I originally posted this on the MiM site, but decided to also share this on my own site as well…
The first year after my daughter was born, my end of year evaluations digressed into a lot of talk about whether or not I was mommy tracking myself. The criticism was not about my work ethic or my skills. Apparently, there was an extensive discussion about how overly preoccupied I seemed to be about my daughter. I mentioned her too often. The suggestion of part-time residency came up and the sentiment was that I would no longer reach my full potential. These meetings are supposed to be confidential-ish but I was told afterwards that perhaps I should try to hide my kid.
The instructions to hide my daughter came from a good place. It came from an attending who had my best interest in mind. He mentioned that in this world even though I was working just as hard, family issues were going to be looked down upon. I would be stereotyped. People aren’t used to mom surgeons, especially not as residents. He told me a story about sneaking off from work as a fellow to pick up his sick son by making up some elaborate story to hide the reason that he had to leave. “It is more respectable to meet friends for beer than try and pick up your child from daycare,” he told me. My response…I would talk about my child incessantly!
So, I did. I figured, if the world wasn’t ready for women to be both surgeons and moms, than I would help to make them ready. The end result is that I feel this has brought me a lot closer to the other hospital staff who are sometimes more open about recognizing the importance of family. Being closer to the hospital staff makes my job easier. I chat with the nurses, scrub techs, office managers about our families. I feel like it gives me a sense of legitimacy and realness which means we are all on the same team. Also, an unexpected result was that I became the “mama hen” of the residents. There are a few more junior residents with kids or husbands and the associated stress. I try to keep an open door policy for them. And we have real and frank conversations about how hard this can be. The supportiveness of being able to have this dialog goes both ways! Also, I find that many of my attendings take an interest in my family life as well as my surgical development.
This past year’s evaluations had no mention of mommy tracking. In fact, I was made chief resident. Last night, as I sat finishing up work in the chief’s office while my baby girl bounced around watching Dora and coloring, I felt I made the right decision. She knows all the names of the other chiefs and incorporates them into her world. She loves coming to the office and is well known throughout the department. She chats with me at night about her day and asks about my day. She tells me she wants to be a doctor like me when she grows up (well, a doctor and a cowgirl of course). I’ll never hide this beautiful girl!
cross posted on www.mothersinmedicine.com
I’m one month into chief year. Savvy is 2 weeks into pre-school and we are both loving it!
After 2 years of daily morning struggles to convince Savvy to go to school, suddenly she’s actually waking Shane up in the mornings and telling him she has to hurry and get to school. I think we both sort of love learning.
Pre-school is all about turning daycare from more passive learning amidst play into a commitment to learning new things, solidifying old things and constant academic and social growth. Pre-school is the pre-lude to real school. Its one year to get them ready to go to Kindergarten. Basically, its chief year for babies!
As one of my attendings put it, I’ve entered the “big leagues.” And to whom much is given, much is expected. The independence, patient ownership, opportunities to teach junior residents and the constant operating are all amazing parts of this year. But, along with this comes the responsibility when things go wrong or when patients don’t progress as you like. Along with it comes increased accountability to these patients who have trusted you with the care of their bodies while they have surrendered control.
Savvy and I are enjoying experiencing these amazing journeys together. Every evening we trade stories – counting to 100 by 10s, learning about the animals in the sea, taking something bad out of someones belly, helping the sick girl feel better. And, when we’re done, we’ll celebrate the end of this leg of the journey together as we await what is to come!
I haven’t written poetry in many years. This is what resulted from my last call:
Mothers in Medicine
We self-medicate with colors and sound
Suppressing every trace
until it’s gone
Only to emerge the next time when we are
Creating new nightmares
Flashes of faces
Breeding deeper and deeper layers of hypervigilance
For our own
Then we step through the threshold, into the light
Today I was in a mood when I got to work. The weather was dreary. Savvy woke up early and spent the morning crying that she didn’t want to go to school but instead just wanted to “hang out” with me. By, the time I got to the hospital I felt tired! I decided to walk in from the front of the hospital to maximize my window time before heading to the basement and I found myself walking up the slight incline at the old end of the hospital. I had never paid much attention to this incline until my nighttime dinner visits from Savvy while I was on night float a few months ago. She would giggle and jump excitedly every time we approached this incline. “The MOUNTAIN! Time to climb the MOUNTAIN!!!” she would say and grab my hand for one of her favorite parts of her visit. At first I didn’t exactly know what she was referring to, but from the eyes of a three year old, this incline was indeed a little mountain.
So, this morning, I climbed the mountain. I climbed it with the vigor and joy of my three year old girl. And, today I had a wonderful day.
I came up with this one while shopping in Walmart for a couple of ingredients for dinner. I wanted to make a dish that Savvy could help with and also something that was quick since we were cooking on a weekday.
