Showing posts with label motherhood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label motherhood. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Keep your mama friendships guilt free

I have been so blessed to have several amazing groups of girlfriends, most of whom are mamas. I have a handful of dear friends from high school, sorority line and big sisters who have become like family, my college international housemates, my college friends whose spouses have become my husband's friends, beloved friends from our time in family housing at UNC, my Code Brown Crew from UNC Pediatric Residency, the mamas from the parenting group my husband and I started 3 years ago, and my family - I count my mother, mother-in-law, and great aunt as three of my best friends - these women fill my life with advice and love and accept my text messages and incoming calls day or night. I love, love, love them!

I truly believe that it takes a village to raise a family and it takes a tribe of girlfriends to keep a mama sane and thriving. Over time I have come to realize that it is impossible to be everything to someone and as such I have been able to find over time that all of the different qualities my girlfriends have make for some diverse, sound, and priceless advice. I have never been a one-best-friend type of girl even though I wanted to be and instead do much better with a cadre of lady friends. 

As our lives have ebbed and flowed, sometimes the calls are more frequent, sometimes months or even  years go by without communication. But the love is always there. After months of not speaking I have done consults on sick kiddos, talked to family members who had medical questions, done an emergency contraception consult for an adolescent volunteer visiting the United Arab Emirates (it is dangerous in many countries to have unmarried sex). I have walked with friends through infertility, infant loss, miscarriages, marriage challenges, spousal communication issues, school issues, health issues, you name it. 

As my life has become busier I have been doing more lately to immediately send a text when one of them crosses my mind. Just a quick "you ran across my mind, it's been so long, sending you a big ole hug. How are you and the family?!?". Which leads to a flurry of updates before we have to run. And if I really feel compelled and have some alone time in the car, I pick up the phone and call. Some of those impromptu catch up calls have been life changing for me and for the other ladies. 

I have incorporated a saying recently when the inevitable "I am so sorry it's been so long" is uttered. I quickly say something like "Girl!!! Our lives are so busy ain't nobody got time for mama guilt! Call or text me when I run across your mind and I'll do the same for you!" and then we laugh and continue to catch up in the few minutes we have.

So to all of the mamas out there. Call or text your friends when they run across your mind. When you talk, carry on where you need to. If you feel the need to apologize for it being so long, be gentle and forgiving with yourself and stop yourself! Let's minimize the guilt we have in our lives and do what we can when we can unapologetically. If your friend apologizes, tell her you refuse to have any guilt in your relationship when life is already so complicated and you promise to do what you can when you can to stay in touch. Here's to keeping your mama friendships guilt free and full of love! 

How do you keep in touch with your friends? How do you minimize guilt in your relationships? Please comment below!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Doctor-Moms, This Is Our Job

Finally, a cause we can all agree to take action on. We means everyone: Liberals and Conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, Christians and Jews and Muslims and Atheists and everyone in between. Follow to the end for specific, easy actions you as a physician and a mother can take to help stop this morally repugnant horror.

The issue? Around the world, we are seeing a horrific trend: children are increasingly being used as tools in political conflict. In Syria, children are used as human shields. In Afghanistan, children are recruited and used as soldiers. In Nigeria, children are recruited as suicide bombers. In Myanmar, children are tortured to send a political message.

Here in the United States, we take children as political hostages.

This is no exaggeration nor overstatement. This Saturday, our President stated that he is using  migrant children taken from their families as a political bargaining chip. Despite his repeated insistence, there is no law nor policy in place stating that migrant families should be separated at the border, only President Trump's personal mandate.

How could such a horrible thing happen here, in our democracy? In Spring 2017, Trump's Homeland Security Advisor John Kelly proposed separating all children from their parents as they sought shelter, “in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network”, as reported in last week's New York Times.

More recently, Trump's senior policy advisor Stephen Miller reiterated that this is all Trump's doing: 

It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law.”
 
It is now well-documented for the world to see and judge. In using children as political hostages, our country has stooped to the same lows as terrorists and dictatorships in Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Laos, and Myanmar.

