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Monday, August 23, 2010

Vaccine Advocacy

Immunizations are a hot topic these days.  It is hard to go even a couple of days without hearing something on the news, by a patient, or by a friend questioning the safety of immunizations.  And I get it.  I'm a parent.  I'm plagued by worry for my children.  But unfortunately, sometimes information is not passed on to parents responsibly, leading them to make choices for their children based on information which is NOT fact.  This scares me because these decisions can be LIFE OR DEATH decisions.  Children DO, even in America, die of PREVENTABLE and COMMUNICABLE diseases due to poor vaccination practices.  What a tragedy.

I would like to pass on 2 EXCELLENT articles to my readers.  The first is a 'cartoon' about Andrew Wakefield, the British scientist who recently had his medical license revoked for his work on 'MMR and AUTISM'.  It is a quick summary of the lack of science behind his claims and the financial stake that he had in his research practices.

Click here to read: THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF DR. ANDREW WAKEFIELD

The second article is a great piece about RESPONSIBLE VACCINE ADVOCACY.   If you DO vaccinate your children, and do not want them to be at risk for communicable diseases from other, unvaccinated children, SPEAK UP.  Be PROUD of your stance to eliminate unnecessary illness and death in our country.  Consider becoming an advocate for vaccination.  Consider going to your doctor and updating your own vaccination status.  Fear the disease, NOT the vaccine.

Feel free to pass along the button above that says "Hug Me, I'm Vaccinated".
You can make a difference!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vacation...or more work?

I am getting ready to go on a family vacation.  A short trip to a coveted destination in my home state.  Can't wait.  Fun, yes....Relaxing, well....no.

This job (yes, job) of organizing/packing/arranging the kids, myself, my car, my husband for our "vacation" is more work than staying home.  I begin thinking stressing about the trip 2 weeks before we go.  But it's worth all the work, right?

I will get to go and relax, in amazing surroundings, read a book, schedule a spa appointment...oh, no, wait, I'm confused...that was my life BK (before kids).  Let me try to describe a vacation AK (after kids)...

1.  Do laundry so that clothes that need to go are clean.
2.  Pack each kid and myself.  Be sure not to forget sunscreen, bathing suits, diapers, proper clothes, pajamas, toothbrush, shampoo, sippy cups, wipes, snack cups and all other ridiculous kid products.  Oh, and be sure I throw in appropriate clothes for me.
3.  Clean out my (disaster of a...) car so that the drive is bearable only for it to be messed up again.
4.  Anticipate any/all needs of kids for travel.
5.  Pack plenty of snacks, drinks, toys, suckers, videos, and princesses so that boredom is kept at bay and expenses at gas station are minimized.
6.  Prepare camera for photo ops (see prior post about pictures).
7.  Prepare the stroller, and decide which one of 5 to bring...this is very difficult.  (Am I the only crazy person out there with 5 strollers, I would guess not...)

And that is just before the trip.  During the ride there will be singing, smiles and laughter amidst the fighting, whining and crying.  There will be plenty of "are we there yet?" questions beginning 30 minutes into the ride.  And then, during the trip I will question why we call this "vacation" as it may be more difficult than my actual day job of saving lives.  And I have not even outlined what happens when I get home...just thinking about it makes me stressed.

But why do we do it?  For the smiles.   For the small snippets of laughter that fall in between the tortured moments of temper tantrums and tears.  For the memories. For the indelible impression that family trips make on a child's developing brain.  So that when they are adults they can have a momentary flash, a vision, of a memory and say "I did that as a kid with my parents".  And they will want to do this with their children and pass on this tradition.

A tradition of fun.  And family.
So here we go!

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Do you have great memories from childhood family vacations?
Do you find family vacations stressful?
How many strollers crowd your garage?




Monday, August 16, 2010

Thinking about a birthday


I am in the thick of planning my oldest daughter's birthday party.  Not that it takes that much planning, just a bunch of organization issues that occupy my brain.  Whenever it comes to this time of year though, I am thinking of how I felt now 4 years ago at this time as my first pregnancy was coming to an end.

It was hot, I was big and wanted to get that baby out.  Just like most moms feel at the end.  But I couldn't wait for what was to come.  Everyone would say that it is easier to have a baby inside than out, but I couldn't wait to meet her.  I can remember standing in her nursery every night, listening to her Baby Einstein CDs and wondering, not having a clue, just what was in store for me.

