work extra hard to fight the flub without the help from breastfeeding. It hurts. All of this good chunk and no cute baby to show for it.

The Ob-Gyn office because there are cute waddling pregnant women. After finding about about the demise, I transferred my care from a midwife community practice to an Ob-Gyn practice recommended by one of my friends. I literally could not go back to the old practice; when the office called to follow up, I quickly thanked them and hustled them off of the phone. I had to let them go, they are the practice where I was hoping for a happy, uncomplicated pregnancy. I just can’t go back there.

And now with the new Ob, I don’t want to go for my follow up visit (but I do, on time!) because I know I’ll have to tell the Tech who gets my vitals that we had a miscarriage. And then the sad response, the averted eyes. I want to yell “I’m not a leper” but all I say with a smile to make her feel better is “we are okay! I’m feeling much better and the procedure went great!”. And I don’t want to hear the Ob tell me “you can start trying again next month.” And when I say “we are taking a break, this was a lot to handle” he says “yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ll be back soon pregnant with the next one. You two are healthy, you can have 3 or 5 more kids if you’d like” I have such complex emotions that I can’t mount a response. I just sit and nod. I literally am too scared right now to think about getting pregnant again. So I read books and I read blogs and I talk to friends who have lost babies and they tell me I am feeling exactly how I should feel right now. Confused. Scared. Hopeful. Encouraged. Sensitive. Fearful. Apprehensive. Angry. Loved.

It is 1pm and I have been putting off going to the gym since 9am. It’s time to get up and go. Hopefully writing this post means that I won’t spend any time sitting in the parking lot. Time to work on this belly bump.

_____________________________________________________________________________
G2 P1011. Gravid 2 (meaning I have been pregnant twice), Parity: 1 term infant delivered, 0 preterm infants delivered, 1 abortion/miscarriage, 1 living child.

*D&C - dilation and curettage. This is a procedure where the cervix is dilated and a curette, almost like a spoon or a scraper, is used to remove contents from the uterus.


My D&C:
  • In my D&C a small vacuum was also used.

  • I received conscious sedation during my procedure, meaning I did not require respiratory support. I was in the pre-operative area for several hours until a c-section was completed and then I was taken to the Operating Room and it was over within 15 minutes. The Anesthesiologist provided midazolam and propofol and I was awake within minutes after with no cramping. I was very hungry and ate lots of yummy snacks and a big lunch and then came home and was promptly sent to bed by my family.
  • The Obstetrician performed an ultrasound before to confirm the demise and an ultrasound after to show that the products of conception had been removed. I asked for them and have them in my files.  
  • I had light spotting for 3 days after. Then only spotting with exertion (embarrassing but this means after pooping) for 2 weeks, then it stopped.
  • I have had intermittent cramping and just like my Ob promised, I dind’t need any medication stronger than ibuprofen 600mg as needed.
  • I had a follow up appointment 10 days later and was cleared for all activities.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

(all is not) lost

There was a heartbeat. I saw it on the ultrasound, but I knew immediately something wasn’t quite right. Was it too slow? Yes, the ultrasound tech said she noticed that too and gave me the wise, all knowing look of a Black grandma who can’t quite tell her granddaughter that something is wrong.

And then there was none at the ultrasound 2 weeks later. I asked the next ultrasound tech to angle the screen when I didn’t see movement. Saw the look on the Radiologist's face and then the Fellow. No heartbeat. The tears began to flow. My body began to shake. I held in the sob knowing if it began here with these strangers it wouldn’t end until I was safely tucked away at home.

You were there. I saw you. You were there. And now you’re not. When did you leave me? My heart breaks. I type through my tears.

I am at home. Grieving. Surrounded by loved ones.

I cry now as I type.

“Mama, are you crying? Did you have a nightmare? Are you frightened?” I stifle my tears. Say to Zo through closed door “I’m okay. Mama’s okay.” He calls out for me and O from his room after bedtime. O goes and comforts him and calls me into his room.  I gather myself, wipe my tears, blow my nose. Zo rushes into my arms “Mama, are you okay? I was having a good dream but then I woke up. Why are you crying? Everything will be okay.” As he gently rubs my face with his amazingly soft 5-year-old hands. As he pats my back. As he rubs my belly. As our family holds one another.

