Connected to Her

Even before I was pregnant with El, I dreamed about breastfeeding her. There is nothing more engaging and powerful, in my experience, than sharing this experience with my children. There were times when I thought that maybe the only reason I wanted another baby was because I wanted to breastfeed. 

Breastfeeding is also one of the most difficult things I have ever done for my children. To ensure they get as much breastmilk as possible, I pump while I am at work and on call. Breastfeeding my baby means that most of the time I am attached to a machine – not my baby. This is the part I hate; but I am reminded of why I endure it when I lay down at night with El by my side, her little body pressed up against my chest, listening to her suckle as she falls asleep. I never want it to end. 

A few weeks ago, the “brelfie” (breastfeeding selfie) began trending. I loved the idea of having a picture of my experience feeding my baby. I have many photos of me feeding my baby, but they are all from far away, or with covers, or even just for me to see. I was delighted to create something that I could share with the world. This is my life; what matters to me the most – giving myself to my children. 

Breastfeeding is so much to me: it is food, but it is also comfort, bonding, sharing, and love. I wish my babies didn’t grow up because I will never get tired of this amazing experience 

Advertisements

Tales of Tired

I could start off the New Year on my blog by saying that I’m going to blog more often.  Or perhaps, it might be more appropriate to apologize for disappearing and not blogging for an inordinate amount of time.

I am sorry that I haven’t been around.  I am sorry that I haven’t been reading everyone’s blogs.  I know how it feels sometimes when bloggers “disappear” and you never really know why.

I’d like to think that this year I will get back to blogging more regularly.  The truth is that I do really miss it.  I think often, usually daily, about what I would write on my blog if I just had the time to make it here… If I just wasn’t so tired.  My phone is filled with notes containing one line thoughts and ideas that would make for good blog topics.  I have pictures and interesting nuggets that I imagine sharing.  But I also miss writing – and being a good writer, at that.  I used to be an amazing writer and I used to have profound things to say.  Now I don’t know where that all went.  I want my blog to mean something, even if it only means something to me.

The real truth, though, is that I’ve been so tired.

Since I started back at work, it’s been a inordinate effort to ensure I am giving off the right message of interest, commitment, and hard work.  I can’t afford for even one person to think I could do better, and that is exhausting.

Three kids is a whole lot of tired, too.  It’s been an exciting ride, and little El is already 8 months old.  I’m not sure how that amount of time has flown by, but it has and I am still managing.  I find it a challenge to really give each of my children the time they deserve.  I especially feel bad for E, my middle child, who is at that horrible age of 4-5… he’s straddling the line between toddler and kid and he embodies the worst characteristics of each one.  It is not my favourite age; I did not like it when A was that age and I suspect I will not like it when El is that age either.  And so I feel that I fall short as a loving, attentive mother to E.  Feeling like I need to do better is tiring.

Breastfeeding while working an 80 hour week with call shifts… now that is a whole new level of exhaustion.  I love breastfeeding.  I am already sad thinking about the possibility of it ending.  I still exclusively breastfeed El when I am home and I pump all the milk she drinks while I am away.  Finding time to pump between clinic patients and OR cases is like trying to solve an impossible puzzle.  Amazingly though, I leave each shift with enough milk to fill El’s bottles for the next day.  It is fulfilling, even though I loathe being attached to a breast pump each and every day.

Not having time for myself is also… just tiring.  I haven’t been running.  I haven’t been reliably going to Taekwondo. I haven’t been getting pedicures, or going for massages, or blogging, or doing anything other than working, mothering, and pumping milk.  I want to do better and hopefully (paradoxically) this will lead to less “feeling tired.”

I will set some goals for this year, like I did the past two years.  I’m optimistic that this will help with getting me back where I want to be.  I was extremely successful with this endeavour in 2015 (which was documented on my old blog, before I had to close it down), but looking back at the goals for 2016, I was very far off the mark.  I still need some time for reflection on what these goals will be, but I know they will follow a similar pattern of fitness goals, wellness goals, and personal life goals.

Maybe the first goal will be: “To be less Tired.”

And to achieve that, I should probably get to bed.

In My Absence

It’s been weeks since I’ve been here… and three weeks have passed since I’ve been back at work.

It’s been months since I’ve been at work… and it’s taken 3 weeks to get back to some kind of normal. 

I’m happy to be back at work, but I miss my baby. I also miss my “free time” and I miss everything else that is important to me. 

The last three weeks have been a whirlind of breastfeeding in the night, pumping milk between surgeries and baby deliveries, leaking breasts, making bottles, sleeping, cuddling with baby El, and maybe some sleep somewhere in there.

I still have mixed emotions about my decision to return to work early. I love my job and it feels great to be back, but I miss my baby – even more than I imagined I would. 

