Physician Babble

strollerMy husband recently accompanied me to a doctor’s appointment and a few minutes into the visit I realized that it was pointless for him to be there.  As is typical, once a medical provider realizes that I am a physician (which sometimes they learn from my chart, sometimes from my social history, and sometimes I giveaway with my jargon), the conversation shifts from colloquial to collegial.  The words are changed to the shorthand that physicians use to communicate with each other– vomit becomes emesis, red becomes erythematous, and runny nose becomes rhinorrhea.  After years of living with me throughout my medical training, he’s been schooled in some of this jargon already, but when seeing a medical specialist, the medical semantics are elevated and even I find it harder to keep up.

While the doctor and I went back-and-forth with an academic discussion that I found fascinating, I saw my husband yawning and wished that he could participate more.  After all, that’s part of the reason I brought him along!  In retrospect, I should have advocated for his inclusion, but I shouldn’t have had to ask.

When my patients have medical professionals as parents, I need to remind myself to fight the urge to switch into the language of physicians.  Speaking this way confers a different tone than a doctor should use with a patient and may change the doctor-patient relationship, potentially inhibiting them from asking questions for fear of revealing their own unfamiliarity with pediatrics.  Even if the parents are fellow pediatricians, taking care of ones own child is MUCH different that taking care of patients.  As a parent, our medical knowledge can become fuzzy when trying to apply it to our own children, which is why it helps to have someone else making the medical decisions about your children.    Therefore, in my office I try to treat all parents, even my professional colleagues, as parents first.

Parenting Practice in Pediatrics

sidewalkBefore I had children, I hated being asked by patients if I was a parent.  Inevitably they would ask after I had spent a majority of our visit giving out parenting advice, feeling proud that I was able to teach about bottle-weaning, potty training, teething, discipline, childproofing, and breastfeeding without personal experience.  My expertise as a pediatric resident seemed to mean less than if I were also a parent though.  In response to the parenthood question, I sometimes gave vague responses, saying that my knowledge on this topic was a compilation of parents’ experiences and scientific research that I had amassed, the subtext of which was it is none of your business whether or not I have children.  Other times I told them the truth, defeated by the realization that my attempts as a young woman physician to exude and command confidence, professionalism, and expertise had failed.  I argued that one need not have children to give parenting advice, after all, you don’t have to have a heart attack to be a cardiologist!

When I had my own children though, I realized how much being a parent informed my pediatrics practice.  While the foundation of my counseling on parenting topics remained the same, I developed a perspective of realism in how this advice played out in real life.  After all, I knew EXACTLY how to tell someone to potty train their toddler, yet I couldn’t get my own son to potty train.  Afterwards, I would annotate my potty training talk to include sympathetic asides and motivational compliments to parents.  I realized that while my advice to parents was very much the same, knowing that I had tried these techniques myself led more credibility to my recommendations.  For my colleagues without children, I hated that this was true.

There are ways that you can acquire parenting expertise without being a parent, but this takes time and is difficult for residents who are starting out their careers.  At a time when the learning curve is steep though, I encourage residents to treat parenting guidance the same as any other discipline and to seek out learning opportunities.  Listening to parents’ stories, observing experienced physicians giving advice, and watching parents in action will shape your knowledge of a variety of parenting topics without needing to test it on your own children.

As my children grow, I enjoy accumulating more experiences to share with my patients.  When the mother of a 9-month-old bemoans that her daughter only says “dada” and not “mama,” or the father of an 18-month-old vents that he can’t take his eyes off him for a minute, I can now give a sympathetic nod couched in years of experience.  Whether that experience was gained professionally or personally, the patient care outcomes would mostly be the same, but now I feel a deeper understanding of the parents’ struggles that reaffirms my own.

Tuesdays with Mommy: Tea for Two

I am a frequent tea drinker, so it is no surprise that my daughter has already been gifted two tea sets.  We pretend we are having tea and cookies with the Fisher Price tea set and practice the concepts of open and closed with the musical teapot while singing silly songs.  We also practice taking turns, saying please and thank you, and pouring with her Green Toys tea set.  My son likes to join us too and he serves as a great role model for his little sister.  Tea time has become one of our favorite pretend play activities on these cold Autumn evenings.

DAVIDsTEA KOP_mall

Last Tuesday, we went to the King of Prussia mall to check out a new tea store called DAVIDsTEA, where we sampled and smelled a variety of tea leaves.  Since I was wearing her and our faces were close together, she even tried to get her nose in there as I sniffed the tea canisters!  We ended up spending a lot of money, but got a few good holiday gifts for the other tea drinkers in our life.  The only thing they did not have was a lactation tea, but we found some other teas made with moms in mind (like mighty Aphrodite and mother’s little helper).

loose_leaf_teasOne of my favorite things to do with my best friends is chatting over a cup of tea, so as my daughter and I play with her tea sets and shop for teas I am excited that someday we will be able to do this together too.  For now, I am enjoying our Tuesday tea parties, whether the tea is pretend or hot!

 

[Disclaimer:  I was NOT compensated for this post.  All opinions are my own.  I have no affiliation with Fisher Price, Green Toys, or DAVIDsTEA.  Talk to your healthcare provider before taking herbal supplements or teas, especially while pregnant or breastfeeding.  Pretend tea prepared by your kids is always safe to drink, but best to blow on it, just to be sure.]