All is not lost in spite of this major loss. You were there. I saw you. You were with me. Now you are not there. But my husband is here. And my Zo is here. Their hearts are strong. My heart is strong.

The stories from friends poured in over the last few years. We are all in our 30s. Gut-wrenching stories of second trimester terminations due to fetal diagnoses incompatible with life. The heartbreaking call telling us of a stillborn nephew. Friends with years of infertility. A family member with seven losses. Stories of rainbow babies after loss. Countless miscarriages. Flashbacks from medical school of being present with sobbing women in the antepartum unit when their ultrasounds showed the absence of heartbeats. I didn’t understand then how the loss of something (a baby? A fetus? I didn’t know what to call it then) not yet realized could cause these women to sob uncontrollably. But I do now. From the moment I saw the positive sign I was hooked. Head over heels. Then the heartbeat. My growing belly. Zo’s “mama, is there a baby in there cuz I think there is.”

I was so excited to tell him he was going to be a big brother but I didn’t because I knew things weren’t quite right and it was all too soon, too early, too many things could go wrong - and they did. But he knew. He knew yet we feigned ignorance.Told him I would go to the doctor to find out.

All is not lost. You were there. We were together. Our family is still here and you will always be with us. We will go on. For we are not lost.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

You don't need me to go pee and other 4am thoughts

I am at a crossroads with my 5 year old. It’s 4 o’clock in the morning and I have just been woken up from some amazing sleep for the countless time with a scream of “mom, I have to go to the bathroom”. I grumpily yell back “go by yourself” and my husband mumbles “that’s not nice!” and said 5 year old yells at me from the bathroom. I get up and our little tyrant is perched on the toilet going to the bathroom by himself. The bathroom is lightly illuminated with a night light. He pees as I gently say “please stop waking mommy up. I’m very tired and it makes me cranky when you wake me up.” “Cranky?” he says. “Yes, cranky because I’m tired” I say. I tell him he’s a big boy and can go pee by himself. He says “okay” then walks to his room leaving the door cracked. I tell him it’s okay to leave his door cracked and he says “okay”. I lay down in bed, he says “please close the door” I don’t respond, hubby gets up and closes the door. I lay awake in bed recounting all of the things that I am doing wrong with him, the things I am worried about with professional drama, good things that are going on (woo hoo congratulations on the new professional leadership program acceptance!), but sleep eludes me and I am so tired. 

This and worse accounts (one particular evening I had a screaming match with him because I wouldn’t come back and put his covers on him just right) document our nighttime ritual. He sleeps completely through the night less than once a week. He pees on himself at least once a month. Me remaining awake for several hours after being woken up is much more common than me going peacefully back to sleep. My husband is usually not woken up, but when he is he rarely has a problem going back to sleep. 

And I am at a sleeping crossroads. Being woken up for months and months and years and years makes for an unhappy mommy and I can feel the effects of my sleep deprivation. I am cranky when he wakes me up and if the sleep is really good I am downright angry. I know he needs sleep, he goes to bed at 7:30pm and wakes up between 7 and 7:30am. If he goes to sleep after 8pm for more than a few days, things don’t go well for anyone. I on the other hand know I need more sleep, but getting in bed before 9pm is rarely an option, but if I could just sleep uninterrupted it would be so much more restful. Tonight though I was in bed watching TV by 8:30pm. 

I don’t know what to do. It’s 4:10am. My shoulders hurt, it’s cold (autumn in the mid-Atlantic in our 1938-built home mean it’s chilly literally all of the time). I want to be asleep, but I can’t go back to sleep. So here I type after sending my husband a “I can’t do this anymore” email that I’m sure will make for great breakfast conversation and texts back and forth all day. 

I know I have options, but in my 4am research I can find very little about nighttime awakenings. Lots about 5 year olds being scared of the bathroom in general, but nothing specifically about what to do when he wakes you up at night and won't go back to sleep. Should I start sleep training again; this time using the same techniques of slowly responding less to his demands each night (but it takes so long!)? Light his room up with an additional night light to illuminate the dark corners? Make my husband do it alone? Refuse to get up with the tyrant anymore? Ship him in a box to my parents? Put a small potty seat in his room as my girlfriend, also a Pediatrician recommends (this seems so gross to me though and all I can think of is tripping on it and pee flying everywhere)? 

