Tuesday, February 17, 2015

SOMEDAY I'll be happy...

People ask me why I quit medicine. The short answer is, "I wasn't happy." Here is the longer answer:

No one is "happy" during residency. It is the most challenging (and perhaps demoralizing) time during a physician's training. The hours are long and the work is intense. You know it will be difficult but you also know that it will be over in a few years. I told myself I would happy after residency and would just have to stick with it. But a nagging voice in my head told me it wasn't just a tough residency that made me unhappy. Perhaps I chose the wrong program or wrong specialty. Maybe I should have taken time off. I still am not sure where exactly things went wrong.

I often think about the characteristics that help physicians get through so much school, through residency, and beyond. One of the key characteristics physicians have is the ability to delay gratification. We put so much time into our education because we know (think) it will be worth it in the end. We delay marriage, kids, and life in general so we can get through it. We also delay happiness, which can be very harmful and establish maladaptive living patterns.

And if we are so good at delaying happiness, will it actually ever set-in and happen? Or do we get so good at putting it off, that it remains elusive?

I saw my chance at happiness crumbling as I tearfully handed over my new baby to grandma so I could work a week of night shifts. I saw it crumbling when I missed out on those early milestones. I saw it crumbling as I heard those tears of protest as I left the door for work again...and again. It's the saga that many working moms understand. But it affected me deeply. I was supposed to be happy with this bundle of joy (that I desperately wanted) but I felt like I was even farther from my happiness goal. The puzzle pieces just weren't fitting. Even after residency was over, I knew I was out of place but wasn't sure where I was supposed to be.

When you get used to putting off your happiness, and delaying gratification, I think it sets up a neural network that is HARD to reverse. By the age of 30, I was used to putting in a lot of work in the present in order to get payouts later. I didn't live in the moment.  In fact, living in the moment is still a very difficult concept for my brain. I kept thinking that "someday" we would be happy. "Someday" we would go on vacations. "Someday" I could write. "Someday" I would take care of myself. "Someday" I would enjoy my kids. "Someday" I would have less stress.

But when you keep postponing until someday, it might never happen. I was so glad I had my daughter when I did and realized I needed to move in a new direction. It took a few years after residency, but I was fed up with thinking and planning for someday and never enjoying the journey. I was tired of asking, "how many miserable years do I have to put in to get some good years out?" Quitting clinical medicine was my eventual answer, made very clear after having a second child whose medical and special needs continue to overwhelm me. My career remains on the back-burner and I want to find a way to use my medical knowledge to help people. But my family needs me now, and I need them.

Me and baby E





Thursday, January 15, 2015

How medicine has changed me

I wanted to share a post I wrote in Dec 2013-the forum wanted to know how medicine and medical training changed the mothers in medicine group, for better or worse. Here's it is: Mothers in Medicine Blog link


How Medicine Has Changed Me
Since the age of 22 I have been entrenched in medicine-went right from college to medical school and residency. The formative years of my 20s have been busy dissecting bodies, studying dense medical textbooks, giving case presentations, rounding, taking call, eating bad cafeteria food, searching Up To Date, and learning how to adapt to different classes/teams/attendings/colleagues every month. I also took A LOT of tests. Looking back now 4 years post-residency, I am simply not sure how I did it! 

Medicine has changed me in ways that could be viewed as “good” and “bad.” Medicine has given me more empathy; it has showed me the importance of compassion and hope; it has made me a better listener; it has given me confidence and the strength to be vocal; it has given me a career to be proud of. Medicine has also given me my husband! (We met, married, and couples matched in medical school.) It has shown me the value of wonderful friends and family, which many people do not have. It is a privilege to help people in their times of need and share intimate details of their lives. I trained in emergency medicine and have a valuable breadth of medical knowledge from excellent training. The knowledge helps me daily both on the job and off. 

On the flip side, medicine has changed me in some negative ways. I am more judgmental-there is a need for quick (instantaneous) decisions when talking to a patient in the ER. I am cynical-while practicing medicine is considered a privilege, it is also a burden, and we usually see people at their worst. I take frustration out on my family because I know they will always be there (I hope). Medicine has been consuming and I have missed out on a lot of experiences….like family birthdays, funerals, weddings, parties, leisure, travel, holidays, and such. These missed experiences have caused me to be resentful and bitter at times. 

