First Post Challenge (Enhanced*)

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My first post from 2/26/14.  Thank you Edwina’s Episodes for the challenge.  Time travel is fun!

This morning I dragged two very cranky children to daycare kicking and screaming. I was running late after fighting with them…potty, dressing, cough medication…and before it was over with each of us was crying, for different reasons. My daughter wanted her blankie. My son wanted to NOT go to “school”. Me, I just wanted to stop feeling like the worst mother ever.

How many other women lived this today?

By the time I got to the office, my first patient had been roomed. Running late REALLY stresses me out. I spent a minute or two trying to choke back the tears and frustration, because let’s face it, no one wants to hear about their doctor’s problems and then ran into the room apologizing and smiling, praying the bloodshot eyes were not terribly noticeable.

Then, my next three patients did not show up.

This does not happen often. Usually I am terribly overbooked, so when I get a no show, I feel…lost.

For a whole hour and fifteen minutes I had no patients! I used the time to get caught back up on all of the charting and paperwork that I am responsible for, but in the back of my mind the frustration was mounting. This morning I had felt as if I had incarcerated my children in some awful foreign gulag with strangers that would surely torture them given the opportunity. My son had begged and pleaded with me, sobbing, to stay “Just one more minute, mommy!” My daughter stared at me accusingly with pain in her eyes as big, wet tears of sadness rolled down her cheeks. Why? So I could go to work and do nothing. Never mind the fact that these missing patients may have had mornings like mine, or worse.

I started fantasizing about quitting my job, becoming a stay at home mom. My student loans are paid off. I could do that. For a year.

Then the self pity started. No one understands what I go through every day to be here. They don’t know that I worked all while pregnant, praying that I did not go into labor early because I could not find a locum to cover my practice. They don’t understand when I have to take a day off for family emergencies or a long overdue vacation so I don’t go crazy or for studying to retake my boards (yeah, another ten years gone by). No one cares how little sleep I get, how many hours I work on charting from home, or how hurt I feel when a patient gets ugly with me, or that when they are calling the “on call doctor” that I may be in the middle of cleaning up toddler vomit. Blah, blah, blah.

I need to tell someone!

The truth is that I think we all want our physicians to have it all together. Give me an illusion of a capable individual who has everything in hand any day. Particularly if you are going to be operating on me. I don’t want to know that your are frustrated with your kids or your spouse right before you cut me open to resect my colon cancer. Or before you do a pelvic exam. Or talk to me about my depression.

The afternoon was a whirlwind, running from one room to the next, and kept me from thinking any more until now. The kids are fed and in bed and peace has returned to the house, and to my heart. As I hold my daughter’s little hands as she is drifting off to sleep I remember these important things:

Children make your life terribly complicated. But they also make enduring the other crap in your life much more worthwhile.

A hug and a kiss and an “I love you, Mommy!” can make it all go away better than a martini. Most days. Sometimes I still need that martini. Just not as often.

Being a physician is an honor and a privilege and worth working hard at. I wrestle daily with motherhood and work and how to balance it all. Sometimes I feel guilty that I find my job so fulfilling. Then a patient says, “Thank you!” and gives me a hug and I find peace again.

And now….

The dishes are not going to wash themselves!

*Enhanced because I did not start including photographs for months but I went ahead and added one here.

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The Enchanted Forest

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As a mom I have discovered that Santa holds sway only between Thanksgiving and New Years.

The Tooth Fairy picks up lost teeth. She doesn’t care if the tooth resided in the mouth of a good kid or a bad kid. The reimbursement is the same according to my son. Apparently the kids at school have told him the going rate is $20. Rich Tooth Fairy.

I hate her.

The Great Pumpkin is a myth, I am told.

God loves us no matter what.

The Easter Bunny is good for a couple of weeks.

My scary face, apparently, is not all that scary.

So what is a mom to do when she needs to blackmail her kids into submission?

Invent a fairy!

My kids are obsessed with their birthdays. It is a topic of conversation year round: planning the party theme, changing the party theme, listing present wishes, discussing cake flavors and wardrobe, etc.

Sooooo… the Birthday Fairy was invented!

The Birthday Fairy brings your single birthday present from the Enchanted Forest. She sees all. She knows all.

And you can bet she does not give presents to bad little boys or girls.

I love, love, love the Birthday Fairy!

Wearing Out

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My daughter has a new mermaid costume.

She has left a trail of purple glitter all over this house…upstairs, downstairs, the driveway, the yard, her bed, in the potty, on my face and in my hair.

At first, when she discovered the bag, I was reluctant to let her play with it. I wanted to save it in pristine condition for the Halloween festivities. Reluctantly, I finally gave in but I followed her around telling her that mermaids didn’t climb on things in their pretty dresses or slide around on the floor.

Brace yourself for a flashback:

My mother and father had purchased a beautiful cedar picnic table. My mother envisioned family picnics in the yard under the trees. She was giddy with excitement. When my father finally put it together, he told her that it would have to remain under the covered porch so it would not get ruined by the weather. Never mind that it had been stained and sealed with a weatherproof finish. My mother cried and cried. She begged and pleaded. What was the use of buying this beautiful table if she couldn’t actually use it? My father, however, would not be swayed. In short order the table was buried under two kayaks that never touched water and other detritus and was never, ever used. Not even once in the ensuing 25 years.

