Mama Doc Philosophies

All Articles in the Category ‘Mama Doc Philosophies’

Self-care And Parenting, Sleep And Loneliness

My passion in work and the focus of my career is centered around improving the health and well-being of children. It always will be. I can get SO wrapped up in the opportunities to leverage every tool I’ve got to clarify, learn, relieve suffering, and contribute to pediatric health. I feel lucky to have the tools I do to translate/partner with patients and families and I feel humbled by the ongoing challenges in reducing pediatric illness and injury…earnestly it can leave me feeling very obliged to do more and more and more. There is just so much we can do to leave this planet better than how we found it. Most of us feel this way, of course. One of the thrills in working in a clinic and a hospital, a TV news station, and online with all of you is that I am bolstered and surrounded by cohorts of people who invest huge amounts of time in improving the lives of others.

Engagement In Parenting, Work, And Self Care

Many of us feel deeply engaged in raising our children while also feeling wholly committed to improving our community as we slide into these years where we’re really ready. We have completed our education, we’re more senior in our roles at work, and we’re now trusted by others to contribute. In this privilege of simply being engaged in these ways we can sometimes over-focus on being productive, vigilant  and present in our work while also being loyal friends, parents and partners. We do this to the point that we earnestly de-prioritize ourselves. Some people can juggle all of these investments elegantly. Most of us are still a work in progress.

There’s a lot out there telling us how to do this being alive thing better; the self-help sections of the internet are pretty heavy up there in the clouds. I don’t hold a singular, gold nugget of data in my mind that says when we care for ourselves data proves our children are healthier, happier. But I know it like I know the hue of blue in the sky.

I like this Atlantic piece, The Internet Wants To Help You Take Care of Yourself and if you’re looking for content on self-care, check out these TED talks, too (if you haven’t yet seen Brown’s talk on the power of vulnerability cancel the rest of your day if need be to find the 20 minutes to watch it). When thinking about self-care I don’t just think about vitamin D and exercise, sleep and vegetables. I think about the foundations of our belonging and our connection to others. Amid all the people we’re supporting, all the work, all the love of our children and families and all of our activities, do we feel we belong? Is it possible amid all these people, these tasks and responsibilities, and all this love that we might feel a bit alone?

The first TED talk in that self-care list up there grabs my attention like an alarm when Guy Winch speaks on loneliness:

Loneliness creates a deep psychological wound, one that distorts our perceptions and scrambles our thinking. It makes us believe that those around us care much less than they actually do. It makes us really afraid to reach out because why set yourself up for rejection and heartache when your heart is already aching more than you can stand.

Of course one thing that seems to ALWAYS help when overwhelmed is sleep. I often say that I’m a better parent and simply more the person I want to be everywhere when I’ve prioritized sleep for myself and for my babies. Data shows we simply are more level and more positive in our perspectives when we’ve slept. We’re safer drivers, we’re more focused at work or school. We all hear this and we all know this on some level…..that caring for ourselves is the prerequisite to caring for others. We make less mistakes. But in the midst of all of our hectic sandwich generation schedules, it’s easy to pay lip service to self-care and continue to motor on, focusing on delivering care for others. And THIS: self-care can sound fluffy and self-centered. People throw around the word “deserve” a lot. As I get older I see self-care as elemental to a meaningful and connected life. And I certainly see it as a huge challenge. When babies come into our heart it’s hard make sense of all of the marriages we have (to our families, to our work and advocacy, and to ourselves). Read full post »

Moms, Benefit of Part-time Work, And Breastfeeding

pumpingA new study out confirms something that almost every working mom and dad already suspected — it can be a challenge to maintain breastfeeding goals when you return to work after only a few months with your newborn, especially when asked to return to working full time. The study out this week found that moms who worked about 1/2 time (19 hours or less) were able to continue breastfeeding similarly to those women who didn’t work.

Logical: the more hours a new mom works, the tougher it is for her to continue breast feeding. The amount of time we work may be more influential than the timing of our return to work. In this study, conducted in Australia, women who worked 19 or less hours in a week were much more likely to maintain breast feeding until their baby turned 6 months old, compared to moms who had returned to full-time employment. Additionally, women who work 19 hours or less only faced a 10% chance that they quit breast feeding altogether by the time their baby turned 6 months old. Your level of work place seniority will also affect your ability to continue breast feeding at 6 months, meaning those in managerial-type roles will have more success. Other factors that made it easier? Unsurprising it’s being older, higher education, better physical and mental health and being self-employed.

If we want moms to be successful with the recommended breastfeeding guidelines through infancy we should think on how we prime them for success. And how we support them.

