this is a good pace for you

5 May


The Broad Street Run is the nation’s largest 10-mile race, with over 40,000 runners.  It starts in North Philly, goes around City Hall (it used to go straight through the building!), then ends at Navy Yard.  I’ve wanted to run it since moving to Philly.  My first year I didn’t register in time (before the lottery, it filled up in hours!).  Then pregnant year 2, travel year 3, hella pregnant year 4.  This was our last (practical) chance before moving to Virginia.

And we had another motivation: our friend and fellow crossfitter Lisa.  A little less than a year ago, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  With a lot of strength, grace, bravery, and humor, Lisa underwent chemotherapy and other treatment while continuing to thrive in her many invaluable roles, including being a loving mother of two small children.  To celebrate the end of chemo and 80+ days cancer free, she decided to run Broad Street.  80+ family and friends (incidentally one for everyday cancer free) surprised her by running alongside her.

I am honored to be part of Team Lisa.  In fact, though I had always wanted to run Broad Street, being part of this team was the only real reason I didn’t sell my bib.  A series of minor but annoying injuries have kept me from distance running (that and difficulty finding the opportunity with the kids), and I hadn’t run more than a couple hundred meters since January.  But one of our beloved babysitters was willing to come over at 6am on a Sunday, and a two-mile test run last week proved uncomfortable but manageable, so I didn’t have an excuse not to give it a whirl.

I just needed to finish.  And I did, but it most definitely wasn’t pretty.  Was very thankful for my friend Vanessa who similarly trained little and agreed to share two hours of pain with me.  One of my favorite moments was when a little old lady whizzed past us and, as she patted me on the shoulder, earnestly quoted the text on the back of our shirts, “This is a good pace for you!”  (The mantra used by Lisa and her crossfit BFF.)  Don’t we look fabulous(ly terrified) before the race:

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So I was a little stupid.  John, however, was completely insane.  He had to work the overnight shift, which ended at 7am.  The race started at 8am, over an hour away from his place of work and with no available parking.  His colleague was kind enough to show up to relieve him at 6:30.  John then raced (in his car…bad joke) home, had our babysitter pack up the kids (groggy, still in their PJs, utterly confused but game for adventure) and drive him to the starting line (way beyond the babysitter call of duty).  Amid the over 40,000 runners, I spotted John bouncing along at a nice clip shortly after crossing the starting line, and I felt my heart leap.  I used all my energy to catch up with him briefly (which is, of course, why the last 9.5 miles were so painful :/) and give him the most awkward mid-run smooch.  I wouldn’t find him again until the bus ride home.  He crushed it!


I admit, though I recognize the feat of actually running (as opposed to my variation of jog-walk-trot-saunter) a ten-miler after working all night, I was feverishly envious when, immediately after kissing the kids “hello,” John marched up the stairs, took a shower and went to bed.  Jealous.

You know what helps dissipate envy?  A toddler in nothing more than socks with a metal around her neck.

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siop conference & having a baby in residency

1 May

This weekend I served as a discussant for an 80-minute symposium, “Gendered Experiences in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM): Understanding Drivers of Staying and Leaving,” at the annual conference for the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.  Four research studies were presented that examined the work-family issues experienced by women in STEM and their impact on career success, advancement, and turnover from STEM.  As a woman in STEM, I was tasked with reflecting on the presentations, and discussing how their findings could be translated into meaningful insight and change for women pursuing and striving for success in STEM careers.

The experience was awesome!  Though I definitely did that thing where you get up to the podium and all your thoughts fly out of your head, the notes you’ve scribbled down during the presentations look like a jumbled mess, and you end some sentences with “so, um, yeah,” I appreciated the opportunity to publicly think through some of these results that feel so close to home.  Why are more college women leaving STEM majors (or, in my case, being too fearful to enter them at all).  How does gender play a roll in the confidence of post-docs or the possibilities to be hired for academic jobs?  How does family impact women’s decisions in STEM fields at the higher echelons, for better or worse?

