Finding roots again

Hey! It’s been a while. And things things look quite different around here no? Well, it’s been an impulsive revamp. I have been in a bit of a funk lately, feeling a bit out of control and unmoored; thus the impetuous changes in other, trivial aspects my life (hair, blog, screensaver, laundry detergent, tea bag, loofah….you get the drift).

The genesis of this virtual space is rooted in the singular loneliness of a new parent, especially a mother (sorry, I cannot be gender impartial at times like now). I have spoken of this before. Of how lonesome, tiring, and generally hard it can be. Of how nobody really tells you that is how it is going to be. People always warn you about any impending exams, tests, professional choices, homes, automobiles, phones even; but the act of having children is never reviewed or warned about, at least not until you’ve had them. Once in the club, people commiserate, but they would never tell you these things before you enter the hallowed halls of motherhood/ parenthood. Damn all of you!

I started writing on here as a mother of a newborn. The first one. The early posts were outrageously mommy- centric. And as I grew into my role, I starting writing about other aspects/ topics. There were even some attempts at fluff pieces (make up, bags, shoes), as I’d like to call them, but I have realised that at the end of day, this is one aspect of my life that is all- consuming. Therefore, it is a manic- mum- life (the title has greater meaning- I shall maybe someday share them).

I thought maybe it is the early days that are the hardest. Helpless bundle of cells and organs that human babies are. But I’m here to report (from the trenches no less), that it doesn’t seem to get any easier. Listening to Michelle Obama talk about it (how she was her own person, doing her own things and chasing life, even while in a marriage- until she had her first child), I realised- the resentments and feeling of helplessness aren’t entirely my own. My homemaker mother feels them, my working- mom friends feel them, our grandmothers felt them. Your other half generally gets to flit in and out, and contribute when they wish, but you have the major burden of responsibility- barring any unusual circumstance.

I now wonder about these things, because amidst the chaos of having young children and trying to have a semblance of a professional life, I had to move in with my parents for a while. Two years, in fact. And now that those two years are up, reflecting on them puts into perspective another thing that I’d heard from the Obamas – Mrs. Obama asked her mother to move in with them to the White House the entire duration they were there. For the childrens’ sake. For some order among the chaos.

Moving back with one’s parents has its downsides no doubt. Being treated like a child sometimes, when you are thirty and used to living life your way isn’t easy. Especially when you consider living in an Indian household. But the complete and utter freedom I felt of having my mother with my children while I was off to work (a surgical fellowship can be as taxing as a Presidency!) for long- stretches of time is unexplainable. You have to live it to believe it. I travelled to attend workshops, conferences; stayed away for days. I missed my kids, so did they; but not for one moment was I concerned about their well- being or safety. My children had another person to be ‘their person’, apart from me. A person to run to when hurt or sick. The next best thing to their mother- or maybe even better (the selflessness of a grandmother trumps the duty- bound cares of a mother). It was in short, a miracle. Suddenly, at least for a while, I had found an island of calm. I could learn my craft, be a good mother, be a better surgeon, work on projects and things that were important to me prior to becoming a mum; and generally find myself again.

Like all things in life, that too had to come to an end of course. Shorn of the luxury, moving to a new city, looking for a another job and trying to get used to ‘ the new normal’ again has been gritty. I am often left thinking of the early days with my firstborn, the utter all- consuming nature of them. The children suddenly bereft of their ‘people’ seem to cling to me with a fervour that I haven’t seen since they were nine months old. Staying at home with them full time for the past couple of months has amplified it all. And yes, I have lost my people too. The upside of being treated like a child by your parent is the care and attention you receive. Someone actually puts food on the table for you, someone asks you if you want a cup of coffee, the laundry gets folded (magically) more often than not, people fuss over you when you are even slightly under the weather- unfathomable luxuries while being an adult and parent. It is a gift and a bane, for you start to lean on a crutch that is likely not permanent.

Anyhoo, all that’s done and dusted. And now we move on to new adventures. New lessons. New troubles. The city now is Thiruvananthapuram- the capital of God’s Own Country!

Let the parenting conundrums continue.

Till next time,

J.

Day 21- And it shall continue

So, this is not the end, as expected. After the early days of ‘break- taking’, and routine- creating, the past few days have been surprisingly busy and productive and messy and incredibly wholesome. I did domestic duties and kept the children occupied during the day, and worked on a paper all night. And trained at dawn. When did I sleep, you ask? Ha!