It’s inconvenient but potentially important to acknowledge that it’s simply harder for moms to go back to the workforce, especially those who breastfeed, than it is for dads to newborns. In the first few months of life, the time it takes to nurse a baby is equivalent to a 8-9 hour work day for most women. Most babies will drain a breast in about 12-15 minutes if they are eager and actively feeding but babies often stay on the breast for up to 20 minutes or even 30 minutes at a time. Therefore, if you sit down, feed your baby on the right, feed you baby on the left, burp the baby and then change the inevitable diaper:  poof, one hour.  And, most newborns feed up to 8-10 times daily. 1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1. Math is easy when you do it this way.  Breastfeeding alone is a full time job for the first few months. The time spent with a baby nursing diminishes as the months unfold but it can still be a significant number of hours spent every day.

The take home for me here is that we may be more successful, culturally, supporting moms to return to work during the 1st 6 months after a baby is born if we give them options for part-time work. Especially if breastfeeding past 6 months is a goal. Read full post »

Join In On The Seattle Mama Doc Podcast?

Always a work in progress here — trying to think on ways to share new data, expert advice & enjoy the journey of parenthood. I’m excited to announce we’re going to pilot a Seattle Mama Doc Podcast early next month. Since this blog’s inception in 2009 we’ve covered nearly 650 standard blog posts, vlogs, guest contributors, interviews and now I’m going to test out a podcast. I am a huge fan of crowd sourcing and co-design, so will you help create the look, feel and content of the podcast alongside me? I would love to know what topics you’re interested in, which you’re tired of hearing about, who you want me to interview and frankly, anything else you’d like to share.

My hope is to interview experts and researchers here at Children’s, parents, and patients when there’s interest in sharing the experience of raising children. We’ll include the smarts of friends and peers across the country working on preventing and preventing illness while raising children. We’ll highlight all the tips and tools we learn along the way, new evidence, expert opinion and ideas to feel better about our decisions while raising our children.

I’ve recorded 3 options for the introduction of my podcast (I’m well aware of kind of bootleg smartphone audio quality for these little demos — promise to record high quality content in studio for the actual podcast).

Which resonates and makes you want to tune in?

Tell me what to cover. And also, would you want to join me on the podcast? SAY SO, PLEASE!

Option #1

 

Option #2

 

Option #3

 

One Image Of Parenthood

Usually I arrive here to write and share things that might help. I mean, my hope as a mom and pediatrician is to elevate research, share vulnerability, toss out the irony in the isolation of ideas trapped in an ivory tower and bring in hope for more understanding. I’m usually here to share because I believe if we swap ideas through narrative we all move towards calm and confidence or knowledge and skill as parents, caregivers, adults, children, and partners.

But today I’m just here at my kitchen counter wanting to share an incredible image. Just wanting to make sure you’ve beheld it, too. I haven’t read a single word about the image and I will keep it that way. I don’t want others’ ideas or personal narratives or their agendas to taint what I see. And my hope here is to do the same for you.

All I can say is that for me the image is a triumphant, loud reminder of the immense privilege, the singular honor, and the wired intuition we hold when we get to parent a child. I mean life happens. In all its messy truths and horrific pains, mistakes and brilliant saves, and in our jubilant discoveries and the small gifts given every…single…day. But there was moment this past Saturday, captured by a lens, that explains so much about what and how we fear, what comes flying at all of us on Planet Earth, and what we can truly handle.

Enjoy this photo worthy of a long stare. I get lost in it.

2015 Mama Doc Greatest Hits

I’m not thrilled to close out 2015 — there were special parts of this year I’m a little desperate to hold onto. Not certain I always feel this way, but on this final day of the year it’s true: there’s a tiny bit of me bracing for the flip on that clock. I somehow skipped an end-of-the year 2014 “Greatest Hits” (most read blog posts) post last year and am eager to bring the tradition back to life (here’s 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)! Of course, 2015 had highs and lows. For me it included all sorts of mid-life-forty-year-old-woman-type thoughts about life and parenting. There’s wild hyperbole in the middle — recognizing profound hand-clutched-to-chest privilege like good health, good friends, unique opportunity and the immutable joy it is to raise little children. Yet in the middle zone of life, these momentous realities are often chased by the overwhelming epiphany that life is uniquely precious and finite. So much to contribute and so much also to learn and so much we all want to witness with our children. Every single day.

