Wednesday, September 28, 2011
We found ours on craigslist (I know!) about 2-3 weeks before I had to go back to work after having Mel. I loved her. She cleaned, she was loving, and she didn't charge an arm and a leg (although some do.... the first nanny we interviewed, who had no references, wanted to charge $22/hour). Since we didn't have any other kids in daycare, we were able to shield Mel from germs for most of her first year of life. The nanny prepared all the bottles, and washed them after using them. She cleaned our house, which probably saved our marriage.
The big con is that when you have a nanny, you're at the mercy of her life. Our nanny couldn't work later than 5. Some nannies call in sick a lot. If she suddenly quit, we would have been screwed.
We switched to a family home when Mel was a year old because we needed longer hours than our nanny could provide. A family home is a very small daycare in someone's house, which is (should be) certified. Unlike larger daycares, there are much fewer kids (obviously), they are cheaper, and all the ones I called had no waiting list.
The family home we used had six kids aged two and under, and two adults. Mostly the kids played in a small room and there was a little playground in their backyard. I felt Mel was safe there and although she didn't get as much individual attention, she was older now and the socialization was more important, I thought. Kids who don't start daycare till three years or older seem to adjust poorly, in my experience.
I thought this was an absolutely perfect environment for a one year old baby, aside from the fact that she was sick almost continuously the first three months at the daycare. And so was I. The other con was that the hours were shorter than a large daycare (8:30AM to 6PM) and they closed for two weeks over the winter holidays. If my husband's hours weren't so flexible, we couldn't have managed it.
After Mel outgrew the family home (and we moved), she went to a small local daycare with about 16 kids ranging from babies to age 4. I liked the closer-knit environment and the fact that I knew the name of every single child in the daycare.
There were several cons to the small daycare. First, the hours were again fairly short (8 to 5:30). Second, we had to prepare all of Mel's lunches (mostly mac and cheese). Third, we were at the mercy of the owner's personal life.... she closed down for three weeks every summer to take a vacation, leaving me to scramble for alternate childcare.
I had mixed feelings about the environment of babies along with older kids. It was nice for Mel, who likes babies. But for the babies, I worried about their safety when exposed to toddlers. And of course, there's tremendous potential for germs.
Large daycare for an older kid:
A year ago, Mel started a large daycare, run by a faceless company. OK, something about the fact that the teachers are constantly holding a large checklist of all the kids doesn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy, but there are definitely benefits to the large daycare. The hours are fantastic... occasionally, I've felt a bit of time pressure, but honestly, it would be pretty bad if I couldn't get to my kids by 6:30 every evening. They pretty much never close, even for blizzards. They provide lunches devised by a nutritionist. And Mel seems to really love it there. For an older kid, it's not even that expensive.
A few months ago, they started her in a kindergarten-type class of ten kids and one teacher, and it's been great for her. Yesterday, she recited The Pledge of Alloogin for me:
"I pledge alloogin to the flag, and to the 'public, al Obama and Erica."
(Sorry, I had to, it was too cute.)
Large daycare for a baby:
A month ago, we started Baby Lem in the same daycare that Mel attends. It's expensive for a baby, and I had my reservations, to be honest. I wanted her to have the same individual attention that Mel had as a baby. Also, I have to label and prepare all her bottles every morning at home and must bring home anything that is unused at the end of the day, which makes me feel like I'm running some kind of chemistry lab.
So far, I have not been unhappy though. Lem is kind of chill in personality, so she's tolerating the environment well. Also, because it's such a large daycare, they have a "baby room" with seven infants and two teachers, and she has her own assigned crib. They're very careful about hygiene: they use plastic gloves when they change diapers, and they don't allow shoes (or toddlers) in the baby room. Every time I come to pick her up, Lem is being held, and there have been only a few times that I've found her crying unattended. And now that we have two kids, I know it's impossible to shield her from germs. I'm not sure if I would have chosen them if Mel wasn't already going there, but I don't feel like it's a bad choice.
So that, in a nutshell, is our experience with childcare. Questions, comments?
Thursday, September 22, 2011
And this is my husband's side of the closet:
As my husband frequently asks, why do I have so many clothes?? And this doesn't even include all my pants (I have an entire dresser of pants) and non-work shirts. I never buy clothes. OK, I did recently buy maternity clothes, but I didn't have much choice in the matter unless I wanted to come to work with my stomach exposed. But I've gotten rid of those clothes and look how much I still have! Despite the fact that I feel like I wear the same 5-6 shirts over and over.
And worse, every morning I stare into the closet and think to myself that I have nothing to wear. I seriously do that.
