Coffee Date: December 2017

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Hi, hello, it's me, your favorite wayward blogger who shows up here every few months to randomly babble into the void in the hopes that the three people who read this thing enjoy it. I would love to tell you that I've been off doing all kinds of exciting things, but in reality, I've just been plugging along on my rotations, keeping a tiny human alive, and generally trying to keep my life from collapsing into a shambles.

So far, so good.

I can't believe that I can even call myself a blogger and that I haven't done one of these coffee date posts ever in the history of my blog. So, meet me at the nearest Starbucks, because yes, I actually do love their coffee, grab a beverage, and settle in. If we were out for coffee, I would tell you...

.... that I had actually thought about not blogging ever again, because I hadn't blogged in so long and I felt like I didn't have anything useful to say. Then, one of my favorite bloggers, Nicole of Just the Elevator Pitch, updated her blog after a long time, and I said to myself, "Self, if Nicole can do it, you can totally do it!" So here I am. But I'm glad I took a break to have coffee with you, of course.

... that my life has been mainly consumed by residency interviews, thinking about residency, and freaking out about THE MATCH. THE MATCH (yes, it necessitates all caps), for the uninitiated, is how applicants get matched to residency positions. Basically, the applicant makes a rank list, the programs make a rank list, it all goes into a giant computer algorithm, you pray to all the gods that it works, and a match gets spit out at the end. Then on March 16th, everyone who matched gets an envelope and everyone finds out where they're going. (The unmatched people scramble for positions, but I'm not even entertaining the thought of that happening because if I do, my brain will melt and I'll spend the next 78 days until Match Day huddled in a ball under my kitchen table. I have very healthy coping mechanisms.) The uncertainty of this part of my life is going to be the death of me, I swear.

... that thanks to winter break, I have no idea what day it is or how time even works anymore. I'm so thankful to have this time off because it's probably the last time I'll ever have 2 weeks off for... a long time. Last week, I went back to sleep every morning after getting Ken and Aviva off to school at 6:15 and it was glorious. I can't even remember what I did, other than rest, which I'm pretty okay with. This past week has been nuts since Saturday because we had family visiting and then we were traveling to NY for Christmas, so I am really glad to be home for the last few days of my break. Even though I have an interview tomorrow, I have a low key weekend planned (or not planned, rather), so hopefully by the time my feet hit the floor on Monday morning, I'm ready to go back to rotations.

... that this year, I totally ignored most of the "holiday traditions" I usually try to accomplish. I didn't decorate indoors, I didn't bake cookies, I didn't send photo cards, even though we had photos taken. Ooh, do you want to see them? I thought you might.

I'm pretty obsessed with them. But anyway, yeah. I totally shirked my holiday responsibilities and I'm not gonna lie, it felt pretty great. On one hand, I was really bummed that I didn't get my Hanukkah lights and decor up, and I missed making gingerbread, but on the other hand, it was great to do... nothing. Being an adult is weird.

... that Aviva is getting so big and I am constantly looking forward to the next milestone but also wishing she were still a squishy potato. She's pretty amazing, and I'm always ready to talk about her. In fact, I could spend the rest of this coffee date talking about her, but I won't, because that would probably be boring for you. She's 18 months old now, and she is really embracing her toddlerhood. That makes it sound like she's a hard kid, but she really isn't. She likes to push our buttons and see where the limits are, but she is so sweet and funny. She makes me laugh every day, and I am so excited to see her grow into her own little person. She is saying things now! I was so concerned that her speech would be delayed because her hearing was off due to fluid in her ears for awhile, but since she got her ear tubes, things seemed to pick up. She makes a ton of animal sounds (my favorite is for "What does a fish say?" and she responds by puckering and smacking her lips), can ask for "more" without using sign language now, and says "stuck" when she can't figure out how to do something (or when something is actually stuck, like her arm in a sleeve, or a toy). Her receptive speech is fantastic, and she understands so much of what we say and mostly listens when we tell her to do something. She's just the best.

... that I'm working on some goals for 2018. I'm not sure what they all are yet, other than, "Match, for the love of God and all that is holy," but I always like the start of a new year and a chance to make some new goals. I also just love a good list. Stay tuned.

So what's new with you?

Do the Thing

Saturday, October 7, 2017

"You're such a badass!"

"You're amazing."

"I wish I could do everything you're doing."

"You make it look so easy."

"I don't know how you do it."

Here's the thing: Neither do I.