Over the year I had significant learning about communicating about health. I did dozens of interviews regarding the measles outbreak that stemmed in Disney, I’ve experienced heart breaking and continued stun at ongoing gun violence, I had a painful goodbye to my beloved dog, Luna, I’ve witnessed great suffering with illness in those I love and those I’ve cared for, and my ever present work-life balance quandary and curiosity toils on. But 2015 also had me soaring with things like The Supreme Court Of The United States voting 5-4 in majority to make gay marriage legal in all 50 states, quiet snowstorms, hikes in the mountains and hours running on trails here in Washington. I was able to continue to spread public health messages on national news outlets like NBC Nightly News, Al Jazeera, The Washington Post, The Today Show & NPR, and USA Today. I traveled to Australia late in the summer for a speaking engagement with my delicious 9 year-old and discovered how much I want to go back. I was an invited speaker at the NFID Influenza News Conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. to explain the seasonal launch of influenza vaccinations and I got to see healthy and sick children and their families in clinic nearly every week. I continued to learn and grow and partner with like-minded groups working to improve public health and messaging in pediatrics/parenting like The American Academy of Pediatrics, The CDC, The Washington State Department of Health, The Washington Dental Service Foundation, a new start-up called Mother.ly, and continued our ongoing partnership here with Know Your OTCs. In addition to my trip to Australia, this year I was lucky enough to learn and contribute to conferences and health systems in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington, Colorado, California, Washington, D.C., North Carolina, and Maryland. Read full post »

Parenting In 2015

My little love in the snow yesterday. Part of my #worklifebetter life hack!

My little love in the snow yesterday. Part of my #worklifebetter life hack!

Time capsule entry. Although I suppose every parent since creation felt that the time in which they were raising their children was somehow novel, I’m moved by our 21st-century digital connection to share a transparent take on being a mom and pediatrician today. It’s the end of 2015 and overwhelmingly, I think many of us are stretched thin. And although our children are more-than-ever-before extraordinary, somethings gotta give.

First things first, as a perhaps totally-exhausted-working-full-time-emotionally-laden-at-baseline mom trying to find center, I keep reaching for poetry from Mary Oliver. Here she sets me flying in a portion of her poem, Spring Azures:

Sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy,

and all the tricks my body knows–

the opposable thumbs, the kneecaps,

               and the mind clicking and clicking– 

                                                                                                                         don’t seem enough to carry me through this world

                                                                        and I think: how I would like

                                                                         to have wings–

                                                                         blue ones–

                                                                          ribbons of flame.

Oh, how our minds always seem to be clicking and clicking and clicking and clicking…and those blue wings, the ones of flames? Yes, please sign me up.

A friend, a few years ago referred to their spouse as having a “busy brain” and I’ve thought on it since. Don’t all parents? Or is that the 2015 talking?

The 2015 realities aren’t surprising to any of us: the earnest tether to a smartphone, the wild ease to immediately compress and access news from the entire globe, the immense pressure to have a career wed to the impressive surge in being asked to be wildly productive everywhere (at home, at work, at volunteering, at exercising, at being present). The heavy burden of being told to elegantly role-model (hello, parenthood), the urgency we feel to then perfect raising children, all the advice (!!) out there floating around and intentionally pushed our way in social networks. And then the never-ending stream of in-arm’s-reach science of what we know to be good for us (sleep, flossing, daily exercise, leafy greens, friendship, “balance”, a job with purpose, BPA-free) and what we know even more is bad for us (sleep deprivation, unemployment, stress, smoking, divorce, bad cholesterol, processed meat, sedentary days). I mean…. Read full post »

Bigger Peace: Let Fear Spur Presence

FullSizeRender (1)Friday afternoon the terrorist attacks around the world certainly took our collective breath away. The stunning, horrific realities and the wild insecurity we can feel when somewhere familiar becomes unsafe is a potent storyteller. There is something in this though, that we can really listen to.

Things tend to happen in slow motion after this kind of news, almost like they do in our memories during scary recollections of a car accident or a big fall, because when some beloved familiar place is deemed unsafe we can tingle with such scare it pushes us towards vitality. It’s awareness. In ways, the fear these familiarities provoke shrinks the world, changes the scope of what is at stake every single day for every single one of us, and connects us again to how similar we are. Sounds have been crisper under our feet since Friday, the breeze on our face more notable this weekend, and all of a sudden the moment we’re in takes on quite a significance. We can feel so alive and connected to each other in this fear.

We all know fear hones priorities, even momentarily, and reminds us of the sincere gift of a day with those we love. With the news Friday the every day constructed problems at work or in our personal lives dim as the monumental relevance of connection, friendship, family, and freedom again takes on new light. This is a cycle, of course. We cannot hold the intensity and fears of our insecurity in our hands ALL the time to drive presence. Most of us can’t be mindful every single moment either. We’d be muzzled and paralyzed if we let this tincture of storytelling in too much too soon too constantly…but there’s this: Read full post »

When Did You Last Have 48 Hours Alone?

FullSizeRender (4)This past weekend I had 48 hours alone. I mean really, f-o-r-t-y-e-i-g-h-t hours with no commitments. No one expecting me home, zero rushing, zero obligations, and no racing home. I did things I haven’t done, well, ever. I went to a movie alone, woke up and read a magazine cover-to-cover, went for a couple runs, sat on a hill at the sculpture museum for just shy of 2 hours without my phone in my hand. I spent time just letting my mind wander. This wasn’t the kind of alone time I experience when I’m traveling for work. This was real, true alone time at home.