Part of the problem is that I like to always pair a sweater with my work shirts because it's a little hard to predict whether the hospital will be freezing or sweltering. (It has nothing to do with the weather outside.) I usually look a lot like this:
So that requires me to have twice as many clothes.
But I suspect the bigger problem is that I can't ever bring myself to throw anything out. I save shirts until they're just about falling apart at the seams because maybe I'll want to wear them again. Or I save shirts that I hate (usually gifts) because I never wore them and I can't bear to get rid of something that's basically brand new. Or maybe one day I'll lose a lot of weight and be able to wear those pants again. It could happen!!
I know I've got to go through my closet and make some hard choices. I just can't seem to bring myself to do it.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
At the last postpartum appointment following the birth of my second child, I wasn't worried for his future. I was worried for my own. I had just gotten my MCAT score and started the medical school application process when I became pregnant. I couldn’t decide if I was more elated or upset. I desperately wanted a second child, but my body and circumstances conspired against that desire for years. My seemingly perfect plan of having two children during premed, then entering medical school with them potty trained and ready for elementary school turned into a dream of having an only child and going to medical school.
Now I was holding a new baby, and my medical school application hung in the balance. Although I was happy my family was now complete, I came to medicine as a second career, and I was already an older applicant. I couldn’t imagine putting off school and residency any longer, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to face the demands of rotations and residency with a toddler at home.
When I told the midwife of my fears, she said, “Why don’t you come to the midwifery school here?” I laughed and immediately refused. I had no interest in obstetrics. I wanted to be an endocrinologist. I thought it would fit my interest in having long term relationships with patients, with lots of opportunities for education during clinical visits.
But, over the next few months, her invitation kept resonating with me. I had loved my prenatal appointments. I read voraciously during my pregnancies, and found the material very interesting. I started the midwifery school when my son was three months old. Two years later, I thought it was the best and worst decision I had ever made.
I found out that I loved everything about medical care of women, especially during pregnancy and birth. I had the continuity and clinic experience I craved. I loved it even when I had been up for a day and a half. I loved it even when there were fluids and meconium and discharge. Yes, I even loved it when the women were screaming. Yet, I was unsatisfied.
The midwives knew it. I would discuss research and evidence. I would read about pregnancy complications that were outside the scope of a midwife’s practice. Although I loved the training, especially the extensive hands on clinical experience, I felt that I meant to be a doctor, not a midwife. I was the first to volunteer to go whenever there was a transfer to a cesarean section. I wanted to be able to do surgeries and advanced procedures. I finally had what I refer to as my “midwife crisis” and left the program to apply to medical school.
Despite being an older student, a working mother, and former midwife student, I was happy to learn I fit in and even excelled at medical school, preclinically and clinically. I was president of the obstetrics and gynecology interest group, and went to every ACOG Annual Clinical Meeting. I had dedication, a work ethic and time management skills earned from my diverse life. I won a research fellowship with a full tuition scholarship, and studied labor and delivery interventions for a year. The fellowship allowed me to work with CDC funded researchers, practitioners around the globe, maternal health care stakeholders, and academics. I also reviewed and contributed to the anniversary edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and various medical websites such as KevinMD and Mothers in Medicine, along with getting published in peer-reviewed journals. My hundreds of hours of clinical experience during midwifery training put me way ahead when I started rotations.
I am sure my clinical skills, intellectual capacity and endurance are up to the challenge and that I would be an asset to any obstetrics and gynecology program. I am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to shine. My last baby is now almost seven. My dream did come true - my kids are independent, proud of their mom, and can’t wait for me to be a doctor.
Friday, September 16, 2011
"Oh, your mother! I'll squeeze her in."
"No, that's all right. We can wait our turn like everyone else."
I felt ambivalent, hearing this story. On one hand, I support a one-tier, publicly funded medical system, which is not the majority view among my more verbal friends. On the other hand, I think that if I can assist one of my colleagues in any way, I will do it. Our health care system is so tight and this is one of the last ways we can make it more pleasant for someone ill.
This comes up in the emergency room all the time, of course. I will see a nurse's relative, for example, ahead of the waiting throng, and usually, at my hospitals, this is not such a big deal. We don't have the 14 hour waits. But one day I saw several people ahead of time and I felt uncomfortable about it.
Meanwhile, I kept trucking along until, at 19 weeks of pregnancy, I passed some blood clots.
I woke my husband up and said, "I think I'll go use the bedside ultrasound in emerg. If the baby's okay, I can still make my appointment Montreal." Bedside ultrasound takes approximately zero skill after ten weeks of pregnancy, just to check on the baby.
I felt the baby roll—or was that the beginning of a cramp? After a minute, I felt a kick. And then two more. But then I remembered more about second trimester bleeding.