All of these statements have been said to me at one time or another in the last 18 months or so, usually with regard to the fact that I was either pregnant and in med school or that I had a baby and was in med school. I know I should probably just take the compliment, say thank you, and move on, but it actually kind of makes me uncomfortable, like I'm some kind of imposter. Because seriously, I have no idea how I'm doing it. I barely know what day it is most days. For real.

If you're playing the home game, you've realized that it's been a minute (ahem, a month and a half) since I last posted. Since then, much has changed. Much has stayed the same. I finished my ER rotation and I'm still really bad at putting in IV's. (Shout out to all the nurses out there who put in IV's like, 900 times a day. You're all heroes in my book.) I started and finished my Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine/Pain rotation, and it was truly painful. There were 18 students on a rotation where we barely had enough doctors to support half that many, and so it was a lot of standing around NOT leaning on walls, lest we get yelled at for smudging them. (Not kidding.) I am 2 weeks into a Medical Genetics rotation that is proving to be far less interesting than I originally had hoped, but at least I'm learning something and my attending is nice and no one cares if I lean on a wall every once in awhile. Oh, I also applied to residency, then promptly threw up and passed out from anxiety. (Okay, maybe not that last part.)

The tiny human is still alive and being a tiny human. She's really amazing, and most days, I still can't believe that I'm her mom. Sometimes, that's because she is so sweet and adorable, I can't even believe she's real. After all the heartache it took to get here, this miracle rainbow of mine just seems too good to be true. Then there are days that I can't believe I'm her mom because I put my keys in the fridge, I lost my brand new prescription sunglasses, and I can't find my phone because I'm holding it in my hand. Like, who let me procreate here? Who rubber-stamped that decision? Oh, me? It was me? Well, that explains a few things. (What it doesn't explain is why my keys are in the fridge.)

Usually my answer to, "I don't know how you do it," is to quickly stop myself from saying, "Shhhhh, don't tell anyone, I'm totally making this up as I go along," and instead I say something to the effect of, "Well, I'm just... doing it!" and then I laugh nervously and change the subject. I also tend to bring up Ken, and blame (attribute?) the entire success of this operation to him. To a certain extent, that's actually true. I literally (and I mean that in the actual definition of the word, not that messed up new way that people use it) could not do this without him. Ken is the reason I have clean clothes and the reason the house is vacuumed. He is the reason dinner is made most nights and the reason we have food in our pantry. He's the reason I'm not curled up under our kitchen table in the fetal position, rocking back and forth, crying about how life is uncertain and how I am unsure whether I can go on like this. (Okay, that's actually never happened, but it is a real possibility, people.

It's especially been a real possibility as of late. I don't know why, but my anxiety has been terrible. Okay, that's a lie, I have a pretty good idea why it's been so bad, and that reason is fourth year of medical school. They say that 4th year is supposed to be the FUN year, but they (Who are they? We may never know.) must be talking about after March, once you have that letter in your hand that says where you've matched for residency. Until then, it's constant flux. I'm in 4 different places over the next 4 months on 4 different peds specialties, which is great and I should learn a ton, but it means constant transitions. Learning a new hospital, figuring out how to use a new EMR, learning how to present to a new attending, all while trying to impress whoever you're in front of because these are audition rotations and with any luck, they're supposed to help get you interviews. On top of that, I'm now obsessively stalking my own email and ERAS, waiting for interview invitations, so I basically have a psychotic break every time my phone vibrates. I'm really fun to be around now, you guys! 

And I know that I am not alone in my plight and that every 4th year med student out there is probably feeling similarly, but my anxiety is having a field day. I'm not even anxious just about residency and matching; it's actual, honest-to-goodness generalized anxiety. As I explained it to a friend the other day, "You know how sometimes, you get a rush of adrenaline like you're about to go into fight-or-flight mode? Well, it's like that. Only all the time. I'm about to go into fight-or-flight mode, but there's no bear that's about to eat me. All day, every day, from the minute I open my eyes to the minute I fall asleep, I'm on that edge."And don't get me wrong, I'm glad there isn't an actual bear who is about to eat me. I'd just like to reserve this feeling for such a time where it makes sense, like if I were about to be eaten by a bear, and not because I have to drive my car or leave the house. Like I said, super fun over here! ::confetti::

So, how do I do it? I get up every day, no matter how reluctantly, and I do the thing. Sometimes I have to bribe myself with chocolate chips. Or coffee. Or whatever the thing is that will get me out the door to do the thing. But I do it. I do it because I'm paying a lot of money for the privilege of standing around, not leaning on walls, theoretically learning how to be a doctor. I do it because I'm so far into this, I can't quit because I have too much debt and nothing else I do will pay me enough to eventually someday maybe pay it off. I do it because my family is depending on me to finish this damn thing. I do it because my daughter needs to know that she can do the hard things. I do it because it's all I've wanted since I was 9. I do it because I don't really have a choice; it's in my blood.