Although it’s rare that the stars align, and it’s a challenge to make sure our families and our children are being cared for and in good spots without us, I can’t endorse enough finding time to just be alone.

Because my boys and husband were off camping this past weekend I went out to dinner entirely by myself with absolutely no end time. I read a book. I slept 9 hours straight for 2 nights in a row. At one point I seriously did NOTHING for a couple of hours. I didn’t accomplish anything I could check off a to-do list. It was perfect.

Opting out may be essential for thriving, creativity, and refueling. This may be one skill we’re regularly forgetting to model and teach our children.

I mean earnestly, when is the last time you had a couple of days entirely alone? For me I realized it was way back in medical school….some 12 or 15 years ago.

Part of my unscheduled time during the 2 days my family was away was prompted by listening to this 15-minute podcast: The Case For Boredom

Maybe we really can prioritize white space for ourselves and our kids

What kind of time-alone parent are you? I mean I get it that things have to be in good balance in life for this to make sense, no one can be ill or hurting in a big way. But I wonder if we can do this more. Will you take the poll — are you better at this than me? If so, just HOW do you pull it off?

Yes, Little Boy, You Belong

piano 2This morning I got up early to work so I could carve out an hour for something special before I took the boys to camp for the day. You know the drill if you work outside your home: I powered through emails as the sun came up, responded to some other requests in the inboxes, packed bags for camp with lunches, reminded kids to wear shoes (!), applied sunscreen and we hauled out the door. By 8:00am we’d arrived at the park with donuts and I’d arranged for my mom to meet us in time. I really wanted my 8 year-old to have the opportunity to behold this kind of day from the top with music. A magical little program, Pianos In The Park, made it possible to spin a daydream into reality. There are pianos beautifully planted in parks around Seattle and I knew playing a duet with Grandma would be something special for me to see.

I don’t think my son has any idea that playing a duet with his grandmother, on a cloudless, shimmering new day, in front of Mount Rainer alongside Lake Washington is anything all that special. I really don’t think he knows it’s unusual, which ultimately is a privilege. And as we make experiences for our families we’ll never know what sticks. For me this one will. As his regular day unfolds today I’ve shelved the memory of this morning into longterm storage.

Thing is, we all work so hard to perfect how we execute parenthood. And we all beat ourselves up at times along the way. Often we may not feel good enough. In parenting, the blend of worry, thrill anxiety, guilt, joy, intrigue, and the pure unconditionality of this all generates something very high-stakes. We sometimes don’t even feel the seemingly herculean strikes (piano in the park before camp) are ever enough entrenched with all the demands stemming from work, from our heart and from our hopes. And while I loved the space carved out today for my family and the memory we spun, the minute I dropped them off at camp I started to feel a little behind. Just late to getting to the inboxes again and maybe 10 minutes frame-shifted to the left. Thing is, I mess up all the time with the boys just like every other parent in the universe. We all spend times fretting about competing demands and how we falter; we all worry. I heard an interview on NPR yesterday afternoon where a soon-to-be dad said he just doesn’t worry about anything anymore to which the host wisely responded something like, “Get back to me after you have your baby!” We do just want to raise steady children and the potency of our dreams is immense.

This ubiquitous worry is why an article I stumbled upon yesterday (read: my mom sent it to me) provided such profound relief: The Gift of The Good Enough Mother. When I shared it on Facebook last night it was crystal clear it resonated with nearly everyone else, too. In it, Dr. Naumburg writes, Read full post »

Raising A Couple Of Eagles

eagle jumpOn July 4th my 8 year-old little eagle walked up a tall ladder, waltzed across a platform full of teenage girls waiting to leap, and like a veteran champion approached the edge of the platform and jumped off. Arms in the air, feet forward and hardly a beat of hesitation, he took flight. What a gamer move. Next came twenty feet of free fall and a dock full of screaming enthusiasts. It all happened really fast and I think I may not have been the only one with two feet planted whose stomach dropped. Without question I had serious physiologic and neurologic shifts in my body as he leapt and fell, my stomach in my toes by the time he hit the water. What a wonder to see our children step up, look right at their fear, and then just push forward. Talk about leaning in…courage really is one of the most beautiful emotions to see in our children as they grow.

Raising children takes all sort of courage, of course. The odds at times feel stacked against us (overnight relentless wake-ups, temper tantrums, health challenges, worries about mental health, worries about physical health, resource restraints, failures, failures, failures). But nothing is typically stacked against most of us like other species. All parents face big challenges. Read full post »