I couldn’t help but think about some fundamental structural aspects of medicine that make being a woman who chooses to have a baby a somewhat awful experience, especially during residency.  As seen recently on the Student Doctor Network:

Resident in a surgical specialty here.  I’m single.  My program has more children than residents.  Yet another resident is pregnant, this time it’s one of my classmates.  The schedule for next year came out the other day…I’m the one who gets screwed.  I have to take an extended period of night float, plus I’m the back-up for if she delivers early…I can already tell I’m going to get stuck covering a couple of weekends for her while she’s on her 6 weeks of free vacation.  I’m sick of covering for people so they can sit on their ass and not work. It’s a small program, so when there’s constantly someone gone, the rest of us get screwed.  I’m never going to get free time off like this, so why am I the one getting shafted again?  Should the folks who had a baby have to bear the brunt of this?

Although this resident’s general attitude and tact are uninviting, she brings up valid points: the structure of residency forces a great deal of additional work on those who don’t have children.  My impression is that it leads to a considerable hostility within these communities that are, to many, supposed to act like a second family.  I wonder if this component affects women’s choices to stay or leave more competitive specialties, not only in medicine but other STEM fields.

Yet this culture is also prevalent (albeit to a lesser extent) outside of the more competitive, demanding specialties.  I am entering pediatrics, arguably one of the most family-friendly specialties.  This year, my husband and I briefly entertained the idea of having a third child while I was a junior resident.  In part based on his own residency training experiences, he kept coming back to this point: “You really don’t want to be the resident for whom other residents have to pick up call in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.”

Of course there were other considerations, first and foremost being the overall well-being and happiness of the family as a whole and as individuals.  Having two daughters has infused our lives with so much joy.  I think we would fall in love with a third child, as much as we did with our two daughters.  Once again, our hearts would expand beyond what we thought possible.  Ari and Evie would be in awe.  The child would be safe, secure, and well loved.

What would be the cost?  Our children have stretched us a little thin, worn our patience, exhausted us, and strained our marriage.  Though I think Ari and Evie would adore a younger sibling, it would be hard on them too, as they would see me so little as a resident, and my time outside of work would mostly be tied to a newborn.  He/She wouldn’t know any different, but it might suck to have mom replaced by a bottle at 4 weeks of age.

Though there are many interns and junior residents who choose to have a baby and balance family and career beautifully, I would have serious concerns about my work suffering.  Interns already sleep little.  I can’t imagine returning to 60- to 80-hour weeks with a 4-week-old at home.  I want to be able to do more than merely function on the job; I want to be able to learn, absorb, and retain as much as possible.  This thought is only with regards to me personally (NOT other interns/residents): I don’t think it would be responsible for the work I’m doing, for the pediatrician I hope to become, to try to juggle a newborn, in addition to the family I already have, as an intern.

As I pack away the 6-12-month baby clothes and we see other families sign on for a third child, it feels a little like inertia drawing us in.  Then there’s the question of capability–I can absolutely handle another kid, bring it on!–not a great reason to have another baby, but one us type-As tend to consider.  But I think our decision is sound.  Not now, hopefully later.  Focus on loving the children we already have, loving each other and ourselves, preserving our sanity, and giving ourselves the opportunity to thrive in our careers.

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Evie fell asleep at a barbecue last weekend.  The toddlers couldn’t decide if she would be more comfortable with her hood on or off.  Ari’s friend then covered Evie’s legs with her jacket.

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we found an au pair!

22 Apr

We could not be happier to welcome Jéssica to our family in less than two months!  Since Match Day, we had been searching au pairs through Au Pair Care (chosen mostly because it is the agency one of my mentors uses).  There were many people who looked kind, responsible, and capable.  But when Jéssica’s profile popped up in my search, something clicked.  Her photographs looked not just friendly but genuine.  Her profile description didn’t seem canned.

Jéssica is from Santa Catarina, a state in southern Brazil.  I have vague memories of my girl scout troop representing Brazil for World Thinking Day when I was in second or third grade.  I think I attempted to make a mosaic out of poster board; we might have cooked good food.  Clearly we know not nearly enough about Brazilian culture and stand to learn a huge amount from Jéssica.  Although she would like to practice her English (which, we learned from our interviews with her, is already excellent), it will be wonderful for John’s grandparents to be able to speak Portuguese with her.

There are certain details about her personality–her likes include cooking, hiking, dogs (she has one named Marley), and of course children–that resonate with the jive of our family.  Per her own admission, she talks a lot (she will fit right in!).  She has a degree in nursing and experience driving in New York City!  She has two older sisters.  And her family is very important to her.