Please help! I’m so over this. It’s now 4:25am and I’m going to see if I’m tired enough to fall back asleep.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Goodbye hormonal birth control

It’s kind of hard to say goodbye to hormonal birth control when it’s been so good to you for so long. I started taking the pill as a teenager. My father is a teen parent and my mother instilled in me such a huge fear of early pregnancy that I stayed prepared, mostly to avoid her wrath! Talk about the teen brain in action; birth control was a very concrete option. Avoid pregnancy or be beaten, possibly at school in front of all of your classmates. YouTube videos of parents beating teens wasn’t around then, but if it had been, I’m sure this nightmare would have included my Aunt videotaping and putting it on the Internet. (note: I am totally over-dramatizing this and my mother and Aunt are two of my dearest friends now. They loved me fiercely and kept me from all types of danger including a few college boyfriends who were up to no good.)

I still remember sneaking to Planned Parenthood (it was across the street from a busy metro station) in order to get my first pack of pills. I was sweating, I was scared. But larger than my fear of being seen was my fear of getting pregnant and having to tell my parents. I knew getting pregnant before college would make my dreams of becoming a doctor even more of difficult to achieve, if not impossible. I had my share of providers over the years. I remember one male doctor that tried to shame me by drawing horribly graphic pictures; I wanted to yell at him but was too scared. I remember some outstanding older nurse providers (one super cute grey-haired lady in particular) who were very sex-positive and helped me try various methods.

Methods I have tried to date (in semi-order): combined oral contraceptive pill for years, the patch for less than a month,  Depo-provera for a few months, abstinence, emergency contraception, pills again, the ring for a few cycles, the Mirena IUD for 3 years, a healthy planned pregnancy 3 weeks after discontinuing the IUD, breastfeeding and the mini progesterone-only pill for a few years, and finally my second IUD.

Somewhere around age 30 and my pregnancy, I began to have hormonal headaches each month around ovulation and changes in birth control. Now that Zo is well out of diapers, we are ready for baby number 2. So I said goodbye to my second IUD. Hubby and I decided this would be the end of hormonal birth control for us until we decide to have someone’s tubes tied. I am still holding out hope he’ll see me waddling around pregnant and will decide to get a vasectomy.

I know this country tends to shame sexually active teens, but I was one of them, and I turned out alright in my opinion. I’m a pretty successful Pediatrician, married, with a child. I have friends who used various methods and ended up teen parents and now as an adult I have countless friends dealing with infertility. I wasn’t promiscuous (though I won’t shame those who are), but I always knew that avoiding pregnancy and infection were top priorities for me (referring back to my mother who wanted no parts of being a young grandmother). Now that infection is virtually impossible (if anything goes down hubby will have some ‘splaining to do) and we actually want to expand our family, I say goodbye to my old friend hormonal birth control. Thank you for keeping me safe and allowing me to follow my dreams.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The things we do to succeed

I didn’t want to do it again, but here I go retaking my Pediatric Boards. I can list all of the reasons why I was unsuccessful at my first attempt: I was working too much (50-60 hours per week, getting paid to work 32), I was too stressed (issues with my former boss that I can’t discuss), I wasn’t sleeping enough, I have testing issues but my boss told me she couldn’t adjust my schedule so that I could study more. So here I am hundreds of miles away from home spending close to $2000 to take a 6-day intensive board preparation course. I am doing all that I can to succeed this time. And I refuse to allow the posttraumatic stress of retaking this test overshadow all that I am doing to succeed.


I have met so many outstanding doctors, most of them mothers, who have their own stories of failing their general boards or their specialty boards. These women are some of the best doctors I have ever met and provide exemplary care but they each failed the exam the first time. The stories read just like mine: working too much, stressed, not sleeping enough, family obligations, poor work-life balance. Some have a history of failing other board exams (USMLE or their specialty boards) but others don’t. Why does the cycle repeat? Why don’t we shake our little doctor sisters and say “wake up girl! There is no way you can balance all of this! Cut something back. Cut something out. Or else!”. “You can’t go on like this!”. “You either sacrifice now and focus primarily on passing or you’ll be forced to retake the test after failing!”. “Girl! Don’t do what I did. Let me tell you how I didn’t rock this test!!!!”. Or “Friend! Let me help you pass this test!”.