In my absence she seems to be doing well. So far I have been able to continue breastfeeding. Although, I can sense her getting impatient at the breast when the milk doesn’t come as quickly as the bottle. My milk supply is having a hard time keeping up and I’ve had to start some supplements. Hopefully it will pick up in the next little while. 

She is excited to see me when I finally get to her after a long day of work. Even at 5.5 months, she had begun to give little hugs and bury her face into my shoulder. Then she opens her mouth wide and dives into my face – her idea of a kiss. It doesn’t take more than 5 minuets before she is suddenly pushing to lean back and rooting for her comfort. She still loves her special mommy and El time, and for that I’m so thankful. 

A Different Decision

We face decisions everyday.  Some are those types of decisions that are made without even thinking: Starbucks coffee? Pants or shorts? Dinner in or dinner out?

But what about those decisions that feel impossible to make?  Those decisions that seem to have no right and no wrong choice? Each choice is equally good and equally bad… So the decision becomes an impossible one to make.

Or maybe there is a clear right and a clear wrong to the decision, but you are just unable to elucidate which is which.  There are those times when the wrong decision feels like the right decision and you get fooled into making the wrong choice.

Has this happened to you?

My maternity leave is coming to an end.  I specifically chose to only take 5 months of my full year leave because I didn’t want to put myself too far behind in my training.  I don’t want my surgical skills to wane, I want to write my exam on time, I want to stay with my cohort of colleagues, and part of me misses work.

The trade-off: I could spend a whole 7 more months at home with my kids.

I don’t feel ready to go back.  The time I have had off feels like it has been stolen from me because I’ve had to deal with work problems while I’ve been off.  We are losing our nanny and my husband doesn’t want a new one; therefore, our childcare situation going forward is rather precarious.  I feel, deep down inside of my soul, that going back to work in two weeks is going to cause my home/family life to spin out of control.

Lately I have been thinking more about extending my leave and taking off my full year.  The reasons I made the initial decision haven’t changed, but I feel like priorities have shifted.  Despite this shift, I find this decision is still impossible to make.  There is no clear right or wrong, and the advice I get from everyone I talk to is the same: Do what’s best for you and your family.

Unfortunately, I feel like what’s best for me and my family is not very clear right now.

The Assault

I almost didn’t go.

He threw punches hard – right at my face.  I kept my hands up to protect myself, but it took all my strength to stop the blows.  I focused every ounce of my attention on blocking his fists as they came barreling towards me.  He hit hard – he was the same height as me, but at least 50 pounds heavier – all muscle.  And I was still weak, recovering from the recent birth.

I wasn’t ready. The roast chicken was just finished and straight out of the oven.  The kids weren’t even fed yet and Husband was still at work.  There was no way I could go, even if I wanted to.   My phone buzzed – A message from Husband: Are you going?  I’ll meet you there to pick up the kids… Don’t worry, I’ll feed them later… I don’t want you to miss it because of me.

It was my turn now.  I finally got my opportunity to hit him.  I used all my strength, but there wasn’t much.  I wasn’t very coordinated either: punching someone’s face is just not something that comes naturally.  Left fist jab, right fist power… those were the instructions, I remembered.  All my power was barely enough to make him flinch.  He took them though. He let me hit him and I gained confidence in my ability.  I didn’t stop for a full minute.

I rushed up the stairs to change, leaving the golden chicken, half carved on the cutting board.  I yelled down the stairs for the kids to get ready to leave.  I packed up the baby and into the van we piled.  I was going to be late, but that’s better than missing it entirely.

I’ve met him before; a polite, older gentleman… it seemed.  He used to come with his son, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen the teenage kid.  We’ve exchanged polite pleasantries in the past, but we’ve never really spoken more than that.  Nevertheless, it was obvious that he was strong and that I would never stand a chance.

Husband arrived shortly after I did.  He ushered the kids out and left me there for my class, alone.  It was glorious to finally have my time to myself.  After a day of hashing out work issues and my recent discriminatory evaluation, I was deflated, exhausted, and feeling defeated.  I wasn’t really in the mood for conditioning, but I figured the physical activity would be good for me.

After I finished my round of punches, he started at me again.  This time he added in the elbow strike to the face.  Here was my chance!  He was stronger than me, but in his older age, he lacked the coordination to properly execute the move.  He was slowing down with each change of motion.  The blows were not as hard.  If I wanted to, I could have overpowered him in this weakness. But I didn’t.  I let him finish.

The conditioning circuit was a challenge, even after being back for almost two months.  Fifteen stations, one minute each, with a fifteen second break in between.  My heart was racing but I was starting to feel better.  I’m glad Husband forced me to go… this is what I needed.

