Wednesday, August 22, 2018

5 months in - just breathe, just love!

5 months into being the mother of 2 little boys and I barely have time to breathe sometimes. I work as a Pediatrician but I had completely forgotten how very very very very very very (can I just type the word “very” for the rest of the post?!?) hard mothering a newborn is. Add to that some complications, a rambunctious, highly intelligent 6 ¾ year old, a husband 2 years into his tenure-track and 35-year-old bones and you have a recipe for fatigue that rivals the best of them.

5 months of cuddles. Of tears. Of such profound joy that it takes my breath away. For example, I remember the first time Zo told us how very much he loves his “baby bro” and how he’s his “best buddy”. Mothering for the second time has also been very humbling. When we found out that our little one was losing too much weight and could not exclusively breastfeed I felt like an utter failure. I KNOW how to breastfeed a baby after successfully doing it with our first and I thought if I powered through, me and Mau would get-it-done! But I had to come to terms with the fact that sometimes a mama’s body and a baby’s body just can’t power through, you just can’t will enough strength in his little low-birth-weight jaws to muster up enough energy to be a good breastfeeder. It took lots of letting go, lots of submitting to our reality. And y’all know I cry, a whole lot, so this made me weep and gnash my teeth like nothing else! But as I snuggle his now chubby little thighs, I remember the donor breast milk, the formula, the supplemental nursing system, the bottles, the reflux and I can smile. And it’s all okay even if it’s not what I envisioned.

So 5 months in, I know why my patients miss follow up appointments. Even with my father here with us almost full time I am inundated with Early Intervention, Cardiology, Ophthalmology, and other appointments. He’s perfectly and wonderfully made (took a while for me to be able to say this) but his little life requires a team for him to thrive. And thrive he is! We have all overcome so much and we have so much more to go. To all of the mamas out there in MiM land - wishing you and your babies so much love, health, and happiness. Even when mothering isn’t what you envisioned just remember that you and your baby were meant for each other. Learn all you can. Teach all you can. Be gentle with yourself and your baby.

5 months in. Inhale. Exhale. Smile. Inhale. Exhale. Smile. “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return” (Nat King Cole).

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Return Of The Resident

This isn’t the most elegant post, but I thought that I’d share some of my before and after thoughts about starting residency again after my six months at home with my little one. 

-I’m starting with a tough rotation. I want to get it over with, so I’m happy it’s first, but historically, it’s been my least favorite rotation of all. 
-I have a terrifying schedule, regardless of now having a baby at home to spend time with. How am I going to do this with extra sleep deprivation!?
-I think I’ll miss Baby Ticketyboo, but I feel that I’ll likely be too busy at work to dwell on it.
-Really skeptic that pumping at work will happen. But I really want it to. I put so much into making it this long breastfeeding, it would suck to have to stop now (no pun intended). Becoming attached to breastfeeding was not something I anticipated pre-baby. 
-I’m curious to see how Mr. Ticketyboo fares at home with Baby Ticketyboo (they’ll be home together for the next 6 months). 

-I’ve now been back for over a month. I finished my tough rotation, and I’m finishing up my second rotation, thankfully a bit lighter. 
-I’m so happy that the tough rotation is out of the way! Although the schedule was hectic, I had a better experience with this rotation this time, and worked with a good team. 
-The first day, I remember feeling strangely out of touch with clinical medicine. I understood all the medical lingo and my medical knowledge did come back quickly, but it all felt faraway initially. I still don’t feel 100% back in the groove and feel less confident than usual, but I’m getting back to normalcy
-Missing Baby Ticketyboo has not been too bad so far. He’s usually all smiles when I come home and not having my days dictated by baby fussiness and how well nap time goes is actually nice. We’ve not been successful in getting him to go to bed earlier than when we do (around 9 pm) and he still wakes up 1-2x overnight, so I’ve spent time with him everyday despite being back at work. I have been reticent to sleep train and move him to his own room because I’m worried about seeing him less when we do.
-I surprisingly don’t feel too tired during the day. Of course, my fatigue scale includes total exhaustion secondary to residency. For me, having a newborn was less tiring than residency. I actually came back from maternity leave with more energy than usual. I’ve so far maintained it to a certain extent. I’m still tired getting out of bed in the morning most days though. It’s discouraging to think that I’ll likely spend most of my working adult years feeling tired. 
-I haven’t been perfect about pumping, but I pump at least once per work day, ideally twice if I’m finishing around 5 pm and ideally three times if I’m finishing around 8 pm. Luckily, my supply has proven pretty robust, so we’re still EBF for now. I’d like to keep things going as long as possible. We’ll see, as I have some hectic call schedules in the upcoming months. I’m not too sold on the health benefits of EBF from 6-12 months and beyond, but I’d feel guilty stopping since it’s a source of comfort for Baby Ticketyboo, and if I stopped, my sole reason for stopping would be work. 
-Mr. Ticketyboo has been awesome at home with Baby Ticketyboo! It has been amazing to have a stay-at-home spouse while working. It meant a less stressful return to work for me, and it really helped us more equally share childcare responsibilities. Plus, there’s even more father-baby bonding now, which I feel is important for good family dynamics. 

So, overall, I’m surviving residency with a baby so far, and honestly enjoying it more with my little family to come home to. That said, I want the next few years of residency to fly by, but time with my little one to slow down. I'm so afraid of missing out on his best years.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Ode to my couch

Sometimes I think the most definitive memories I will have from this time period will come from my couch.