That is what I’ve been up to. No movies, no Netflix ballyhoo, no snoozefests. Yes, there were late-night, balcony green- tea rumination sessions and early morning stomach vacuums. Also…

Chaotic water fights under the shower and endless mopping and scrubbing of ‘stuff’ (aka play dough, actual dough, acrylic paint, poster colors, oil paints, glue, glitter glue, fabric glue, juice, ice- cream, yogurt, curry, cereal infused milk, milky biscuits, chocolate, wax, bits of paper, bread crumbs, rice flakes, corn flakes, yada yada yada) from the floor tiles. Arguments with a 6 going on 16 ‘woman’ who thinks math is overrated. And reasoning sessions with a 3 going on god- knows- what man which mostly ends up with me being smacked in the face with various items of the household. Lounge wear and sleep- face. Roots desperate for color and brows like Frida Kahlo.

Aah! I miss my old life.

There have also been loads of curfew- less, non- time-bound pajama parties and sleep-ins. Forced to eat home food, sweaty, impromptu carpet and baby workouts; and the appearance of a flicker of a shadow of an eight- pack (HELLLOOO ol’ friend!). And loads and loads of cuddles from tiny humans who mean the world to you.

I do not miss it THAT much.

Till next time,

J

Day 15- Let’s talk about the unfortunate 4 AM club

Day 14 was mired in household chores, literature review (for work) and contemplation. I went to bed early (i.e. 01:00 AM rather than 03:00 AM) and hoped to wake early.

I did wake up earlier than usual today. 06:00 AM is much later than my pre- COVID 04:00AM start, but the past couple of weeks have been “off”. I wanted to have the luxury of not setting an alarm. My natural clock wakes me up at 08:30 AM, always has. And I fight it every darned day of my life, by trying to kick myself out of bed at a god- awful hour such at 04:00 AM. It is the bane of my existence, but I must endure it if I harbour any hopes of having a productive day.

I am often asked how I accomplish this seeming impossible task. To go against the grain of my most basic nature. The easiest answer would be – make it a habit. Of course it is easier said than done. Even after all these years of waking early, any number of factors can throw my morning routine off. A late night, a sick child, rainy or cold mornings, spousal discouragement, a presentation to prepare, travel or just pure fatigue. And deviating from the habit for even a couple of days can make it much harder to get back on track.

I have always kept my phone away from the bedside. Not particularly due to fears of radiation exposure, no; when the alarm rings I want it to be far enough to make me get out of bed. ( For the chronic snoozers of alarms -try one of these https://alar.my or Alarm Clock for Heavy Sleepers. There are several similar apps out there.)

Getting up and brushing your teeth is step 1 to winning the sleep battle. Second is not going back to bed after your morning cuppa. For that I have gotten into the habit of changing into my workout gear as soon as possible. There have been days when I have woken up too early, taken a cup of tea to the couch and fallen asleep there. But I am yet to fall asleep so in my workout attire.

Minimising the number of steps I need to take to get to this point is critical. Therefore, my clothes and bag are laid out the previous night. This seems to help. And once I’m out of the door, there is no looking back of course. So that is all. My secret. I don’t think of it as a long sequence for the day. The aim when hitting the sack at night is singular. Get my arse of bed and into the loo. Period. The rest then falls into place from there on.

Getting home after training in the morning. Getting ready (almost) before the kids wake up. Prep the progeny for school. Get to work. Yada yada yada. The rest of the day is self- scheduled. And falling asleep as early as possible at night is also taken care of. Many nights, I end up passing out mid sentence during story time. I’m that knackered. All that sevofluorane exposure in the OR must also help.

Like I mentioned before, I despise this 4 AM business. I do it out of compulsion. Compulsion to training. And on days that I’m truly miserable, I give in. I sleep. And on other days I thank heavens that the days when the alarm rang at 03:00 AM or even 02:45 AM (residency +3 yr old + 3 months old+ pumping + pre- rounds )are behind me!

 

Till next time,

J

Day 9-Cleaning the day away

As a household, we all woke up about two hours later than usual. Besieged by lassitude, we delayed the most basic of tasks. Z did not want to brush, Boss Man refused his morning repast. Me, I wanted to cease to exist for a day. Pause. Freeze.

It was just that kind of day.

We trudged on. I sat down with the little ones with their worksheets and art supplies. The A man usually flays the sheets in about 6 mins. Today, he didn’t bother. He was done with this crap that Mum was enforcing upon him. Z and I engaged in a battle of wills and like always I had to relent. We were done. At 1130 hrs. The day hadn’t even began.

I switched the TV on, and even rescued the iPad from the monster’s lair (where it disappears to most days when I don’t want them to be glued to it!) and passed out on the couch. I have not been sleeping well of late. Must be that, I thought.

The progeny had leftovers for lunch. I felt like sugary cereal and cold milk.

It was just that kind of day.

And then I got to work. Maybe the sugar rush helped. *See, even sugar isn’t truly evil.* I had to rid myself of this weird and inexplicable fuddle.

