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

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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)

Start From What You Know

b0446333f9307d0fc1fb22570b6c6885Over a year ago, when A. was diagnosed with autism and I took a month off work, I bought a puzzle because it “spoke” to me.  It was my goal to finish the puzzle that month.  Unfortunately, it didn’t happen: The puzzle was more challenging than I anticipated and I just didn’t have enough time. I stored the partly completed puzzle under my bed and worked on it when I had time.  A few months ago, though, the kids had some friends over and they were playing hide and seek – and under my bed was a perfect hiding place.  The puzzle was ruined.  I packed it up, preserving the assembled parts as best as I could and stashed it away.
A few weeks ago I decided to re-start the puzzle.  I started by counting pieces and I was disappointed to realize that I was missing 10 pieces.  I counted again.  Still missing 10 pieces.  How could I possibly think they would all be there?  I was saddened, as the message of the puzzle spoke to me and there was something inside of me that felt a sense of disappointment that this puzzle would never be completed and eventually hanging on a wall in my house.  I remembered buying it at a local bookstore, so I set out for a walk with baby El to see if they still carried it… but they didn’t.  I eventually found it on their website, on clearance for $10, so I snatched it up.  That small part of my inner being felt satisfied.

The puzzle arrived yesterday and I was eager to start working on it.  I began sorting the pieces and I immediately remembered how challenging the puzzle is.  I felt disheartened thinking about all the work I had done before that was now wasted:  There was the actual assembly of large chunks of puzzle, but there was also the immense work of sorting pieces.  There are only 2 colours: black and off-white, so sorting came in the form of the size of print.  Hours of sorting – gone.

With the new puzzle, I knew there was only one place to start – placing everything out in the open.  I proceeded to filter out the edge pieces… the only pieces that have a definite position in the puzzle, and the only pieces that are almost predominantly black.  And so, I put all the sadness of what I had done and lost previously behind me and I started again.  I started with what I knew to be true and I will only work forward from there.

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The “No Time” Life

Everyday I come up with some great thoughts and ideas that I want to blog about.  Everyday, however, I never find time to sit down at my computer to write them out.  Right now I have borrowed some time: baby El is awake but content in her swing.  A is at school.  E is distracting our Nanny.  I am sitting at the kitchen table drinking cold coffee, awkwardly holing my breast pump in place with my forearms as I type this post  (I’m still waiting for my pumping bra to arrive from Amazon).  I am lamenting the fact that today was A’s year end party at school and I missed it … because it it totally escaped my mind after I read the notice sent home last week.  I am not looking forward to explaining my absence to a sullen little boy when he gets off the bus in about an hour from now.

Yesterday I eagerly sat down on the bed, ready for my marathon afternoon of nursing El to get her to sleep, and I placed my computer within reach – hoping that maybe I could blog about one of the many thoughts that have been floating around in my head.  Unfortunately, El wasn’t going to cooperate.  After an hour of struggling to get her to sleep, I decided to wrap her up in the carrier and take her for a walk.  While on my walk I came up with a great idea: I could make a voice memo of my blog ideas and then transcribe them another time. So that’s what I did!  I walked and I recorded some great blog ideas.

But this morning, with my borrowed time to blog, I didn’t feel like listening or transcribing any of my ideas from yesterday.  I felt this overwhelming sense of sadness and disappointment; like the emotions that go along with the posts was missing and I was just transcribing some sort of task.  My sadness was extended because I didn’t want to listen to or write down my thoughts from yesterday (really, for the past week or so that have been neglected).  Instead, I decided to write about these feelings of disappointment.

My lack of blogging is just one place that I have been feeling disappointment.  For weeks now I have been trying to find time to add some breast pumping sessions to my day with the hopes of increasing my milk supply.  I want to do this slowly in anticipation of my return to work in 3 months, and also to counteract the likelihood that my supply will decrease when I have my IUD inserted in a few weeks.  Alas – that hasn’t been happening reliably.  Let’s also not forget about my unfortunate omission of A’s celebration today.  And then there is the complete lack of time (and energy) to get back into an exercise regime.  The weight loss has slowed and it’s time to kick it up a little, but there is no time.  My only form of exercise comes as leisurely strolls around my community with a fussy baby strapped to my chest. Oh, and there is also a serious lack of quality time that I spend with my other two kids… I feel like an epic failure.