This is not my couch’s first life. It is secondhand from one of my aunts. We bought a house (our first house) after medical school and didn’t have a lot of time/money/interest to put toward new furniture, so we adopted this one. Her kids are now in high school and college, and give my aunt a lot of crap about selling the softest comfiest couch they’ve known for a better looking fancier one.

In our childless days, this is where my husband and I sat to play Nintendo games together with a dog in between us. We watched movies and ate Chinese food back before we had an active 9 month old who could reach  everything on the coffee table.

It is a perfect couch for post call naps with a dog at your feet. It is covered in soft fuzzy blankets thought to protect the couch from the dog but moreso add extra snuggle factor.

We brought baby home from the hospital at the first snowfall of the year. Our extended family was sick during Thanksgiving and as I was very hesitant to bring my baby near any germs under 2 months of age, so this is where our small little family sat with plates of takeout turkey and potatoes from a local cafe pretending to watch football but really all of us  intermittently napping. It is one of the favorite Thanksgivings I ever had because it was cozy and all about my own little family.

I spent the majority of my maternity leave on the couch with baby snuggles sleeping on my tummy. I either had a coffee or a book or would play my Nintendo switch over his head. The only time in my entire life I have ever completed a video game was the week I was post term pregnancy waiting for induction and they wouldn’t let me work and during my maternity leave. It is the snuggliest I have ever felt in my whole life with the snow falling outside and all the warmth inside.

Fast forwarding - baby is now 9 months old and more of a little boy than a baby each day. He is a great explorer and crawls and scoots himself around non stop. Our living room is our biggest room so it seems like all my free time is spent on this couch, watching him bang two toys together, only to find two different toys to start banging them together.

I’m post overnight call today. We have crawled and played. And Baby is napping in his crib and I am back on my couch. Time for a nap. The dog and blankets and couch are calling.


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Forty years and counting......

Random ponderings on turning forty........

  • There is genuine sadness and mourning when a favorite piece of makeup is has taken me years to perfect the “easy, 5-minute, naked-face” look. Now I have to start that one piece over again and it genuinely hurts me..... 
  • Alternatives to having a kid: 1) purchase $12,500 worth of organic produce and just pile it up in your living room. Leave to rot. Periodically stomp through it wearing Peppa Pig rain boots and a set of PJ Masks jams. Sometimes pretend to clean it up with a set of tiny wooden cleaning tools. When it starts to smell, scream at your spouse that it is his or her fault that the mess is there. Then toss in an emphatic “you hurt me, you’re not my best friend anymore!!” when he/she denies it. 2) drive to a bank on a tiny pink tricycle with streamers, rob it using only the threat of violence with your ridiculously fast-growing finger- and toenails, then take the pile of cash you claw away from the teller and just light it on fire in the middle of your living room. Repeat monthly. At least 10,000 USD should equivocate the experience of parenting. 3) buy some clothes that you really love, but get them two sizes smaller than your fit. Then look at them hanging in your closet every day while you pull on big shapeless scrubs, or Lycra yoga pants stained with unknown substances and with a forgotten mermaid sticker on the bum. Tell yourself that someday you will wear those again, but know that you won’t. In fact, you never did. Also, download an audio file of Honey Boo Boo complaining about a lack of syrup on her hot dogs and play that on an endless loop in the background. You know, just to sharpen your mind. 
  • There are many trade-offs for waiting until later in life and marriage to have a kid. For example, with the presumed extra patience afforded by years of taking so much crap from the external world comes creaky, swollen and painful joints, stretching to their limits with every game of “pretend to be a floor worm with me!” or kneeling on the bathroom floor next to the bathtub, eating invisible cake slices out of bathtub toys with all of her rubber duck friends. But, when your kid makes you some fake strawberry shortcake out of a washcloth and some Paw Patrol purple body wash and hands it to you in a plastic cup with a star-shaped hole in the bottom, you eat that shit. Heck, I’m just happy to be invited to the party. 
  • Alone time is the greatest gift the universe has to bestow upon me. There is never enough of it, and it nourishes my soul for when it gets people-y out there. The kid gets the majority of my energy, followed by job and hubs, mostly in equal proportions. Regeneration time is critical, and I’m learning to not feel guilty about it. 
  • The more that I age, the more that I learn to stand up for myself and what I believe in a more fierce and unapologetic way. Being told how to use my voice by any number of different people with different agendas and issues is becoming harder to stomach. I genuinely appreciate differing opinions and polite discourse (the more animated, the better!), but when people try to strong-arm their issues and life views on me with tone-policing and gaslighting, well, Iam done sitting back and taking it, especially in my own personal space. I’m too old for that noise.
  • Work-life balance is impossible (at least for me). It’s never balanced. One thing is always outweighing something else. It’s more about trying to keep my head above water, occasionally being really good at one thing or another, oftentimes just getting by, and hopefully not letting anybody die on my watch. There is also reminding myself that most of the time, the job I’m doing is good enough, and I’m learning to be okay with that. Being a doctor isn’t for the weak of heart. And being a mom isn’t for the weak of head. Sometimes my heart prevails in medicine and I cry. Sometimes my head prevails in parenting and I cry. It’s all so, so hard. But also pretty badass and (mostly) rewarding. And being a wife is a delicate and ever-moving target of balancing head and heart. Sometimes this is the hardest job, loving the one you’re with and nurturing that commitment. 
  •  My husband and I have had an awful lot of loss in recent years, to include both of my parents, and his mother. Raising our daughter without these loved ancestors has brought on a lot of pain in such unexpected moments. She never got to meet them, and yet we see each of them in her nearly every day. Nature is a remarkable thing, perpetuating itself in this way. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do this whole parenting thing for a myriad of reasons, but catching glimpses of my mom and dad again every now and again in my daughter’s face or voice is about as spiritual as it gets for me. I embrace this fully. 
  • I’m truly happy to see forty, and I hope to have sixty more. I do love this life, including the joy, the pain, the humor, the tears, the angst, the stress, the happiness, the closeness and the love. Each new day is not guaranteed. The first forty (wow!) have been pretty damn good. Looking forward to what comes next.......

