Monday, July 6, 2015

A New Kind of Body Confidence

As goal-oriented, driven people who are sometimes prone to perfectionism, body image can be a source of stress for many of us. Leave it to pregnancy to completely change mine!

I have always been known for my tall slenderness, a substantial part of my ego (for more on what makes up one's ego and how to detach from it, I highly recommend readings by Eckhart Tolle). I would be lying if I said that I haven't thought about how perception of my body (by others, by me) will change during this time, or about how hard it might be to return to a fitter state. Granted, at 17 weeks, I have only so far gone from this

to this

But I feel the change. I can only see part of my feet when I look down, and I'm sure they will be disappearing soon. My pants are tight, and my thighs are rubbing together. I have incredible fatigue that limits me from doing all but a fraction of my normal exercise volume, and what I do is done with great effort.

Yet I've never been more proud of my body as I am right now. Not even during my recovery from brain surgery. I love how it looks and I love what it can do. I love every protuberant curve, every tired muscle, every swollen joint. I'm growing a human being! There are two heartbeats inside of me! Everything I experience, she experiences as well. Although I feel weak a lot of the time, remembering this gives me incredible strength.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

When Do You Disclose a Pregnancy?

I was 5 weeks pregnant and working in the spine room. Just as I finished my intubation and secured the airway, I turned to set the ventilator and administer some important medications. The surgery fellow started to position the fluoroscope near the patient's cervical spine, about a foot away from where I was working. "Please don't use the Xray right now; I need to put on a lead shield first," I said. "Yeah, ok... whatever..." he said, as he continued to fine-tune its position. Thirty seconds later he sighed, then started pushing some buttons and eyeing the screen. I looked at him sternly and said, "I'm serious. Don't do it. I'm pregnant."

Yes, this awkward moment happened during my first pregnancy last year. A very similar situation happened again at work during this pregnancy, but I was a bit farther along. Many people wait until they are out of their first trimester to disclose a pregnancy, mainly because there is an unfortunate  cloud of shame in our culture that surrounds miscarriage. But in certain situations, depending on your occupation, I would argue that it is important to tell coworkers earlier.

In my new post for Mothers in Medicine, I explain why. You can find the entire post here. Let me know what you think!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Book Review: Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

"Changing a habit may be simple, but it's not easy, 
and the more tools used, the better."

- Gretchen Rubin, Better Than Before

Former New York lawyer turned happiness expert Gretchen Rubin constructed her first book The Happiness Project from blog posts framed around a year-long challenge of adopting a different habit each month in the hopes of enhancing happiness. Since then, she has written Happier at Home and now Better Than Before. In this new tome, she shifts her focus from happiness to habits. She states in the book's preface that the basis of making change in our lives is the use of habits. As I discussed in my post about rituals, habits conserve self-control and limit decision-making fatigue by turning something into an automatic task. And being a fan of fostering habits and trying monthly challenges myself, I had to read it! I have also read her other two books.

Her observations about happiness and habits are not arbitrary; she researched the topics and performed her own data gathering in order to come up with them. And some of her constructs admittedly are genius, such as her Secrets of Adulthood (revealed in The Happiness Project) and now her Four Tendencies (discussed in Better Than Before). She posits that all personalities fall into four basic tendencies when it comes to how they respond to expectations: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Where we fall will affect how we adopt, maintain, and drop our habits. If you would like to learn your type, there is a quiz in the back of the book and on her website to help you determine it. I am a Questioner with a tendency towards Upholder; my husband is also a Questioner with a tendency towards Rebel.

The book also introduces and explains numerous strategies for sticking to habits, such as distraction, treats, pairing hard habits with easy ones, and identifying loopholes people commonly use to avoid their habits. In addition to where you might fall in the Four Tendencies, reading this will help you learn if you are an Abstainer vs. a Moderator, and if you are an Opener vs. a Finisher.

If you are a Gretchen fan like I am, many of the concepts in this book will be familiar to you. She has been blogging and podcasting about issues surrounding habits for a while now, all in anticipation of the book's release. She even openly solicited her followers for material to add to the book during its writing! Come to think of it, her other books were similar; they are peppered with strategies shared by readers in the comments section of her blog. At first glance, openly discussing content that will be included in a book seems like a poor marketing strategy, but the added information gathered from her audience does enhance her points. In addition, she always adds examples and personal stories from her own experience to further solidify her concepts.

What I love most about this book is the importance Rubin places on knowing yourself as the key to adopting good habits. As I have pointed out, this is something that is also at the heart of effective stress management. Have you read this book or followed Rubin's work? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mothers in Medicine: Not Just for Moms

I am so honored to be one of the new regular contributors at Mothers in Medicine! MiM is a group blog that has been around since 2008 as a forum for female physicians to share their unique experiences navigating roles in both medicine and family matters.

The regular contributors range in specialty from pathology to OB to surgery to pediatrics... to many other fields, now including mine. In addition, the contributors vary in their level of training from premed students all the way to full-fledged attendings. While there are now 22 regular contributors generating posts at least a couple times a week, the site also welcomes Q&A and occasional guest posts. They even occasionally do topic weeks with a post from each contributor on an interesting subject, such as "a day in my life" or "how medicine has changed me".

This important blog is not just for mothers, nor exclusively for doctors. The wide subject matter presented could be useful reading for anyone in the throes of intensive professional training or anyone working to balance their profession with their family life. Check it out and watch for my posts under the pen name PracticeBalance!