Of course there is growing outrage against Trump's disgusting agenda. Many Republicans leaders are stepping forward to condemn this administration's inhumane actions, and not only moderate stalwarts like former First Lady Bush and Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Even Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has gone on record, stating "President Trump could stop this policy with a phone call",  as Monday morning's New York Times reports.

While he is unlikely to take any action, we can.

We are mothers and doctors. We are uniquely positioned to comprehend the psychological damage inflicted upon children who are forcibly removed from their caregivers. The American Academy of Pediatrics has vehemently opposed this as policy since it was first mentioned by Trump's administration last Spring, based on the known grave consequences to child development. Pediatricians are speaking out. AAP president Colleen Kraft described the heartbreaking grief of a toddler she witnessed at one detention center, and explained the effects of harmful toxic stress on children.

As the AAP's formal statement on The Detention of Immigrant Children recognizes:

"In accordance with internationally accepted rights of the child, immigrant and refugee children should be treated with dignity and respect and should not be exposed to conditions that may harm or traumatize them. The Department of Homeland Security facilities do not meet the basic standards for the care of children in residential settings."

The American Psychological Association has also written a letter to the Trump administration in opposition to the policy:

"Families fleeing their homes to seek sanctuary in the United States are already under a tremendous amount of stress. Sudden and unexpected family separation, such as separating families at the border, can add to that stress, leading to emotional trauma in children. Research also suggests that the longer that parents and children are separated, the greater the reported symptoms of anxiety and depression are for children."

Yes, it's pretty clear that ripping innocent, frightened children from their parents and locking them in chain link cages is not in accordance with internationally accepted rights of the child. So what can we do about it?

As little or as much as you want. This can be simply clicking on a link to sign a petition or donate to a vetted charity, to calling your representatives, to writing an article for a local newspaper or blog... It's up to you. Here are some suggestions (and I personally did every single one of these this lovely Monday morning before my clinic started):

SIGN: 
Petition to Donald Trump to stop separating families at the border: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/where-are-the-children

Petition to the Department of Homeland Security to stop separating families at the border: https://www.change.org/p/department-of-homeland-security-stop-tearing-families-apart

Petition to Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to stop separating families at the border: https://www.change.org/p/keep-them-together-stop-separating-children-from-their-families-at-the-u-s-border

DONATE:
KIND (Kids In Need of Defense) is a nonprofit that provides legal assistance children who would otherwise stand in court alone. 

The Florence Project is a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to political detainees, including children, in Arizona.

The Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project is a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to refugees feeling violence seeking safety here int he U.S.

RAICES is a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to detainees and refugees, including children, in Texas.

Al Otro Lado is a binational nonprofit that provides legal assistance to families who have been separated, navigating the legal systems of Mexico and the United States to bring them back together. They also help deportees who have been abandoned in Mexico with resources including medical care.

PROTEST:
Families Belong Together is organizing rallies and protests in opposition to separating families at the border. Check out their website to see what's happening next near you.

CALL:
This is actually one of the most powerful things you can do. Call your representatives using any of the below easy methods. You'll probably get an answering machine, but if you get the machine or a person, say "My name is (your name) and I am opposed to separating families at the border. I am from (your zip code) in (your state). I do not need a response.":

Find your representatives in the House and then find their office phone number, and call.

Find your representatives in the Senate  and then find their office phone number, and call.

Or just call the Capitol operator: 202-224-3121. This number will direct you to the Capitol switchboard. When you call, ask to be connected to your senator or representative. The operator will direct your call to their office.

Pending Legislation on this includes The Keep Families Together Act and The Help Separated Children Act

SHARE: 
Whichever of these relatively small actions you take, TALK about it, SHARE on social media, PUBLICIZE the cause. This is really powerful.

WRITE: You are a doctor. You have a platform. Your voice is heard. Please consider writing a letter to your editor, even if it's a small town newspaper. Consider writing an op-ed for a news outlet. Consider posting on a political website, as Sanjiv Sriram, MD did. Consider writing a guest post for a blog. I accept guest posts at my own personal blog www.generallymedicine.com , and the editor here at Mothers in Medicine does as well. Kevin, MD is another great place for physicians to share their educated, intelligent thoughts.