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Slime and Slides and Sutures and Fireworks

Since I'm a resident and my husband works full time, our kids are in full time camp this summer. Which has worked great. The availability of pre-care and after care in a fun environment without the bustle of the school year has allowed us to let go of our nanny for the summer and just be us. Which has been exhausting, but surprisingly really rewarding.

However, without that extra piece of our childcare puzzle, days like July 4th posed a conundrum. My husband works all holidays for the overtime pay and I had conference in the morning and a swing/evening shift. And no camp.

So, come the morning of July 4th, my Monkey (4) and Chicken (6) got to experience an EM conference. Set up with ipads, snacks, markers, crayons, peppa pig figurines, and donuts. They lasted for almost half way through, but finally got antsy that the little "bring kids to work day" experience ended 3 hours in.

As a reward for being great sports, I promised them that we could make slime when we got home. I hate slime. It's sticky and slimy and is a sensory overload of amorphous blob. But it's all the rage this summer and my daughter's "best wish," so slime experiments it was. After trecking to Target to buy all the necessary ingredients, and a cart full of not-on-the-list other Target "necessities," we made 3 kinds of slime. 2 were successful. One was so gross and mushy and was such an utter fail. Not sure how Pinterest parents do it- this was  hard and messy work!

At 5:30, my husband came home and we switched shifts. I went to work and he manned the barbeque and firework portion of the day's festivities. While I experienced the rest of the night vicariously with videos watched later, hours after they were sleeping, I smiled at the dichotomy of my life as a resident. At our lives during this residency. So thankful my I have an awesome flexible co-parent and that my kids get to learn the importance of hard work, while having all the same fun as well.

One of the unique parts of going into EM is the variety of work hours. Yes, I work a lot of nights and weekends and holidays, but I also get to be home a lot in the mornings, early weeknights, and  random Tuesday afternoons. Hopefully, I continue to enjoy it as much as I have this first year!

For reference, here were the winning slime recipes: (adapted from links from

Basic Slime (from
Ingredients: Elmer's Glue, saline solution (Target Brand - any saline with boric acid and Sodium Borate), water, baking soda, food coloring

Mix 1/2 cup glue and 1/2 cup water. Stir until well mixed
Then add food coloring and/or glitter
Stir together
Add 1/2 tsp baking soda and 3 Tablespoons saline solution. Mix REALLY FAST.
Keep mixing, then kneading, until you get the consistency you want.

Tip: hands get messy so wear gloves or be sure to wash them after to prevent staining from food coloring.

Fluffy Slime:
Ingredients: Elmer glue, shaving foam (old fashioned barber shaving foam. Gel doesn't work- we had better luck in the men shaving section), saline solution, water, (if you want)

Mix 1/2 cup glue and 1/2 - 1 cup of shaving foam (depends on how fluffy you want it- we played around so didn't measure exactly). Add color/glitter.
Then add about 5 TBS of saline solution. We added a bit of water to make it more workable, but experiment.
Mix/Stir/Knead together. This one is SUPER STICKY and very stringy and messy. So be aware.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Hello from LlamaMama

Hello MIM!

LlamaMama here. I'm an MS4 going into Pediatrics, wife of my college sweetheart, and proud mama of an energetic 1-year-old (how did that happen?!?!) boy. I've been reading this blog ever since I was thinking about becoming a mother in medicine. I've always known that I wanted to work in a health-related field, but a bad case of imposter syndrome, coupled with worries about work-life-balance kept me from pursuing a medical career for far too long. There were no physicians in my family, and most of the women had given up their career ambitions to focus on their families, which made this career decision that much more intimidating. MIM was the first space where I found women honestly sharing about their joys and struggles in prioritizing their medical careers and their families. In the last few years, I've found lots of awesome women physician mentors, in addition to continuing to follow this blog. I'm so excited to join the list of regular contributors!

A little bit more about me: I grew up in a few different countries, and am now married to a wonderful man who also grew up in multiple countries, so when we do get free time, we love to travel (we've already taken the baby on two international trips and several cross-country!). I love to cook and eat delicious food, and I'm working on finding an exercise routine that I enjoy enough to do consistently. I am a social introvert, figuring out how to balance deepening relationships with my husband, son and close friends while still making time to re-charge alone. I look forward to sharing my joys and struggles with you all.  

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

I forgot to worry about that!

Hi! So excited to join this sisterhood. I am a pediatric hospitalist at a mid-sized children’s hospital. I am blessed with 3 amazing children and a supportive, talented husband who is thankfully not in medicine but rather works during normal human hours.