That’s how I want to recreate my narrative. I’m going to pass this test even if it’s by the skin of my teeth and then I’m going to mentor little sister docs so that they don’t make the same mistakes I did in post-residency auto-pilot mode thinking “well 60 hours is so much less than my resident’s 80 hour work week”. Let me tell you something - it’s not better after all of the years of sacrifice and don’t even pretend like you are not exhausted and burned out. And trying to work that much on top of passing this exam if you have even a hint of testing challenges is a major no-no.

So yeah, please Mothers in Medicine, send me some good vibes because I’m away from my family in this cold hotel room wrapped in blankets giving my all in order to succeed.

SIDE NOTE: In other random news, I just learned that the Peds Boards may become an open book test in 2017. Mwomp mwomp mwomp for me! If I could sit this round out, I would, but my new position depends on me passing this year. I hope the open book re-certification exam doesn’t cost more. Alright, I’m going to block all of that out and keep my nose to the grindstone.

EDIT: I removed the part about the salaries of the American Board of Peds folks because I cannot figure out how to fact-check it so it could be very untrue.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

All of the ways I forget

I had my 90-day evaluation in my new position today. I left the clinic I was working in, one overrun by burnout and toxic management, in order to remember why I went into medicine at all. I love my patients and this work, but I love my family more. I now work 3 days a week in health care administration and quality improvement. I sleep well at night now that the main cause of my insomnia has ended. My family is happier. My evaluation went very well.

Immediately after my meeting, my husband reached out and said he needed to talk. I needed to talk too. He is finishing his dissertation this week, we just bought a new house, and my parents came in town for the weekend. We have been passing like ships in the night. Both busy and not really checking in enough. With moments of hugs and kisses and simple appreciation. But overall, we haven’t been checking in frequently enough and we definitely haven’t been having the weekly meetings that are my bookends at work.

I feel lonely. He feels unappreciated. Why didn’t I offer to help with his appendices? Why didn’t I read the chapter he asked me to read so many months ago (honestly, he gave it to me and I forget and he never mentioned it again until today and now I feel like dirt). He feels that my work has taken priority in our family for years (medical school, residency, the toxic job took so much of our family’s energy just to stay afloat). And now I’m studying for my Boards again after I failed them last year (more about that later, I have a lot to say about it but it's so raw and traumatizing). And he’s finishing his dissertation and starting his first job as a professor at the state university.

When we get busy I forget that my marriage needs check-ins, scheduled ones, on purpose because they are priorities. And when we are busy, we both have to go the extra mile to make sure that my needs, his needs, and our family’s needs are met.

And I’m sitting here at work, dragging my feet because at home I am reminded of all the ways I forget. I need to go home and start remembering again. And I need to be gentle with myself because we are juggling plates and though many of them are scuffed up I pray that none of them are smashed and destroyed. I’m going to head home now in order to remember that I love him immensely. And loves me. And we can't forget.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Don't forget they are someone's baby

Living in DC and taking the metro regularly provides me with ample fodder for social analysis and ample opportunities to be upset and amazed by humanity. For example, I get upset when able-bodied people see disabled, elderly, or pregnant people standing and sit in their seats anyway. Especially while pregnant, I spoke up very loudly (ex. As able-bodied men crowded on an elevator as I waddled to catch the door for a man in a wheelchair. I stared everyone down and said someone needs to get off so he can get on; we were obliged begrudgingly.). I am amazed when folks step in and help someone in need during an emergency.


An issue of growing contention in my neck of the woods is middle and high school students getting onto crowded trains. They are loud and there is often cursing involved. However, I have noticed that most of the adults regard them in a very unfriendly way or simply ignore them. The local listservs I am a member of are far worse; the disdain for these children is palpable and I have had to step in several times when the racism and classism became unbearable as well-to-do grown folks called children thugs, crooks, and goons. It literally hurts my heart!