Graham Crackers (about 8 squares)
Instant Cheesecake pudding (3.4 oz package)
Berries of your choice (I used strawberries and blackberries)
1. Crush the graham crackers to a powder (a fun task for the little one)
2. Make the instant pudding according to the quick set directions
3. Rinse and cut the berries
4. Mix the berries into the pudding once its set for about 5 minute.
5. Pack all the crushed graham crackers into the bottom of your serving dish.
6. Layer on the instant pudding and berry mixture.
7. Add a layer of cool whip.
8. Top with more berries for decoration!
(Lower fat option – use skim milk for the pudding and lite whipped cream – although I love it as is!)
For two nights in a row, my entire call team was all women. From the attending down to the students. Over half of us were also mothers – one a mother of two! One of my junior residents had asked me if we could make sparkle earrings the next time she was on call with me. I think it was mostly a joke, but in a moment of craziness, I decided to oblige. I cut a number of shape earrings out of polymer clay while hanging out at home with my daughter before heading in for night call. We used the time to review shapes and peanut made a necklace for herself. I baked the clay and glued on some earring backs and packed up the earrings with some glittery nail polish and decided we’d give it a try.
Of course we had a crazy busy call night. However, our stress reliever while dictating and writing orders was painting and decorating our earrings! Our surgery war room was full of nail polish and glitter! The next morning the next victim on call with me complained that she wanted earrings too. So I went home and made some more of my shape creations. That night even my attending got in on the earring making fun.
Love it, post call and earrings as a parting gift. Yep, this is surgery!
My daughter has the most beautiful relationship with her daddy. They have their own little songs they sing together, bedtime rituals, games only they understand. She’s his little buddy and I love to watch her chat with him in her little 3 year old way about her day or her thoughts. I’m currently on a very long night float rotation and my little one is having a hard time keeping her sleep schedule. Many nights my husband declares that she is going to bed at 8pm on the dot. I often find her snuggled up with my hubby in bed after they’ve stayed up late watching “one more Dora” or having a jam session in his studio. There is so much beauty in their father daughter relationship. It is deep and substantial and real. I hope their strong bond continues as she gets older and helps her to continue to be strong and self assured. My husband and I love raising this beautiful girl together.
A few weeks ago I was talking to a fellow resident (and mom of 2) about the typical mommy guilt involved with being a resident and spending time away from your kids. She’s struggling about choosing a specialty and worried about the damage a more rigorous specialty would cause to her kids. Somehow we got to the topic of her husband having to comb hair and she mentioned that her daughter actually prefers her daddy’s more gentle approach to her mom’s attempts at taming her hair. And then we starting talking about all the daddy daughter bonds both of our daughters have and reflected that without their busy mamas, our daughters may not have had the opportunity to form these strong attachments.
My daughter is proud of my work at “the doctor house.” The time I spend with her is my most treasured and I think our relationship is amazing. How awesome is it that she also has just as enriching and fulfilling a relationship with her daddy. And, I’m not suggesting that dads never form close relationships with their daughters in all other work-life situations. However, just think of how many women you know who report troubled or complicated or loose ties to their fathers. Maybe our girls would have formed all these same attachments no matter what careers we had. But, on those days of horrible mommy guilt, it’s nice to think of my baby girl and my hubby dancing, singing and rocking out to their own song.
During my typical years of teenage angst I had a very unwanted hatred of Valentine’s Day. I excitedly looked forward to the small heart box of chocolates by daddy gave me and my sister every year since I was a little girl. I always knew I would have this small treasure. But, as I got older, I desperately wanted a Valentine of my own to lavish me with silly gifts. I would look through all the sales sheets in the paper leading up to the big day and imagine what heart shaped JCPenney necklace I would want as a gift. I (probably rudely) dismissed gifts from unwanted Valentine’s. Eventually, I channeled my energy into making Valentine’s Day special for others – friend, family, etc. I decided to embrace the celebration of love in broader forms. Then I met my husband.
Ever since that very hot June day 13 years ago, Valentine’s Day has been my favorite holiday. My hubby has never failed to amaze me every Valentine’s Day. Two years ago he even bought me the cheesy JCPenney heart shaped necklace that I’d dreamed of years ago. I didn’t even know he remembered me telling him that story. Well, this year was no departure from the typical amazing thoughtfulness. This year he gave me a voice.
Last night I walked into our room and saw a brand new writing desk (one I had seen and loved years ago), a glass of wine, chocolate and flowers. My laptop sat on the new desk opened to my new website! My husband has told me for years to start a blog/write a book/share my voice. I have toyed with the idea for years, especially since surgical residency has provided me with pages and pages of material – both amazing and heart breaking. So, here is my Valentine’s Day gift, my recovery room. Please come here and hang out with me as I share my stories and my crafts. Feel free to share your recovery too!