I am pregnant with my fourth child. I have had 3 normal, healthy pregnancies and delivered 3 healthy, full term babies. I was apprehensively hoping for the same this time around. No such luck; at my routine anatomy scan, I was suspected to have placenta accreta. For those of you who don’t remember from medical school, here’s a crash course. Normally the placenta adheres loosely to the uterine wall, and is able to detach easily following delivery. With placenta accreta, the placenta adheres to the uterus pathologically. It invades inward, doesn’t separate spontaneously after delivery, and can cause massive hemorrhage if manual separation is attempted. Most patients who have placenta accreta require a life-saving hysterectomy. There are 3 subtypes: in a standard accreta, the placenta simply attaches too deeply to the uterine wall; in placenta increta, it invades into the myometrium; and in placenta percreta, it invades through the myometrium and serosa, and occasionally into surrounding structures and organs (most commonly the bladder, but any organ in the vicinity is potentially at risk).

I immediately transferred care to the placenta accreta referral center in the nearest big city. Within 2 weeks I had an appointment and within 2 minutes of meeting my MFM she told me I was a “hot mess.” I have placenta percreta. Go big or go home. (I think I want to go home.)

People comment on how “well I’m taking it.” How “strong” and “resilient” I am. “You look great; you don’t even seem worried,” people tell me. I don’t seem worried? That’s cool. Because I am worried. I’m worried about a lot of things. In fact, here is a list of things I’m worried about.
  • The very complicated cesarean delivery, complete with a hysterectomy. I will be on the table for about 6 hours, and there will be various surgical teams parading in and out of the OR.
  • Intraoperative blood loss, with potential for massive hemorrhage. I will almost certainly require multiple blood transfusions, and if things go particularly badly “massive transfusion protocol” will be initiated, which puts me at risk for complications including fluid shifts, electrolyte derangements, DIC and ARDS, to name a few.
  • Damage to surrounding structures, including but not limited to my genitourinary tract. That placenta is freaking close to my bladder, people.
  • Let’s just put this out there: death. There is in fact a 7% mortality rate for cases like mine. Even in the major centers, even if the operative teams are prepared.
  • Oh, and the baby. In order to reduce the risk of these complications, the baby will need to be delivered preterm. And not late-preterm. Preterm preterm. Like a preterm baby who is at risk for sepsis, IVH, chronic lung disease, NEC, and all the other preemie ailments.
  • And the more minor things too. That pesky surgical incision that will extend vertically from my pubis up to my xiphoid. Recovering from this surgery, which will render me essentially nonfunctional at home. The possibility that breastfeeding may not go well, and may not be possible at all. The fear that this pregnancy may become even more complicated, and I may need to deliver even earlier than planned. The fact that I don’t have enough paid time off, and I will need to take unpaid leave for several weeks, something that I’m not sure we can handle financially. The loss of my fertility, completely and forever.

But life goes on. Thankfully the baby is fine and the pregnancy is otherwise healthy, so there’s not much to do between now and delivery. So I get dressed, get in my car, and go to work. I take care of sick patients, supervise residents, and teach medical students. And on nights in the hospital when things are slow I work on my mandatory compliance modules. Every year we are obligated to do like 40 of them. They range from mildly clinically interesting (preventing central line infections, reporting suspected child abuse) to stiffly corporate (anti-kickback statutes, reminders not to commit fraud) to downright irrelevant and time-wasting.

One night on call I had some free time so I decided to bang out a few modules. I was up to “Preventing Operating Room Fires.” Groan. This one was not only completely irrelevant (I wasn’t even allowed in the ORs! Not even to, say, do an LP on a sedated child!) but it was an 18-minute-long video. As I started watching the video, I froze. I realized that even though I wasn’t allowed in the OR as a doctor, I was about to be in one as a patient. And I slowly but suddenly wondered: WHAT IF THERE IS A FIRE IN THE OR??? THIS COULD TOTALLY HAPPEN TO ME! And it dawned on me, that with all the things I was worrying about – the massive blood transfusions, the damage to my genitourinary tract, the 7% mortality rate, the preemie baby – there could ALSO be an OR fire and I FORGOT TO WORRY ABOUT THAT! How could I forget to worry about something that had a nonzero chance of happening and could have devastating consequences? I didn’t sleep for the next 3 nights.

I remember my last night on call before delivering my youngest child. I was 38 weeks along and healthy. One of the patients I admitted was a 4-month-old infant. She had had corrective surgery to repair anorectal atresia with a rectovestibular fistula and needed to be monitored post-op. As I took the history from her parents and discovered that they did not know about this condition until after she was born, I remember having a similar realization: I had been worrying about all the usual things – prematurity, infection, birth hypoxia. But anorectal atresia with rectovestibular fistula? I had completely forgotten to worry about that!

Worry is a funny thing. Psychologists postulate that worry is beneficial insofar as it helps people do the things they need to do to keep themselves safe. Studies have shown that people who worry about skin cancer are more vigilant about applying sunscreen than those who don’t. But I already transferred to the regional center and am compliant with my prenatal care, all the things I need to do to optimize my chances for a good medical outcome. At this point most psychologists would agree that worrying won’t do me any good. It doesn’t help anything. But that doesn’t stop me.

A few friends jokingly suggested that I focus all my energy on worrying about that potential OR fire and not bother worrying about anything else. It’s not a terrible idea.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Summer reflections

Hello! My name is Michelle and I am brand new to the world of blogging (so be gentle with me). I am a Mom to two energetic boys who keep me on my toes. I also spend the rest of my time taking care of other people’s kids as a pediatrician.