Another minute was over.  I had gained confidence after seeing my opponent’s weakness.  It was my turn.  The elbow strike to the face was challenging, but I adapted quickly.  Now it was him who almost couldn’t keep up with me.  Left jab, right power, left elbow to the face.  Harder and Harder each time.  More speed.  More power.  I didn’t even see my opponent anymore.  Instead, I imagined hitting the face of the person responsible for all the stress and anguish I’ve been through.  It felt good… No, it felt exhilarating!  One minute was not long enough.

When the circuit was over, it was time for some partner work.  My usual partner is another woman similar in age to me.  We met up to start the drill.  However, we were separated because she was much shorter than me.  For this drill we needed to be similar heights. I was matched up with the older gentleman.  I worried that I wouldn’t be able to match his strength well.   The instructor then handed out the hand pads and explained the drill.

One last drill: him first, then me.  Left fist jab, right fist power, left elbow to the face, right elbow straight up under the chin.  Yes!  One more power blow to really drive it home.  I held the pads for my opponent while he struggled with the coordination of the drill.  I spoke the moves aloud to help him with his concentration.  I wasn’t vulnerable anymore.  I had the power.  I gave him the pads after his minute was over.  Now it was my turn.  With each successive drill I gained power and confidence.  That jerk, with that smug, “I have power over you” look on his face stood no chance.  With each impact my body made with the pads I imagined him struggling and reeling in pain.  YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME.  I AM STRONGER THAN YOU.  My minute was over.  My fists were sore, my elbows raw.  But in my head I saw his face, dejected, battered, and bruised.  I had won the fight.

The punching drills were challenging, leaving my arms tired and sore by the end.  Regardless, I felt great.  I dropped the pads to the floor and faced my older, male partner.  We shook hands and bowed towards each other.  I thanked him, and him me.  “You’ve got quite the power and coordination,” he said to me.  “Great Job.”  I felt a small amount of guilt imagining beating someone else to the ground, but I quickly shook it off. He deserves it, even if it’s only in my imagination.  I was thankful that I scrambled to come to class.

And in my victory, I went home to eat my cold roast chicken.  It was delicious.

Wednesday Morning Cappuccino 

Here before me sits a perfect cappuccino…  Made with espresso from my Nespresso coffee machine, hot whipped cream frothed with my milk frother, and poured into my beautiful Le Creuset cappuccino cups.

My blogging absence can only be explained by the simple fact that I have been engaging in my life more wholeheartedly.  I’ve come to realize that my time at home is limited and quickly coming to an end.  I’ve been taking the time to notice and appreciate the small things – like this delicious cappuccino that has become a regular part of my morning, or the beautiful, emphatic smiles I receive from baby El when she sees me for the first time in the morning, or even just reading a book or working on my puzzle.

My last blog post was about how my life felt like it was falling apart; how I felt that I lacked clarity and understanding about what I was doing and direction I was taking in life.  Circumstances haven’t changed, but I feel that my efforts to slow down, live in the moment, and experience life wholeheartedly have made me step back and accept life for what it is.  My career is demanding and unyielding at the moment; but I can do it.  My kids are a handful and they pose some difficult challenges; but they love me unconditionally and loving them back is the best gift I can give them.

If anything, I have realized the need to temper my expectations.  I need to slow down and accept my life and the situations I am presented with as they are.  So far this has been working.  Hopefully it will continue to work well as live moves forward

Unravelling

She sat at my kitchen table with her foot resting on the chair and her knee pulled up to her chin.  Her blond hair perfectly placed in a messy bun, juxtaposed against my un-purposed messy morning hair.  We planned a coffee date for first thing in the morning, after she dropped her kids off at daycare.  We picked my house because the baby likes to sleep late.  She had a lunch date with another friend later that day: she was trying to fit in as many visits as she could.

“What can I get you to drink?” I asked as I instinctively placed a mug under the coffee maker. “Coffee?”
“No thanks, just water,” She replied. “I’m changing the way I eat.  No coffee, nothing processed.  I want to make my body as strong as I can.  I’m getting ready to fight this.”
I wasn’t sure if she wanted to talk about it.  I said I was going to take her lead.

We met the year before at Taekwondo.  Her oldest son was in my youngest son’s class.  For weeks we would sit and talk about the superficial realities of life: Work, kids, husbands, weather… Slowly, our friendship developed and we would occasionally meet up outside of the gym.  I’m always happy to make new friends.

“So, when did this all start?”
“Remember back in February, when I had pneumonia?”

She was gone for weeks from Taekwondo, I remembered.  She came back and it seemed to take ages for her to fully recover.  When the snow started to melt, I ran into her in the neighborhood, walking with her husband and two boys – it was the first time I had ever met her younger son, who wasn’t more than three.  We vowed to have a playdate with the kids once the weather was a little nicer.

“The chest pain never went away, so they did an x-ray and they found two spots.  I had a biopsy.  Then I had a CT scan.  Then they wanted a PET scan.”
I listened intently, trying not to ask too many questions.

