Tuesdays with Mommy: At the Doctor

breastfeeding_at_doctorAlthough I enjoy my Tuesdays at home as a day to play with the kids, it feels great that when one of them is sick on a Tuesday, I can be there to take care of them.  After returning to school this September, it was inevitable that one of them would catch something.  It ended up being little G who caught croup, so we spent the day taking walks in the cool air, basking in the cool mist of her humidifier, and wrestling pursed lips to get some Ibuprofen in.

As a doctor, I find it hard not to think of the worst case scenario.  The first night of her illness, I played out possible scenarios in my head.  If her breathing worsened and we had to go to the hospital, who would watch my son?  Would I drive or call 911?  I found myself preparing the diaper bag so that I could leave the house in a hurry, if needed.  While her illness never progressed to that level of severity, we did end up in the doctor’s office the next day.  I had already anticipated what the doctor would do for her and I found myself calculating her steroid dose in my head.  I estimated how many pounds she must weigh by now… converted to kilograms… multiplied by 0.6.  It was dirty math, but I figured about 5 mL would be necessary.  Later on when the doctor did the official calculations, she told me it would be 5 mL and I stifled a smile.  It was hard to disconnect from my work.

I have seen dozens of children with croup in the Emergency Department and admitted to the hospital.  The management of these children is so standardized and routine that it rarely raises any alarm and could be completed by any intern.  However, holding my own stridulent daughter made me question every noise I heard and develop paranoia.  Was that stridor?  Is she congested or wheezing?  Is she belly breathing or does she always breathe like that?  I seemed to lose my objectivity.

I was once again happy that I am not her doctor and that although I knew what all the appropriate steps were to treat her, there was someone else there to make those decisions for me.  While I don’t want to spend my day off at my office, I was glad that my colleagues were there to help me care for my daughter during her illness.  After G recovered from her episode of croup, I developed more empathy for the parents I see with children in the same situation.  Another example of how parenting humbles me and informs my pediatric practice.

Saturday in the City

It is not a secret that most parents are home on a Saturday night and while I recognized how boring my weekend evenings have become, it was not until recently that I remembered what others were doing while I was home.  Typically after a long day of playing with the kids, my Saturday nights are quiet and restful.  A few blocks away, there are bars and restaurants that I know are bustling, but they feel far away in distance and time.  It has been awhile since I was there to see it for myself.

On a recent Saturday night, I realized that I needed to buy some milk, so I offered to N that we take a walk to the local Rite Aid before he went to bed.  As we walked, we passed couples holding hands, friends feeding their parking meter, a group of girls waiting for their table at a local Italian restaurant, and a double-date inspecting a bottle of wine before handing it to the waitress.  There was so much Saturday-night-in-the-city energy that it reminded me for a minute that oh yeah, this is what people do on Saturdays.  Meanwhile I walked to Rite Aid wearing denim covered in baby food purees and holding my toddler’s mysteriously moist hand.

N talked me into buying some chocolate Tastykake cupcakes and we sat on the concrete steps eating them, watching the lively city around us.  It was one of those warm September nights with a bit of chill when the wind blows and an earlier darkness that reminds you that Fall is coming.  I sat there appreciating this moment with my son and recognizing how quickly things change: seasons, people, life.  As we watched more people trotting off to start their Saturday nights, we finished our cupcakes and headed home to bed.  As we walked home hand-in-hand though, I smiled, thinking about how lucky I was to have the best Saturday night date in all of Philadelphia.


Good Mommy Juju


During my maternity leave, I needed to get a haircut before returning to work and since I wasn’t married to a salon yet, I decided to try someplace new.  I found Juju Organics in Queen Village, which I first noticed by their clever sidewalk signs and then subsequently learned more about their all-natural and organic approach to beauty care.  This philosophy was in line with my hesitancy to expose my breastfeeding infant to too many chemicals and my overall desire to leave the planet a better place for my kids.

salonI have since had two great hair cuts and one eyebrow wax there and they were able to accommodate me on short notice (i.e. “the kids are napping, can I come over now”).  I have not yet tried out their nail services, but I know that once G is old enough for a mommy-daughter manicure outing that I will be thankful for their non-toxic nail polish options.