I personally make it a point to acknowledge these teenagers every chance I get with a smile or a hello; sometimes I’m ignored or begrudgingly acknowledged, but oftentimes you can tell these young people relish the positive attention and are surprised to have been seen. I remind myself regularly that they are someone’s baby no matter how “hard” they are appearing to be. No matter how many tattoos they may have on their young skin. No matter how many curse words they and their friends yell. And I try to remember that someday my little Zo will be one of these students taking the train and I hope that others will treat him well knowing that he too is someone’s baby. My husband and I are well-read in the studies that show that Black boys like my Zo are seen as being older than they are by the majority and less innocent than they are by police (see FURTHER READING below). We know the sickening statistics of disproportionate violence against boys that look like him. We pray that folks will remember these children are someone’s baby and that he is ours.


To bring it back home to the DC metro, the other day on the train a handsome young man with beautifully styled locs and sagging skinny-jeans and a uniform high school shirt  entered the train with a young woman I assume was his girlfriend. His new-aged rap music (the kind old hip-hop heads like me can’t understand and abhor due to the crazy amounts of auto-tune) was blasting. Adults bristled. Some sucked their teeth. He walked on the train and I smiled at him, he was visibly surprised, smiled back sweetly and sat directly behind me. Every other word of his song was f--- this and blast that. I turned and said as gently and respectfully as I could “Sweetheart, don’t you have headphones or something? My old ears just cannot take all of that cursing.” He said quickly “Ohhhhh my bad! My headphones broke and I don’t have another pair, My bad!!!” I pulled out a set of headphones from my bag and said “here, you can have these!” He smiled and said “For real?!? You serious?!? Thank you so much!” And just like that - connection. Respect. Compassion. His mama would be happy.


It could have ended differently. Someone else could have started cursing at him. He could have rebuffed my offer and cussed me out. But it ended wonderfully. And I modeled appropriate, compassionate behavior for children and adults alike.


I exited the train at my stop and wished him and his lady a good day and he did so too.
___________________

FURTHER READING:



Monday, April 4, 2016

The DC public school lottery struggle is real!

I will paraphrase my mommy friend C when she said “we literally have spent hundreds of hours on this”.


We moved back to DC June 2015 and since then have spent hours and hours touring and talking about schools. My husband O and I are both products of public education - we know it has many challenges and limitations but we are both committed to having our son Zo in a public school that all children have access to. We were extremely blessed in North Carolina to find our outstanding Spanish-immersion daycare. We never ever ever worried about him while he was there. We hope things will work out with public school, but thankfully being a doctor-mom, private school is a viable option.


WHAT WE ARE WORKING WITH:
Flash forward to public school in DC and we have had issues with lack of supervision in the bathroom for the preschoolers, lack of vision, organization, and communication from the administration, teachers who rely too heavily on strict discipline and quiet, homework for preschoolers, and the disorganized and understaffed aftercare that we promptly pulled him out of. What we have loved about Zo’s school - that he really likes it, the Principal Mr. L (he is truly wonderful, so committed to the students and parents), meeting wonderful families and making new friends, the beautiful playground, being a Parent-Teacher Organization parent (I feel like I’m becoming my mom every time I attend a meeting), and the overwhelming majority of his teachers.


MOVING FORWARD:
In early April we find out the results of this year’s lottery. For those who don’t know about DC public schools - there are public schools and separate public charter schools. Some participate in the common lottery and others have separate application processes. All super confusing and overwhelming unless you live in an awesome neighborhood with in-bound preference which we don’t. We based our rankings on a private session with Educational Consultant EV Downey (I still shake my head writing this cuz’ who thought you’d need to pay someone to figure out where to send your kindergartener but I quickly realized there were way too many schools I didn’t know about and I am all about tapping into my resources so we went ahead and paid her and it was well worth it), hours and hours spent touring schools in our preferred neighborhoods, countless conversations with each other, friends, and school administrators. There are so many different schools. So many different neighborhoods (drop off process and location is of prime importance in DC), school buildings with very diverse architecture, philosophies, discipline plans, and aftercare programs. So many different “vibes”.