I haven't watched Grey's Anatomy in a really long time. Like, not since season 3 or something. This quote always sticks with me though, 

"I mean if life's so hard already, why do we bring so much trouble on ourselves. What's up with the need to hit the self-destruct button? Maybe we like the pain. Maybe we're wired that way because without it... I don't know. Maybe we just wouldn't feel real. What's that saying... Why do I keep hitting myself with a hammer? Because it feels so good when I stop."

Here's to doing the thing. 

Unrelated PS: Should I go back and rewatch all of Grey's Anatomy? Someone make this decision for me. I have no brain cells left to do it myself.

Up to Speed

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

| JUNE |

Finished third year of medical school! (Whaaaaaat?)
Aviva turned 1! (Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?)
Studied for boards
Family photos

All photos by Jessica Piva Photography
| JULY |

Aviva's 1st Birthday Party & Baby Naming
Studied for boards
Took boards
Applied for some residency programs (!!!)


Trip to Orlando
Stuck in the Philadelphia airport for 6.5 hours with a baby

Aviva's first time in a pool

Floated down a lazy river at Rock Spring Run in Apopka, FL
Started my Emergency Med rotation
Stapled a guy's head
Sutured a stab wound
Worked a week of night shift
Put in some IV's

To be continued...


Sunday, May 7, 2017

When I was getting married, I was determined to "not lose myself," in this new role as "wife".

The same thing happened when I got pregnant. I said I would never lose myself to my new role as a mom.

Well, here's the thing.


Yes, caterpillars.

We all know that caterpillars, at some point, go hang themselves up as chrysalises and when they wiggle out, a beautiful butterfly emerges. Or maybe a beautiful moth. Or a plain moth. Whatever. Regardless, a squirmy, wiggly, thing with a lot of legs goes into a tube, and when it comes out, it's an insect with 3 body sections, 2 wings, and a lot fewer legs and a proboscis that lets it drink nectar emerges. If you're like me, you've often thought WHAT HAPPENS IN THERE? Well, it's kind of amazing and completely insane. Here's a cool video:

Basically, the caterpillar releases a bunch of enzymes that turn it into a soup with a bunch of chunky bits, and then the entire thing rearranges itself into an entirely new organism that is made up of all the exact same DNA that was there when it was a caterpillar. NATURE IS WEIRD, YO.


So, how is this related to anything I was talking about at the beginning of this post? It turns out that I was wrong. It's impossible to not lose yourself, at least a little bit, to your new role. I noticed it less as a new wife than I have as a new mom, but it was still present, even then. My priorities shifted. I was no longer a single unit, operating with only my own goals in mind. I was part of a team, and the team's goals became my own goals. I still had goals that were just mine, of course, but most of the time, they were superseded by those of the team. That is how I wanted it. How we wanted it.

It wasn't always the case. Going back to medical school was a time when my own personal goal superseded what was probably "best" for the team, but any good team sometimes requires compromise. Ken fully supported my dream then and continues to support me now as we come slowly (ever so slowly) towards the end of this wild ride called medical school. (1 year to go, basically! Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat.) So now I'm a wife who also happens to be a med student, and even underneath those layers, I'm Alison, the woman who loves reading, cheese, and sleeping in on Saturdays. What I'm saying is that there's a definite give and take to marriage, and I haven't lost my old self. It's just there in a different form.

Motherhood has been even more of a trip. I refused to become the stereotypical caricature of a mother that we all know. Haggard, can't remember the last time she showered, slowly martyring herself every day and giving all of her energy to her children. Am I tired? Sure. We're all tired. Granted, this is a different kind of tired than I've ever felt before, but it's nothing exciting or earth shattering. I refused to give up what gives me personal satisfaction and meaning to have it replaced by being a mother. And yes, I love being Aviva's mama, and knowing what I know now, I wouldn't give it up for anything in the entire world. But being Aviva's mama is not my sole identity. It is but a part of the wife-med student-reading-late sleeping-cheese eating woman that I am (and then some).