I cleared the toys. Sorted the overabundant crayons, color pencils, sketch pens and pastels. Chucked a whole lot of them into the bin. Arranged every book rack in the house (trust me there are more than you’d expect).Mopped, vacuumed. Dusted every surface. Shined every mirror and glass. Changed the sheets. Washed every sink. Scrubbed every bathroom wall and scoured the floors.

I cleansed and decluttered. It tidied both my home and mind apparently. I cleared the cobwebs from the ceilings and also my brain it looks like. My hands are pruney and my back is sore. But The Needle has stymied it’s relentless push toward despondence. I successfully cleaned the day away, literally and figuratively.

The children are fed and watered. We are alive. Productivity and routines can take a break. Sometimes, all we have to do is get by.

Sometimes, it’s just that kind of day.

Till next time,

J

Day 6- A tranquil apocalypse

Does’t this feel like the proverbial calm before the storm? Do you sense the worse is yet to come. Like we are seated to watch a blockbuster movie, and the pre- movie trailers and adverts keep running on. If this is truly an apocalypse, it’s seems quite tranquil at the moment no?

I had a neighbour knock at our door today, she stood a metre away from our doorstep and asked if I knew where one can get tested for The Virus. She then went on to talk about how she couldn’t wait for these 21 days to be over. Ah! Naive optimism or blissful ignorance?

I do not have a clue as to what might happen in the coming weeks. Nobody truly does. We can make scientific conjectures, historical predictions; but they are all guesses. Italy and India had their first reported cases at about the same time. Granted, they have tested about half a million people, while we have less than 30,000. Yet, the picture seems curiously suspect. I feel like we are heading to the edge of a precipice- the path to which is flat and non- threatening but at the endpoint of which we are met with a yawning bottomless depth. I hope I’m wrong, I’m but a pessimist after all.

Anyhoo, for now I shall describe something so mundane that it may momentarily confound your cognition into forgetting The Blockbuster Mr COVID-19.


How am I coping with my fitness fervour you ask? Not as bad as expected to be honest. Yes, I have not had a barbell on my back for precisely 17 days now. *Has it been only that long since?* I have not run for 10 days. I have not even taken my bicycle out for my *now rare* grocery runs *and risk having a lathi thrown at my back, no questions asked!*.

Ugh, the early days were hard. But the withdrawal symptoms are abating. Also, about ten days ago, I was at wit’s end in terms of keeping the progeny engaged. I ended up searching for a box of games from my childhood days *Domino, UNO, BUSINESS?* and lo and behold, I found a couple of rusty, squeaky dumbells. The heaviest being 15 kilos, I think. That, coupled with some resistance bands, the kids play mat, my night stand and an Ikea stool- boy am I sore!

The beauty of strife, is that it strips life down to the basics. I have a roof over my head, food in my belly and my family is safe. The rest, we shall deal with as they come. If people can get jacked in prison, who am I to whine for not having access to a squat rack. So my friend, we shall get ripped in quarantine. No more obsessing over lift numbers, nay. My goals now are:-

  1. Increase push up strength. Do more and do it better
  2. Master the pistol squat (almost there, just working on the ROM)
  3. And try and keep as much of the gains as possible. Strength can be regained back quite quickly.
  4. And try to do this-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GMr8xV4IY4&t=51s

I have hacked a lot of exercises, and am really having fun with fitness again. I wish I had one of those pull- up bars though. Also, maybe a pair of heavier (20 kgs+ anyone?) dumbbells/ kettlebells. Why can’t a human ever be satisfied?

Oh yes, and also; the progeny have PE time everyday as well. I do the half an hour with them. It’s a perfect warm up for me, as its a good one to get the heart rate up and get a light sweat on.  It’s insane, chaotic, very noisy but loads of fun and giggles. We all like to follow the Joe Wicks kids workouts on YouTube. Trust me, when done with the right heart, these are not as east as they might look to the physically uninitiated!

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay fit folks!

Till next time.

J.

 

Mommy Calls

It has been a long night. Most nights are this way now. But thankfully (or not) dawn has arrived and I sit here with a cuppa while The Little Man sleeps on his papa.

I think back to my days as a rotating resident in general surgery. The night shifts. Doesn’t matter which part of the body you decide to hack up for a living, the initiation is almost always by general. I won’t get into the arguments of which surgery is hardest and other trick questions like that, but general is by far the most busy with ortho coming in a close second. Of course, this depends on the kind of hospital you work in.

You go in, all prepped for the night. Meet the guy/ girl from the previous shift in whichever bay/ area/ bathroom/ OR/ closet/ cafeteria that he/ she wants to meet you in. After the hell she has been through, she earns the right to choose the meeting area.