While the services I received at Juju Organics were good and the eco-chic policies are commendable, one of the things that I like most about this salon is that it truly feels rooted in its neighborhood and is family friendly.  Not only were they willing to help a desperate mommy get her hair cut on short notice, but the woman next to me held her infant on her lap while getting her hair cut.  One of my stylists and I had a discussion about neighborhood schools and the owner and I discussed our work-life balance.  After nine years in Queen Village, Juju Organics is as invested in their local community as they are the larger environmental impact of their salon.

Juju_salonAfter a long work week and fighting a cold, a night out at Juju Organics was just the kind of juju that this mommy needed.


{Disclaimer:  My eyebrow wax was courtesy of Juju Organics and Paige Wolf Media & Public Relations.  I was not obligated to write this post and all opinions are my own.  I paid for my hair cuts and was a client of this salon prior to the media event.}

City Green: an afternoon at the Washington Avenue Green

Raising city kids, I am always looking for opportunities to bring a little nature into their lives.  So on a napless afternoon, I decided to take G for a walk to the Washington Avenue Green, a riverfront park at Columbus and Washington Streets.  I imagined that taking a long walk would put her to sleep, but we both ended up being enthralled with the views and basked in the mid-afternoon sunshine.

Washington_Green_selfieIf I hadn’t read about this park, I would never had known it was there as it is situated behind a Union headquarters and a Coast Guard building.  After crossing Columbus Boulevard, I followed a trail of wildflowers and was amazed at how quickly the landscape changed from dirty concrete to a garden path lined with honey bees and frogs.

wildflowers_beesThe park is located out on Pier 53 and has great views of the Coast Guard boats and ships docked along the Delaware River.  The marshy smell and sound of the waves crashing on the bulkhead reminded me of my childhood home and were a relaxing respite from the city noise.

Coast GuardWashington_GreenAt the end of the pier there is a “land buoy” with a spiral staircase that goes halfway up, from which you can survey the park and gain a better view of the city skyline, Benjamin Franklin bridge, and the Washington Green.  You can read more about the historical significance of this park and art installation here, but in brief, this site was an immigration station from 1873-1915.

land_buoyG and I enjoyed climbing the lighthouse-like tower and feeling the fresh breeze roll off the water.  The park also includes a boardwalk over the water and a small rocky beach.  The pier architecture encourages exploring the local ecology and I witnessed a few children skipping rocks from the shoreline, couples stopping to photograph flowers, and bicyclists waving at offshore tugboats.


While the Spruce Street Harbor Park has been getting all the attention this summer, I was excited to find this less touristy hidden gem along the waterfront.  I am excited that Philadelphia is reviving the waterfront and in this case, restoring not only a historical landmark but a natural wetland.

Standing on Our Own Two Feet: From residents to attendings

baby_standingOne of the first friends I made during residency is one of my current coworkers.  We started off with a few light rotations together, the kind that got us out of work in time to make it to the city-wide Summer happy hours.  Then we had a few rotations together that were more intense, the kind that tests you and brings out your true character.  She was there when I had an occupational exposure to HIV and loved me when I needed it most.  She was there when I took care of children with cancer and infused my days with some much-needed laughter.  We cheered each other on for the three years when it feels like no one celebrates you.

After residency we ended up taking faculty positions in the same Primary Care office.  We are often consulting each other on challenging cases and teaching each other our discoveries.  The biggest change since residency is that we are now both mothers, sharing the daily struggles of working motherhood and helping each other along the journey.  We work alongside our mentors, who now ask us for our opinions.  It still amazes me when someone who taught me most of what I know asks what I would do!  I look around… are you asking me?  Me, the resident you trained?  And I am proud when I have something to contribute.

One Saturday, my friend and I were the only two doctors working.  We had a busy clinic day with a full schedule of patients.  On my exhausted ride home, I reflected on my work day and thought: we just ran that office unsupervised.  My friend and I who started as lowly interns, trembling with nerves at orientation, operating under the watchful eye of our senior residents, and sweating through our Boards exam, were now confidently and competently running a busy clinic together.  I texted her my observation and we marveled together at how far we have come.

After my last post where I waxed nostalgic about residency, a current resident told me that my positive reflections gave her hope for the future.  Every time I think about the educational arc of my friend and I, now attendings teaching residents, I am amazed at how far one can go in just a few years.  Residency is intense, however, it not only prepares you for a career, but for lifelong friendship.


[Dedicated to the entire Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Residency Class of 2011]

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