I often joke that life with a baby is the same as it was before, just... with a baby. But it's not. Sure, our activities are largely the same. We go out to dinner, we do housework, we binge-watch Parks and Rec, and we do it all with Aviva in tow (usually). But something feels different. I can't put my finger on it, but I am feeling like that caterpillar that has turned into a butterfly. I was doing fine as a caterpillar. Life was pretty good most of the time, and I liked it. Then, for 40 weeks, I was in this cocoon of pregnancy, and then I gave birth.  When a butterfly is emerging from a cocoon, it is really hard work and it can take a long time! The 12 weeks after Aviva arrived were my emergence from the cocoon. Our little bubble of a new family was perfect to me, and managing it was also the hardest thing I've done yet. (Yes, even more difficult than boards.)

So, to continue this grossly extended metaphor that is bordering on conceit, now I'm a butterfly (or, maybe a moth, because let's face it, ain't nobody got time to be butterfly beautiful every day), Some days, I feel like I'm still emerging from that cocoon. Drying my wings and learning that not only am I completely different, I am also completely the same as I was before Aviva was even an idea. I'm not going to lie and tell you that it's not hard. It is. It's hard and it's amazing and it's weird, and I'm still not entirely sure who I am or how being a mom fits into the rest of my life. That's the thing about life that I'm (reluctantly) learning; you kind of have to live it to figure it out.

Unlike a butterfly, I think that throughout Aviva's life, I'm going to keep going back into the cocoon, remaking myself. After all, she's not a static force, so I have to change in order to best support and care for her. What she needs from me now is not what she will need from me in 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years, or 2 decades. I think that any time our identity is threatened by change, even amazingly great change, we have a tendency to back away from it and to fear it. I know I do. But I'm trying to remind myself that it's okay to take all the time I need to get out of that cocoon, and it's okay for you to take your time, too. We don't have to know everything right now. And every time we go back into our cocoon, we have a new opportunity to learn about ourselves and change how we want to see ourselves in the world. It's scary, but hey, at least we don't have to completely liquefy ourselves to do it.

13 Reasons Why

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

If you have a pulse and an internet connection, then you've probably heard of "13 Reasons Why". Spoiler alert: It's about a girl who died by suicide after... a bunch of stuff happens. And she leaves a bunch of cassette tapes (who even has those anymore?), detailing how each person in her life contributed to her death. It was a book before it was a series directed by Selena Gomez. Apparently, it's pretty popular and addictive. I watched it. Well, most of it. I watched the first 9 episodes and then skipped to the end and watched pieces of the last episode. I'll tell you why.

You shouldn't watch it. No one should. Here are a few reasons (not thirteen, because who needs that many?) you shouldn't watch 13 Reasons Why. And, uh, spoiler alert, I guess.

No one is responsible for anyone's suicide.

Period. End of story. Suicide is a horrible cause of death, often following a protracted battle with depression or other mental illness. The people left after the suicide always, always, always, need to know why. They want a reason why their loved one chose to end their life. They want to know if there was anything they could have done. Or if they did something to cause it. The rest of their lives, some of these people will probably blame themselves in one way or another. The last thing we need is for mainstream media to purport the idea that one or many people can cause someone to kill themselves. Or perhaps more dangerously, the idea that if we're all just really kind to one another and we just love one another better that we can prevent suicide. Depression that ends in suicide cannot be prevented by simple kindness. Full stop.

Getting help is essentially not discussed.

The only time Hannah Baker tries to access the mental health system, it is through her guidance counselor at school, which turns into an unmitigated disaster. She can't and won't tell him who assaulted her, and without that information, he glibly says that she other option is to "move on". She leaves the office in a huff, saying that she "needs to get over it", finishes recording her 13th tape, and then goes home to kill herself. Not once was this girl referred to any kind of actual health professional. Despite the fact that she displayed multiple signs of needing help, including saying things like she wanted life to stop and that she thought she was a burden, her school performance dropping, withdrawing from friendships, feeling worthless, and withdrawing from hobbies and activities. No one hauled that girl into a doctor's office, no one sat her down and made her talk. No one tried to find out why she was in so much pain. No one. There are so many options. 1-800-CONTACT and 1-800-273-8255 are both 24 hour hotlines that anyone can call and talk to a real human about something going on in their lives. You can call 911. Your job probably has an Employee Assistance Program. Your college has a counseling center. Hell, leave me a comment here and I will personally help you find someone to talk to. You are not alone. 

It glorifies and glamorizes suicide.

