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.

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

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.

Hello

Hella folks. Just popping in to say a quick hello. Thank you for the lovely congratulatory emails and wishes. It is comforting to know that some you folks actually consider me a friend even though we have never met or spoken in person. The internet can sometimes be a fantastic thing.

The new little one is well. We had a few bumps along the road with his health (just like my first- my blood isn’t very loving toward that of my children’s), but those matters seem to be behind us now.

The older little one doesn’t seem so little anymore. She literally grew up overnight. I kissed a sleeping baby before heading out the door with contractions timing 2 minutes apart. I met her again in the hospital a few hours later with a newborn in my arms, and whoa! The Lil One was a baby no more. She was a proper little girl with no remanents of babyhood in evidence. My Lil one was all grown up- wearing a top claiming she was the “Coolest big Sis in town” and pigtails that were severely askew (thanks to daddy!).

As far as mama news go, I’m in the throes of the all consuming initial days of motherhood. Endless nursing, burping and changing with no sleep in sight. Make no mistake, I’m not here to whinge or whine. Things are surprisingly chilled out and I’m trying my hardest to enjoy this calm before the storm. The storm being being call, theatres and clinics while pumping frantically and having sleepless nights at home. This is due in less than 30 days now. Let us not dwell on that for the moment..

The sleep deprivation is hard even though people around me think it should be easier for me as I’m used to staying up all night at work. But call nights at the noisy hospital where everybody around you is also awake is very different from the dimly lit bedroom consisting of the helpless but alert newborn and helpful but asleep spouse.

Still, I’m better prepared this time. I can even make it through the night with no help at all. Some nights, I just veg out on the sofa under the flickering lights of the television and nurse on demand and let the boob- master sleep on me. I catch a few winks here and there. I am even letting the husband off the hook more this time. He has no paternity leave and therefore I only wake him up when I border on insanity. Which happens every 4 days or so, due to the cumulative effects of lack of rest/ sleep.

Anyhoo, the plan is to chill and enjoy every moment of maternity leave and get on with things with minimal fuss and whinging. Yes, that is the plan.

Till next time.

J.

Full circle.

The genesis of this blog is rooted in the singular loneliness of a new mother.

The written word has always been my solace. Whenever I feel alone and detached from the hectic world around, I gravitate toward the written word.

This was meant to be a sort of online journal, instigated by massive changes brought in by having my first child in an alien land.


Even if you have a ever willing and helpful partner, mothering a newborn human is an endless, tiring, thankless, extremely lonesome task. You and the helpless little creature that you created and carried within you are encased in this impenetrable bubble of joy, love, frustration, sleeplessness and extreme but sweet fatigue.

It is all encompassing and overwhelming- more so if it is the first time.


I feel like I have just circled the block and come back to my starting point. The new addition to our tiny circle of joy is about ten days old. He entered the world with a precipitance that took even his hasty mum by surprise!


I had so many posts lined up for this blog. Hospital bag ones, last trimester ones, funny ones on being in the OR whilst being heavily, heavily pregnant…


Nothing of that sort transpired. Instead, I huffed and puffed to work, heaved my three year old up despite people around telling me not to and zonked out dead asleep at odd times and at odd places- until a few hours before birth.

I really, really wanted to be that cool, productive woman who worked on her research paper and published regularly on her blog while also doing on calls and cooking and reading bedtime stories to her first born till I pop- HAHAHA.


So, here we are again. Much has changed, much remains the same. This desert land feels so much like home now- I did not want to deliver anywhere else this time.

I am quietly confident yet the anxiety of nurturing another tiny human colors my every thought.

Life seems to have come around full circle.

Let the fun times roll …

Till next time.

J.

The pregnant, surgeon-in-training.

If you google ‘pregnant resident’ or ‘pregnancy during surgical residency/ fellowship/ training’, you will be privy to a select few articles that occasionally appear in mainstream media about this small, unique subset of working women. Even medical/ surgical journals occasionally like to amuse themselves by publishing articles such as :

Pregnancy during residency: II. Obstetric complications.

Pregnancy during residency: I. The decision “to be or not to be”.

An article quotes a female orthopaedic fellow on how she scrubbed in for a long haul case at 37 weeks, with two lead aprons and carrying twins!

Doing 24 hour calls, even the better ones at 31 weeks now makes me wonder if she or the newspaper was stretching the truth a bit. At least I rarely have to wear a lead apron, or lift and hold limbs weighing half my body weight. Then I immediately think of conversations that I sometimes have with my non- medical, female friends who cannot believe I can stand and walk and run and bend and stretch and lift, for sometimes over 24 hours with hardly any breaks in between, all while being heavily pregnant. They too might be wondering if I’m “stretching the truth”.