Since we are now knee deep into summer (I don’t know about you but it feels like school just let out and already we are starting back to school shopping!!) I was reflecting on our busy summer days and how they are different then the laid back lazy summer days of my youth. Summers are a funny time when you are a working Mom. It starts a few weeks before school lets out when Moms start speaking of how they are looking forward to lazy days and all the fun summer projects they are going to accomplish. I often feel envious of the stay at home Mom’s summer. (And this is not meant to spark the stay at home vs working Mom debate. We are all valuable in what we do - we are all good people doing good things.) What I mean is I have a longing for lazy days with no schedule and no commitments. The ability to lounge in pajamas all day if that’s what we choose to do. I see facebook posts of cute kids with bed hair and pjs captioned ‘just woke up’ at 10 a.m. and I sigh. I hear my patients tell me that they are getting ready to go away for the summer and think ‘what is it like to take 6 weeks off’ and I sigh. I talk to other Moms and listen to them tell of putting their kids in day camps for a week to break up the boredom of their carefree summer days and I sigh. The fact is in my family our summers look a whole lot like our school year does. Summer camp is not a boredom buster for us but a requirement for our two working parent family. We still get up at the same time and leave the house at the same time to get to summer camp everyday. I still try to get them in bed at a reasonable time at night while allowing for some ‘it’s summer can we stay up late’ requests. Aside from not having homework to do and after school activities we have the same rhythm to most our days. And at times that is a great thing - because my kids do thrive on a schedule (and really so do I) But there are many moments that I long for the lazy days of my summer. When I was a kid we didn’t have summer camps and scheduled activities. We woke up whenever we wanted to and watched way too much TV and swam most of the day. We rode our bikes back and forth from my Grandma’s house where she would make us grilled cheese sandwiches and let us eat popsicles in the hot sun. I wonder sometimes if my kids are missing out on that and wonder how I can get that for them. Which is ultimately ironic because I work hard to make a better life for my children and now I contemplate a life not working to give them a more schedule free life. I know this is my own internal debate because my kids are having the time of their lives - they are doing Hogwarts camp and Lego camp and all sorts of fun things. I hear no complaints from them at all. I do worry about their need to be on the go all the time and wonder if that is a byproduct of our scheduled life. My oldest, especially, has a hard time when there is no plan for the day and has a hard time with unscheduled down time (which of course as a parent is the thing of my dreams!) So I worry - as we all do - about making the right choices knowing all along that the choices we make are often not in our control at all. But I still can daydream and live vicariously through those stay at home Moms leaving with their kids for their long lazy summers on the lake and think ‘maybe someday’.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Anxiety, Airplanes, and Albendazol

Last year I asked how long you mamas have been away from your critters (critters being kids) in hopes to find the inspiration I needed to do a 6-8 week global health rotation. 6-8 weeks turned into four. Four turned into two. (I chickened out of taking my two toddlers to Ecuador alone) Two turned into one when the organization I was going to work with was at capacity. One turned back into two, because goddamn it I am a fearless travel warrior and I'm going to spend a week alone in another country! Well here I am at the end of my two week stent in Panama. I'm laying in a hammock, looking into the lush mangroves, listening to the tropical birds, scratching the sh*t out of my Chitra bitten body. There are two versions of myself. The world traveler who wants to boldly experience life and other cultures. And the anxiety riddled girl whose heart rate is never below 120 on airplanes.

Lately anxiety girl has come out in full force. It started slowly last November when I had a panic attack. I had issues with this before, and thought that chapter of my life was over. Lack of sleep, the new stress of medical school, and stress at home are easy targets to blame.  I filed it away in the "pretend it didn't happen" drawer, along with that time I farted in 8th grade in front of the class. Well, the file kept growing. I didn't have anymore panic attacks, but I became quite anxious.  Most of the day I was ok but had these bolts of anxiety that would shoot up and like a Wac-a-mole game I kept hammering them down. I did a good job at not letting any of it show, but I was tired of constantly having to talk myself out of an anxiety attack. So I ignored popular rumors that seeing a therapist would ruin my career and went to talk to a school counselor for free. The first lady was a bit of a nut job. She told me I needed to pop a Xanax, not to date outside my race (while insisting she's not racists), gave me a list of 5 books to read (I don't have time for books I need legit CBT!), and rambled on and on about Brigg-Myers personalities. She also told my friend she may have a tumor on her adrenal gland, and that she wasn't cut out for medical school. Ya, I didn't go back. Months later I decided to try to school psychologist, for free again. First visit was okay. Just chit chat. Talked about stress. Ya, I'm stressed, but I think I handle it relatively well. Second visit I laid it all out. For the first time I spoke out loud about everything I have been experiencing in the past few months, and I realized how bad it all had gotten. I told her how I can only study in three places, because those are the only places I feel safe. If I try to study at a new coffee shop, I get anxious. I told her about how I had been having to call my dad for reassurance that I was indeed breathing when I felt like I couldn't catch my breath because of anxiety, sometimes at 3am.  About how I was constantly making up these worst case scenarios, like school shootings at my kids daycare, and car accidents when someone else was driving them. About how exams make me feel trapped. About how I was anxious about going to Panama, because I would be away from my safety net.

Just saying these things out loud made me realize that everything I was experiencing was indeed anxiety. This gave me hope. It meant that with therapy, meditation, and self awareness I could perhaps get better. And if that didn't work, a good 'ol SSRI could. She told me every time I am anxious about something bad happening, nothing bad happens. Yes, I'm going to get anxious, but I could use techniques to ensure the anxiety doesn't escalate. So do I want to be anxious at home, or anxious at a beautiful beach in Panama?