You sit for a mere fifteen minutes or so and try and absorb the barrage of info that she assaults you with. Meanwhile the wretched bleep on the table goes off about 5 times (on a good day/ night). She wraps up her “endorsement” and right at the end casually throws in the fact that apart from the last five bleeps, the four before that are also mine. You are welcome!

The night passes in a haze of pressing abdomens, probing arses and squeezing pus from all sorts of nether crooks and crannies of the human body.

(Thank God I deal with Head and Neck in my world!)

On good nights, you  may see the bed in one of the on call rooms. The operative word being SEE. You see it, and you wish to sink into its hard, noisy springs. But you just sit on it for ten minutes or so and type away pending charts furiously while the bleep/ pager goes berserk next to you. All you bloody wanted is to hide away for five minutes, gather you ragged breath, steady yourself and get the darned charts updated. Damn you surgical gods!

As the night progresses, you get into The Zone. You go into auto- pilot. Your senses are heightened, your concentration is at it’s peak. You don’t have to think, you just do.

As dawn approaches, you are almost experiencing a high. You know the end is near. At the appropriate hour, this shall be over. The burden shall be offloaded from you to another. (of course, there are still incomplete charts, pending cases, rounds..). You look forward to your cool shower and warm bed later.

I try and get through my mommy calls similarly. I prep for the night, gather all my supplies and mentally grit myself for what lies ahead every night. But there are no endorsements, no handing over. No end. THIS. CALL. NEVER. ENDS. Save me lord.

Some nights, we (aka MR H and I) tag team and therefore things are a tad easier.

I am a sissy mother, who does not sleep train her children willingly. I rock, sing, bounce, sway, soothe, cuddle, nurse my baby to sleep. I put him to sleep by ‘whatever means necessary’.

My first born was the same as a baby. And I can now tell you folks that I did not ruin her for life by doing so. She sleeps on her own and stays asleep, until morning of course. So I guess there is hope, but not in the near future.

As the night progresses, you get into The Zone. You go into auto- pilot. Your senses are heightened, your concentration is at it’s peak. You don’t have to think, you just do. You change, nurse, bounce, rock, sing automatically and do whatever it is that needs to be done.

But, the thought that this call does not have an end hour, is utterly thought defeating.

The main difference between the hospital calls and this is the loneliness. And the bright lights. There is a buzz around you in the hospital. Here, I move around in dim lights,  half- awake and not quite asleep, soundlessly (lest I disturb the older one) while I try to do whatever I need to do to put the baby to sleep and keep him that way.

Won’t lie to you folks, some nights I am at the threshold of insanity and want to pull my hair out and run out into the streets of Doha in my spit- up soaked pyjamas, bellowing profanities into the universe. Just like I sometimes want to do when I’m dealing with stubborn/ weird/ drunk patients or unreasonable, know- it- all nurses on a particularly bad call.

However the night goes, the first rays of sunlight brings hope. I’m not sure why, but things always look less bad when looked at from the other side of dawn. I know this too shall pass. And unlike the first time, the utter dejection and the constant worry of “Is my life f*&^ed for ever” isn’t quite there.

I am tired folks. So, so, so very tired….

Oops, I think I dozed off. There goes my pager again. The human one.

Till next time.

Dr J

The one with the changing bag

Any self respecting blogger with young progeny is bound to pen one of these posts. The one where they share their fine looking, perfectly packed nappy/ changing bag. I too have done one of these, about two odd years (maybe three?) ago. I am embarrassed to go back and read it, therefore I’m not going to link it here.

I used to think that children are so high maintenance. This was when I had a baby that never (really NEVER) spit up, did not take a dummy/ pacifier, hardly every pooed on the go, and of course did not take a bottle. Still, I carted around a decent sized changing bag with spare clothes, blankets, diapers, even a pacifier (?). The clothes sometimes were replaced weeks later, when she outgrew them. The diapers? I still have a size 2 diaper that I recently found in one of my old nappy bags from 2015. Yeah, so.

So, this time I thought I might downsize things a bit. My older one is three and needs almost nothing (except water every 15 mins) when we go out. She was potty trained (by herself, not by me of course!) eons ago and she is good with telling us exactly when she wants to go, and can even ‘hold’ things for a while if needed. On rare occasions, we have some water or gravy spill, that is about it. I assumed the new one would be the same as his sister.

I assumed wrong. Duh!

This one loves to poop (hallelujah!), and spits up like a pro. Dribbles like it’s nobody’s business and is mildly addicted to his dummy. Basically he is a boy 🙂 If my daughter left me not really knowing how to change a nappy outside the house, my son has given me enough practice that I can now do it one handed, in a jam- packed car, at a traffic stop. I now only have to master the art of doing it whilst he is in his car seat, without removing the straps. We’l get there.