When someone dies by suicide, there are things that you and others SHOULD. NOT. DO. One of those things is don't glamorize or sensationalize the suicide. This entire show violates this and makes it the centerpiece of many classroom discussions. Furthermore, in death, Hannah Baker received everything she hoped would happen when people listened to her tapes: sympathy, anger, regret, guilt, and lastly, most importantly, love. She was vindicated in these tapes. People realized how awful they had been to her, they all felt bad, things HAPPENED. Will things change? Probably not, because people, teenagers especially, are terrible. But in the show, Clay Jensen decides to be nice to that weird girl, and her parents get closure (???), and there's a court case in process. (Sure, there's also that lingering, terrifying, idea that there's a kid planning a school shooting, and that yet another kid has tried to die by suicide, but let's leave that for the moment.) Overall, the entire thing is just handled incorrectly, and really the exact opposite of how any suicide death should be handled.

The suicide scene is gratuitous.

It reads like a how-to on slitting your wrists. Not only does it depict the entirety of the act, it does so gruesomely and painfully. I have a strong stomach and an equally strong mental fortitude for things, and it made me nauseated. It chilled me. Maybe that was the point. But I'm also 30 years old and I know better than to try and die by suicide because I understand that death is FINAL and there is no coming back. In the novel, Hannah's suicide is vague, but it can be inferred that she dies by taking an overdose of pills. In an interview with Seventeen, Jay Asher, author of the book, was quoted as saying, "We worked very hard not to be gratuitous, but we did want it to be painful to watch because we wanted it to be very clear that there is nothing, in any way, worthwhile about suicide."

Welp, Jay and Selena, it was gratuitous. And you skipped the middle part. You know, the actual dying. You went from bleeding in a bathtub to totally dead. You didn't talk about how when your blood pressure plummets, your heart rate goes up to try and correct it, and you become starved of oxygen because there isn't enough blood in your body to get it to your brain, even though you're breathing just fine. In fact, you're probably hyperventilating. Feeling panicky because at this point, yeah, you're going to die, probably and now you can feel it. You forgot that part.

So no. There is nothing, in any way, worthwhile about suicide. You just certainly wouldn't get that idea from watching 13 Reasons Why.

So, why should we listen to you?

I mean, go ahead, don't listen to me. You're a grown-up. I'm only one person, shouting into the void of the internet along with millions of other people. But I can tell you this. When I was 16, I was suicidal. I spent 10 days in an intensive, outpatient program. It was hell. I was contemplating suicide a second time at 27. That time, I spent 4 days as an inpatient on a psychiatric ward of a hospital. It was also hell, in case you were wondering. For 14 years, I self-injured. For 4 years, I have been a recovering self-injurer. When my depression gets bad, it is a conscious choice I have to make to not hurt myself. It is not always easy. Depression is hard. It lies. Constantly.

While I can't say how I would have felt if I had read this book or seen this series when I was 16, I can pretty much guarantee that the answer wouldn't be, "Way better and way less likely to hurt myself,". What did help me wasn't books or shows about other teenagers dying by suicide and the dramatics that followed. What helped were my friends and teachers who weren't afraid to tell my mom they were worried about me, even after I "swore them to secrecy". Therapists I saw on a regular basis. Oh, and drugs. SSRI's are a huge part of why I'm here today. Better living through chemistry.

If you have already watched the show, or you're still going to watch it, then I want you to remember this. Suicide is not meant to be consumed as mass entertainment. 13 Reasons Why wants you to think it is.

If you've watched the show, how did you feel about it? Did you read the book beforehand? Let's chat.

Spring Cleaning

Friday, April 21, 2017

Hello! This has been a long time coming, but it's finally here! A rebrand! A new name! A new design! For awhile now, Simply A hasn't felt... quite right. Anyone who reads this blog (hi, hello, yes, you there!) knows that in no way, shape, or form does the word "simple" enter into the calculus of my life. Quite the opposite. (In fact, "Organized Chaos" was another new title option.)

When I started blogging, I had no real idea about where I would go or what I would do with it. I used it as a dumping ground for my feelings (of which there are many), life updates, and occasionally, opinion pieces on mental health, med school, or being married. Ever since GoogleReader died (RIP, GoogleReader), I feel like blog readership has been down, and the days of blogging about nothing are all but gone. To make it big now, you have to have a product, run courses, or work with sponsors. I've written a few sponsored posts here and there, but I certainly don't have either of the other two draws for people to read my blog. Essentially, I'm shouting into the void out here. 