So off to Panama I went. The 15 minutes flying through a thunderstorm with lightning outside my window sucked, but I didn't panic. Getting motion sickness on the ten hour bus ride that felt more like riding through the Arctic sucked, but I didn't panic. Spending a day febrile in a room with no A/C or airflow sucked, but I didn't panic. (I went to the nice hotel across the street with ocean view and glass floors) I repeated the phrase "ebb and flow." Just like the tide, anxiety, fear, sickness, storms all come and all go. I would tell myself "this is something that could cause anxiety" so that when I started to feel nervous I knew the trigger, and the anxiety wouldn't escalate.

It's been two weeks, and I've walked hours on beaches, practiced meditative, freeing yoga, saw dolphins and bioluminescence, met some of the most inspirational, well traveled people, helped bring medical care to remote indigenous communities, got laughed at for the way I pronounced my patients names. (all in good fun). All this was completely out of my safety net. This is also what I love about traveling. It forces you to become uncomfortable. In this discomfort is where growth happens.

So now I go home feeling mentally stronger. More a fearless warrior, and less anxiety girl. Another 10 hour bus ride and 4 hour flight until I get to kiss my sweet babies. I hope one day to show them the world as it is. It is complex. It is beautiful. It is unique. It is painful and hard. I hope they learn to be uncomfortable, to move past fear. And I hope to bring back only memories from this trip, and not worms or Leishmaniasis.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Disney, food poisoning, and a podcast

My husband took our son for his first trip to Disney for his birthday. Alas, sans me, I was working. But this post is not about any mommy guilt for missing his epic birthday Disney trip. My ideal vacation consists of laying on a beach and gazing into the blue ocean and blue skies. Minimal planning required on my part beyond transportation and lodging. I was happy to skip on the byzantine planning of Fastpasses and Mouse Hacking, and let my son make memories in the magic kingdom with daddy.

Father and son brought back lots of memories. But also food poisoning. On the drive back home, my husband was so violently ill, he didn't feel safe driving back. So instead of waiting a few hours to rest and recover, he suggested I drive several hours to meet him halfway and pick up our son. And he continue driving himself home. Because he must get to the hospital in time to get signout for his patients. Over the years of being married to him, I know better than to suggest logical alternatives to his crazy plans, especially if he is in any state of distress. Luckily that particular day was my day off. So off I was, driving in his general direction, hoping for their mutual safety.

On this drive, I tuned into an episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Hippocratic Hustle. And what a pleasant surprise to hear our very own PracticeBalance, talking about blogging in medicine as her side hustle. I very much enjoyed listening to your voice and your story, just as I enjoy reading your posts!

As a Disney ending to my absurd story, we all got home safely, everyone regained their health and lived happily ever after.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Living into our values

Hi everyone. I'm Peaches, which is a play off a goofy nickname my father made for me as a kid, and completely ridiculous (which is more or less how I am). I'm a rising 4th year med-peds resident, mother of a 10 month old, and wife of a teacher - I'm also a poet, distance runner, and currently baking a rhubarb cake while the remnants of tonight's dinner are crunching under my feet (thanks, Z). And I'm posting this after coming off of night float; some un-edited reflections on where we are now (and hope for some advice from fellow comrades, waving in the distance).

Sometimes I think I do my best reflecting on my life while on the middle of night float, at 2am, sitting at a workstation computer and overlooking the rooftop garden where the cancer patients spend their days, walking the 30 yard loop and enjoying a small taste of sunshine.

I’m always so cranky on night float. It might be one of the worst parts of residency – not even the forgiving 28 hour calls, where I come home and nap in the blissful quiet while Z is at daycare and my husband is at work – but the rhythmically monotonous night float: come home at 9am, putter around cleaning and then fall asleep, sleep until 3, wake up and go for a run, go get Z from daycare, spend 2 hours with him, put him to sleep, spend an hour with my husband slash frantically shower, pack lunch, try not to argue about the mounting mess in the kitchen or the unfolded laundry – and go off to do it all over again. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of sleep, or the frenetic-ness of never being home for more than two hours, but I worry that my family doesn’t get my best self. It’s not until midnight or 2am that I feel fully awake and functioning clearly.

Hence, the 2am reflecting.

We’re looking for a new daycare, which I never realized would be as stressful as it is. We have one that we like, and has done a wonderful job with Z, and most of all, had a place for him the second we called. Z is our foster son, who was placed with us at 4 days old, and has been with us ever since. And since 6 weeks and 1 day old, he’s been at this daycare ever since as well (my two week maternity leave can be a post for another time…) As we’re in the process of adopting him, we’re also getting more skeptical of the completely chaotic 2+ year old classrooms, and looking at other daycares nearby.

But it’s so stressful, trying to figure out how to live into these values we’ve talked about for years, which are sometimes incongruous – wanting a place that is diverse, with kids who look like our biracial son, with teachers who he can see as role models; a place that is close, because we love having only 1 car and I bike commute and want to be able to pick him up; a place that is invested in his emotional development and has a small teacher:student ratio, because he has a lot of barriers he’s already had to overcome (and will still have to overcome) related to his early-life experiences; a place that teaches kindness and reading and self-control (which are pretty much the only goals of daycare, I think). And what if all of these aren’t together? What if the diverse, close-by place also means my husband has to come to work an hour later everyday (not a possibility) or the emotional-IQ, small teacher:student ratio means I can’t bike to pick him up early? Or the 3rd option, the really nice supervisor and lovely outdoor space – they want him to only spend 9 hours maximum, and will fine us (and judge us) if he’s there longer (side note: have they ever met a resident before?)?