The other day, my son began wailing in the car on the way to school. “The paint is coming off my Transformer thermos, mommy!!!!!”

“It’s ok, sweetie. It means that it has been loved. Things wear out but it just means you had fun with them!”

Sniff!

Then a smile.

“Mommy, you are right! I love this thermos!!!”

I don’t want my kids to fear living, wearing out, saying goodbye. I want them to play their hearts out and experience joy even if it means a mess of glitter everywhere.

So go ahead, honey-bunny…. play as hard as you like in that mermaid costume. Mommy doesn’t mind after all…

Escaping the Pain

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The blue eyes flashed, but not with fear.

With anger.

In a second, they were only a blue blur and a memory.

Had he really just bolted?

In another second I had recovered myself enough to give chase.

Through the clinic.

He ran through X-ray, leaving a gowned, nearly naked woman shrieking. He ran through darkened storerooms. Through hallways. He even threw stacks of boxes down in my path, trying to slow me down.

Then he ran into the men’s bathroom, figuring it was the one place the lady doc could not follow.

Wrong.

I knocked to give warning, waiting a few seconds for any indecency from innocent bystanders to get addressed and then entered.

The bathroom appeared empty.

There were no feet peeking out beneath the stalls.

I tried each door, peering into the stall. At the last one I found him, perched atop the toilet. We eyed each other, neither one ready to accept defeat.

“Look, man. You just gotta get the shot. It will hurt but just for a sec and then you can have a sucker. Don’t make me look bad, ok?”

I held out my hand. He reluctantly placed his seven year old hand in mine, realizing he was cornered at last, and I held tight as we walked back to the exam room where mom and the nurse with the needle were waiting….

The Coffee That Never Was

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“Doc, is that coffee on your forehead?” The patient, an older man (read that as still older than me) with spectacles, leaned in closer, squinting his eyes to get a better look.

I touched my forehead unconsciously and winced. Ouch.

He sat back and eyed me suspiciously. “Why do you have coffee on your forehead?”

Yeah, well. About that…

My kids and I had a picnic dinner at the park a few evenings past and then went for a walk down the hike and bike trail.

My son calls it hunting for snakes. He likes snakes.

There were no snakes but we did see a bunny and then caught a grasshopper in a sandwich bag. Fun times.

As twilight started to descend I heard a weird almost dog-like howling not too far off across a field. I didn’t think too much of it, enjoying the sunset and the kiddos. Then the howling got louder and it was clear that there was more than one animal.

Coyotes. In a pack. Seriously?

They were tracking us through the adjacent field.

By the time I realized what was going on we were still about a quarter mile from the safety of the car. I tried to get the kids to “race” back towards the car as a game, not wanting to scare them, but my son kept getting distracted wanting to catch more grasshoppers.

I could hear that those animals were moving fast. I grabbed one kid in each arm and ran like a bat outta hell (admittedly a wild eyed one carrying fifty pounds of kid) back to the car, flung them in, then ran to the driver’s side. In the midst of my trying to scramble in super fast, I slammed my head into the doorframe.

Pain. Searing, blinding pain.

Holding back the profanity (the kids were with me after all), I dug out the bag of ice I had packed for drinks and drove home with that pressed against my temple hoping that I would not develop a huge goose egg over my eye.

Good news is, we were not eaten by coyotes.

Bad news is that the knock on my head still hurts and now the bruise is starting to show up brownish-yellow under my make up.

I summoned up my most convincing sheepish look and grinned at the fellow sitting on my exam table.

“Aw, man! Those kids made me splash again. I can’t believe I missed a spot…”

(The picture above is the actual sunset that evening, in case you were curious.)

My Favorite Number

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“Mommy, one is my favorite number. You know why? Because there is only one of ME!”

My son got his first real week of assignments back.

Pre-K!

He got check minuses for not coloring perfectly within the lines. And check minuses for not writing his letters perfectly. And a check minus for insisting on writing his name backwards all the time.

This is his first year in a formal school setting. He has not really practiced writing his letters extensively to this point. They are legible. But after three attempts he is not going to have perfect form drawing a B.

I love my kid. I think he is terribly smart.

So I am struggling with check minuses for my perfect boy. The baby that I did not even know that I wanted.

Part of me wants to make him spend the long Labor Day weekend practicing letters and coloring in the lines until he gets it right. I have to remind myself that he is FOUR and it is not necessary to have perfection at this point in his life.

Still. I want everyone else to see and appreciate the perfection I see in him.

It makes me sad that he will be judged from now on based on someone else’s ideals. This is why I grieve for him. Not because of school itself but rather because it is an allegory for the unfairness of life that will be foisted upon him and because I, like all mothers, will be defenseless to protect him in the end.

First Day Of School

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“Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly.” – Arnold Edinborough

Today was the first day of “real” school for my son. He has gone to “school” in the form of daycare for some time now, so it was a bit anticlimactic for him except that he got to have a brand new Ninja Turtle backpack and a snazzy uniform.