I am therefore, forced to lug around a fair amount of “stuff” even for short trips out.

The bag is one I have spoken about before. I ordered it directly from the website. The shipping charges were about the same as the taxes, they negated each other as I did not have to pay taxes (Storksak is a UK base brand, and I am buying it from outside the UK). The bag is as great as expected (better be, for the price) and if I were forced to find a downside, it would be the lack of outside bottle pockets. Also, I wish I got a deeper camel colour. The leather color can be lighter or darker depending on how it responds to the treatment. If I’d bought it from a physical store, I would have picked a darker shade of tan.

Okay, so let’s get to it.

My pictures are going to be raw, unfiltered. I have not cleaned out my bag before doing this. We have Lil Z ‘helping’ us and Mr A is staring at us from his playmat.

Disclaimer- Most days, the bag is packed better than this. I like to have it restocked and ready to go after every trip, because we do end up using a lot of things at every outing. But we have not had the time to repack it after the last time we went out.

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The Storksak Elizabeth in color Tan

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The newer models do not need separate stroller clips like before

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View from the top. Looks like a sturdy handbag, or a stylish weekend bag

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Eeks! Hope it ain’t too messy inside. The chevron and pink one is a ring sling that we used during our trip to the park.

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The huge pack of wipes was thrown in at the last moment when we leaving, as we had run out of the travel sized ones.

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I swear, it’s usually better packed

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Spares for the  kiddos

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Wipe central! Honestly we NEED all of the above.

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The mommy pouch that comes with the bag is useful to cart around bits and bobs like these. Recommend carrying paracetamol and saline drops. Breast pads if breast feeding.

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An inside look – well lined and plush. Tick.

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My little man needs a lot of spares, bless him! Recommend the bamboo swaddle-  literally use it as/for everything.

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Really enjoy the changing pad that comes with bag. 

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Is large enough, padded enough. Comes with in built compartments which I do use. So, if I need to change The A Man, I have everything I need in this handy little thing.

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A refill for the nappy bag dispenser (blue hangy thing on the side of the bag). The A Man has just reached that stage where he has started noticing the world around him. SO flickering screens, oddly noised rattles and these crinkly books are his dope currently. Of course, The Sister filches them away at the first opportunity and then they disappear for ever somehow!

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Though it looks unencumbered, the bag can seriously hold a lot of stuff.

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My trusty ring- sling (from Cookiie Pie) is a tad tired looking and faded, but still going strong.

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The bag comes with an insulated bottle holder, which currently doesn’t see much use. Special thanks to the desperate to assist assistant who demonstrated the extent to which it opens.

We do carry dummies/ pacifiers with us, did not have any clean ones in the bag then. Lil Z carries her own bag with a towel, water and snacks. Miss independent.

We have disposable changing mats, and toilet seat covers in the car which we rarely use.

What else would I suggest to a first time mum?? Early on, and for long trips it would be wise to carry a change of shirt/ top for yourself and your husband. By now I’m cool with walking around with spit up and milk stains so I can’t be bothered.

Yeah, so that’s about it I guess. I remember finding these sort of posts/ videos fun and informative when I had Lil Z. I hope this too helps someone, or at least helps someone fill 10 mins of their time whilst nursing at 3 AM.

Storksak bags are marketed as luxury changing bags. They are definitely sturdy, well made and stylish- but they do have their cons. This one is heavy (I knew that before purchasing) and does not have useable outside pockets. I usually carry a small cross body bag on me to carry my essentials. The husband and I have to often split up when we are out, the buggy is usually with them and therefore the bag too. Carrying my stuff (phone, wallet yada yada) on me is therefore wiser.

Till next time.

Dr J

 

P.S. If I ever felt like using a backpack changing bag, this would be it.

JOY-CROC-FRONT

Holidays

When I first started this blog, about three years ago, I never did have to think so much. I mean, I pretty much penned (rather typed) my thoughts on here, as and when they poured forth. As days became more rushed, the posts became forced. Now, we have reached a point where I sit in front of the laptop and wonder what would interest you folks. I forget sometimes, rude as it sounds, it was never about the readers. This was a pressure release valve. A place to vent.


I am off from work for a couple of weeks. Therefore I am at home with the babies- full time. I keep them fed, clothed, bathed and entertained (kind of). I make sure they are safe and comfortable at all times. Yet, when the dust settles (more like when the toys move from the carpet to the boxes) and as the day draws to a close, I feel like I have whiled away time and have accomplished nothing. I have not worked on my papers, or read up on anything. I have done nothing to better myself or the world. I feel like a lazy slob, who willed the day away.

