Seattle Mama Doc

A blog by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson.

A mom, a pediatrician, and her insights about keeping your kids healthy.

Things You Can Hide Under A White Coat

Drs Swanson and BisseyFlashback: fall of 2006 standing with my partner, Dr Jeff Bissey at The Everett Clinic. In some strange third trimester hormone cloud (or pregnancy delusion), I consented to a photo shoot when our new clinic was just opening. Rotund & posing at the new computer in exam room 12. After the Cindy Brady photo amalgam, I feel I’ve got little to hide. This photo is a fine example of all the things you can hide under a white coat. Even little boys!

For three years during residency, I nearly lived in that white coat and kept it buttoned up to the top. Some people criticize the white coat for it’s role in establishing hierarchy in the doctor-patient relationship. Really though, sometimes we wear it just for the pockets. Sometimes for the things we hide (a sleeveless shirt mid-July?). Don’t you wonder what your doc has hidden underneath that coat? As you can see here, late fall 2006 I was hiding something, indeed. Yes, F was born 3 weeks later.

Many pediatricians don’t wear white coats claiming it scares children. I’ve never really found that; really, it seems I’m just as scary to an 18 month old with or without it on! I think some toddlers have made their opinion about me far before I show up in the room. Something about the smell of an exam room, maybe. You know those people who say they could never work in a hospital or clinic because of the smell. Well, those 18 month olds remember…

See him there, all tucked inside, but then simultaneously reaching for the keyboard? I remember the photographer saying, “Just pull the white coat out a little farther forward, Dr Swanson”.

Click into the full post if you need help finding F in the photo. Read full post »

Verbatim: 3 Mutterings From My World

1 “Daddy!” This from O when I say (and coach him), “Say, Mommy, O. Say, Mommeeeee.” Every time I walk in the door, same thing, “Daddddddeeeeeee!” He likes getting a rise out of me. Lovely little rug rat. Then F starts the day today clearing up what we call each other, “O calls you Daddy, I call you Mommy.”  True.

2 “Toddler Doula, where do I find one?” The husband said this to me after his cup of coffee on Sunday morning after another night of frequent awakenings in our house.

3 “Which brain did you put in this morning?” The husband to me, 7:43am today. I forgot where the oatmeal was after saying I forgot that I bought it while instantly forgetting what I was saying mid-sentence. I claimed I was distracted by all the sleep I got last night (8 straight hours, Sista). And a study this month said pregnancy or motherhood does not make us forgetful. What to blame then?

Keep The Book

We were in to see the pediatrician last month for F’s 3 year check up and back again last week for some booster shots for O. During both visits, the medical assistant asked me when the boys had received their H1N1 shots. She wanted to update the clinic’s record. I told her the 31st of October. She came back into the room puzzled,“The State of WA has them recorded on 10/24/10.”

Well, yes, she and the State of Washington were right, I was wrong. You’d think a pediatrician could keep this straight. Well, no, as it turns out. With my over-saturated and over-filled Mama brain, perfectly dated info on shots may be data points that may slip out my right ear. You too, yes? It took me 5 drawers and over a 1/2 hour to locate O’s book (above) to snap that photo. Clearly, organization of personal shot cards is not listed on my CV.
A study last week points out carrying an immunization record for your child can improve their health by increasing the likelihood of staying up to date on shots. When the boys got their H1N1 shots, I didn’t bring their immunization record books. I was all hyped up and excited about getting them and forgot due to my relative glee. I was given a little card at the time, but didn’t transfer the dates into their official books.  After discussing and reviewing my trusty phone calendar, we figured it out. Not a big deal but it wasted precious time for the staff in the clinic. Read full post »

Worry Be Gone

When the exam room door closes, most parents have some questions about how their child is developing or behaving. Competitive parenting abounds; everyone wants to prove or believe his or her child is above average. The he-did-what?-she’s-so-smart stories can strike fear in your heart when your child is nowhere near the same accomplishment and of similar age. These comparisons can sometimes lead to worry. A lightning bolt drove through my chest when my mom started to compare F to other children and expressed worry that he might never say, “Mama.” I waited impatiently and in unified worry until about 18 ½ months.

Even the mamas and papas who seem to brag at the supermarket, on the phone, or at book club about how much their child talks-walks-sleeps-eats worry. I mean it; they worry, too. Don’t let ‘em fool you. Worry may be just below sleep deprivation on the job description for parenthood. Being a pediatrician has proven this to me.

If you worry about what or how your child is doing, speak up. Let your pediatrician know. Don’t be intimidated by the length of the appointment, the reason for your worry (Joey is eating toe jam) or even if you’ve asked before. If you’ve previously discussed a problem, revisit your concern if worry remains in your heart. Your instincts matter. Read full post »

Cross Your Fingers I Don’t Pull A Cindy Brady

Wendy Sue Brady

I’m going to be on TV tomorrow. Cross your fingers I don’t pull a Cindy Brady. Remember the Brady Bunch episode, “You Can’t Win Em All” where Cindy takes a test and wins the opportunity to go on live TV to compete in a game show? When the red light goes on she is rendered silent and freezes. She spends the entire time on TV staring hopelessly at the light. Please world, don’t let me freeze; don’t let me pull a Cindy Brady. Thank goodness it’s no game show…

Tomorrow morning, you can watch me discuss insights on toddlerhood and typical development, live (in Seattle) on local NBC. Gulp.