A few of my favorites (in alphabetic order):
- Capital City, a well-established charter school with the most perfect natural outdoor space and great reputation. Too far out of our preferred neighborhoods, but if I could it would have been in my top three
- DC Bilingual, a well-established Spanish-immersion charter school. In a really nice building, but they might have to find a new site next year. Ranked low for us as not knowing where the school building will be was a deal-breaker for us.
- Mundo Verde, a Spanish-immersion charter school focused on environmental justice and study of world cultures. We love their vision.
- Two Rivers, we preferred the Young Campus as its closer to our preferred neighborhoods and O really liked the Principal
- Tyler, a public school with a Spanish-immersion and arts program that O loved

- Van Ness, newly renovated and reopened public school in Navy Yard (prettiest public school I’ve ever seen though in need of a new playground; which I hear is in the works)

Monday, March 21, 2016

I'm a grown woman and my work bag needs to represent that

What do you do to celebrate yourself? How do you toot your own horn?

I am a part of several very lively on-line support groups for mothers. I love many of the posts and I have especially started to really enjoy the posts that talk about how busy mothers reward themselves with things like fancy purses, fabulous trips and paying off their loans. I don’t think we do as much as we should to celebrate ourselves, to be gentle with ourselves, to love up on ourselves. After the first 8 months of being an Attending, I sometimes realize that besides going to the gym I haven’t done a single good thing just for myself in a week; that’s when I schedule an eyebrow shaping or pedicure appointment (I am overdue for both by the way, uggh!). I am going to start with the purse, build my way up to a trip next year, and before turning 40 - these loans will be paid off!

Back to the bag - the work bag my mother bought me at the beginning of residency has been through a lot. It’s a nice, large personalized LL Bean bag but it has begun to look weathered and frayed. I’m too young to look sloppy and unkempt and I need an upgrade. I went out with some of my Sorority Sisters recently and I noticed how all of the Lawyers had beautifully sculpted, supple leather bags - they were gorgeous! 

That’s when I decided - I’m upgrading myself as soon as I get my first check from my new position (more on that later). My budget is modest and several friends recommended Coach (my favorite is the Coach Mercer Satchel in eggplant) due to their durability and timelessness and some sister-doctors recommended the Dagne Dover (I like the roomy Charlie Tote the best). And now I’m ready for my own, not-a-hand-me-down, grown lady work bag. One that I’ll feel like singing Beyonce’s “Grown Woman” out loud as I carry it into my new office. 

Any recommendations for your favorite work bag or purse? One that will not be flashy while commuting on the DC metro? One that will allow me to easily go from work to picking up Zo from kindergarten?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Saying their names

I don’t have a television but your story flashes across my Facebook feed, my friends tell me about you, my husband the Anthropologist tells me about you, and I look you up online.


You were bullied for being a cheerleader and you took your life (Ronin Shimizu). You went out for a pack of Skittles, a stranger chased you, you were shot and killed (Trayvon Martin). You were selling cigarettes on the streets of New York and you were choked to death as you screamed “I can’t breathe” (Eric Garner). You were playing with your big brother and he accidentally shot and killed you with a gun you found (9 month old in Missouri whose name will not be released). You were born a girl but your birth body was that of a boy, you tried to be your true self but took your own life after not being accepted by your parents (Leelah Alcorn). You were misunderstood, you were playing with a toy gun in the park and you were killed (Tamir Rice). You were with your friends listening to music in your car at a convenience store when a stranger approached you and began arguing with you about your music, he shot you and you died and he went back to his hotel room, walked his dog, and had dinner and drinks (Jordan Davis).


I honor your legacy with my tears. I think about your family. I snuggle my little one more tightly knowing this world is both a beautiful and dangerous place. I honor you with this post; I apologize it has taken me months to find the courage to say your name in this space. This space that is sacred to me but after my last post about Trayvon Martin received some insensitive comments I was hesitant to share some of my deeper feelings since I don’t see much social commentary here at MiM. Why is that? We are mothers and we are providers and don’t we see how unique our vantage point is? We can talk about the intersection of life and policy, public health and personal life from a place most others cannot. I struggle to find the time to read anything besides mindless fashion blogs when I’m not balancing my own needs with full-time medical practice, my husband’s needs and those of my four year old let alone to allow myself the freedom to reflect on society’s transgressions and tragedies.


I thought of you today while looking at my ever growing to do list. And because your life matters to me I put away other thoughts and wrote your name, I am saying your name.


#BlackLivesMatter #ProudLGBTQAlly #MothersInMedicine #2016LivingMyTruth