Mama Doc Philosophies

All Articles in the Category ‘Mama Doc Philosophies’

Engage With Grace

It is the wonder of life that makes this beautiful day so remarkable. A national day, every year, to give thanks and prioritize togetherness. Happy Thanksgiving!

May we be so brave that we can live with integrity, with love, and with compassion as we raise our children. May we find ways to revolutionize things, too.

One team is trying to do just that with end of life challenges.

On this day, when you are together with those you love and trust the very most, can you embark on a journey to share a universal human experience more thoughtfully? Please consider the Engage with Grace discussion today. Share with loved ones around the fire, around the table, or on the walk what it is you value most about your life and what you value most about your death.

Print out the 5 questions ahead of time. Speak openly as best you can and listen intently. Engage with Grace with all those at the table, teens included.

More info here in a guest post from the Engage With Grace team, and more about this project in a previous post I’ve written (great video included).

I am thankful for you all and will do my best to Engage with Grace today, too.

Vote With Your Children

Four years ago I took an early discharge from the hospital to go home and vote on election day. My son O had just been born. We were both stable (me after a c-section and he after a brief stay in the NICU).  Things were going well enough that although the medical team suggested I consider staying another night at the hospital, I was determined to get out of there and cast my vote. Fortunately the medical team agreed. I remember thinking it was the beginning of ensuring that O knew how marvelous and luxurious it is to be heard. Voting is quite possibly the loudest thing we do.

There is nothing else to say today but that I urge you to vote. As my kindergartner left for school–his voter registration in hand for the mock election– I felt hopeful. Hopeful that we’ll increase election engagement, that we’ll advance the gift of democracy by increasing the vote, and that our children’s generation will be active, vocal stewards for the truth. Today I’m excited that we can raise children who spend energy working to improve equality of all people, improve access to health care for all people, and bring equal rights for all families.

We’re remarkably privileged to live in a time where all adults can vote. As parents we often vote on behalf of our children–how can we think of the future without them?

Facebook and Twitter are aflutter today with parents posting their election experiences with their children. Just as our children learn to speak by listening and by echoing what we say, our children can learn to vote by joining us.

Imprint the power of your vote…grab onto the hand of your child or steady yourself with the handle on the stroller or the car seat.

I say do anything and everything you can today to cast your vote. And make sure you bring those little ones along.

Helmets Or Health Or Happiness?

A recent piece in the New York Times highlighted the reality that some cities are ditching required bike helmets to encourage bike riding, even here in the US.  Too much of an inconvenience, I guess. Too much of a hassle and impediment. Public planners all over the world don’t want helmets to get in the way of, ummm, health.

And it got me thinking, in places like Europe where cycling is far more mainstream, and where helmet-wearing isn’t, are they just that much more laid back? Are they healthier and/or possibly happier, too?

Does zooming out and thinking of the crowd (better active population, lower BMI, less diabetes, less rules) while avoiding the thought of the catastrophic realities of few individuals (those who suffer harm from traumatic brain injury) make us healthier and happier as a community?

The question of course can only be answered if we agree on a definition of health and if we agree on one for happiness, too. And if we’re not the one whose child is injured.

But just this week three things happened that made me wonder if there are competing goals when I spend time chatting about bike & sports helmets and on using carseats properly, too. The issues are somewhat similar. A study last year found that the majority of parents don’t take pediatricians’ advice with car seats and another found parents are far more lax with booster seats when they carpool, too. And it was these 3 things that got me thinking on this again: Read full post »

BPOD: A New Acronym

This may be the best decision I’ve made in a decade. In August, we came up with a new acronym around our home and a tradition was born. Our boys take this very seriously now. Consider starting one at your home, too? Gratitude is powerful stuff.

Striving For “Polygamy” In The Digital Age

Dr Stephen Ludwig, one of my most treasured mentors from medical school gave a speech last year that he entitled, “Striving For Polygamy.”  I didn’t get to hear it live but I’ve read the speech many times since then. He wasn’t talking about polygamy like you’d expect. Rather, he spoke to the goal of balancing a set of  marriages described by the poet David Whyte in his book, The Three Marriages. The goal for all of us might be balancing 3 essential marriages in our lives: a marriage to our family, a marriage to our work, and a marriage to ourselves. Where social and digital media fit into this “polygamy” remains unknown. That’s where we’re all working hard to find harmony with our devices, as seemingly technology lives in all 3 of these spheres.