And on her birthday I am full of these thoughts.  I think about going to the doctor that morning and learning that I would be admitted to the hospital.  About my mom coming to take care of her daughter so that I could take care of mine.  Waiting for my husband to get off work and meet me there so that we could meet our baby.  About all the people who came to witness and share in the excitement of that moment.

That most special of moments when you give birth to a human form of love.  Your first child.

I remember her cry right away.  It was loud and shrill like, announcing to the world that she is here; much like she does every morning.  I remember, maybe through pictures or maybe because it was a "push pause" moment; touching her hand, feeling her fingers and not believing that this thing, this child, was mine.  Wondering if I was capable of handling this task.

I remember taking her home.  And having many visitors almost immediately.  My mom kissing me good-bye leaving us alone with our child.  And feeling lost.  Feeling that despite all my accomplishments, despite all my training, that maybe I would not be able to do this.  I can still feel the wave of strong emotions that come with being post partum, the horrible feeling of not feeling quite like myself, and wondering if this feeling would be permanent.

I put myself back in that room waiting to give birth.  The girl sitting there is me, only different.  Less seasoned.  No one yet calling her "mommy".  She is full of (the usual) worry and angst and uncertainty.  About her job of being a mom.  And a wife.  And a doctor.  And how to balance it all.  If she could balance it all.  How to manage if the scale tipped in one direction on a day her child was sick.  Or if it tipped in the other direction requiring her round on a day that she had no child care.  Feeling like there was no one who paved the way, and that she was out there, on her own.

It came at once, and at the same time.  No more attendings to supervise my patient care after residency. No one looking over my shoulder to tell me if I was doing this "mommy thing" just right.  Just me and my most basic of instincts.  My "mommy" instinct.

And now, the post partum fog has lifted.  I can look back of the last 4 years and know that I made it.  I have proven, mostly to myself, that I am capable and up to this task.    I have learned, among other things, about being patient, loving, and picking your battles.  I have grown to love my husband more by seeing him excel as a father.  And so far, I have 2 healthy and happy children that make my everyday brighter.

And that is something to celebrate.
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Do you celebrate the 'birth' of your child on their birthday?
How did you feel at the end of your pregnancy?
Did you experience a 'post partum fog'?  Have the clouds parted?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hard to Part with the Pediatrician?

I get many questions about what I do.  If I see kids, parents and patients think I am a Pediatrician.  If I see an adult, they will think I am an Internist.  The truth is that I AM both.  I am board certified in both specialties (Internal medicine & Pediatrics) aka Med-Peds.  

Med-Peds doctors like myself are well trained and qualified to see patients of any age.  We complete a 4 year residency in our field, and actually have the same board certification as an Internist or a Pediatrician.  Med-Peds physicians can practice primary care, or sub specialize in any field of either Internal Medicine or Pediatrics, or both.

One area that Med-Peds doctors shine is in the transition of adolescents from pediatric to adult care.  Many adolescents are hesitant to leave the comfortable environment of the pediatrician's office as they are getting older, leaving them without a "medical home".  We serve these patients very well as we can begin to see them at a young age and follow them through adulthood.  Many parents also find our type of practice attractive because they are able to bring their kids into be seen, and if they are also sick, they can be seen as well.

I am proud of my specialty and a recent article in the Wall Street Journal  highlights our field.   Check it out.  And go ahead, search for a Med/Peds doctor in your area!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Professional Parent?

As a pediatrician I am exposed to many different parents and parenting styles.  And there are many patients that are seen in pediatric offices for parenting/behavioral issues that are not necessarily strictly "medical" in nature.  So, are pediatricians actually professional parents?

As a mother, I frequently find myself in a conversation with friends about everyday parenting issues and frequently someone will say...oh...you're a pediatrician...you'll know what to do. So bring it on. 

These inquiries usually come in two forms.  The first is the... umm...hi how are you....I think that ____ has an ear infection because he has a fever and is pulling on his ear and can I just bring him over for a quick second to get him looked at?  This is an easy yes or no answer. Great.

The second type of inquiry is the harder one.  Its my best friend calling everyday with an update on her almost 2 year old who is not sleeping and wanting my take on the situation.  Or a mommy friend who wants to know what to do when her daughter isn't nice to a friend on a play date.  Or a coworker who wants help with her newborn who is fussy and spitting up.  It's not that I mind the questions, I actually like them, because I love talking and thinking and blogging about parenting and all its perils and pitfalls.  I love the discussion, I just don't have all the answers.