Now though, I am involved in in-Training, an online magazine for medical students, as part of their writing interns for the year. I want to get serious about writing, because if I ever want to actually write that book I keep talking about, I'm going to need to hone some skills. Also, I wanted to narrow the focus of my blog from what was previously described as "life, the universe, and everything," to a few key topics: medicine, motherhood, mental health. 

Of course, I'll also be updating about the baby, general life happens, applications to residency, etc. The driving force though behind this blog are those three topics, though. So, if you have anything you want to hear about, check out the "Say Hello!" contact form on the lower right hand sidebar and let me know! 

I hope you enjoy the new look and feel as much as I do, and as always, thanks for coming around to see the place. Stay awhile!

Motherhood Is Just One Surprise After Another

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Real talk: I thought I was going to hate breastfeeding.

I can distinctly remember sitting in my therapist's office, hugely pregnant, talking about the creature in my belly becoming an outside baby in the not-too-distant future. The subject of nursing came up, and I said, "I think breastfeeding is great, but I have no desire to feed a human off of my body." My therapist laughed and said that I might change my mind, that when the nurse hands you your baby, sometimes, something clicks. I am 99% sure I actually rolled my eyes at her and promptly changed the subject.

Every time someone asked (which was weirdly often), my answer was always the same. "I'll try it. We'll see." Even when talking to our doula before the birth, I expressed my concern that I might not like breastfeeding, and that I really wanted to start pumping early. I was entirely convinced that I was not going to a Nursing Mom. Full stop.

Spoiler alert: I was wrong. So wrong.

If you read my birth story, you'll recall that I had a very protracted labor, that ended in an emergency c-section. Because I wasn't feeling well, I wasn't able to do immediate skin-to-skin in the delivery room, so it was about 20 minutes before I was able to hold my daughter. I was still a little feverish, I was thirsty, I couldn't feel my legs, and I was exhausted from being awake and in labor for the previous 25 hours. Then, the nurse handed me our baby, and nothing else mattered. Aviva had been trying to nurse since approximately 3 minutes after she was born, including on Ken's clean suit that he had to wear in the OR, and this moment was no different. She immediately started rooting, and all of a sudden, all of my old feelings and worries were gone. I just wanted to nurse this baby. Our doula helped me get positioned and talked me through getting Aviva to latch. I was very fortunate, and this tiny babe was a nursing rock star. And me? I was blissed out. Was it a little uncomfortable? Sure. Was it weird? Yeah, kind of. But it didn't matter. From that moment on, I was hooked.

Over the next couple of days, Aviva and I learned more about this whole breastfeeding thing. My milk started to come in, which was bizarre, but also great. Ken and I went to a breastfeeding class that one of the lactation consultants led each day, and I had a visit with my own lactation consultant every day. Most of the time, things went really well. There was one night that things got a little hairy, of course. It was three in the morning and Aviva woke up and she was hangry. Her tiny, newborn wails filled the room and I hobbled over to the bassinet as fast as my c-section incision would allow. I scooped her up, brought her back to my bed, and tried to get her to latch. She was rage-crying at this point, her little face was so red, and she just would. not. latch. Panicking, I paged the nurse from the room phone and tried to explain what was happening over Aviva's cries... but of course, the nurse couldn't hear me. Moments later, she swooped into the room, an angel clad in navy scrubs, and, for lack of a better word, man-handled Aviva onto my boob. And just like that... quiet. Well, quiet except for the happy nursing noises of a contented newborn. Sigh of relief.

After we were discharged, I was nervous to go home. What if I couldn't get Aviva to latch at home? What if I didn't have enough milk? What if she didn't gain enough weight? What if, what if, what if. Astonishingly, none of that happened. In fact, I had a bit of an oversupply problem and a really forceful letdown, so I spent a lot of time apologizing to Aviva for shooting milk in her face. I had a few clogged ducts every day, so I showered to help work them out, used warm compresses and nursed as much as i could.  (Again, this is the part where I tell you how glamorous motherhood is and then laugh until I cry.) Things were going well until (dun dun DUNNNNN) I was struck down by mastitis. It was the craziest thing. I felt kind of tired and gross, got in the shower, and in the span of ten minutes went from "gross but manageable" to "chills, 102 degree fever, body aches, wishing for death". Oh, and my boob was KILLING me. Fortunately, my OB's office called me in a script for antibiotics and I was able to start them really quickly. Within 24 hours, I was no longer trying to formulate a plan to amputate my breast, and I no longer wished for death. It would have been so easy to give up at that point, but I knew that I would regret it, so onward I pushed.