I woke Matt up again. "I have to get a real ultrasound. In first trimester bleeding, you want to know if the baby is alive. But in second trimester, you have to start looking at the placenta. If it's a placenta previa or an abruptio placenta..." My bleeding was painless. Therefore more likely a previa. Ultrasound was not always diagnostic, but it would definitely help. Me sticking an ultrasound wand on top of my belly was not going to help. I couldn't tell you whether there was a bleed or not.
"You may end up on six months of bedrest," said Matt.
I waited the marginally civilized hour of 6 a.m. to call one of my hospitals. The emergency doctor, who is also my friend, said she could arrange the scan.
I walked in just over an hour later and the nurse looked at my belly and asked, "Are you still bleeding?" So the word had gotten out.
That made it easier for me. I didn't have to explain, just let her take my vitals and breathe in relief when another nurse successfully found the baby's heartbeat with the Doppler. I ended up writing my own ultrasound requisition and paging the tech, who was already with the first patient, but the next slot was free.
The emergency doctor talked to the radiologist, who agreed to call me on my cell phone with the results. And pretty much immediately afterward, the ultrasound tech was ready for me.
And the baby looked good! The placenta was less than 2 cm from the cervical os, so that probably explained the bleeding.
Before lunch, the radiologist called me and said, "The baby looks fine." He wasn't convinced that the placenta was marginal, based on the views he'd seen, but he concluded, "Good news."
This is Very Important Medical Person treatment. Scanned two hours after I called, results another two hours after that.
Is this right? Should I just meekly line up at the ER and wait my turn with the doctor? By then, it would be too late for the 7:45 a.m. open ultrasound slot, so I'd have to wait and see if a spot opened up later that day. Then I'd wait for the radiologist to read the films in order. Then I'd wait for the ER doc to get the results. I'd wait for him to tell me said results, either before or after he called the ob for an interpretation.
I know that's the "right" thing to do, in some people's books. But I don't see the medical system like that. I see it as a resource that I understand and need to maximize. So yes, I could have hung around. But then I'd be one more patient clogging up the system. In and out and we're all happier.
I'm not a star. I don't get the red carpet rolled out for me. Paparazzi don't follow me around and sell my photo for thousands of dollars. But when I need medical treatment, I have doctors and nurses who will help me get it as quickly and pleasantly as possible.
Is that wrong?
-From an e-book by Melissa Yuan-Innes "The Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World and Other True Tales From the Emergency Room."
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
- There is no railing.
- There are lots of large mules with large body parts and large piles of poop.
- I'm thirsty.
- There is vast beauty, and vastness in general.
What, me worried? And yet for some reason I was not. Probably because pediatrician-researcher husband did enough worrying for more than both of us.
It was truly awesome, not in the like totally 80's way, but in the I am just a speck in this immensely astounding planetary way.
Yes, they could fall over the edge, get heatstroke, dehydrate, burn in the sun, fall over the edge.
Holding hands. We will all go down (and then up again) together.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Mother: "Are you enjoying the hay ride?"
Little Boy: "Yeah."
Mother: "No, don't say 'yeah.' It's 'yeS.' Say 'yes.'"
Little Boy: "Yes."
Of course, because all parents secretly judge other parents who make parenting decisions that are different from theirs, I thought this woman was being totally ridiculous and wasting her time. If you're going to pick a battle to fight with your kid, I think the yeah vs. yes battle really isn't worth it.
To me, there are a few battles worth fighting. We've fought with Mel to get her to wipe herself after pooping (recently won), clean her room (still in progress), and hold hands when walking down the street. There's also one other battle we've been fighting with her and I'm not entirely sure it's worth it....
After Mel's multiple cavities, we decided to enforce nightly toothbrushing. Apparently, we've also decided to subject ourselves to nightly screaming and fighting from a kid who really does not want to brush her teeth. Some of the excuses I've heard:
"I'm too sleepy."
"I'm too scared." (???)
"I'm so tired of doing things."
"I'll do it in the morning." (Yeah, right. I mean... yes, right.)
And really, I'm not convinced that her putting the toothbrush in her mouth and half-heartedly chewing on it has any cavity-fighting effects. OK, it builds a good habit, I guess. But when I was four years old, not only did my parents not force me to brush my teeth, I'm fairly sure they never even bought me a toothbrush... yet now I brush my teeth religiously twice a day. (I know three times a day is recommended, but only psychopaths brush their teeth three times a day.)