Let's just start with a background of pediatric training.  Pediatricians go to 4 years of medical school and then do a minimum of 3 years of residency training in pediatrics.  Many medical students come right from college and are 21 when they start medical school.  Most pediatric residents don't have children before residency, and some even delay starting a family until after their training is done due to the long hours required to do the job well.  So, most residents do NOT have their own children during their formal training.  Before I was a mom, I could catheterize a child, intubate an infant, and stop a seizure in an adolescent; but had never bathed a baby.

During residency, we see many sick kids in many different settings.  We see kids in the hospital, in the clinic, in the emergency room, in the delivery room.  We learn about all sorts of childhood diseases from rashes to leukemia and everything in between.  This includes some focus on developmental and behavioral pediatrics, but the majority of focus in a resident's training is on childhood DISEASE.  Pediatricians are well versed in recognizing red flags and ABNORMALITIES in child development.  That is the easy part (well, relatively anyway).  There are algorithms and recommendations to follow for these types of children.  There are specialists that provide support.  There is testing that can be done.

Luckily, however, these cases are fewer and more far between.  The vast majority of our day (luckily) is spent with healthy kids with minor problems.  Minor problems on the medical spectrum.  However, sometimes even a minor problem can become a major problem to a frustrated and overwhelmed parent.  And we have all been there.  And not surprisingly, most pediatricians are not their own child's doctor because we are like you.  We get frazzled when are child is sick even if it is not serious.  We may not want to give (administer) our own children shots.  We find it difficult to be OBJECTIVE when it comes to our own kids.  But someone else's kids...we got that covered.

Seeing patients give us many opportunities to talk about parenting, get ideas from parents, contribute to these ideas with our own knowledge, and pass this message off to other parents with similar issues.  We can suggest better ways to give eye drops or antibiotics because someone has tried it before and it worked.  And over time, after seeing hundreds and hundreds of patients, our message becomes better, more clear, and we begin to excel at our job. Which is treating OTHER people's children.

So, am I am professional parent?  Am I better than anyone else at this job, which is harder than any other and comes with no instruction manual?  Am I different than any of the other moms out there, questioning the important decisions in my children's lives, not knowing the results?  Do my children listen to me when I tell them to eat their vegetables?

The answer is no.  I am not a professional parent.  I am a mommy like all the other mommies out there.  Trying to do what is in the best interest of my kids.  With some perks along the way.  I know what do to when my kids are sick and when they can return to school.  I know what, how much and when to give medications.  I know when to worry and when to panic.  At least about my patients.   My children only occasionally eat vegetables when I ask them to. And they have their own doctor.  And if she tells them to eat their veggies because it will make them strong and healthy, they will likely listen.

I am a professional Pediatrician (and Internist, BTW).  But I, like all mommies, remain a Parent in Training.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

She's so pretty...

Here's a story that makes me scared that I have girls...

I have many encounters at work with drug reps who bring in food and try to get us to prescribe the latest and greatest in medications.  I have a hard time listening to these awkward sales pitches, so occasionally I try to make small talk to distract them.  Today I had an exceptionally annoying encounter with such a person.  This woman wanted me to set her daughter up with someone on a date.

Let me list the reasons why this is awkward and annoying:
A.  I don't know this woman
B.  I don't know her daughter
C.  Why would I want to do this?

Let me expand.  I fancy myself as many things.  I am a doctor.  I am a mom.  I am a blogger.  I also consider myself a "baby product specialist", which is a term I coined (a subject for another post).  I am also a matchmaker.  I have set up two couples, one is married and the other engaged.  That's a good record.

So, this woman heard this and immediately sunk her teeth into me.  She wanted to describe her daughter to me so I could find her a match.  So, I told her to go ahead.  Tell me about your daughter, I may not set her up, but I can still make small talk.

Here's what she said (I am paraphrasing, obviously):
She is 24 and she is really pretty.  I mean really pretty.  She has long, dark hair.  And she is really pretty.  And skinny.  She is pretty tall and her one requirement for a date is that he is tall, too.  She is pretty exotic looking, some people think she is Hispanic or Arabic because of her dark complexion.  She's only 24 but she is really mature for her age and would not mind an older man.  She is beautiful but she dated someone for 6 years and now she hasn't met anyone because she wasted her time on this guy and she is so old.  So do you know anyone?"