Whatever you do, DO SOMETHING. The policy of using children as a political tool is morally repugnant, and we as doctor-moms know this better than anyone. Please help to stop this moral slide into evil.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Mau Man and the Chronicles of a Low Birth Weight Mama

BIRTH:
In early March, I became a mama for the second time. We have nicknamed our new little one Mau Man. Our home birth didn’t feel all magical like the pictures I see on the Internet but maybe after continued exposure to oxytocin while nursing I’ll change my story and in a few years I’ll tell you all about how magical it was (feel free to call me out on it!). It was intense and brief (he came within 3 hours but it felt like days). Similar to our natural hospital birth with our first Zo, the details are hazy and I feel traumatized. Did a human just burst forth from my body? Yup! He did. Did I feel like I would give up. Heck yeah, I felt like throwing in the towel a few times, but I didn’t. Was I scared. You bet I was! Did I feel powerful afterward? You know what, I sure did! And super tired too, just like with Zo. I feel like no matter where you deliver, birth takes over you, it takes hold of your being and you just have to submit to the intensity of the process.

LOW BIRTH WEIGHT, THE CONTEXT: Now we find ourselves with our newest little one who is healthy in every single way except he was tiny at birth. 2360 grams (or 5 pounds 3 ounces). Under the low birth weight cut off of 2500 grams. I have read countless studies of how Black women like myself, regardless of socioeconomic status, are at a higher risk of pregnancy complications, maternal and fetal mortality, preterm labor and low birth weight. At my Baby Sprinkle a few months ago, a group of my closest friends and I spent considerable time discussing this topic. Pretty morbid but we are all Black doctors, educators, and health care professionals. But somehow I thought, I would be insulated, I would be spared. I took my vitamins, exercised, meditated, saw a chiropractor twice a week. With all of the complications and losses friends and patients have had I realize that low birth weight is manageable but it still hurts. After our own loss last year, I realize that regardless of how small he was I get to hold him and touch him and smell him and snuggle him and nurse him and I will do everything in my power to get his weight up.

LOW BIRTH WEIGHT, THE COMPLICATIONS: Flash forward to Day of Life 3. His weight loss was more than what our Pediatrician and I liked and he was at risk of hypoglycemia and dehydration. He had a good latch but he just couldn’t muster up enough energy to transfer milk out of my breasts fast enough to grow. I had to start nursing and feeding him every 1.5 hours and start pumping several times a day to provide expressed milk to supplement him with. We worked with an amazing local Lactation Consultant friend first at our home and then in her office and started using a Supplemental Nursing System or SNS. This is a little tube that you attach to a syringe to feed babies at the breast or using a finger to help train them. This helps prevent nipple confusion by delaying the introduction of a bottle. Day of Life 4 was a blur with a ton of feeding and pumping. Day of Life 5 - he had begun to gain weight and his parents were exhausted. We were allowed to space him out to every 2 hour feeds. Day of Life 9 back to birth weight. Day of life 18 weight up to 6 pounds.

And this is where we find ourselves: Nurse and reposition the SNS 10 times. Pump. O finger feeds with SNS in the early evening so that I can sleep for a few hours (this is priceless! Many thanks to Lactation and our old school Pediatrician who made this a key part of our process). Smile. Cry. Have a melt down feeling guilty that I couldn’t make him fatter. Listen to a podcast. Take a lactation supplement. Play with Zo for a few minutes. Tell Zo to be gentle and not climb on me while I’m nursing. Get a pep talk from the hubby. Repeat.

I’ll keep you posted and can’t wait until I can throw this SNS out. I pray for the day he is exclusively breast fed and that breastfeeding soothes him.

My world at night: our 30mL  syringe, the SNS premature baby feeding tube, my 2 pumps - my Spectra electric pump for daytime pumping and my NatureBond silicone manual suction pump for easy night time pumping - I pop it on the alternate breast while nursing/SNS feeding. 