Worse, even though I feel like I achieved nothing, I am beyond exhausted.

I deem myself to be an utter failure because I cannot get my 3 month old to nap for even an hour. Ha, not even 30 mins. Nor can I get my three year old to eat anything truly nutritious. I ain’t even one of those hip mums who has summer activities and playdates planned out. My idea of a playdate is a trip to the mall and playing peek-a-boo amid the clothes racks. We do make almost weekly trips to the beach, but the time spent in the car (with screeching baby and whining child) far outstretches the time spent on the sand because come on, it f*&^ing 50 degrees outside. Who are we kidding!

My ‘annual vacation’ is being eaten away by this mundanity, or so I feel. Of course, I enjoy the lie ins, and the late nights. I don’t have to set an alarm for a few days and I can veg out the entire day in my PJs. I appreciate these small mercies. Yet, I cannot for the life  of me get this irrational, stupid, annoying, nagging feeling out of my head. Of being useless.

The fault is mine. Entirely mine. Just before the start of this “break”, I had grand plans for myself. Of getting our schedules on point. Have the baby and child sleep and wake up at humane hours. Of working on my fitness. Of seriously getting some work done on my pending work projects aka research and review articles. Of maybe even attempting an exam or two, and get a couple of collegiate memberships under my belt. Of getting the three year old into some classes. Hahahahahaha…..

Even though, I’m not really ‘busy’ (with busy being a relative term) I am constantly on a short fuse because small, independent, outspoken humans are hard work. Battling the will of an intelligent, stubborn 3 year old is a lost cause. Add another smaller human attached to your body and constantly needing outfit changes into the mix, and a brain constantly telling you that you have so much to do- your fuse is about a nanometer long.

At the risk of sounding like a monstrous mother, I will admit that I am much better off as a working mum. I do so much more. I offer so much more. I accomplish so much more.

All the rushing, and I suddenly realise I have no idea how to relax. I truly don’t.

Also, if  time expands to fit the tasks at hand, it also contracts and becomes nothing when you don’t do much.

So, here I am. Venting, past midnight. A sleeping baby on my lap and me straining over him and typing on my laptop. A true picture of “a mum who doesn’t have her S*&t together”.

And oh, did I mention that my three year old had a McDonald Happy Meal for dinner.

To giver her company, I made instant ramen.

We sat in front of a screen playing Caillou.

But the kids are alive, the parents are fed, the home is livable, the bathrooms are scrubbed and the toys have found their night homes.

F*^& the other s%^t I say!

 

Till next time.

Dr J.

 

Labour & Delivery @ Women’s Hospital, Qatar

To date, most readers who end up on these pages are those looking for information on the birthing process here in Qatar. A large share of the very large and diverse expatriate population here is mostly the younger demographic. Families that are still expanding. Women getting pregnant and delivering their babies in an alien land, away from the comforting support of extended family and friends.

Three and a half years ago, I was clueless about labour and delivery (the reality I mean, not the theory). I was also clueless about how things would pan out once I went into labour. The state funded healthcare system here is great but it is not without pitfalls. Considering how over burdened it is, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. It can be chaotic, very crowded and sometimes a bit too “clinical”. But they try hard and I appreciate that. I know how it is to be overworked in the healthcare sector. The labour and delivery service at the largest women’s hospital in the country is probably one of the busiest in the world. No kidding.

Let us start with my pre- natal appointments. Unlike the last time, where I was primarily followed up at the primary health centre, this time all my appointments were at the main hospital. Due to complications that Lil Z had, apart from regular OB visits, I also had regular appointments and ultrasound scans at the high risk unit- aka the feto-maternal unit.

The difference in patient satisfaction this time is incomparable. If I felt helpless and frustrated with my care the last time, this time I looked forward to meeting my doctors. I also went home after each appointment, a happy and optimistic woman. Content, grateful for the excellent care. I was even afforded some flexibility with the appointment times and was regularly given dates every month initially, and then every two weeks at the end. Compare this to three years ago, all I had was two appointments at the health centre and one at Women’s. All different doctors, and me a first time mum!

As far as the birth went, it was almost as good as it could get. I worked full time till the very end. On the day The Little Man was born, I woke up early with some discomfort. This was nothing new. I was in perennial discomfort by this stage. And had been barely able to stand for procedures the previous day. But I was about 38 weeks and I had a feeling that this was it . I’m more of a 38 weeks kinda gal.

I woke up, freshened up and walked around the house. Pottered around doing this and that. I bounced on the exercise ball, checked the patient list for the day, watched the news. Had some tea. Tried to not wake the other inhabitants in the house.