I know that;s not the case; but it doesn’t stop me from feeling that way.  I want my life to go back to having some reliable structure and from, even if that structure is different than what it used to be.  Like most, I am a creature of habit and I thrive on routine and schedule.  This daily routine of “no/poor sleep – nurse fussy baby all day – maybe eat – maybe drink coffee – maybe shower – maybe do something I want to do” is really starting to eat away at my will.  I’m not sure what to do to change things up…

First Steps

Today I was supposed to be at a conference for work.  Initially, I was determined to go despite being on maternity leave; I wanted to show that I am hard working, committed, and engaged.  I also worked very hard all year to plan an important even that is happening at this conference – today actually.

Going to the meeting, however, would have meant travelling by plane, alone with baby El.  It would have meant staying in a hotel room alone for 4 nights and single handedly taking care of the baby, while also trying to attend the meetings and give off the vibe that I have it all together.  It would have likely been far from enjoyable.  So, I decided to stay home and enjoy this time with my family.

Staying home also means that instead of spending over $1000 to attend a conference, I can save that money and use it towards a family vacation.

Despite the overwhelmingly good reasons to stay home and not attend the conference, it was a difficult decision to make.  This is the first decision (I guess the second decision, if you count having a baby and taking a maternity leave) I have made in my career that puts my family ahead of my desire to be “the best I can be” in my work life.  This is like the first step in “retraining” myself to put my family and my role of Mother ahead of work and my role as Doctor.

This was not a hard decision to make, but it was difficult to execute, mentally.  I knew the right thing to do was to not go and stay with my kids and baby at home.  But I feel sad and I am mourning: I feel like I have thrown away an opportunity to show myself off as a dedicated, hard working, and committed resident.  Likely, it wouldn’t have made a difference to anyone but me.

Hopefully these steps get easier as the time goes on.  I feel it is imperative that I make this change in my life

MEternity Leave? Really?

Over a week ago, on June 1, I sat down to start writing a blog post.  I wrote one sentence of that post and I have not been back to WordPress since then.  It’s not because I haven’t wanted to blog, and it’s not because I have nothing to blog about… it’s because I’ve quite literally had no time to myself – at all.

This phenomenon of having no time to myself, despite being home from my 80-100hr+ work week, reminded me of the MEternity fiasco from a few months back.  For anyone to think that a maternity leave is a “sabbatical” or “vacation” or anything that resembles an opportunity for “me time” has got something seriously wrong.  If I’m going to be completely honest, I would say that I haven’t really been enjoying my maternity leave that much.  Before I divulge all the reasons I’m not enjoying it, I’ll state the few things that I do enjoy about maternity leave (just so I don’t seem to be complaining all the time):

  1. I love baby El and I love to spend time watching her grow and change.  I want her to stay small forever, but I know she won’t.  I’m cherishing the time I get to spend with her now.
  2. I get to see my other kids more often than I did when I was working.

Yes, I think that’s about it.  Here are all the things I dislike about my maternity leave:

  1. I am always tired – I am lucky to get 6 hours of broken sleep a night, and the sleep I do get is far from quality as I am paranoid about my baby and her ridiculously low risk of SIDS (this is where I say that, contrary to all advice on how to reduce SIDS, I can’t abide by t all.  Baby El refuses to sleep unless she is right next to me, with easy access to her precious boobie – All. The. Time.)
  2. I almost always have a little human being attached to my body.  This is either in the form of breastfeeding or babywearing.  Baby El usually needs to be nursed to sleep.  And, she doesn’t really like to stay asleep unless someone is carrying her.
  3. I am always yelling at the boys: Either they aren’t listening to the Nanny, so I get mad at them for that.  Or, they aren’t listening to me, so I get mad at them for that.  Or they are too loud and running around every part of the house and waking up the delicate baby that I just FINALLY GOT TO SLEEP.  I feel like all the time I spend with my kids involves yelling.
  4. I miss adult human interaction.  You can only text message people so much before you get bored.  Plus, everyone is working while I am home, so there is no one to go out with during the day.
  5. I have fleeting thoughts of finishing that book I started weeks ago, or working on the cross stitch birth announcements (for E first, before I can start El’s), or blogging, or even getting some exercise.  However, those thoughts are vanquished by one of the three kids that are demanding my attention at any given time of the day.  If I’m lucky, I can get outside for a walk with the baby in a carrier (she won’t even stay settled in a stroller)… but not before getting the 10th degree from A, who wants to know where I’m going, when I’ll be back, why he can’t come, am I sure he can’t come, and what kind of punishment I will get if I’m not home when I say I’ll be home.
  6. I miss my job… dearly.  If it wasn’t for my baby, I would go back tomorrow.
  7. I’m sure there is something I’m missing.