Before I knew it, days turned into weeks. With the help of our doula, I was able to start pumping in between nursing sessions, so I built up a nice stash in the fridge. It was really important for me to do that because about two weeks after Aviva was born, I had to go back to studying for boards, which meant leaving the house for a few hours every day. Thank goodness Aviva was happy to take a bottle of expressed milk, so long as it was warm-bordering-on-hot, and Ken was more than happy to snuggle her while she ate. Keeping up with nursing and pumping while studying for the most important exam of my life to-date was definitely not easy. Again, it would have been so much easier if we had switched to formula. I wouldn't have had limits on how long I could be out studying, and Ken and I could have split the night feedings. Something inside me was able to help me persevere, though. When I was nursing, everything else melted away, and it was just Aviva and me in our own world.

When I went back to school at 12 weeks postpartum, I was terrified. I was going to have to pump multiple times per day, and I was going to be on a busy, general surgery rotation. On top of that, I was going to be getting up during the night to nurse, then I would be working 12 hour days. This was the hardest thing yet, for sure. It was kind of awkward to have to tell my almost-entirely-male surgical team that I needed to go pump. There was the time I was accidentally let into the incorrect call room to pump (before anyone had found the lactation room and told me where it was), and an OBGYN resident yelled at me and made me cry (those postpartum hormones are no joke). I was exhausted, and there were multiple times that I nearly fell asleep while driving to or from the hospital. And of course, I missed my baby so much it physically hurt. It would have been so easy to give up during that period, too, but the one thing I looked forward to was getting to snuggle Aviva while she nursed, even if that was happening at 11 pm... and 2 am... and 4 am...

And so it went. With every new rotation, a new challenge. Finding a new place to pump, navigating the pumping conversation with a new team of students, residents, and attending physicians, and stressing out about not having enough milk. Some days, I would get to my car and realized that I had been so busy that I hadn't pumped for 7 hours, and so then I started pumping in my car on my drive home. Real talk? I really do not like pumping. But, I do love nursing, so I will continue to pump. At some point, maybe it won't be worth the trouble to me, but I will cross that bridge if and when we come to it.

This is addressed directly to all the moms out there. I will never be a breastfeeding evangelist. I believe that however you want to feed your baby, so long as you aren't giving them Mountain Dew and Cheetos, is great. I know so many women who were made to feel inferior or like failures because they chose not to breastfeed, even if they physically were unable to do so. Being a mom is a hard enough job on a daily basis that the last thing anyone needs is another voice in your head telling you that you're not doing it right. If you're feeding your baby, you're doing it right. If you're breastfeeding and having doubts, maybe my story will help you realize your strength, or maybe my story will remind you that it's okay to not breastfeed, and that it doesn't make you any less of a mother. One of the most beautiful things about motherhood is that there are so many ways to do it.

Lastly, you are doing a great job, and your hair looks really nice today.

*This post was not sponsored by The Honest Company, but it may be featured on their blog as part of  Honest Feeding Stories. I did not receive any compensation for this post, and all ideas and opinions are my own.*

Life Lately

Monday, February 6, 2017

Well, it's been a minute. A lot of minutes. As you can imagine, medical school + infant leaves me precious little time to do anything, including laundry, eating, reading anything that isn't a textbook, and sleeping, let alone blogging. And so, without further ado, here's what's been going on.

Parks & Rec! I know that I'm about 400 years behind here, but man, so good! Ken and I needed something to watch after we finished Jessica Jones, and while we really want to watch Luke Cage and a few other things, we needed something to bring a little levity to our lives. We've been watching an episode or two every night and I am totally in love. I'm also still watching Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Law and Order: SVU, and Criminal Minds, and I'm part of the way through The OA. I am not 100% on board with The OA, but I'm giving it a chance. Anyone have opinions about it?

My Kaplan review book for OBGYN, which is about as thrilling as it sounds. I'm also reading The Girl Before by JP Delaney, which is (yet another book) billed as "the next Gone Girl," for whatever that is worth. So far, I am intrigued, although if it ends up to be disappointing, I won't be too upset because I received a free copy of it through NetGalley. I'll be posting my review on Goodreads, so feel free to follow me over there!