Mind you, the child has only seen about a 2 minute clip of a Ninja Turtle episode in his life, but by golly he can rattle off the names Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo with an almost spiritual reverence. I thought I could use that to introduce him to the artwork of these masters. Not such a good idea as it turns out, FYI.

Truthfully, this first day was a bit anticlimactic for me, too, except to say that I miss my little guy. He is growing up so fast!

“Mommy, don’t be sad. I want to grow up!”

Well, $@(/:^<^~%|€<$.

Each day is about letting go a little more, until one day they are gone. Poof! They no longer need you.

Medical Mommies

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When my kids are sick, I hear all of the time: “Your kids are so lucky their mommy is a doctor!”

Welllllllllll….. Let’s just say there are pros and cons to this.

We ARE blessed that I know my way around the system. But stay with me as I digress.

When I was pregnant with my first kiddo, I was told he had a kidney/bladder issue. We had to do a level four ultrasound with a neonatal specialist. Beforehand I had to listen to a genetic counselor telling me the likelihood, as an older mom, that this meant he had Downs Syndrome or some other genetic anomaly and how I needed to agree to an amniocentesis.

I refused.

I did not want to chance it being positive, having to spend the next five months worrying about all of medical implications of that. Kidney and bladder problems were enough for me, right then. I needed the possibility that he was perfect in every other way.

Then, I thought, maybe I am just being an overbearing doctor mom. Maybe I just need to chill and follow instructions. I don’t know everything, after all. So I decided to stop questioning, stop being difficult. I just did what I was told.

Before it was over with, we were having level four ultrasounds every two weeks throughout the pregnancy. I had to see a pediatric urologist before he was even born.

After he was born, when he was 2-3 weeks old, I was told he needed to have an MRI of his back to check for tethered chord, among other things. I wanted to argue that it was not necessary. He did not have the other signs. But I let it go.

He had to be sedated. I insisted that I was present in the room with him, though, even though they told me it wasn’t allowed. They made an exception because I was who I was and during the two hours that ensued the procedure had to be halted twice because of medical errors… I wondered if I would have been told afterward what happened to my kiddo if I had not been there. He survived. Maybe that was all I needed to know in the end?

Throughout this whole process, from the third ultrasound on, in the back of my mind there was this nagging thought:

Is all of this even necessary?

The truth of the matter was we were being over treated because I was a physician.

That might be a good thing, you might think, operating with an over abundance of caution. Don’t you get better care? No. It resulted in tons of wasted time and money and with the MRI, a significant amount of actual suffering on the part of my son.

So my days of being a compliant physician mom were over. It was my job to help protect my kiddo, I decided, and by golly I needed to step up to the plate.

After a while of this, I got tired of fighting everyone, arguing, asserting myself. It was exhausting. Want to see a physician get defensive? Ask if something is really necessary.

So I decided that I would not tell people what I do for a living.

However, I quickly learned that the problem with being a mom without a medical background is that no one takes you seriously.

Seriously.

You have to prove to people that what you say is going on is really going on.

I used to wonder why moms would tell me that the reason they had not given their kiddo anything for their fever of 103 before they brought them in (as the poor kiddo was shivering wracked with chills and absolutely miserable) was that they wanted to show me that it was really going on.

Perhaps I am naive, but I believe people. I didn’t really understand this mentality. Why would someone lie about their kid’s fever? Or anything else for that matter? Who really wants to spend money and time taking their kid to the office or to the ER? Are there really physicians like that out there?

Then I lived it. Several times.

At the ER with my son, as he was having issues with his breathing the other night, I worried about which tactic I should use.

I opted for the nonmedical mom approach.

I found myself trying to convince the triage nurse that my son was in actual, true distress. He was breathing fast, he had retractions and was using accessory muscles. I knew that his oxygen saturation was low, that he was not responding to treatments, that things were going to get worse quickly as the albuterol treatment I just gave him started wearing off again, but my kid was a trouper and he was smiling, playing, trying to be sweet to the nursing staff.

Look sick like you did in the car on the way over, damn it!

They did not believe me until I said, “Hey, look, I am a doctor.” Then, they finally lifted up his shirt and stuck the monitor on his finger to measure… things started to move very quickly.

At one point, a woman showed up to tell me what my portion of the charges would be, based on my insurance info. $950. With insurance. That was before the transfer to the children’s hospital by ambulance. Cleverly, she also presented my son with a coloring book and a teddy bear so I would be less likely to tell her to go away and come back when he was stable. Yes. Yes, I believe I will take that teddy bear. Doctors really don’t get professional courtesy anymore… It costs us as much as anyone else.

Where is the happy medium in all of this?

I just don’t know. I haven’t found that place for myself yet. For now, I will agree that we are blessed. But not in the same way people may think. I can at least afford care for my family. Many cannot.

Denouement

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Well, I survived. So did everyone else.

It is amazing how much better one little tiny positive thing can make you feel about your entire life.

Sometimes I skip doing the little things for people around me.

It’s too little to make any kind of difference.

I won’t neglect that so much anymore.

Hope.

Hope is a very powerful thing.