Where do I start...Come on lady!  Are you kidding me!

If there ever comes a day that I need to describe my daughters I would HOPE that this would be the antithesis of my description.  I'm sure her daughter is pretty, every mother thinks so.  And with a blind date the first impression is made on appearances.  But are these really your daughter's best qualities?  Are there no better descriptors for your daughter than her good looks?  Does she have an interests? Or does she just stand around all day being pretty?

Don't get me wrong.  I'm sure her daughter is fabulous.  She probably is pretty but I bet she is many other things.  She is probably smart, maybe she is driven, possibly funny; but describing her as pretty or skinny actually underscores all of these traits. And it is insulting to other women.  And pretty, by the way, does NOT equal happy, or successful, OR get you a husband. (Have you read about Jennifer Aniston lately?)  And, by the way, how would I ever be able to set someone up based on this description?  He would have to be beautiful, and tall, maybe like Hugh Jackman (oh, yeah....I worked out with him yesterday...but he's taken...)

Maybe she will find a nice boyfriend or husband one day.  I hope that he is tall, if that is what she wants; but I hope he is WAY more than that.  And I hope he will love her completely, inside and out.

I just hope her mother doesn't drive her crazy in the process.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I Have an Avatar...Who is she?


This marks the first post at my new 'virtual' home.  No fleeting moments of sadness with this move though.  One of my links is "meet the doctor" and should be easy to write but every time I sit down to define myself on paper, I can't get the words out right.  Make of that what you will.  Now that I have this fancy home, I'm having a severe case of bloggers block.  How typical.

Anyway, now that I have an avatar I feel like a superhero.   But who is this mysterious supermommy?  Does she have her own identity as well?  Well, like me, she is a person still in development.  On an endless quest for perfection.  She may not be able to fly, but I bet she could make dinner and do the dishes blindfolded.  This avatar is a slightly more put together, more polished and possibly a more sophisticated version of myself.  Awesome.  I already want to be her, and my husband may want to marry her.

I came across this article, "I tweet, therefore I am" through a friends link on facebook and thought it was quite timely with the launch of the new website.  One writer's opinion on how social media is shaping our lives.

So, how true is our 'virtual' self to our real self?  Are they always going to be a slightly better version of our real selves because we are "playing to our audience"?  Is that ok?  How much of our internal dialogue should be shared before it is too much?  Is there even such a thing as an introvert anymore?

I'm new to twitter but I am at high risk of becoming addicted.  The risk factors are obvious.  Iphone attached to my person, avid facebook user and newbie blogger.  Risk score approaching 100% if I can figure it out.  Apparently, I am not the only one if there are 55 MILLION tweets a day.  That is just insane.

If you are at all into social networking you surely can relate to this.  You may be in the middle of a vacation, having a perfect moment of happiness and suddenly have the urge to share this with others.  After all, posting your memories makes them permanent.  Seals them in cyberspace.  And may give you some conversation piece upon your return.  Even intimate moments can be shared to others likings (no dislike available yet, but I'm sure its soon to come).  Your facebook status updates and tweets can serve as a sort of portable journal of your life, if you let it.  The question is, should you let it?

It is obvious what these social networks have set out to do. They want to strengthen our connections to other people, because, connections, after all, are what provide meaning in our lives.  Finding a friend that you haven't seen in 10 years is exciting, but after you catch up, they may not want to know about the temper tantrum your 2 year old had this morning.  But, if they don't want to know and don't share themselves, then they shouldn't be looking. (you know the facebook voyeur type).

The Doctor Mom is my super hero avatar.  She is pretty and skinny and eats whatever she wants without having to workout.  She wakes up early to clean the house, and makes a healthy, homemade breakfast by 7 am with makeup on.   She folds laundry perfectly, and never gets mad at her kids.  She works, blogs and takes care of the kids without breaking a sweat.  Oh, and she doesn't drink coffee or diet coke.  She is part of me, just (clearly) not all of me. And she is the author of this blog.  She is the side of me I want to share, and the part you would want to see.

So if you don't like it, I'll give you her email, and you can surely complain to her.  I'm sure she won't mind a bit.

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  • Do you think there should be accepted "rules" for social networks?
  • How often do you 'tweet' or update your status?
  • What is the most annoying TYPE of facebook user? (no names please!)