So there you have it… My maternity leave is far from relaxing, enjoyable, or a life changing revolution.

And, I’ve gotta go… baby El is awake!

Lactation Cookies!

Hot on the heels of my Milk obsessed post, I decided to give lactation cookies a try.  I have heard a lot of buzz around the idea of lactation cookies in the past few months but I didn’t really think too much of them.  I learned that there are store-bought varieties, as well as a myriad of recipes to make your own.  Over the past few days I delved into the wide online ocean of lactation cookie recipes to decide which one seemed “best.”

IMG_7413All the recipes seemed to have the same three ingredients, touting these (or a combination of them) to be the “magic” behind increasing lactation: Oats, Flax, and Brewers Yeast.  The recipe I selected also called for Fenugreek – a supplement I relied on when I was breastfeeding the boys years ago.  Buying these ingredients can be expensive and difficult, but I was lucky to find them all (including the fenugreek) in bulk for under $10 at my local bulk-food store!

The recipe I chose is listed below, but I give full and complete credit to this blog, where I used the recipe exactly as listed.

Once I got the baby to sleep (of course I picked a fussy baby day to bake these), I set out getting all the ingredients ready.  Just as I finally got everything organized and mixed the dry ingredients into the wet, baby El started screaming… she wanted more Boobie, of course!  How appropriate was it then, when I picked her up, placed her on my “Breast Friend” nusrsing pillow (AKA the UFO pillow) and continued to make my lactation cookies WHILE breastfeeding the fussy baby?

Luckily, I managed to finish the cookies and they turned out pretty great!  They are delicious, tasting exactly like “regular” oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (maybe with a slight aftertaste).  I froze most of the cookies and then placed about half a dozen into a secret place in my pantry.  I ate 3 cookies yesterday (1 was a taster after they were our of the oven, and then two as a bedtime snack) and then two this morning.

IMG_7414I can’t comment too much on if the cookies actually started “working” because I am not pumping, and I’m feeding on demand.  However, I do feel like the ladies are a more full today than yesterday.  There may have also been more leaking.  El seems much more satisfied with her feeds, despite me feeling like she’s not completely emptying (I guess it’s time to start pumping and working on my back-to-work frozen milk stash).  It’s hard to say, though, if these changes are due to the cookies or the fact that yesterday seemed to be a bit of a fussy baby-cluster feeding kind of day.

I plan to eat only one (maybe two) cookies a day from now on… All things in moderation, and I am starting on a more formal post-partum weight loss adventure (now that the immediate post-birth weight loss has ended).

Lactation Cookie Recipe: (Check out the source for extra tips and ways of modifying the recipe

Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp flaxseed meal
  • ¼ cup of water
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup of brewer’s yeast (this is the main ingredient for milk production)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp ground Fenugreek
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup coconut oil, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 large, eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups of old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix flaxseed meal and water; set aside.
  3. Stir together the flour, brewer’s yeast, salt, baking soda and fenugreek, set aside.
  4. Blend butter, coconut oil, and sugars well. Blend in eggs. Stir in flaxseed mixture and vanilla; mix well.
  5. Add dry mixture. Mix until just combined. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
  6. Scoop 2 Tbsp of dough, 1 to 2 inches apart, onto a silicone lined baking sheet. (About 8 cookies per tray.)
  7. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes, until matte on the top.
  8. Once cooled, individually wrap cookies in plastic wrap and place them in a container the freezer. Eat at least 2 cookies the first day, and one each day afterwards. (I have one every day after lunch. Just unwrap it and nuke it in the microwave for 30 seconds.) Enjoy!

Half-Marathon Year

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On a Friday at the end of last May I went into the OR to have my IUD removed.  That same night I drove 4 hours to the mountains to run my first half-marathon the next morning.  On a Saturday at the end of last May I ran my first half-marathon (see old post below).