REFERENCES:
Adverse birth outcomes in African American women: the social context of persistent reproductive disadvantage. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21213184
Black Women Disproportionately Suffer Complications of Pregnancy and Childbirth. Let’s Talk About It. https://www.propublica.org/article/black-women-disproportionately-suffer-complications-of-pregnancy-and-childbirth-lets-talk-about-it
Racial Discrimination and Adverse Birth Outcomes: An Integrative Review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5206968/

What’s Killing America’s Black Infants? Racism is fueling a national health crisis. https://www.thenation.com/article/whats-killing-americas-black-infants/

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Adventures in Pumping


Life is going pretty great for Team Kicks. Baby is almost 4 months old and is a complete joy. He has a sweet easygoing temperament and *usually* sleeps through the night. We are so spoiled and it is so easy to leave work behind and come home and cook dinner while we sing to each other - me from the oven and counter and Baby from his bouncy seat on the kitchen floor - then playing and rolling (!) until bedtime. Love.

However I grossly underestimated how not-fun it would be to be a resident and pumping. The number one thing I underestimated was how hard it is to keep and transport clean parts. There are CDC guidelines for this stuff - wash every time, let air dry, yada yada yada. Not happening. In the fridge the parts go. I have one friend who has an extra set of parts at work for each pumping session. Love the idea but my pump (Spectra) is huge. I was traveling with two bags for awhile (pump bag + work bag, not to mention a coffee thermos in one hand and a water bottle in the other) but I was clearly such a hot mess trying to keep all my things afloat my mom finally bought me a little wheelie suitcase that at least fits all my pump parts. So I wheel around the clinic and the hospital and started leaving my laptop at home which at least makes me appear a bit more together.

I told myself early on that breastfeeding was NOT going to be something I was going to lose my mind over. I was not going to schedule a middle-of-the night pump - if Baby is sleeping, I am sleeping. If I had to give up breastfeeding for any reason, fine. I was a formula fed kid and I turned out a-ok. As I tell my moms in clinic,  the best thing for baby is to be a fed baby with a minimally stressed mom. However, as I found myself pumping in my car on the way to work in a skinny little nursing sheath in subzero winter temperatures and a car that was slow to warm up, I questioned whether I was actually sticking to this sanity thing.

I would like to dedicate this post to my 3 pump-spirations - I have three wonderful co-pumping co-residents in my life. One has a similar go-with-the-flow (hehe pump puns) attitude towards breastfeeding as myself and was the first to recommend car pumping. One has a baby almost 6 months older and was answering my very basic pump questions via text months and months earlier. And one is so dedicated she has a middle of the night pump scheduled to keep her supply up and she is still a bomb resident every single day. My residency is so pump/breastfeeding friendly I've never seen a new mom resident without a breast pump along. So we can do this. Plus anything after 6 months I consider a bonus.

I still have so much more to share about pumping. Awkward conversations with older male specialists. An episode with a preceptor where I was about to run to my pump an hour later than planned when my preceptor started sharing this emotional story and all I could think about was...time to pump....time to pump.... So sanity = questionable. I do address pumping a lot more with my postpartum moms in clinic now - especially with my non-English speaking patients who I discovered I had been prescribing double electric breast pumps for but never addressing how/when/why to use it.

If I had any tips for pumping residents/students/physicians so far I would say 1) hands free pumping bra 2) pumping in the car is a game changer and 3) seriously go buy a wheelie suitcase with all the pockets if you don't have a nice pump bag. Anyone else have any tips? Still have a few months to go. Would also love to hear some ridiculous making-the-pump-work-at-work stories if you've got 'em.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

My almost-teen

“I saw J do the reading the other day at church, and at first, I thought it was you. She is becoming a young lady,” Maureen said to me on the sidelines of a soccer game.

My daughter is 12, soon to be 13, but has recently passed me in height. She is never far from a book – goes through them like that – and can’t help but blurt out her responses and reactions to the plot twists in real time to anyone around. “Anna betrayed her!” “I can’t believe he did that! They have the twins!”

