December 28, 2015

 

I met you on the worst day of your life. You will always remember the day. December 28, 2015. I walked into your patient room, I shook your hand, I told you who I was, and you told me your story. You told me why we were meeting that day. You told me that you were pregnant, 7 weeks along. You started bleeding that morning. But you didn’t have any pain. You looked anxious, but hopeful. You had your game face on. I told you what we were going to do. Some blood work. An ultrasound. These would be a long three hours for you to wait while fearing the worst and hoping for the best. To me, it was another day at work.

I didn’t know your whole story. I knew the man in the room was your husband. I could tell he was most worried about you. I could tell that he shared in your dreams. I didn’t want to pry. I let you tell me what you wanted to tell me.

Three hours passed. To me, it was a quick, fast-paced three hours. To you, it was the longest wait. You were trying to hang on to your patience. Why was this taking so long?

And then I got the results. And it was what you had been fearing. You were no longer pregnant. It was a jab to my heart. I sat at my desk and looked at the results. I paused. My shoulders slightly slumped, and I took a deep breath and walked to your room. I knocked. I sat down. And I told you the news.

It was your worst nightmare.   It has been your greatest daydream to have a baby. You stared at me, hanging onto my every word. Maybe hoping I had made some type of mistake. Maybe waiting to hear what was to come next. Maybe to comprehend every bit of what was going on. Maybe to distract yourself from your heartache.

I didn’t know your whole story. I told you what I knew, and then I sat in silence. I waited. Your husband said, “We’ve been trying for five years. This was our last embryo.” You didn’t take your eyes off of me, you reflexively said, “but it’s okay.” Because you had said it before, and it was an easy way to fill the silence.  But it truly wasn’t okay to you. This was your last embryo. That slight jab in my heart now felt like daggers. I wish I could help. I so wish I could help. I wish you had cut your finger instead and I could stitch it up. I wish you had broken your leg so I could put it in a cast.

But this. This was it. This was the end of your dream to become pregnant. Maybe down the line, it truly would be okay. Maybe you would decide to adopt and never look back. Maybe you would decide to travel the world and live an unexpected, but still wonderful life. Maybe you wouldn’t.

All I know, is that at that moment, you were devastated. I met you, and it was the worst day of your life. It hit me: everyday, I am meeting people for the first time on their worst days.   I wish it wasn’t that way.

It was another day at work, and I wouldn’t remember the date, but you would. As I processed the events of my day on my drive home, I felt that aching heaviness that hovers over me in these dark moments.  I vowed to remember this date with you. For you. For all my patients on the worst day of their lives. December 28, 2015. I’ll remember this date. I wish I could do more.

 

 

Advertisements

29 Another Year?

This week I turned 35. I was at work on my birthday, and am so grateful and lucky to have wonderful co-workers that took the time and put in the effort to make me feel acknowledged despite being a routinely chaotic day in the Emergency Department.

One thing that stood out was the constant remarks. “Another year celebrating your 29th?” “How old are you today, wait–not a day over 21!” While I appreciate the playful banter and salute to my more youthful days, I have to say, it is more than okay to just say, “Happy 35th!”

Ask anyone in medicine, we acknowledge that no two people age similarly.  We may stare slightly in awe of that 76 year old woman that presents in excellent health, telling us she is on no medications, only a few vitamins, and walks 2 miles a day.  We may double check the date of birth of that 43 year old woman that presents looking so weak and frail.

I understand that age is a sensitive subject, and some people would greatly disagree that it is okay to shout their age out. I also understand that in the grand scheme of things, 35 is still very young to many (mostly everyone over 35.) Maybe my opinion will change at 45 or 55 or 65, who knows. All I can speak for is right now.

Right now, I am 35. I am 35 because I graduated from high school, then worked hard in college, then got into medical school and worked even harder in medical school to get into residency, then worked endless hours in residency and sought out the best training I could possibly get to equip myself for practice after residency. I have been practicing medicine post-training, and these years of experience are the most invaluable to my practice as I constantly work to make myself a better clinician.

I am 35 because I met my husband in college, we navigated graduating in different years, applying to graduate school in two different fields, and thankfully landing jobs in the same location.   We stood together through the uncertainties of being an interracial couple being raised in completely different cultures.  We navigated the complications and heartache of trying to build a family. We are now raising three children that have become the center of our world. We fumble through the trials and errors of defining parenthood and trying to be the best parents we can be.  With every year, I am challenged with actively taking care of my own physical and mental health as age becomes less invincible, setting new goals for my own general health and well-being.  I am 35 and am confronted with the realization that our parents are aging and are going to need us more with each year.