For Aviva to go back to sleeping (mostly) through the night. She's getting her first tooth and I think she's in the middle of a growth spurt, so she's been waking up at 2;30 and 4 am to eat, which is super fun when I go to bed at 10 or 11 and our alarm goes off at 5:30 (or 5, depending on where I have to be and when). The answer, I'm sure, is to go to bed earlier, but I'm apparently a terrible adult and cannot get myself to bed before 10. (As I write this, it is 9:57 pm and I am nowhere near bed, so... perhaps tomorrow.) And maybe it's neither the tooth nor the growth spurt, but rather just babies gonna baby, so I am trying to go with the flow. And drink more coffee.

About OBGYN and that I definitely do not want to be an OB. I was about 98% sure that I wanted to do peds, but was semi-prepared to fall in love with OB on this rotation. Don't get me wrong, I think delivering babies is pretty much the actual coolest thing ever, and if I could do just that in residency and as my job, I would be down. Unfortunately, that is not reality, and there is a lot more to OBGYN than bringing babies into this world. Also, as soon as the baby is out, whether vaginally or via c-section, I am over dealing with the mom and want to follow the baby to the warmer and get it all checked out, so I'm pretty sure that means I'm supposed to be a pediatrician. There is part of me that wishes I loved OB, because it's definitely a "sexier" field than peds (no pun intended), but alas, I have to follow my heart and my gut here. Peds it is!

To way too many podcasts to keep track of, let's be real. My current subscription list includes Welcome to Nightvale, Radiolab, Archive 81, Small Town Horror, NoSleep, Sword & Scale, My Favorite Murder, and Lore. I've also downloaded all of the second season of Undisclosed and the entirety of Someone Knows Something, Criminal, and True Murder, but haven't started them yet. Also, I swear I'm not a total creep, I just really love true crime podcasts. I basically have stopped listening to the radio and any music because apparently, I just love having people talk at me while I drive or grocery shop. I do want to listen to the latest Ingrid Michaelson album, though, and I'm WAY into "Shape of You," by Ed Sheeran... but if the radio and every single public location continues to play it every 27 seconds, I'm going to be over it RULL FAST.

On not losing my goddamn mind thanks to the 24 hour news cycle. None of this is normal and none of this is okay, and at least 4 times a week, I ask Ken if he thinks we're going to be nuked off the face of the planet by Iran/China/the latest country our illustrious leader has pissed off this week (Australia? REALLY!? It's Australia!) But seriously, I have a lot of anxiety about this and I'm a cis-gendered, heterosexual, middle-class, white lady, which means that, as Pam reminded me, "You're white. You're like, 4 rungs up from me. Doom spiral about something smaller than the constitution." (This conversation then turned into how I am anxious about strange things like the Grand Canyon, pinatas, and really large fish.... don't ask.) Anyway, I'm trying to walk the fine line between remaining engaged, realizing my privilege, and utilizing it to combat the injustices of the world.... and also remaining sane and not defaulting to "the world is ending, I am never leaving my house, where is my tinfoil hat" level of batshit-bananapants-bonkers. I'll let you know how that goes.

My monologue for my school's production of The Vagina Monologues, which is being performed this week! Shameless plug:

Who: The amazing women of Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine
What: The Vagina Monologues
Where: Rowan SOM, Academic Center Auditorium
When: February 8th at 7:00 pm
Why: All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Camden Center for Family Services )

This is the third year I've performed in the show, and every year, I am so impressed with everyone's talent. In a related story, I've been practicing applying the perfect red lip for this occasion.

.... my life? For one, trying to get this blog back up and running is on my to-do list but is proving more difficult than planned. I am also trying to organize all the crap I need to get done for audition/away rotation applications, as well as early prep for residency applications. I'm also helping to plan V's baby shower, which is more fun than work, and there's the endless task of trying to keep my house organized while being a full time med student and mama who also occasionally eats, sleeps, and leaves the house to do things other than go to the hospital or school. Let's just say... it's an uphill battle. 

Aviva, duh. She is 7 months old now and still remains the best thing ever in my whole life. I have posts detailing the first 6 months of her life and motherhood that will be published um.... eventually. Until then, here is a photo of my darling girl from her 7 month photo shoot:

And with that, I'm off to bed. With any luck, I'll be unconscious by 11:30 and I'll get to sleep until 5... but that's unlikely, so if you happen to be up at 2:30 or 4, Aviva and I may be around. 

What have you been up to lately? Fill me in!

PS: As usual, Chrystina's post about verbs and emotions to use for "currently" posts was extremely helpful!

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