Sunday, May 31, 2009

Better than a birthday

The one year anniversary of Mothers in Medicine is like a birthday for me, but better. I guess it's like a birthday back in the day when getting a year older was the most awesome thing that could happen to you. Like that day, a month ago, when my daughter woke up and said, "I'm FOUR!" with so much enthusiasm, I thought I could see fireworks and rockets swirling around her head. Turning four was so good.

I think from the idea of wanting to start a group blog of physician-mothers to the actual launch was possibly 2 weeks or less. Things happened quickly. I distinctly remember driving home one night after some event with my husband and having The Idea. That's what we need! A group blog! For mothers! In medicine! After that, it was all momentum.

Starting out, I didn't know the majority of women who joined me to become regular contributors. But, over the past year, in writing together the joys and struggles and challenges and humor that come with this territory, they have become friends.

This year has been amazing. Amazing to see the growth of this blog community which continues to steadily grow. We've had 5 topic days. 18 guest posts. Over 290 posts. Over 120,000 page loads. I'm excited to see what this next year brings.

And probably some of the best moments have been hearing from you, the readers, about what Mothers in Medicine means to you. I encourage you to write in, give feedback, suggestions, submit guest posts, be involved. Because we are all in this together.

In reflecting on this year's posts and what stood out for me, I realized many of them have already been highlighted by my fellow MiM writers. Yet, there was one that wasn't: we received a comment to one of the posts that was so, well, amazing, that we posted it as a guest post proper, even though we never did track down who it was that left the comment.

Guest Post: A comment from a daughter

Thanks for reading (and sharing your stories),

Friday, May 29, 2009

MiM celebrates one year: Fizzy

The end of this month marks Mothers in Medicine's one year anniversary. In honor of this great occasion, I asked our writers to share their favorite post (of their own) from the last year. Throughout the month, I'll be highlighting their picks.

Fizzy wins the prize for most prolific writer on MiM. While being a resident! (Any future resident writers: you have big shoes to fill!) Fizzy has made us laugh on a regular basis with her posts, which have become a staple of this blog. She's a PM&R resident, soon to finish, and mother to a toddler girl.

Fizzy writes:

It was hard to pick a favorite post, since I've written.... holy crap, 44 of them! But it would probably be this one:

Fizzy, your unique writing style and contributions have rounded out MiM --you have woven your voice into the fabric of our community and have made it richer, funnier, and fuller. Thank you for being a part of MiM!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

MiM celebrates one year: dr. whoo

The end of this month marks Mothers in Medicine's one year anniversary. In honor of this great occasion, I asked our writers to share their favorite post (of their own) from the last year. Throughout the month, I'll be highlighting their picks.

dr. whoo, an ob/gyn and mother of 2, is a veteran blogger with a popular personal blog with an awesome name. I mean, Ob/Gyn Kenobi, is brilliant, no? We were thrilled when she joined Mothers in Medicine as a regular contributor shortly after we launched.

dr. whoo writes:

Hi KC! Favorite post? Hmmmm, I think I would pick "What My Medical School Accpetance Letter Didn't Say..." I also liked "Boys Club" and "How do you do it all?"

Her choices involve a) her contribution to the Topic Day on "Things we wish we knew in medical school" --apparently a popular source of favorite posts for MiM bloggers; 2) a raw look at working in the trenches of medical culture where there is still a difference in treatment between male and female physicians (Boys Club); 3) continuing struggles to balance work and home life (How do you do it all?).

dr. whoo writes from the heart, with a clear point of view. Her love for the work she does is inspiring. We're rooting for her to be able to strike the work-life balance with a better job on the horizon. Thank you, dr. whoo, for being a part of MiM. We're looking forward to hearing all about your new adventures to come.

Friendship and Female Physicians

I've noticed over the past several years that it hasn't always been easy for me to make friends.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm the reason.  Am I simply un-like-able?

When I was in grade school I constantly found myself blurting out goofy things and wincing afterward.  I'm sure my social awkwardness cost me some friendships at that age.

Then there was high school  Oy.  Recently a friend from high school whom I've always admired told me I could sometimes be intimidating back then.  ME?!  Intimidating?!  But I'm so sweet!  And shy, and awkward! And un-tall!  But I suppose my love of Renaissance history, French poetry, and molecular biology might have struck some people as off-putting...

I had a great time in college.  I found like-minded people, kindred spirits, people in different spheres who loved a lot of the same activities, subjects, books, etc.  I made some life-long friends in college, as many of us do (and a few good friends in med school and internship as well, though not as many).

I can think of a few things that can make building new friendships and maintaining existing ones hard after college.  Relocation. Marriage.  Parenthood.  Jobs.