These are the things that make me 35. Not over 21. Not “29 another year.” Yes. All of being 35 comes with being a little bit older. Having a few more wrinkles. Looking a little less youthful.  Having to work a little harder to shed those pounds that linger a little more desperately. More frequently being called “ma’am” and rarely “miss.” But there is so much more to age than a number.

There are our accomplishments. Our experiences. Our growth by real life trial and error. Our confidence in who we are. Maybe one day I will cringe at my age, but today, I am proud of all that has come with being 35.  I can not even imagine what all will come in the next 35 plus years.

So go ahead.  Tell whoever you would like.  I give you all the permission in the world.  I am 35.  Not a year younger.  Not a year older.  Just 35.

Happy 35h to me.

Until Our Boats Meet

When you are in school, from the minute you step off that big yellow bus in kindergarten to when you roam those high school halls a seasoned senior to those undergraduate days traversing your college campus, there were always your people. There was your best friend in third grade there to trade you her Hostess cupcake for your three Oreo cookies at lunchtime. There was your friend in sophomore geometry class kicking your chair to pass you that emergent note that couldn’t wait until after class: Meet outside the cafeteria after 5th period? There was your physics lab partner who you hysterically laughed with after she snapped yet another rubber band while trying to create that impossible suspension bridge in Thursday afternoon lab. There was even your roommate in your early 20’s, who never judged you when you ate yet another can of Spaghetti-O’s for dinner, because, well, she was eating the last bowl of Cup O’ Noodle soup.

And then you finish school, you find a job, you find yourself in the midst of adulthood, not yet feeling adult, and maybe you get married, and maybe you have kids. And then, all of a sudden, when you were least anticipating it, your people have changed. Your people are now crying, irrational, small little beings that need your constant attention, your constant assistance. You thought you knew mood swings, but wow, your two-year-old’s sudden change of attitude when he realizes the cup you gave him was purple, purple. The world-caving-in tantrum that ensues . . . You’ve never had this happen with any of your people in the twenty to thirty years of having people. The other of your people decides she will no longer sleep through the night. Because, after trying it out for the last 6 months of her life, she would prefer to regress to how life was in that first year of life, because, why not? And so now, you and your people are a hot mess. You and your daughter are sleep-deprived, and your son, well. HE GOT A PURPLE CUP for lunch. There is no coming back from here. You quickly do a sweep of the room. Is there anyone else here? Will anyone be casually walking through between classes or to catch up with you after lunch? No. It’s just you. In your house. With your people. Not until dinner time will another familiar, reasoning face walk in the door. So there you are. Hiding in the pantry, sneaking those Oreos with no one to trade them with, just to get a minute alone without your people.

And we wonder why we feel lonely.

Our days are packed. Packed with commitments, whether it be work outside the home, work inside the home, taking care of our families, embracing all the responsibilities of adulthood. But one thing that we need so very much is now missing. And that is the presence of friends and your people that related to your life on a daily basis. Wasn’t that calculus test ridiculous?  I’m pretty sure I made up the answer to every question!  Were you as bored as I was through that guest speaker’s presentation?  Can you believe what that guy said in class?

All of a sudden, you are not spending most of your days with people that are in your same boat. Instead, you are spending your days with little people trying to sink the boat you are emphatically paddling to keep afloat. This boat you are desperately trying to keep moving forward, and tidy, and with regulated screen-time. It is a tough boat to be on, and without all the people that used to row alongside you, its not only tough, but also lonely.

I have always valued my friendships, but I was never aware of the value of mom friends at this season in my life. This season when you can feel so alone in your struggles to just make life run in a semi-smooth fashion. So many days, I feel like I am tackling these battles myself. Facebook and parenthood memes tell me I am not, but it is hard to remember when you are in the midst of an emergency bath time evacuation of your three children after realizing your youngest has proudly demonstrated her ability to be potty trained and produced her #2 while sitting in a haven of bubble gum scented bubbles.   “Mama, poo poo bath!” She exclaims. Wow. What I would have given to have someone with me at that moment to tackle the logistics of how to . . . or at least to laugh with at in that moment of hysterics . . .