The Last Bottle

bottleMy alarm clock rings later now that I am no longer breastfeeding and pumping.  I used to wake thirty minutes before my kids so that I could pump before the chaos of the morning began and nurse my daughter before leaving for work.  Like a chemist in my own kitchen, I poured milk from one container to another, calculating and measuring each bottle and bag.  I estimated how much she would need in my absence and hoped each day that I had predicted correctly.  The top rack of my dishwasher was full of bottles and pump supplies, each broken down into their multiple interlocking pieces that I assembled and deconstructed many times each day.  Why would I miss all of these tedious and lonesome activities?

I am a big supporter of breastfeeding.  As a pediatrician, this is one of my favorite topics to discuss with patients.  Breastfeeding both of my children has been an incredibly rewarding experience.  Not only was I mourning the end of my personal breastfeeding journey, but ceasing to nurse and pump signified the end of her infancy.  When my son weaned, it was due to his waning interest in nursing as his passion for food and self-feeding grew.  I took pride in his broadening palate and independence.  He was feeding himself, walking, and talking and I celebrated the arrival of toddlerhood.  As a first-time parent, I eagerly anticipated each step forward.

The second time around I am acutely aware of how fast childhood charges ahead and I attempt to stay present, enjoying the little moments together.  As a breastfeeding baby, my daughter was cradled in my arms and pressed against my chest much like she was the day she was born.  Although she continued to grow, with her hands now reaching up to stroke my hair and her legs draping over my arm while she nursed, she fed just as she had that first hour of her life, every three hours since.

After she turned one she weaned herself from nursing and so I subsequently stopped pumping.  I gradually used all of the milk that I had painstakingly pumped, labeled, and stored over the past months and slowly my freezer emptied.  Bottle-by-bottle our breastfeeding journey tapered off, until the last bottle, which sat there proudly marking the end of 13 months of exclusive breast milk.  However it also ushered in a diet exclusive of me and she no longer needed me specifically for nourishment.  It threatened my sense of utility.

In the weeks since though, I have experienced what it feels like as the non-nursing parent and recognized how often I leaned on nursing to comfort her.  I have had to learn other ways to soothe her and to provide her with nutrition.  As she is no longer dependent on me alone for feedings, I have feared that the strength of our connection would waver.  My fears have been reassured by her over-sized grins, the tightness of her hugs, and squeals of joy when we are together.  Breastfeeding served its purpose for us already, giving her the best start and forging a bond that is unbelievably strong and when the time was right for her to become more autonomous, she had the strength to make that decision herself.  So when I feel sad that our breastfeeding journey is over, I take pride in seeing the young woman who I am raising grow into her own.  I remind myself to celebrate our accomplishment and while I will miss her infancy, I know that we have so many exciting adventures to come.  Her last bottle reminded me that I should cherish each moment we have now before it is gone.

My Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving_plateA year ago we hosted our first Thanksgiving with nine adults, a toddler, a 6-week-old infant, dog, and cat.  It seemed like a good idea initially, since hosting Thanksgiving would spare us from having to travel with two kids and would potentially keep my newborn away from a larger germ-filled crowd.  However, not only had we never hosted Thanksgiving before but we had never cooked any Thanksgiving dishes ourselves.  Typically when asked to bring food to a Thanksgiving celebration, we stopped at a local farm store and picked out some pies and apple cider.  So, in  a panic, I did what any party-planner on maternity leave would do…. took to Pinterest.  After scrolling through a few hundred photos, I created our menu and started shopping. (See my Thanksgiving Pinterest board here)

Since I do not normally cook much, I knew it would be too ambitious to teach myself to cook an entire Thanksgiving meal while breastfeeding my newborn and chasing my toddler.  Even with my husband’s help, logistically, I wasn’t sure where we would put all the pots, pans, or trays!  So I decided what items we could handle and then supplemented our menu with prepared side dishes from Whole Foods that could be easily heated up.  We shop at Whole Foods frequently, so I knew that I could trust their Thanksgiving dishes to be delicious and healthy for my growing family.  Sure enough, our Thanksgiving spread was a hit, both the Whole Foods dishes and the homemade sides, and guests couldn’t tell which was which.

This year, our local Whole Foods invited me to sample their Thanksgiving menu and knowing that we were hosting Thanksgiving again I appreciated the opportunity to taste-test the items I would order.  As expected, everything was delicious, but I especially enjoyed the squash soup and butternut sweet potato casserole.

Thanksgiving_menuI spent my time at the tasting though thinking about how to best incorporate vegetables into my children’s diet, which is one of the biggest challenges I face whether Thanksgiving or a regular weeknight.  I picked the brain of their healthy eating specialist, who not only teaches their employees about wellness but will do cooking demos, tours, and teach schools and local businesses about healthy eating.  She gave me ideas like making cauliflower rice, chocolate avocado pudding, and spiralizing zucchini.  I also learned that if I order $30 worth of food, Whole Foods will deliver it to me by bike for free (i.e. I don’t have to schlep the kids outside in the 30-degree weather).  I am looking forward to trying new ways to add vegetables into their diet.

While last year I was feeling thankful for time with my newborn baby girl and not giving my family food poisoning, this year I am looking forward to watching my kids explore new foods together and challenging myself to broaden our menu.  There will be many of the same staples that we count on year after year, but thanks to the creativity of the chefs at Whole Foods, perhaps a few new dishes with a more exciting twist on the traditional fare.  Meanwhile in our kitchen, I’ll continue to sharpen my kitchen skills, find places to hide veggies in my kids’ food, and double-check the batteries in our smoke alarms.

What’s on your Thanksgiving table this year?

 

[Disclaimer:  Whole Foods allowed me to sample their Thanksgiving menu for free.  I was not compensated for this post.  All opinions are my own.  I have no affiliation with Whole Foods.  You too can taste tons of local vendors every Wednesday from 5-7PM at the Whole Foods on South Street]

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