Think about it. How often do we take the time to put all three of these marriages on the table? I certainly don’t balance these well all the time. Although I believe in compartmentalization, the act of prioritizing ourselves amidst our deadlines while in the presence of our beautiful children is a challenge. Often when we’re raising young children we fall out of balance–the necessary daily tasks in raising children to adulthood take over while pushing other commitments asunder. When coupled with work, our personal care suffers. This imbalance creates a work-family frenzy for so many of us where we’re left with a dearth of time for personal reflection and much less silence.

In a quest for silence, I’m taking a 1 month sabbatical from the blog. Last August I took a sabbatical away from social tools to create more space and time with my children and more time in search of reflection and quiet. Stillness.

Technology and ever-available networks, communities, work inboxes, and devices have incredible and essential utility in improving our lives and our health. But so does the real, quiet world. I’ll be back in September. In the meantime, I’ll be with my family and friends, my patients, and the ever-elusive silence that surrounds us.

TIME Magazine And The Mommy Middle Road

You saw the TIME magazine cover in the last 24 hours, right? Me, too. In the midst of 25 patients yesterday, moms and dads weren’t really talking about it in the office. It was in my inbox. But I hear and feel and witness the anxiety/angst we all swim around in every day as we compare parenting styles and essentially swap (pacifier) spit about how best to do this. The monogram of this parenting era is the quest for perfection. The epic win that’s constructed for us is built on prevailing over the rest. It’s not about juggling it all anymore, it’s about being tough enough to do it better than your peers. TIME magazine wants us to contemplate if we’re really “Mom Enough?”

Before you know it, you’ll be 13 decisions down the road wondering why you worried so much about what you did. You’ll care even less about what you called it. Of anything I hear over and over again from parents ahead of me on the road it’s this: “I simply wish I worried less about my choices.”

It’s a mom-eat-mom world right now and the media wants us perpetually navel-staring. Doubt sells magazines, pageviews, and books. I saw moms post opinions on Facebook this morning only to quickly take them down as they got too controversial. We’ll keep questioning ourselves and our decisions as TIME takes a supermodel, airbrushes her body and paints the cover the magazine with a provocative image for Mother’s Day. This article, this cover, this timing–this is the engineering of our age. The dinosaurs once ruled the planet—now it’s the voices online.

Your motherhood, your parenthood, your decisions. You know what? Of course, they’re Mom Enough

The cover really isn’t really about breast feeding but I’ll bite. Read full post »

Never Say Never: On Trying New Foods

We went out for sushi on Friday at one of those mall-type restaurants that has little pieces of sushi spinning around the perimeter of the kitchen on a conveyer belt. The gimmick is genius for families with young children. The boys were starving and urged that the sushi spot was their choice for our night out. The conveyer belt provides instantaneous food and also fulfills the need for entertainment. As any normal parent knows, that’s a recipe for perfection. More than half of the people in the restaurant (at 5pm) had kids our boys’ age. It was a typical meal until the most wonderful thing happened: my son proved the husband wrong.

Boys 1, Husband 0.

As the food spun around, the boys eyed their favorites: avocado rolls, noodles, and nori. O asked about the orange “bubbles” he kept seeing. F announced that they were fish eggs. O instantly wanted to try them… The husband: Read full post »

Imperfect Pediatrics

I had a phenomenal day in clinic yesterday. Imperfect for sure but inspiring, connected, and busy. I felt useful and like anybody else, that feels so good to me. Productivity can be defined in various ways and yesterday I fulfilled my personal definition. I wrote an email to a friend and cardiologist this morning where I said,

But I must say, it’s a sincere fortune to be a doctor some days. Yesterday was one of those…

It was typical day in the sense that my schedule was crammed full of well child check-ups, newborn visits, and a few scattered visits for acute care–colds, depression, and belly pain. As is typical, I arrived in the morning with absolutely no open spots on my schedule. I saw 25 patients, squeezed in 2 patients to “double book” who needed to be seen by a pediatrician more urgently, and we provided vaccination updates for over 1/2 the patients. The “productive” feeling washed over me a number of times. At one point a mom said, “I knew that but I just needed you to guide me to know that I was right.” Another moment when I confirmed the correct diagnosis for a patient who’d been into doctor’s offices twice where the diagnosis had been missed. It’s exhilarating to help people understand health, highlight their understanding of science, and calm them down. Parenthood can be extraordinary (understatement of the century). The best part of my job is when I can help clear off the windshield of doubt. I do want parents to see the road…

But the day wasn’t perfect. Read full post »

The Right Choice

Every once and a while I make the right choice. I mean when it comes to work and life and striving for balance. Sometimes I say “No” just when I should. Those “No’s” gain access to the best “Yes’s” in life.