And if your job is in medicine as a resident of some kind, you get the added challenge of sleeplessness, no time, no energy, no patience, high stress, contact with suffering on a daily basis, making lonely decisions in what can be an isolating profession, all free time spent sleeping or running errands.  Relationships of all kinds suffer during residency; friendships are no exception.

But I think there's yet an additional layer for female doctors.  I can't quite put my finger on what it's made of, but it's there.  

When people find out you're a doctor - that's if you can even get around to meeting new people in the first place - sometimes their whole vibe toward you can change.  It's almost imperceptible, but there's a turn somewhere.  It's there. A pulling back, maybe, or the inexplicable sudden presence of an invisible veil between you and the person you'd like to befriend who happens not to be a physician.

I'm not sure why that happens, or even if I'm making something out of nothing.  Women-doctors want to hang out and watch chick flicks as much as any group of women friends, or go to cafes to chat, or cook together.  Why the sudden barriers?

I have a friend - a drop-dead gorgeous, brilliant, super-sweet, supportive-beyond-measure, talented, couldn't-be-nicer friend, fellow-mom, and fellow-physician - who meets with a group of women on a regular basis to engage in a much-enjoyed activity.  She told me that for a long time she didn't tell the other members of the group she was a doctor.  She was concerned they might not be as relaxed, or their attitude to her might change, with the knowledge of her profession.  I have another, newer friend - also multi-talented, also a fellow-mom and physician, very nice, with lots of different interests - who has observed a shift in others when she strikes up a conversation but then reveals that she's a doctor. 

I don't think we're all just imagining this.  There's something about us female physicians that seems to make some people hesitate to get too close, which makes making friends even harder in the context of busy, demanding lives juggling work and family.  I tried googling "women doctors" and "friendship" to see if I could learn more, but no one seems to be talking about this much, or I'm not looking in the right places, or no one else thinks there's an issue.

Do male physicians experience anything similar?  Am I just being over-sensitive?  I don't know.  But I do think the whole subject of physicians and friendship in general, and women doctors in particular, is worth exploring.  

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Future Mother in Medicine?

I was reading a story on the Washington Post about a girl graduating high school with 13 years of perfect attendance. She has not missed one day of school in 13 years.

It's easy enough to say that this is a great accomplishment, one to be proud of, but I'd actually say it's a little bit scary that such a young person feels so driven that they did not stay home once since the age of 5. *cough cough* Sound a little familiar to some of you?

I think it's really admirable to have perfect attendance, but not at the expense of being human. This student was mourning the fact that she couldn't go visit colleges because she was unable to miss a day of class. Although I snickered a little bit at these warped priorities, I have to say that I've been guilty of the same line of thinking myself. I recall last year that I dragged myself to work with a really bad stomach bug when any normal person would have stayed home. Instead, I went to the bathroom to vomit between patients. (Yes, I had mints.)

On another occasion, I went to clinic when I had severe laryngitis. I could barely speak a word. I don't know how I thought I was going to interview patients... sign language? As soon as I opened my mouth, my attending said to me, "OH MY GOD, GO HOME." I would have tried to argue with her but I couldn't talk.

Come to think of it, I was kind of the same way in high school.

The end of the article states that this girl is going to be pre-med in college. What a shock, right? She'll fit right in.

Of course, I want my daughter to have a good work ethic, but I don't want her to feel like she's not allowed to be sick, the way I do. A mother always wants her child to inherit her good traits, not her bad traits... I'm not sure where this sense extreme responsibility fits in there.

MiM celebrates one year: FreshMD

The end of this month marks Mothers in Medicine's one year anniversary. In honor of this great occasion, I asked our writers to share their favorite post (of their own) from the last year. Throughout the month, I'll be highlighting their picks.

FreshMD was one of the first women I recruited to join MiM. I came across her personal blog and fell a little bit in love. Since then, we've enjoyed her poignant, articulate, witty, insightful posts here on Mothers in Medicine.

She writes:

"Hmmm, hard to decide. I think this one:

It was fun to review them! I don't remember writing some parts. Some of the details about my son breaking his arm I had no recollection of."

FreshMD, thank you, for writing with us for the past year. We wouldn't be the same without you. (And while we are sad to hear you will no longer be posting at your personal blog, we are glad you will be able to pursue new creative endeavors and thrilled we can still read your words and insight here.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dandelion poetry

We brought dinner to the beach last week, and afterwards we walked out to the dock and played along the shore. Leif found a cluster of dandelions gone to seed and hunched over, snapping the hollow milky stems and double fisting his prize.

"I'm going to make a wish!" he said. "I wish for . . . " I could see him searching for something extravagant. "A chocolate cake!" he said expansively.

puff puff spit huff spit puff

"I'm not going to blow anymore. I'm just going to whack the wishes off now," he said, striking the fluff balls against the railing, then plucking them apart manually. "Look - a school of wishes!" He watched them drift off in a hazy clump. "Hey! The wishes are all hugging each other!" And then he spotted some goslings and trotted off down the beach.