Do you ever catch yourself screening people you meet, wondering if they could be your friend? Your person? Wow, you have three kids? Ages 6 and under? Hmmm . . . where do you live? Not to be too forward, but could you be my best mom friend, please?? I want to blurt. Instead, I nod, and smile, and finish our small talk in the bread aisle at the grocery, and move on, because I have exactly 20 minutes until I have to leave and pick up the kids. But I do wish . . . I wish you could be my friend, and maybe make me feel less lonely, be my buddy to commiserate in the hilarity, the exhaustion, the constant juggling of this season of adulthood.

I guess what I have to say, is that friends are hard to come by in this season of our lives. For those of you who have found your mom friends, your people that aren’t walking runny-nosed, spirited beings with sticky fingers, I know you are thankful and I am happy for you. And so envious.  For those of you like me, that still chat a little bit longer than is comfortable with that person you meet in the store, you are not alone. We are not alone in feeling lonely. It’s okay, and we will keep our separate boats afloat until we find each other.

 

 

 

My Mistake: Imperfections are Real

Previously Published:  http://www.scarymommy.com/parenting-open-about-imperfections/

Since having children, I’ve started living my life in unexpected ways. I’ve changed my attitude and daily life in ways I never imagined I would or could. I’ve done these things to be the example I want to be for my children.  I’ve dug into my inner confidence and shown them that I am confident in who I am, I am confident in the body I was given and take care of, and I am confident in what I do. I’ve tried to show them I will put forth my strongest, best efforts, and that I will never shy away from responsibility. I try to show them I am passionate about what I do.  I try to show them the importance of a work ethic. I try to show them the importance of resiliency.   I try to show them that nothing matters more than love and your family.

Today, I realized that in all my efforts, what I’ve failed to show them is that imperfection is part of who we are and that it is okay. Please don’t get me wrong.  I am far from perfect, and I am the first to acknowledge that. I have insecurities, I am more likely to win the “most improved” award on any given day than “most likely to succeed”, and there are a million things I wish I could learn to do. But, in the eyes of my five year olds and 1 ½ year old, their mommy can do anything. They know that there are some things that mommy is better at, that daddy is better at, but they truly believe, we can do anything. And what I came to think about today is perhaps I am doing them a disservice by nurturing this impression.

This past week, our nanny that had been with us for four years before she moved, came to visit for a week. Today, she left to go home. Minutes after she left, we were driving away in the van. I looked back at my five-year-old son, and saw him biting his lip, blinking his eyelids rapidly, red circles forming around his eyes. My sweet, sensitive boy was sad and missing our nanny. When the van stopped, I crawled into the back seat, and wrapped my arms around my sweet boy. His tears brought tears to my eyes. I was just as sad as he was that our nanny had left. “I know buddy. We all miss her right now.  Look what you’ve done. You’ve made mommy cry.” I chuckled lightly. I saw my son look at me, wide-eyed, startled at what was happening. I realized then that my son had never seen me cry. Me. Sap that cries at every “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” episode. Me. Sap that cries at every Ellen DeGeneres give-away clip. My son, searched my teary eyes in panic, to make sure that everything was still right, that I was still me, and this was going to be okay. I smiled at him, “You know, buddy. It’s okay to cry. Mom cries too.” He looked at me unsure, and continued to stare, slightly bewildered, but slowly became reassured as I smiled through my tears and joked with him.

I realize that in trying to be an example to my kids, I have ignored a huge part of life and living and success: failure and imperfection.

I haven’t set my new year’s resolution yet, but I suppose my new year’s resolution, and maybe my new parenting resolution is to show my kids real life.  Show them the bad with the good. Show them the challenges I face, the failures I confront on a daily basis whether they are big or small. Show them that tears happen. That disappointment is part of life.

Without showing them I’m not always the best, I can’t show them how I regain my confidence. Without showing them my mistakes, I can’t truly show them strength. Without showing them my imperfections, I can’t show them how I try my best. Without admitting that I have to do things I don’t like to do, I can’t show them how I own my responsibilities and pursue my passions. Without telling them about the challenges I face, I can’t show them the importance of a work ethic.  Without telling them about my failures, I can’t show them the importance of resiliency. Without all these things, I can’t show them that no matter what, there is still love and there is still our family.

I guess what I want to say to my kids is, sorry. My bad. Let’s try this again tomorrow. And that’s okay.