How do you figure out what things to prioritize the most?

It’s easy to espouse values as a young adult. It’s harder to practically live into them, to put your money where your mouth is, to live in the city instead of move to the suburbs, to send your kids to public school when the private school has a lot cooler opportunities – these are things I felt so clearly confident in, when the choice was theoretical. I understand the shades of gray involved in all of these things, now, more than I did before. I’m not sure what’s right for us now, always.

Sitting out in this garden, now, I can look out at the city below me – it’s dark, with the lights of the highway blinking in the distance. On my left, the tower of the cancer center rises, and the stairwell is encased in all glass and lit such that it glows, and I remember nights spent sitting on the landing between the 14th and 15th floors, eating a granola bar and staring out to where the sea meets the shore. We are all connected here, I know, and it’s odd how the sense of panic I felt sitting on this bench as an intern has morphed into different types of questions. The hypotensive patient or the guy whose sats keep dipping into the 70s feel like the easy ones.

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):

Petition to Donald Trump to stop separating families at the border:

Petition to the Department of Homeland Security to stop separating families at the border:

Petition to Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to stop separating families at the border:

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.

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.

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

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 , 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.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

We Are All Elastigirl

At my house, we are The Incredibles. The first time he saw the movie, my oldest son identified immediately with Dash, the blond little boy whose super power is to run super fast. Naturally that led to him insisting that everyone call him by that name, then that everyone call his little brother Baby Jack Jack. For the past year, he has also called my husband Mr. Incredible and me Elastigirl. (Seriously. When he started preschool last fall, we had to have several talks about how he could still be Dash at home but had to use his real name at school.) My younger son, who is 2, also calls himself Jack Jack (though thankfully he also knows and can say his real name), and now has a pretty clear pronunciation of my husband's and my Incredibles names. I'm not sure we'll ever go back to our non-super identities.

As you might know, this weekend is the premier of The Incredibles 2. The other day my nanny took the boys to McDonald's, where they each got a Happy Meal containing an Elastigirl toy. The moment I got home from work, they were clamoring to show me the toy - Elastigirl riding a motorcycle - and the way that it expanded to simulate the way she stretches to incredible lengths when fighting the bad guys.

It got me thinking about how, even beyond the fact that hers is the name I have answered to for a year or more, I actually identify with the character. 

I get that she had a super-impressive career fighting crime, but that she shifted her focus to her family in ways she never expected. (At the beginning of the first movie, she says in an interview, when asked about settling down, "I'm at the top of my game! I'm right up there with the big dogs! Girls, come on. Leave the saving of the world to the men? I don't think so.") That she still has the skills to take on villains, but somehow is able to attend to her children's needs at the same time, all while gracefully adapting to every unexpected turn of events, like flying off to rescue her husband and learning that two of her children have stowed away on the plane. I feel that long look in the mirror when she checks out her backside in her new super suit. I was skinny once, too....

Image result for elastigirl  looking in mirror

Elastigirl quite literally stretches everything - her arms and legs to reach things when sneaking into a compound or doing battle, her expectations when she believes her husband is having an affair but also knows he is in danger so goes after him, and her plans when they go astray as they so often do. It's no accident that, as they return home from taking down the robot monster, while Mr. Incredible and Violet (the oldest child) and Dash recount the amazing moments from their fight, Elastigirl is the one on the phone checking in with the sitter to make sure Baby Jack Jack is okay.

And when he is not, when it becomes clear that the villain Syndrome has kidnapped him and is about to get away in his jet, it is Elastigirl who creates a strategy and quite literally goes after him. "Bob," she says to Mr. Incredible, "throw me!" After grabbing her son, she stretches her body into a parachute and cradles him as she delivers him gently back to the ground.

Image result for elastigirl parachute jack jack

I don't actually have any super powers - I imagine that life would be so much easier if I did - but I'm quite proud to be compared to Elastigirl. She represents what we working moms do: stretch ourselves in every way possible and do multiple things at once  in an attempt to care for everyone who is important to us, no matter the situation. You are all Elastigirl, too. And I'm proud to stand (and stretch!) among you.

Friday, June 15, 2018

After every winter, spring...

always comes.


But my life's progression to "spring" was blocked by an awful behemoth in my path--and I could see glimpses of this thing titled "spring", but I couldn't get there. So it has been a long, long winter, and I have been away from here for a long time. This thing, divorce, loomed in my life for a while, sat in my way, blocked my life and taunted my psyche. It was this big, ugly, hulking, ill-defined beast that sat defiantly between me, peace, happiness, future. It blocked the path between who I was and who I wanted to be...who I had the capacity to be. And avoiding it was causing me to become a person I increasingly disliked. So I introduced myself to it, squared up my shoulders, battled with it, and took it down. I ran, leaped, tripped, yelled, triumphed, paid (tears, money, frustration, adrenaline, fear) and then, officially---it was....over. The ink was dry. And truth be told, the marriage was over long before the divorce was--just as a piece of paper doesn't make you truly married, a piece of paper doesn't make you truly divorced. These pieces of paper simply symbolize what has already taken place in your heart, I believe. And they exist for the protection of property and children. That is all.