I almost did’t run the race – I had encountered a few obstacles in my training and I didn’t think I was prepared.  Despite everything, I made the choice to run the race and enjoy the experience.  As I ran through the mountains and enjoyed the views of the nature around me, I remember wondering what the next year would bring:  I daydreamed about pregnancy, and about hopefully welcoming a baby girl into my family… I let my mind relax and reflect on what everything in my life meant to me, where I was going with the different paths in my life, and how I was going to try and “let things go” and enjoy the little things in life.

When registration opened for this race again back in January, naturally I felt inclined to register.  I didn’t want to commit myself to something that wouldn’t be reasonable or healthy so close to giving birth, but it was important to me to go back to this place, participate in the race, and reflect on the last year.  Therefore, I chose to register in the 5Km run/walk that takes place the day after the half marathon.  I figure that is reasonable for 3.5 weeks post-partum.  This coming weekend I will be walking this 5Km with one of my very good friends, and hopefully, with my baby girl strapped to my chest.  What a way to mark this little anniversary!

Posted on The Old Blog, May 25, 2015

I did it.

I ran my Half-Marathon.

For weeks I feared that I wouldn’t be able to finish the race.  I worried that my disrupted training schedule would make it utterly impossible for me to survive the distance, especially since I read that it was a challenging course.  Right up until the day before the race (I’ll write about this day in another post), I contemplated changing my registration to do the 10K race instead.

There was a part of me, however, that knew I had to run the half marathon. No. Matter. What.

I have been working hard since the beginning of 2015 to make positive changes in my life.  Most of those changes have been working well, but there have been a few set-backs.  With those setbacks, I’ve been beginning to feel like I’m not as strong, determined, or capable as I thought i was.  I feared that if I gave up on my goal to run this half marathon, I would only be letting myself down and reinforcing the negative thoughts and attitudes that I’ve had recently.  So, I had to run this race… even if it meant that I walked most of it… even if it meant that my goal of completing it in under 2 hours was no longer a goal… even if it meant it was just an excuse to spend a few hours with myself in the beauty and splendour of the mountains…

On Saturday morning I showed up at the race site prepared to run (or walk) the half marathon as planned.  My new goal for the race was to complete it… no matter what.  My other new goal was to enjoy being out in the mountains, alone, and with my own thoughts.  I decided to run the half marathon without any running apps to tell me my distance, pace, or interval to ensure that I didn’t get distracted from my goals, push myself too hard to keep up to my usual pace, or to feel disappointed in myself for being too slow.  So, I shut off the little voice in my ear and set off running with some good music and beautiful scenery.

As I crossed the start line, I felt a wave of emotion come over me and I almost started to cry.  Right then it was confirmed that running this race meant more to me than just running 21Km straight; it had everything to do with proving to myself that I could do something that I set my mind to and that I am not someone who gives up.  Throughout the race, I walked when I needed to, I looked up at the mountains and trees around me.  I watched the water in the river flow past me.  I felt the trails and pavement under my feet.  I even stopped at a port-a-potty around the 15Km mark… because after all, this race was about being comfortable!

The last 6Km was the greatest challenge because it was almost all up-hill.  The start line was on the side of a mountain, which I ran down in the first part of the race to get to the river path.  I was sure I had nothing left in me when I saw the last sign on the route: “1 Km Left to Go!”  Ahead of me, it was still an incline.  I pushed through and when I saw the pink arch that marked the finish line, I picked up the pace just a little more.  I saw my boys shaking their white cowbells and my husband poised with the camera.  I saw the chip readers above my head, and then I watched my foot strike the ground on the other side of the finish line.  After the flurry of people putting a medal over my head, congratulating me, handing me my swag bag, and giving me a refreshingly wet towel, I finally looked at the clock.  Somehow, I had completed the race in less than 2 hours and 15 min.  Later, when I looked up my official time, I was in awe: 2 hours, 10 minutes, 21 seconds.

Without proper training, on a mountainside course with a 300m elevation change (150m down and then 150m back up), and with a goal to “just finish” the race, I clocked in at only 10 minutes and 21 seconds past my original goal time.  Unbelievable!  I still cannot believe that I accomplished this amazing goal.

I am so proud of myself.

I needed to do this, and I am so glad that I didn’t give up on myself.