So I'm just not sure that with all the other stress in my life, if the toothbrushing battle is worth it. Is this really how I want to spend the few hours I have with Mel between daycare and sleep? Maybe I should just give up. They're just baby teeth, after all.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
I've spent the past 5 years of my career feeling trapped and lost. I was doing well in the traditional sense. I got promoted, I passed the required exams for my CA designation (CPA equivalent in the US). I got good performance reviews.
But from the moment I accepted my job offer with a Big 4 accounting firm, I have been nagged with a sense of doubt. Am I making a difference? Am I adding value? Is it normal to have a constant feeling of dread when thinking about work? Am I proud of what I do?
At first I just ignored these feeling (and yet, even shortly after graduating and accepting my job offer I’d be browsing the medical school pages of various universities, already jealous of all those unknown people who would be starting medical school the same time I’d be starting my job as an audit associate). I reasoned that how can I know that this isn’t what I want to do before I start? Wondered if I was just infatuated with the thought of being a doctor, the way some people wish they could be a Hollywood star? In any case, I was never a quitter and thought I just need to give it time, until I understand more about my profession, until I got to deal with the interesting issues. This is the bed I made; now I should lay in it (and make the best of it).
But the years passed and the feeling of dread grew. I started to resent my job for keeping me away from my family (yet never once did I wish I could just be a stay-at-home mom). I wonder why I can't enjoy this job more, the way so many of my collegues did. I’d be incredibly envious of friends I’d meet who seemed to not only enjoy their jobs but feel a sense of purpose from them. And I dreamt the “what if I could go to medical school” dream all the time
Then one day I was having a chat with a friend of mine who mentioned how her sister-in-law had a similar feeling – she had just graduated from law school and was offered a position with a top law firm, where she had spent her past 3 summers articling. Days before she was due to start, she gave notice and said she was applying to medical school. Fascinated by her story, I thought, hm, maybe I could do this too! I reached out to her to ask her point blanc, if she thought I was crazy. I’m 27, I have child and a mortgage – not to mention nothing in my educational or extracurricular background to indicate any knowledge of medicine. She told me to go for it – that she had people in her medical school class who were older than me, and if this is something that I felt passionate about, I’d make it work.
After doing a bit more research, I also realized that I can actually apply to most medical schools in Canada without a science degree. Many require 1 or 2 university level science credits, but many consider the overall applicant and state that people of all educational and professional backgrounds are welcome to apply. Luckily I had very good grades both in high school and university. I’ve also lived in different parts of the world, am fluent in 3 languages and have managed to obtain my CA designation while juggling motherhood and wifedom.
So I decided to bite the bullet and try and I’ve officially embarked on this journey. I’ve signed up for a Biology course through an online university to help me get a couple pre-requisite courses that are required by some of the universities. I’ve perused books and blogs that focus on what a career in medicine means. I bought (and started to review) and MCAT study guide. I'm also hoping to negotiate going down to a part-time work schedule so that I can make room for volunteer work and to study.
However, as hopeful as I sound, I’m very aware of how hard this will be. How I will undoubtedly question my decision and how I will want to give up. But I also know that I may fail. Even if I do everything I can (take perquisite courses, do some meaningful volunteer work, do well on the MCATs) I may not get selected. I know how incredibly competitive this field is and I may not be the best candidate.
But I’m fine with that. This is my dream and I want to try. If I fail, I fail – but at least I won’t have to live with the regret of not trying.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
As for being a mother in medicine.... if you had asked me five years ago, I would have said that being in medicine is a horrible idea if you want to be a mother. Now I revise my opinion and say that it's only a horrible idea if you want to be a mother before you turn thirty. But it's still not ideal in that you can't easily reschedule a roster of patients because your kid has a fever, and squeezing in a pumping session can be difficult during a doctor's typically busy day.
It got me wondering though: what is the best career for a mother? Because lately, I've met an awful lot of women who have become mothers and given up their jobs.
Traditionally, I think teaching has been considered a good job for a woman and therefore mother. But a friend of mine who had a baby and is now quitting her teaching position says otherwise. The pay is low, there is grading and planning work even once you finish teaching, the hours are surprisingly long due to clubs and phone calls to parents and etc, you maybe get one break the whole day, and you can't easily sneak out early for an appointment or a sick kid.
Nursing is another "traditionally female" job. But I've heard nurses complain about how it's hard to find time to pump during their shifts and that the hours are too irregular, making daycare or school harder to manage. Like with teaching, if your kid gets sick, they have to scramble to find a replacement so it's not so easy to just stay home.
I'm convinced that the best job for a mother is something like actuary or engineer, where you work on projects that don't rely on you showing up at exactly 7 AM every day, and work can usually be put off for a day if something urgent comes up. But strangely enough, these fields don't seem to attract women.