The initial months after my ex-wife moved out were a blur of pure relief, loneliness, freedom, calm, financial stress, happiness, and much needed solitude. I never looked back. I never doubted my decision to leave, not one time. I knew I'd done the right thing, as hard as it was to enact. As time passed, I dated a few women, but no one in particular really struck my fancy. I never found anyone who I thought was really special. Nice, kind, smart, attractive? Sure. But that wasn't enough to keep my interest in anyone in particular, and after a while the dating world was....tiresome. I had no real connection with anyone, no real chemistry. The thrill of being single, being free, being wanted, flirting was...getting dull. There I was wandering aimlessly around a romantic virtual world, without any real destination in mind. So I'd delete the app for a bit, roll my eyes, and drink/hang with friends. Onward....maybe someday I'd find someone again, but I sure wasn't in ANY rush--the very last thing I wanted was A Real Girlfriend. I didn't want to be anyone's person--I didn't want the obligations, the expectations, none of that. I wasn't sure I could do that again. Been there, done that, and in some ways----I'd failed miserably. It had been such a tall order before and I'd not measured up....right?

While I dated casually, I also worked to heal myself from the damage that our marriage had caused.  I was in therapy, and I fought to delete the list of ways that my ex-wife had said I'd failed her, failed our marriage, failed our children--all by initiating the divorce, which was the only way to a better life that I knew (after thousands of dollars in marital therapy and two separations). I realized that I had recreated my self-image according to her feedback, not my self-knowledge (or the knowledge of others who really know me)--and I was angry and disappointed in myself for having done so. I had actually believed all of the things she'd told me about me--things she'd said over the years out of anger/need/frustration/hurt, time and time again, as I repeatedly failed to meet myriad unspoken and seemingly mysterious and randomly presented expectations and needs.

I didn't know what was true anymore, and it was terrifying. Was I Person A or Person B? I fought to redefine (rediscover, really) myself for myself, to believe my voice about myself instead of her voice/story about me--and it was impossibly hard at times, and I did not always succeed. Some days were interminably long and painful,  and I worked to feel valuable, attractive, intelligent, worthy of anything--love, respect.  I worked to make eye contact with another human, some days. I worked to summon the energy to go to work, to engage with my patients beyond lab data and physical exam findings. My therapist was my reality check, when I wasn't sure which way was up some days, when I wasn't sure who I was anymore.  She was my mirror through all of this--she showed me the little tiny bit of myself that was still there, that was unchanged, the essence of ME, that was going to be ok--that had always been ok and that always would be--no matter what. Her unwavering belief that I would be ok was steadfast and solid; some days I counted on her belief in me far more than I ever believed in my own ability to be ok. I had to take her word for it. And I did. And some days, it saved me.

Fast forward a few months. The dust had firmly settled. I could see the good in life again. I realized that I am an ok person. I was in a new routine with life, work schedule, kids. I was single. Spring was I think? I felt pretty good in my body, my mind, my heart. I'd dated a bit, and it'd been fun. I I was happy, and not seeing my therapist as much. The worst of things was was looking good again. So I opened a dating app, while I was standing in the middle of my kitchen--and I don't know what made me do it, I just... opened it. And there was one of the most handsomely gorgeous women that I'd ever laid my eyes on--my inner dialogue was "Oh my goodness....!", I had a run of a-fib, and I sent her a message. And I wasn't so sure I'd hear back...I mean, she was so damn cute and...I'm But something about her simply took my breath away. Something.

Well, I heard back. And back. And back some more. And now we're heading into our sixth month of dating and I love her in a way that I didn't think my heart was capable of loving. Nor did I think my heard was capable of receiving such love. I have loved before, and she has loved before--we've been on the planet too long to not have, and the loves we have had have helped craft us into the humans we are today--and for that I am thankful for us both. But I've never loved like this before. It's different; it's more complicated. It's more complete. And I didn't know that this kind of love, this kind of seemingly unconditional love and non-transactional love--the kind of love where someone loves you simply for who you are--not what you do for them, the money you make, what you say or what you look like or what you provide now or could provide or anything else---could ever be a part of my life-I assumed it would forever be beyond my reach, that it wouldn't happen in my lifetime. Thankfully, I was wrong. "BB" suddenly landed in my orbit and I knew that spring had definitely arrived.

To be continued...


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Hello from Ticketyboo

I am so excited to be a new contributor to this awesome blog for momma docs. 

I’m a Canadian internal medicine resident in the early years of training. My spouse is also a resident, and we became parents to our wonderful baby boy earlier this year.

Thanks to Canada’s parental leave policy, my spouse and I were each able to take approx. 6 months of leave to spend with our little one (really lucky, I know). I took the first 6 months, because of childbirth and breastfeeding and all that jazz, while my spouse is taking the last 6 months. The shared leave is supposed to help coordinate our residency completion dates, and make some of my upcoming hectic rotations more manageable. Pre-baby, I also felt strongly about sharing the “primary parent” role with my spouse. Now, I see taking care of our baby more as a treat rather than as a responsibility to share (that’s what bonding will do to you I guess!), so I’m doubting my initial reasoning. It’ll be interesting to see how we feel once our year is up. 

My time of full-time snuggling with bébé is almost up and I’m soon returning to residency. Even though I know I’ve been very fortunate to have MONTHs of time with our little one, I’ll nonetheless miss him tons while I’m away doing the resident thing. 

In the next year, I’m hoping to share my experiences as a resident and mama, attempting to balance it all (or realistically, just survive it!).



P.S. My pseudonym is an infrequently used Canuck expression that means “going fine” (e.g. “everything is tickety-boo”), which is how I hope life will be going in the coming months/years. Also, I think “tickety-boo” has a nice ring to it, although it does sound like something you might name a teddy bear...that’s not bad though, right?