How wonderful to wish for chocolate cake. To have to think hard for something to wish for, to have all your needs met, to have no cares or sickness or worries to wish away.

For me, my children and their pure, unspoiled interactions with the world are the most potent antidote to the suffering I witness at work and sometimes carry home with me as a little black cloud over my heart.

Monday, May 25, 2009

MiM celebrates one year: RH+

The end of this month marks Mothers in Medicine's one year anniversary. In honor of this great occasion, I asked our writers to share their favorite post (of their own) from the last year. Throughout the month, I'll be highlighting their picks.

RH+ writes:
In reviewing my posts these are my favorites:
Cry (Guest Post)
Reverse Penis Envy

Oh the Places You'll Go!

We first met RH+, an ob/gyn, when she submitted a guest post last July that knocked our socks off and landed us on Kevin, M.D. We were thrilled to have her join us here.

Since then, she's contributed funny, touching, real stories including the humorous Reverse Penis Envy and the "Things We Wish We Knew in Medical School" Topic Day post, Oh the Places You'll Go.

It's been such a pleasure writing with you this past year, RH+. Looking forward to your stories to come.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Role Reversal

Ever since my husband made the decision to stop working in order to balance our family and home life, things have been ever so much more manageable in our lives. Groceries get bought, laundry gets done, dinner gets cooked, and life is a little easier for all of us. It has been a necessary, though not a permanent, change. As my husband has assumed the "traditional female" role with respect to keeping our house in order, I sometimes find myself falling into the role of a 60s sitcom "traditional male." I come home, grunt a few times, stare at the television or the internet until dinner, hug and snuggle the kids, get them fed and bathed, and become basically a zoned-out zombie until the weekend rolls around. It is only then that I awaken to my real "maternal instinct." It is only then that I can interact with my kids as more of a mommy than a "provider." I know that I haven't changed, but, right now, my role in their lives has. I'm the breadwinner. I'm working for our family, and somehow, it is taking a lot from me. Lately, I find myself more sympathetic to those 60s fathers, bearing the weight of the world on their shoulders, but always ready with a bit of wisdom or a pithy saying. I know my husband respects the hard working (not bon-bon eating) housewives, as well. Still, at the end of the day, I know my mother's heart is still alive and well, especially when Bean holds my face close and memorizes every feature, softly saying "nose," "mouth," "eyes," and "hair." My heart just melts, and I feel so blessed to just be "Mommy."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

MiM celebrates one year: Juliaink

The end of this month marks Mothers in Medicine's one year anniversary. In honor of this great occasion, I asked our writers to share their favorite post (of their own) from the last year. Throughout the month, I'll be highlighting their picks.

Juliaink has brought a unique perspective to this blog, both as a psychiatrist in academics, as well as mother to two grown children. She writes eloquently and thoughtfully, and at times, passionately.

Juliaink writes:
I think my favorite is still The Speech I Never Gave though I also like the one I did on mentors/models.

The Speech I Never Gave gave me goosebumps and one I wish was required reading for every female medical student. And her post on mentors was honest and rich.

Thank you, Juliaink, for having the courage to write about what moves you, and to share your opinions on issues seen through your multiples lenses as a mother, physician and concerned citizen. Thank you for your stories.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Seriously, I wanna know...

Over the past week, school systems across my state have administered tests that will determine for some children if they will advance to the next grade. This fourth quarter assessment causes no shortage of angst among the children of my community, and I have seen my fair share of nonspecific headaches and belly aches as a result. It makes me pause and wonder, are we teaching only one side of the anxiety equation? Some anxiety is helpful - it motivates, creates energy for us to act upon a situation. Like all things, though, there is a balance between the constructive state and the paralyzing fear of the unknown. Is there some sort of curiculum that we can use to instruct students about constructive ways to relax? Do you have favorite techiniques you use to guide your children and/or patients through nervousness?

Yes, I watch Idol

For the duration of this American Idol season, Melly was convinced that Danny Gokey was her father. Every time he came on the screen, she announced, "Dada!" Gokey does sort of look like my husband, in that they both have short dark hair, glasses, and are kind of... um, solid.

My husband was convinced that she was simply calling him "Dada" because he was a man, not because he and Gokey are long-lost brothers or anything. To illustrate this, he pointed to Adam Lambert and said, "Who's this?"

Melly hesitated a second before answering: "Mommy!"

Oh man. For the record, I wear way less eye make-up than Adam Lambert.

Admittedly, this entry didn't have a lot to do with being a mother in medicine, but hey, somebody had to post about the Idol finale (yay Kris). I'll also take this opportunity to announce that according to Melly, my job has now been upgraded from "diaper" to "dopter". Not bad, eh?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

MiM celebrates one year: Artemis

The end of this month marks Mothers in Medicine's one year anniversary. In honor of this great occasion, I asked our writers to share their favorite post (of their own) from the last year. Throughout the month, I'll be highlighting their picks.