Last week at the end of a series of 3 weekends of work, I was finishing up a conference and decided at the last minute to decline the dinner with peers. I felt pressure to go but just couldn’t stand missing out on the night with my boys. I had that longing in my heart–you know the kind–where you can feel the ache of absence, where you sincerely feel the separation from your kids like a missing body part? It was strong; all at once I said “No,” just in time.

We went to a baseball game here in Seattle. We sat only 8 rows back behind the dugout. The foul balls flying near our heads (me ducking for cover), the crowd screeching, and the sky blue. The husband and the boys had their gloves. We counted airplanes flying above. We cheered and jumped up with home runs. It was a perfect night out. Delighted to be there I had these passing waves of mindfulness, or gratitude, for being with my family and not missing out once again. We were all a little giddy to be at a real baseball game and then 2 things happened that affirmed my “No” was really a magical “Yes” afterall:

  1. A teenager caught a foul ball. Then he caught another ball. Then he did what many kids do—he acted generously. He saw F sitting right in front of him with his glove up and he tossed him the ball. I mean, can you believe that? A teenager gave my little 5 year-old boy a Major League baseball…bliss.
  2. During the middle of the sixth inning, after a bag of popcorn, a small tantrum from O, a bag of peanuts, and 4 hot dogs, Pennington went up to bat. Jon leaned over to F and said, “This guy’s hitting a ball to us.” They got their gloves up and ready. The foul ball did come. And the husband really did catch it. And my boys (all 3 of them) really did leap up for joy. We even made it onto TV (see photo above)!

Two foul balls, one perfect “No,” and a Saturday night with my boys illuminated a momentous “Yes.” It doessn’t always work this way yet every once and a while we make really good and really lucky choices. And then we’re fortunate enough to witness and celebrate them while they happen. For all the suffering that remains in so many of our lives, these little spots of light must be spoken…

Not Always As Bad As You Think

Sometimes TV is really good. We pediatricians forget that every time we advise against television-viewing using restrictive language. Yup, there’s a lot of bad television. And yup, there is good evidence that TV doesn’t do your baby’s brain any good before age 2. And yes, there is also evidence that what your child watches on TV matters. Yet every once and a while, we can be reminded of the magic in beautiful cinematography. And we can feel the bonding that arrives from the shared experience of traveling around the world (from the couch) while at home watching public TV.

I love this New Yorker article by Emily Nussbaum: It’s Good Enough For Me. She describes the drill (how we all are supposed to report our hatred of TV) and how she’s found a bit of beauty amidst the “renaissance of children’s programming.” There is something to be said for moderation when it comes to nearly all things in life…

When I grew up we had about 6 channels and with the current 600 channels to peruse I wouldn’t suggest the content is any more compelling. But tonight we had a mesmerizing night watching a show about dolphins and whales called Deep Thinking– how they communicated, how they empathized, how they think, and how they grasp their sense of self. It happened by accident after the boys had watched an episode of Bob The Builder. We were jumping off the couch heading for books and bed when Nature came on. It was the scenes from the Serengeti that caught my attention. When the images advanced to the ocean and the dolphins started to squeak, we all sat back down.

The boys stayed up 1 hour past their bedtime. We snuggled under the covers. O pretended to be a whale. F stared.
Imagine four of us in front of the screen, eyes wide open, sitting in stillness for an entire hour bearing witness to the intelligence of dolphins and whales. The show schooled us in geology, biology, communication, and the incredible beauty housed underneath the surface of the water. The boys talked about blow holes, fins, squeaks, and sea grass. They watched a sting ray detect an octopus in the ocean floor. We saw dolphins delight while playing with rings of bubbles. We learned about camaraderie under the sea.
So, should you have a television in your child’s room? NO
Is television all bad? NO
After a terrifically insane day the best moment I had was amidst those images of the sea, my boys nestled tightly into my side, while the clock ticked well past bedtime. All thanks to TV.