A few months ago we all went out together for a friend’s birthday party.  Our friend was turning 33.  Just like me… and just like her.  We joked that 33 would be the best year; it had to definitely be better than 32! And we toasted to that, them with their wine glasses and me with my diet pepsi (since I was pregnant and all).  We vowed to have more get-togethers after that – but we didn’t

“They found a few spots in my hip bones and in my leg bones.  I’m going for my first appointment with the oncologist on Wednesday.”

Wednesday was my birthday.  There would be not be another toast to 33 on my birthday.  No this time.

“I’m going to tell her that I don’t want timelines and I don’t want numbers.  I’m going to beat this.  I know I will!”

I painted a reassuring smile on my face and placed my hand over hers.
“Of course.”

I waited until she left to feel the sadness and the heartache – for her and for me.

I don’t think I could ever be so strong if I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer.

 

Tempered Expectations

Every year I dread the arrival of my birthday. It is such an anti-climactic day and for years it always felt like something was missing. 

Maybe it’s because when I was a kid, my birthday was a big and special day – and now there is nothing special about it. 

Maybe it’s because my husband is not the kind of guy who celebrates anything, my special occasions included. 

Maybe it’s because I have this idea that everyone around me has more exciting birthday experiences than I do.

Maybe I’m just getting old. 

Whatever it is, I always feel like it could be more. 

Today was different, though. I had no expectations. In fact, I expected that it would be nothing special and nothing more than any other day. And because of this tempered expectation, I was not disappointed when there were no big hugs and kisses and home-made cards from my kids. I was happy to spend the morning getting some exercise and getting to know a new friend. We had a nice family dinner at my favourite restaurant,  and I was pleasantly surprised when my husband gave me a birthday card with some thoughtful words written on it.  The only birthday gift I got today was a free birthday drink from Starbucks. 

It wasn’t exciting and it wasn’t spectacular, but I wasn’t disappointed – and that’s better than most birthdays. 

Finding Myself

“One of the greatest tragedies in life is to lose your own sense of self and accept the version of you that is expected by everyone else.”
K.L. Toth

lollipop

Image Credit: Google Images

How do we know when we are on the right path in life?
How do we know that we made all the right decisions for all the right reasons?

I have come to a crossroads, perhaps a crossing of paths like the one famously described by Robert Frost’s most quoted poem.

I’m acutely aware of a dissonance in my life – the two largest parts of my life suddenly seem to clash with each other.  I am not a happy mother because I know that when it comes to my kids, I have sacrificed more of what they need of me than makes me comfortable.  I am not a happy resident because I’ve come to realize that perhaps the amalgamation of my parts – the very aspects of my life that make me the person I am – does not completely fit the criteria of what my superiors want to see.

I cannot take more away from my life at home – from my children; from me – and force myself to become someone who isn’t really the person I am meant to be.  If I continue down this path, I know that at the end I will be more unhappy than I am right now.

Unfortunately, the other path is scary, unknown, and not what I ever imagined in my life.  I don’t know what the end will look like or what I have to traverse to get to that end.

What I do know is this:
I am a mother to three beautiful children, and that should be celebrated.
I am a physician who is caring and compassionate, and that should be valued.
I work hard to bring balance to my life, and that should be what matters most.

I love my job, but do I love my job enough to let the other pieces of myself wither away?

Just Be With It

Yesterday was a bad day… It’s a really long story, the kind that requires knowledge of the background situation and a good handle of what my day-to-day job entails.

Originally, This blog entry included all the details of what happened. I decided to delete it all though, because it just made me feel so bad and I don’t want to give the situation that much power over me.

Ultimately, I received a poor evaluation for my last rotation before El was born. This shocked me for a number of reasons, but mostly because I felt that the rotation went very well and was no different than any other rotation I’ve done.  Also, at no point during the rotation did anyone tell me that they thought I was acting or performing so far below their expectations that I deserved to fail. In fact, I only ever got positive feedback from people.

I know this evaluation is inaccurate and untrue. I have my beliefs as to why this may have happened and I have started the process of appealing the evaluation. Regardless, it made me feel horrible about myself and it made me feel completely helpless in the face of the guy who seemed more than satisfied to give me a failing evaluation.

In light of my recent feelings of inadequacy at home, this certainly didn’t make me feel geat about myself at all.  I am trying to do a good job of everything in my life and I feel like I am falling short everywhere (even if I’m technically not). It just constantly feels like I’m doing something wrong.  This meeting completely ruined my day yesterday, and it ruined my night. I am trying hard not to let it ruin my whole week.  While this situation does need to be sorted out and rectified in some way, I’m going to try hard to just “let it be.”  There has to be something to learn from this situation.


(Thanks to a wonderful blogging friend who posted this image on that other big social networking site… I needed to see this today)