She confides in me still, and each time we are there with the door closed to her room, and I am consulted in critical matters of friendship or fashion decisions, I try to proceed gently as if I’ve been let in to a secret society and don’t want to blow my cover. She recently cried into my arms over a friendship disappointment. I felt the same mixture of calm, responsibility, and honor I feel to be let into that moment as I do when a medical student starts crying in my office in my role as a student affairs dean. Or when a patient breaks down in front of me under the weight of a diagnosis.

She started taking martial arts recently since she wanted to learn self-defense. We found a low-key place that offers all types of classes for kids and adults. She does the kids Muay Thai and immediately following is the self-defense class for ages 13 and up; they allowed her to trial it to see how she would do. She texted me before the self-defense class and wrote “I don’t think I’ll do it,” and inserted a chicken emoji. I called her immediately. There were adults and older teenagers taking the class and she felt very intimidated.

“You should do it,” I said.
“But I’m scared.”
“Just try it! I can’t pick you up until after the class anyway.”
“Okay…” she said reluctantly.

I came to pick her up ten minutes before the end of the class and sat down on the viewing benches in the waiting room. There she was, practicing with her partner, a woman in her 30s in a pink hoodie. She was there among older teens and men and women—she seemed so grown up! She was clearly comfortable, holding her own, and loving it. The group huddled in closure and then started clapping and looking at J. She practically skipped out to me at the end of the class, face aglow.

“I want to come twice a week to this from now on. I’m thinking it might be hard in the fall with my two soccer teams, but I want to figure a way to do it!” She was breathless with excitement. “Can we get the gear? I’ll need the punching gloves and shin guards.”

My almost-teen is growing up. I love that she allows me to be there for her. Mothering now is more coaching, guiding, discussing. It’s confiding and listening. It seems like just yesterday she was an exuberant 3-year old who loved Dora the Explorer and would grab my keys, throw them under the couch and say, “Swiper, no swiping!”

I’m amazed by the person – the woman- she’s becoming. She is still that exuberant child, but now with a playful sarcasm, insight, a deepened faith, and strong sense of morality. I’m navigating my new role: sensing, adjusting, responding, and still gently pushing her to keep growing.

We’re both growing, and I wonder how long I'll be a secret society member. Is it life long? Since that seems pretty amazing.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Surprises

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

I was surprised...

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

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

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

Cheers!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Refining

So this is my introduction to you! I’m excited to be a regular contributor to Mothers in Medicine. I practice family medicine by day and wrangle my brood of three small children by night. My oldest just finished kindergarten and my youngest just turned one. I’m approaching my ninth year in a busy primary care practice in the Pacific Northwest. I enjoy the privilege and challenge of caring for a variety of patients, from newborns to nonagenarians. I used to practice obstetrics as well, but haven’t since having my own babies. I miss it sometimes.

After finishing residency, I studied tropical medicine in London and have worked at a rural teaching hospital in Kenya. My teacher husband and I dream of living and working abroad with our young family; maybe when the majority of them are out of diapers.

I began writing in earnest after I had my first child in 2011. I did write throughout medical training but it took the refining aspects of motherhood to get me to take my writing seriously. Nothing like even less time and an unveiling of your faults for some forced self-introspection! I’m curious if any of you have found motherhood to be similarly clarifying? I’ve studied narrative medicine and bioethics and have taught narrative medicine workshops. Particular interests include medical ethics, global health, motherhood as vocation and the intersection of religion and science. I blog regularly on these topics, among others, and I’m currently working on my first book. I still always cringe a little when I hit “publish” or “send.” I imagine it will always be hard, as a type A introvert, to put myself out there.

My third, and presumably last, baby just turned one and I finally feel like I can breathe again. It feels like a milestone, reaching this point, after having three children in five years, settling into my primary care practice, letting myself take my passion for writing seriously and expand into that vocation.

My life has been disrupted many times in the past year with unexpected challenges and writing and community have pulled me through. I think much in medicine and in motherhood is refining: the pressures of medical school and residency, the intensity of caring for babies and children who need so much.

I’m excited to join you all in this journey; to learn from your wisdom and laugh alongside you. If medicine and motherhood have taught me one thing, it’s that we all need each other desperately - for kindness, for encouragement, for understanding. These are the things to cling to and to provide for each other in this world. Thanks so much for having me.