I am not sure about you, but I feel like one of the most important things medicine has done is make me a better mom! I have 2 young kids and am grateful everyday for my medical knowledge. I know how to observe, study and treat my kids. I also know where to look for the answers I need for them. This medical knowledge helped immeasurably with my son’s near-death from kidney failure when he was 2 weeks old and all the subsequent care he has needed. Some mommy physicians complain that they “just know too much”....but I would never trade in that knowledge for ignorance.

No field or career can only have positive impacts on a person, and overall, I am proud and grateful to be a physician. Being a ‘mommy’ physician is an even bigger badge of honor in my mind. There have been a lot of challenges/walls/ceilings to break through….and a huge inner struggle to conquer the mommy guilt and “just keep swimming….” (Thanks, Dory.) Time out of training has brought more clarity with this issue and the compromises needed to make work and life, work. I wish all of you luck with making medicine work, as well.

The End






Thursday, January 8, 2015

The MAGICAL formula for SLEEP is...

For those of you who read one of my last posts about sleepless nights, I mentioned that I found the magical solution to my 3 year old's sleep problems. It has been magical indeed.



He has been sleeping through the night AND falling asleep on his own for about 6 weeks now. He has never done this before! You might be wondering, WHAT have you been doing these past 3 years??? Most people get their babies to sleep between 6-12 months old, it seems. I have tried:

  • The obvious stuff, with consistent routine, cry-it-out straight up and cry-it-out from a distance, sleeping near, with, on, over, and around him
  • Black out shades
  • External window shades for cooling
  • Bedtime music cd (clinically proven to induce sleep)
  • Cooling or heating fan, humidifier if ill, white noise air purifier nightly
  • Various visual sleep clocks
  • Various sized beds-crib, twin, and now, full size bed
  • Soft, cool sheets
  • Room is sensory sensitive, no toys, only stuffed animals and books, minimal plain d├ęcor without stimulating patterns
  • Light lavender scent on pillow
  • PJs without tags, soft
Gets more serious and pricey here:
  • Several types/sizes of weighted blankets
  • Occupational therapy techniques of joint compressions and brushing
  • Chiropractic treatment
  • In-home sleep consultant x2-Sleep Sense program (interesting stuff, check it out if you are having problems)
  • Surgery = ear tubes
  • Developmental pediatrician evaluation
  • Medications: tylenol, melatonin, reflux medication, benadryl, homeopathic options and finally a prescription sleep aid

We were about to sign up for another surgery (tonsil removal for possible sleep apnea), but then we tried a method a sleep medicine physician suggested. How he knew this would work-I will never know.

He gave me a prescription to go away for a week and let someone else take care of Ben's bedtime routine and evening wake-ups. 

I thought I was dreaming (since sleep-walking and daydreaming were a normal thing) when he said I HAD to be out of the picture. That would be amazing, right? Somehow he knew that Ben needed to separate from me and rely on his own self-soothing to get to sleep.

He gave me a list of rules that included I disappear when the bedtime routine begins. Some other loving caregiver must get him ready for bed, have a meticulous routine, and put him to bed at night while he is still awake. That person had to leave the room so he could learn to fall asleep on his own. If he got up, that person was to be a "robot" and say "back to bed, night night, I love you, " and walk him back to his room.

Now I swore I had tried this before, sometime during the previous 2,000+ nights before. But I was MOM. And he was relentless and knew how to wear me down, so it just didn't work.

But we paid our babysitter to help for a few nights with this new routine and wouldn't you know...it actually worked! And it has worked ever since.

I can now put him to bed without a fuss. But sometimes he tries to trick me and he pats the bed near him as if to say, "sleep here tonight?" I kiss his cheek, tell him I can't, and he looks away in the distance like he's thinking, "I know, but I just had to try this once." It really has been life-changing for me. As you saw in that prior post, lack of sleep was really affecting me on many levels.

Sleep is SO important-for kids and adults alike. Many illnesses have been linked to improper amount of sleep, like obesity and heart disease. It is important to build good sleep habits as children and I HOPE/PRAY that our streak continues. I think this specific routine worked specifically at my son's age for a few reasons-he was emotionally ready, physically ready (not having so much thirst at night), and mentally ready (knew that mom would still be there in the morning).


Preserving my family's sleep time will always be a #1 priority in my house. To keep us all at our best, ready to learn, and ready to tackle daily stress. My kids will know that being really tired or 'staying up all night' is not a badge of honor! Their bedtimes will be changed accordingly if I hear this...