Friday, September 2, 2011
This evidenced-based risk score was developed to help predict overextending of Mothers in Medicine. The goal is to prevent burnout, stress, and associated unpleasant psychological states by monitoring weekly risk, and following guidelines for treatment accordingly.
To calculate risk:
MRS = age/2 * number of dependents + k [C + Lu + Na]
Number of spouses/life partners * + 1
Age = Age of MiM in years
Number of dependents = number of children, care-requiring parents, exceptionally ineffective spouses/life partners, very large and needy household pets. For pregnancy, multiply total by factor of 1.5.
k= work constant. For full-time work, k=1. For part-time work, k= 1.5 * % of full-time worked (e.g. ½ time = 0.75 since hours worked is always more and uncompensated)
C = number of times you have to call your cell phone to find out where you put it in the past week.
Lu = number of times you are too busy to eat lunch, forget to eat lunch, or accidentally bring a Tupperware with a half ear of corn and half of a large white onion by mistake instead of the lunch you packed the night before. Hypothetically speaking.
Na= number of times you have called your children the wrong name in the past week.
*for polygamists, add only 0.5 for every successive spouse after primary spouse; for work spouses, add 0.25 each; only spouses/life partners currently living with you for the majority of the week count in full.
**** Risk score interpretation ****
MRS > 50 = High risk for overextending. Schedule child-free vacation, delegate projects, get a babysitter for a night out, add another spouse/life partner (or increase efficiency of current one), for the love of God say no to new commitments. Wine.
MRS 41-50 = Moderate-high risk of overextending. Schedule spa date. Say no to new commitments. Delegate projects. Possibly add another spouse/life partner (or increase efficiency of current one). Adjunct retail therapy.
MRS 30-40 = Moderate risk of overextending. Schedule coffee with girlfriend(s). Say no to new commitments. Delegate projects.
MRS < 30 = Low risk of overextending. Good job! Offer help to your MiM friends in higher risk categories.
n.b. Risk score prognostication has not been scientifically validated.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
I've had periods where I got to briefly experience life as a SAHM, such as during maternity leave or the month between residency and fellowship. I love it in theory. It's nice to be there for your kids all the time, make nice hot dinners on the stove, and keep the house tidy.
And as we all know, juggling full time work and kids can be a huge challenge. I get jealous of women who don't have to resort to bribery to get out the door before their first patient each morning, and get to spend the whole day enjoying their kids. I feel sad sometimes, thinking about how I'm missing out or that my life is too stressful. My kids are only going to be so cute and little once and I'm missing it.
However, my father (obviously reading my mind), recently forwarded me an article about how SAHMs have a higher rate of depression than working moms. (He's always forwarding me helpful and relevant mental health related articles. After I got married, he forwarded me an article about how women who got married and divorced had a lower rate of depression than women who never married. Thanks for the confidence, Dad.)
And actually, reading this article made me feel better. It was a reminder that even when I don't love every aspect of my job, I like feeling productive, interacting with people, and of course, bringing home a paycheck. It makes me appreciate my kids more when I'm with them, and it makes me feel less like taking a bat to the TV whenever I see Spongebob on the screen. And it fills me with pride when my daughter says she wants to be "a doctor like Mommy."
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Have you noticed that as time marches on we are always running, often literally. We are rushing to work, to an appointment, answering a page, picking up the kids, making dinner, paying bills, planning vacations, reading CME and just trying to keep our heads above the water. No wonder we are stressed and anxious. Did we just replace our ancestors’ worries of finding food with time consuming errands?
Our lives are so filled with little worries that together they take one big toll on our peace of mind. And then you add economic worries, job loss, news of wars and droughts and is becomes overwhelming! When did life become so busy or was it always like this? When I was a kid we did not have money, computers, vacations or the internet. We had TV but when dad came home he took it over and if you were within hollering distance you became the remote control. Oh, how I hated that. Solution…go to your room and turn on the radio, read or go outside to play with your friends.
So, how did I get from there to here? Here I am in the middle of life and truly believe all the information coming at me has caused me to have issues. I want to participate in many things, travel to foreign lands with my kids, see my children participate in sports and music and excel in school, learn Spanish and the guitar (oh if I could only sing!), train for a marathon, write another book, hike and spend more time taking pictures. Seriously, does anyone else have this problem? Is it a personality disorder yet to be discovered?
I really want to simplify life and slow down to smell the roses but my fear is missing out on an amazing experience. Can you imagine going one week without any TV, radio, internet and cell phone? I know I panic when I realize I can’t find my phone or when the internet is down. How about you? Are you addicted to technology and has it affected you or have you seen it affect your patients?