The discomfort turned to pain pretty soon. The pain was rhythmic and regular, and I knew by this time that the day had come. I felt eerily calm. Oddly, I did not feel hurried or anxious. I felt truly ready.

When things started to get a bit serious, woke the Mister up. We sipped tea, chatting about inane matters. It was entirely up to me, when to leave for hospital. It was about 0500 am and thankfully traffic wouldn’t be a problem for another hour or so. We got dressed, got the bag out and were ready to leave, whenever I felt like it.

By 0530 hours, the contractions were a little over a minute apart. We decided to leave, mainly due to the fear of impending traffic and also because we anticipated another quick one again. During the ten minute ride to the hospital, things hastened. There was a sense of deja vu, with me clutching the seat of the car, and huffing.

We parked at the far off parking lot and walked to the emergency room, stopping every minute till the contraction/ pain passed. I went up to the reception and offered my health card. I was clutching the railings and wall every minute by then. I sucked in and dealt with the pain as and when it came. Nobody took me seriously (why would they- screaming is the norm and I wasn’t even close to screaming), but I knew I was quite far along.

By the time I was triaged by the nurses and checked in it was 0630. And when the doctor checked me, it was about 0645. It was only then that the nurses and orderlies stared scrambling- I was 7 cm dilated, fully effaced (childbirth speak- the Mamas will get it). I was in a labour suite by 0654.

All this while, I was chatting up the nurse, telling her which was my best vein, calling my department secretary to tell her to find someone to cover my clinic for the day and get me off the roster from the next day. As I was disrobing and getting poked and prodded at by the nurses and midwife, a resident came by to take a quick history and offer me the option of an epidural. We said hello and made small talk for a bit. It was 0700 by then and I was 8 cm or more she said. I asked her to quickly break my waters and get things rolling, and stop brandishing the epidural candy. I’m not against epidurals, and honestly I was very, very close to taking up on her offer. But I also knew that I had already suffered through the worse, I was in “transition” as they call it and if all went well, the pushing stage would commence as soon as the waters were broken. I might even deliver before the anaesthetist could set things up or even if I managed to get one, I might deliver before it acts. Therefore, pointless.

There was gas and air of course, if I wanted it. Honestly though, I was past the point of any sort of pain control. And the thing with having no pain relief, is that I felt totally in it. In control. In the moment. Head, as clear as it could be. My own hormones and adrenaline doing what needed to be done. I knew exactly what to do and how. I even called my husband between two pushes as he was supposed to go and wait in the male waiting area. I told him, “Give me ten minutes, okay”.

Husbands/ men are technically not allowed in the clinical areas, female relatives can stay with the patient, but are not allowed in the actual delivery/ labour room/ suite. But the husband can be called in for a moment or two to the delivery room before they whisk you off to recovery once things are cleaned up (you, the baby and the room)- to say hello to the new entrant.

In short, by 0730 things were done and dusted, literally. Mr H got to meet The Little Man a few mins after and then we said our byes for a bit. Skin to skin is practised and they are quite good about that. You could also ask for delayed cord clamping if you want to. The midwives delivered the baby, and I have no problems with that, considering I was a low risk case. But the baby was considered high risk, thanks to his sister’s credentials and therefore the paediatrician was on stand by and a neonatologist also came by and ordered tests in less than a couple of hours.

I spent very little time in recovery. I had an IV line inserted as per protocol, but since I was eating and drinking throughout, I wanted it out as soon as possible. The nurses are more than happy to oblige as soon as your have your first wee in recovery. Again, I am aware of the protocols, and the reasons for them so I don’t feel the need to fight these things.

The hospital is pro- breastfeeding and even though the nurses are ever busy, they are happy to help you with any issues that you may have in this department.

As soon as a room is available (and after you have wee’ed), you are taken to the wards upstairs. You most likely will have to share a room with another patient. But there is adequate privacy, in lieu of curtains. The on suite bathrooms are clean and sufficient.

The nurses are efficient and the meals arrive like clockwork. I ain’t fussy with food, and therefore I enjoyed all my meals. Three meals, with snacks in between. You do have some choice in regard to you meal preferences. No complaints there.

You are expected to be in hospital garb during delivery/ surgery. But are encouraged to get into your own clothes in the ward. The uber useful giant pads and super comfortable mesh underpants are provided upon request. Diapers too are provided, but it does no harm to take some your own. Blankets and pillows are provided, even for the female attender who can stay with you overnight. Male visitors(including husbands), are encouraged to leave past 10/ 11 PM.

If all goes well, you will be discharged the next day (for vaginal births). As per the cultural norms of this part of the world, circumcision is offered for all male babies. You can take it or leave it. It involves a signed consent, some EMLA cream and a short 20 mins or so separation of you and the baby. This may prolong your discharge by a day or so.