Mind you, this isn’t a whiny rant. No.

If pregnancy were a man thing, it would be considered a great, life- altering, occurrence which warranted special consideration at every instance. The “boys” often talk of crashing for 12 or 16 hours straight during the day after a mediocre call- day. For some of us, even after the worst of calls, we go back home to moody toddlers who need to be picked up from nurseries and then bathed and fed and “poo-ed” and put to bed after reading Room on the Broom about 16 times.

Yes. It is a choice we choose to make. And at every step, we seem to be berated and chastised for making it. Considering wearing adult diapers to counter the weak bladder, and wearing triple or quadruple- sandwich breast pads to counter leaky mammary glands are not glamorous Pinterest hacks, they are survival tactics in times of dire need.

THIS  video is funny satire at first sight, but it is the quintessential harsh reality of female existence, signified by the contrast in our reality and that of male colleagues.  A colleague who recently had a difficult birthing experience, is about 8 weeks post partum, healing, struggling; and is back to the full grind (on calls, surgeries, clinics). You know what her the biggest gripe is at the present moment?

Not the hours.

Not the fatigue her broken, yet to be healed body is burdening her with.

Not the boy talk.

Not the extra calls every month.

NO.

All she complains about is that she can never find an empty room of any kind to sit in and pump for a mere 15 minutes. To top it all, there is “joking- mention” of making up for missed calls during the measly 8 weeks that she was allowed with her newborn. Apparently maternity leave is “vacation”.

*OH, I’M CRYING HOT TEARS HERE.

I am hopeful though. Despite sniggers in the OR when my belly comes in the way or the talk of women being “stupid” for “doing this”, I shall plough on.

I know, even if I don’t shout it out to their faces- that I’m stronger, better and will survive this and probably outpace them all in the long run.

In the early years of my surgical training, having children never crossed my mind, I believed it would slow me down, make me less competitive, make my bosses (mostly men of course) see me as a weakling. What happened instead is surprisingly different. Yes, I’m often racked by mommy- guilt, and taking care of other people on days when my own precious one is sick at home is harder than I thought it would be but motherhood has also smoothened my rough edges (the ones that I once proudly thought were my badge of honour, my “edge” over the competition). I am more empathetic, better with paediatric patients, way better at multi- tasking and generally a tougher nut.

I hope one day things change. I am hopeful that the next generation of female surgeons will not have to masculinise themselves to fit in, and can be comfortable being a woman at the workplace.

My Fitbit says I waddled walked 25089 steps yesterday. Of course it cannot measure the hours I stood for. They are no less taxing than the walking at the moment. My ‘one day at a time’ mantra has now morphed into a new ’15 minutes at one time’ one.

Though I was delirious with exhaustion at one point, and could not string together words to type in my on call report, I kept telling myself – I AM FUCKING AWESOME AND IF ANYONE CAN DO THIS I CAN.

WE CAN.

We are built with stronger steel than we give ourselves credit for, ladies. Just when I think I have been through the worse there is, it gets even harder.  The crap piles on, and on some days I find myself swimming in it. I hold my breath, grit my teeth and wade through it. I ultimately find my way out of the crapmire and then give myself a thorough wash. And I survive, yet again. Better, a sharper version of myself. The next time life needs to work harder to scare me.

So, go ahead ladies, jump into whatever your heart desires. Scores of others are fighting similar battles across the world; discrimination, mockery and sniggers not withstanding.

Only you can define your impossible.

Till next time.

J.

Dearest Zoe.

Today has been a hard day. I fought valiantly. I gave it my all. I warred with all my might.

My might obviously isn’t mighty enough.

You won every fight. Hands down. No arguments there.

I lost and there is no shame in it. I lost miserably, but I lost to you – my dearest. And though I’m clutching dearly to my threadbare sanity, I will live. To fight another day.

You may kick and scream and throw yourself violently to the hard- tiled floor like you did today. You may survive on just four strawberries and two morsels of rice for a day. But remember my dear, your Mama is trying her best. She is only trying to do what she thinks is good for you. Who knows, maybe she is right, maybe she is not. Just give her the benefit of the doubt please.

I’m not sure how your almost brand new brain processes emotions. But I’m assuming you don’t take things to heart.

You surely do not. Otherwise you wouldn’t throw a hundred watt smile my way the minute you wake from your nap. A nap that was induced by relentless crying for something that you could never have. A nap before which I yelled at you. Literally. And told you in very forceful tones that you cannot always have your way.