But just for the record, or maybe to provide merit to my personal don’t-pull-a-Cindy-Brady-pep-talk, what gives me insight on toddlerhood is probably not just my MD/pediatric board certification or the articles I read every day to write this blog. Rather, it might be the confluence of all these roles, my effort to understand medicine from the vantage point as mother to 2 boys. Being a parent helps me frame and understand the data, putting it into perspective. Maybe why I’m willing to talk about toddlerhood on TV.

When I finished residency, got pregnant and eventually had given birth to F, a long time family friend of the husband, Dr Arne Anderson, wrote a letter to congratulate us. He was a pioneering pediatrician with Minneapolis Children’s and practiced pediatrics for decades. In the letter he said, “And now the real Professor of Pediatrics moves in.”

Agreed. I learn a lot from my kids. Tune in tomorrow morning to see if you concur.

NBC Kong 6/16 around 8:15-8:20am, tomorrow, Thursday February 18th.

Valentine, Circa 2004

Sweet Boy Be MineTell me, shall I re-use this little valentine? Part of my efforts to reduce, re-use, & recycle? See, I’ve got these little boys now…

I make the husband a valentine each year. The valentines of the past few years have been less beautiful and less wondrous than the first few, some decade ago. The distractions of the-making-of-a-pediatrician (residency) and the-making-of-a-family (two boys) have influenced this.The valentine here was painted on a park bench halfway between the hospital and my afternoon clinic in South Seattle when I was an intern at Children’s Hospital, February 2004. No idea why I snapped the photo.

Re-use? Tempting. This particular valentine is so perfectly suited for these little boys I love. I’ll just water color in an “s” after “boy” and slip it under their bedroom door Saturday night. We’ll see how the husband takes it.

Verbatim: “You Mean Because I’m Fat?”

Recently, one of my teenage patients was in to see me. I’ve seen him a lot this year. I think about him nearly every day because I’m desperately trying to help him. I’m just so stinking worried about the choices he’s making. At the end of the visit, I said, “We’ve got a lot of work to do so I’ll see you in 2 weeks.”  He responded, “You mean, because I’m fat?”

No, I didn’t. We hadn’t even talked about his obesity at the visit. We’d talked about all the other stuff clogging up his path to happiness, long life, good health, generous love and earnest support. He’s had a heap of trouble this past year. He’s run away from home about 4 times (once for over 40 days–his poor mom), he’s currently living in a shelter, he was using drugs, he was self-tattooing with an ink pen under her skin (eeeeep!), he stopped taking his daily medicines, he’s obese and gaining weight, he got an STD….it goes on and on. My worry is real and rationale, you see.

But his comment at the end of our visit reminded me about how hard I work to talk to children and their families about overweight in ways that don’t alienate them. And how I obviously need to work harder. A new study points out the importance of letting kids know they are overweight. Read full post »

Atta Girl, Michelle Obama: Let’s Move!

Let's Move Atta girl, Michelle Obama. Thank you for the personal, passionate and most excellent articulation of a big problem facing nearly 1/3 of all children in the US today.

Michelle Obama’s introduction of Let’s Move to end childhood obesity in one generation will do wonders.

Thank you, Michelle. I know we’re not personally friends but you do send me regular e-mails and sign them, “Michelle.” So we’ll go forth on a first name basis. And whenever you’re ready for a play date, I’m game.  Let’s meet at your house; we’ll introduce the husbands.

Let’s end the obesity challenge for our children, now. Speaking of now, now that about 1/3 of the children I see in the office are overweight, I spend hours (read: hours) every day in clinic talking about it. I worry our country’s problem with obesity isn’t going away any time soon. As a pediatrician I can help my patients gain perspective and knowledge but I ultimately need my patients to help themselves move more, eat right and turn off the TV. They need help from their families and communities to do this. Hard to do. Like most things in my life, these kids (and all of us!) need a lot of help from our friends. Read full post »

(Our) Doctor (To)day Keeps Those (Pull-ups) Away

F woke up with a wet bed. First time since the amazing transformation this past month where he decided to wear underwear. It felt like a miracle. New Year’s hopes and dreams come true. Wait until you hear how it happened.
I just couldn’t bring myself to write about toilet training until now. Didn’t want to jinx it. Now with the wet bed this morning, I’m safe. Can’t blame the blog for any future wetting-messiness. You’re off the hook, SeattleMamaDoc.

There is some new data suggesting there is an ideal time for initiation of toilet training. A recent study suggests half way between age 2 and 3 years is the golden age. Ditch the diapers between 27-32 months, the urologists say.

Finally, a data-driven answer to the question of “When should I toilet train little Jane?” Read full post »

Dear Sleep, Come Home.

You’ll be pleased to know in response to the poor quality of sleep in our house, for 4 consecutive nights, due to colds and random screaming I’ve just sent a memo to the boys. It reads:

Beloved Boys,

Sleep starts at 8pm and no later.

We rise around 7am in our home, just after Mommy and Daddy are ready for the day.

Thank you for adjusting your schedules accordingly.

I love you,

Mama

I’m waiting for them to respond. A re-tweet or Facebook status update would suffice.