We had to stay longer at the hospital as The Little Man too ended up having ABO incompatibility. We were better prepared this time, and I will not write about it in detail except that it all ended alright and we are doing well now.

In summary, things went as smooth as they possibly could. My labour in hospital was less than an hour in duration- half an hour maybe. It was my decision to labour at home for as long as possible. I had several reasons for it. But if you are less confident about it, or have other issues that make you high risk, I’d suggest you get to the hospital earlier. Also, ask for an epidural whenever you feel the need to. Request it early, as the anaesthesiologists in the unit are insanely busy.

I have been both the patient and doctor. And therefore my perspectives on things may be different. I get why doctors may sometimes seem rushed, or why the nurses many not immediately respond when I push the button. I also know that medication can sometimes be ordered “PRN” and therefore I will have to ask for it. Only you can feel your pain, so don’t be shy about it. I also know that it is good to be wary of unnecessary intervention and be aware of patient rights, but that doesn’t mean I kick and fight everything and doubt the highly trained staff at every corner just because Dr Google (or some internet “expert”) said something. Having a relaxed attitude, made my hospital stay easier, no doubt.

My final piece of advice, do your research but know when to stop. Don’t fall prey to the scaremongering and only base your decisions on the horror stories. Yes, you don’t want to be “that unfortunate case” but you need to understand that people usually come online to vent about their bad experiences. There are hundreds of “average”, mundane, regular stories that never get told online.

All the very best to all the soon- to- be Mamas. Am happy to answer any questions you may have about my experience (two in three years).

Till next time.

J.

Don’t wait.

We are a restless generation, I’m told. We are impatient they say. We cannot wait.

Nobody seems to get the fact that we CAN NOT wait. This is the pace that life dictates. If you haven’t noticed, every succeeding generation is more prone to impatience.

Why wait anyway? Our lives are most likely going to be short. Our productive life I mean. Not the cancer ailing, hypertension controlled, medicated life that is waiting for us sooner rather than later.

An old senior of mine, back from my undergrad days has been in touch with me in recent days. She is 37, an OB- GYN with a busy private and hospital practice. She runs triathlons and has a Great Dane named Albus and cat whose name currently skips my mind (I remember ‘Albus’ only because of the Harry Potter reference). Her husband is a 40 year old bodybuilder who also happens to be an orthopaedic surgeon (so cliched!). They waited to get married. Surgical training came first. They also waited to have children.

Everybody is entitled to make their own choices. I’m not here to berate or judge. In fact I have made some bizarre, downright stupid choices in life. And I have paid/ or will pay for them. But the choice to postpone our lives, to delay family issues in lieu of a surgical/ medical career is sometimes encouraged or indirectly imposed (poor maternity policies, stigma, patriarchal heads of departments, discrimination).

This triathlete OB friend has given me permission to write about her. She believes it the waiting that did it (science may not agree). She wants people to not wait. The public in general and the surgical trainees in particular. After 5 years of “trying” to have a baby and two more years of failed infertility treatment- they are disillusioned and tired.

She is almost a role model to me. A woman travelling the world acquiring special surgical skills. Publishing dozens of papers, when peers struggled to have one to their name. I was a teeny bit jealous too. I thought, not being encumbered by young children must be a great thing for her career wise.

She does not think so, not anymore.

I was acutely aware that my mommy- rants and constant whining about sleep deprivation and chronic fatigue might not sit well on the ears of a woman who seems to have everything except the one thing that she desperately wants. For the alpha- surgeon types being denied something makes one aggressively pursue it.

She and I both think that it is absolutely fine for a woman to chose career over having a family. That is her prerogative. We are not discussing them here. Here, we talk about those who do want to try a hand at having both but are forced to chose or delay one in order to further another. Our sincere advise to such women is- DO NOT WAIT. Go for both, it is possible and someday you will be grateful for it. That “someday” you will also wonder, how in hell did you manage all that sh%* together!

I seemed to have slowed my pace, while my male peers and colleagues are scurrying to attain training goals. But I do believe I will catch up. And surpass. Call it cockiness or confidence, I have to believe it to keep moving forward. (Our fraternity values confidence above all else.)

So ladies, do not wait. If you feel like it, go for it. Don’t wait. Train for that marathon, marry that gorgeous man, backpack across India, have that baby. Surgery will wait. Life will not.

Till next time.

J.

P.S. Cautionary warning- Yay for having a family and a surgical career. But let me warn you, the sh&^ will hit the ceiling on many days. Buy a long handled mop or wear a raincoat- that choice too is yours to make! 🙂

I never said it is easy, only possible.