If you were anything like an adult, you would despise me. For all the rules. The discipline. The number of times I say NO. You would probably be plotting ways of running away. Or better still, of taking control of Mama.

Thankfully, you are not. You are but a two year old. Vivacious, sassy and incorrigibly adamant. I wish I had half the fight you have. I would breeze through my days if I did!

For all the times I say no, and for all the times I stop you from being yourself,  forgive me. I am just a frail and emotion- ruled mama who is trying to get through her day.

I see how important it is for you to clean the toilet seat with your toothbrush, and how wonderful the table salt looks, strewn decoratively on the leather sofa. (Like snowflakes on the tarmac perhaps).

I secretly admire your sheer guts in trying on my 4 inch heels and then climbing the bed with them on. When you manage to wiggle and contort yourself out of your shoulder straps of the car seat, even after I have tightened them to the point where you can barely fill your lungs fully; I am flabbergasted. I am also amazed at your sheer will and tenacity.

Disregard my reproaches and calls to slow down, my child. Forget all the inhibitions and doubts I unconsiously instil within you.

My fears are my own, and they should not be yours too. My failings and insecurities should not be your burden to bear.

When the time comes, spread your wings and fly my dear, as high as you can. As high as you want to. Remember that the sky is truly the limit.

Let no one, including  this silly Mama of yours, tell you what you are capable of. Let no one dictate what you can and cannot do. Heed my advice, but do not be a slave to them.

Remember one thing if that is all you remember. Despite all your quirks and idiosyncrasies, irrespective of your shortcomings and occasional disobedience; I shall love you. Unconditionally.

I shall be there, whenever you need/ want/ wish for me. And I shall find an inconspicuous corner for myself, and be out of sight, when you don’t need me to be hovering over you. I shall try.

For now, all I ask of you is to eat three decent meals a day, and help me keep yourself injury- free and alive. (Hint- climbing to the head rest of the couch and jumping off is not a good idea.)

 

Yours truly.

Haggard Mama.

 

 

Being a crappy mum.

I honestly despise the organic, organised- playdate obsessed, daily-trips-to- the- park, let’s bake teddy cupcakes to nursery, TYPE- A mums that are constantly posting holier- than- thou updates on Facebook and asking really stupid sounding (at least stupid sounding to more ‘go-with-the-flow’ mummies like me) questions on the half a billion or so “mommy forums” on the internet. They irk me no end.

I believe these mums and their presence on the web will be the death of women like me. The cause of the death of our sanity and peace of mind.

By their standards, I am an utterly useless, totally crappy mum. Yes. I said it- I am a crappy, crappy mum!

I let my child eat sweets at odd hours- if that is the need of the hour.

I let my toddler sit with the iPad- if that is what it takes for me to get ready for work.

I bribe my baby to the potty, because her being constipated bears far worse consequences.

I sometimes distract my little one while she eats, so that I can get a few morsels into her very active, but grossly underfed system.

Trying to tame my baby’s locks in the wee hours of the morning, long before she is truly “awake” generally puts my little princess in a particularly dour mood, so I sneak a hair tie into her nursery bag, hoping the teaching assistants at the nursery get the hint. And she goes to nursery a little sour faced and looking distinctly unkempt but less pissed off than she would be if I tried to put her in pigtails.

I let her stay up late, if that is the only time I might get with her in the next 36 hours.

I break a LOT of rules from the Guide to Organic Helicopter Parenting Handbook. A dozen a day, maybe more.

'You know at some point we have to stop swaddling him, right?'
‘You know at some point we have to stop swaddling him, right?’


 

I wish we lived in simpler times. I really do.

I don’t recall my parents ever obsessing about things the way we do, and apparently our grandparents were even less “obsessive”. The kids ate when hungry and slept when tired. They went to school to study, did a bit of homework here and there; and frolicked around as they chose for the remaining time. I remember doing that as a child.

I don’t have a problem with anybody raising their child a particular way. To each their own. But this crazy, hovering style of parenting, and it’s very vocal proponents are like an infection that creeps up upon you. Into your system, slowly; without you ever realising it. And if you don’t give into it, you might end up feeling inadequate and miserable.

Once you do give in, there is no end to it. Like a cancerous cell, it multiplies – grows and feeds on you until it consumes you.

My other half/  the father to my child is my vaccine against this disease. One who moderates almost all my parenting decisions, both big and small. One who usually aborts the fanciful, wasteful, gimmicky parenting actions. And reminds me, each day to try and keep things “old-school”.

I can almost hear him say, ” Our parents went with the flow, and we turned out okay, RIGHT?”

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Till next time.

Dr J.