“On paper” she looked awesome.  But it was our interview with her that did it.  We skyped with her twice, but I think John and I both knew it was her (if she would have us) within a few minutes.  She is warm, playful, thoughtful, and sincere.  And she won several smiles and giggles out of both girls–rare feats when so close to nap time.

We received her travel itinerary today–it all feels very real!  I admit, a little bittersweet.  While there is nothing wrong with more people loving on my daughters (thanks for the reminder, Mama Mills!), and I am sure she’ll quickly become part of the family…my transition from being full-time mom to working 60-80 hours a week will take some adjustment.  I want my girls to love Jéssica (I’m sure they will), and I hope she loves them.  But it’s gonna sting the first time I see Ari run to her after she falls down, or Evie reach for her when she’s hungry.

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And, again, 80 degrees but insists on a wool cap.  Oh, my heart.

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19 Apr

One of my favorite moms often listens to NPR in the background throughout the day.  While wrangling several small kids, she likes hearing news and stories told by other adults.  And, as she explains, it gives her something to talk about (other than her kids) at dinner parties.  I could never do that.  NOT because I would be concerned about distraction from my kids…but I hate missing words or fragments of stories.  Ask John.  I am the worst person with whom to see a movie, always frustrated and fixated on the word I didn’t get from the last dialogue.

But I have been trying to get in the rhythm of turning on podcasts while cleaning up after the kids are asleep.  I stumbled upon a TED Radio Hour from a few weeks ago that felt oddly applicable to life.  In “Press Play,” the speakers describe how all different forms of entertainment–spontaneous play, sports, video games–can make us “smarter, saner, and more collaborative.”  I was particularly taken by the work of Dr. Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist and founder of the National Institute of Play.  He was one of the experts charged with examining Charles Whitman’s motives to commit the murders from the Tower of the University of Texas, Austin.  Brown discovered a disturbing lack of spontaneous, free play in Whitman’s history.  Any natural playfulness was suppressed by an overbearing and abusive father.  Anyone who knew him growing up admitted that they never saw him engage in play.  Brown’s “research of other violent individuals concludes that play can act as a powerful deterrent, even an antidote to prevent violence.  Play is a powerful catalyst for positive socialization.”

I mentioned I thought this was applicable to life.  There are two main reasons.  First of all, I have recently had some guilt over not having enough planned activities for my kids, or not engaging with them enough so I can clean, make a phone call, cook dinner, etc.  While I never thought I was doing my kids any lasting damage by letting them figure out their own fun using toys/books/crafts/coasters/paper bags/whatever-other-household-item-that-strikes-their-fancy (all of which I maybe ought to swamp out every now and then), I’m a little relieved that this kind of play (seemingly mundane when Evie studies a green plastic ball for 5 minutes 🙂 ) is good for their development.

Secondly, we are in the midst of signing up for preschool for Ari in the fall, and I am blown away by how much they vary.  One our close friends, who is also an educator, mentioned to me something about the importance of “play-based” learning for her kids.  What in the what now?  After poking a little bit around on preschools’ websites, I am onboard with this teaching/learning style–giving small toddlers extra freedom, allowing for self-discovery and self-guided play in the school (not that I really know anything about anything yet).

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15 to 20! (alternative title: all about that bass)

16 Apr

As of about 10:30am today, there are only 15-20 pages of writing between me and the M.D.!  And yet I feel like I know nothing and have to study ALL THE THINGS before July 1.  My friend recently posted this article about some of the problems (and impact) of resident work hours restrictions.  Any other rising interns out there starting to sweat a little?  Yet, graduating from medical school, that is going to feel good (at least the day of).

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My little firecracker is going to be 30 months old tomorrow.  I sometimes take pause when, intertwined with the songs about Frozen or the weather or magical eggs, I hear her call “I’m bringing booty back” and something about “all the right junk.”  Maybe we should listen to more Putumayo.

Still young enough to insist on sandals and a winter hat when it’s 65 degrees:

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happy birthday, john!

11 Apr

Ah, it’s a big one this year!  But in the mess of getting everything organized for the move (and so many life changes), we have only had little celebrations here and there (like some close friends over for a simple meal last week)–and I think this guy deserves a little more fanfare.  I’ll be brainstorming, but suggestions are welcome!

Happy birthday, love!  Your girls and I adore you!

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10 Apr

By 6 months, Ari was chewing on lemons.  Evie, well…fruit (save really ripe bananas) might as well be Warheads.