Artemis, a neurologist in a private practice and mother of two teenaged boys, has written with us from the launch. She writes with honesty, insight and wiseness. Her posts make us reflect on our many roles as physician-mothers.

Artemis writes:
I like both the very first post I did (June 6, 2008), and the March 29, 2009 post.

I remember the June 6 post well, called "Moms in Medicine." Her post really solidified for me why we were coming together: to share stories like this, to support one another, and to celebrate being mothers in medicine.

The March 29, post, "No, Mom, Billy does NOT want to stay for dinner" was a humorous anecdote of a dinnertime conversation that could easily occur in any of our homes.

It's been wondeful getting to know Artemis through her posts this past year. Thank you, Artemis. We are lucky to have you writing with us.

Monday, May 18, 2009

MiM celebrates one year: T

The end of this month marks Mothers in Medicine's one year anniversary. In honor of this great occasion, I asked our writers to share their favorite post (of their own) from the last year. Throughout the month, I'll be highlighting their picks.

T is one of the original contributors to MiM and over the year, has contributed honest, witty, real posts about being a pediatrician mother in a 2 physician/researcher family. T writes:

"As I think back to my first MIM post one year ago, get out much, let me report on all the progress my husband and I have made. END of post.

Alas, I'm inclined to say that we've made no progress on the get out much as a twosome front. We still spend our evenings and weekends As A Family. Haven't identified a babysitter. Haven't seen a movie. One or both of us has put them to bed every night of their lives. We did go out on a "date" recently, but it was to an auction/fundraiser at our kids' preschool and they were there in an adjacent room!

Nonetheless, there's been progress of other sorts, indeed. Just Five is learning to swim and to read (now enjoying chapter books read together like Franny K Stein, Nancy Drew, Ramona the Pest, Ralph S Mouse, and others). Almost Three continues to eat all foods and play all instruments. Both know how to be Children in Medicine. They expertly cough into their elbows, wash skinned knees, brush every part of every tooth every night, and answer common questions from parents of patients when Dr Mommy's on call (okay, almost). Oh, and I'm not old yet.

And, though our Couples Time tends to be by day on the phone or at home after the kids finally go to sleep (after hours tends to be late in our family), I'm decidedly still in love with my husband who happens to be a Father in Medicine, or more accurately a Father in Research. And I've participated in (read, laughed, commented, collaborated, posted, cringed) as a first time blogger with a group of fabulous women with varied voices about what makes us who we are, Mothers in Medicine."

T, indeed, is a comforting voice here and we've all felt her reassuring and supportive comments. She makes you feel understood, not judged, and a part of a true collaborative. Thank you, T, for all of your contributions this past year, and hopefully, many more to come. (Also, you should take advantage of Recently Local Grandma VERY SOON.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Confessions of A Recovering Mother: Warning May Contain Political Content

At this point, with my children living between 300 and 6000 miles away, I find myself recapturing concerns that were submerged in the day to day tasks of mothering. I have always been concerned about politics, and as my children are becoming more independent, I process most political concerns through the lens of "what will this change mean for them?" I am especially concerned about health insurance reform, now that two of the three are no longer eligible for coverage under our family policy.

I am uncomfortably aware that my interests as physician, mother and citizen are diverging. As a physician, I want beneficiaries to be able to see me at reasonable rates with minimum hassle for both of us. Out of network coverage, health savings accounts, and any other mechanism that subverts managed care seems the most desirable when I am sitting behind my office desk.

As a mother, on the other hand, I am devastated that the last remaining not- for- profit HMO in my state is being dropped by the employer who provides our insurance. Growing up, my asthmatic daughter never had an attack before 6:30 in the evening. Only by the grace of Kaiser did she avoid emergency rooms and hospital stays. The idea that we (and she) no longer have an evening urgent care clinic to go to gives me shivers. She has had several ER visits since moving away and has no regular doctor. No one but me now reminds her to have check ups and refill her prescriptions, as the HMO used to do.

Then there is citizen me, who believes that national, single payor health insurance is the only way to correct the disparities that deny care to so many—including my middle daughter who is likely to be uninsured when she returns from abroad and has not yet found a job. As a doctor, I am wary of having the same type of people who man the kiosks at the DMV involved in managing health insurance, but as a mother I would welcome it, if it meant this child would not be uninsured, however briefly that is likely to be.

Like everyone else on this blog, I wish that politics did not divide and distress us. But some day in the not too distant future, I expect to have to vote on what it is I really want to see in health care reform. To the extent that my identity extends beyond myself to my children and my community, I frankly have no idea what it will mean to have the courage of my convictions. It would certainly help if I actually knew what those convictions were.