It seems my mother has saved every piece of paper I’ve ever submitted as homework or drawn as an art piece. She sent me a picture of a piece of paper from kindergarten that says “I want to be a PedEAtiShin”. It was clear I was not winning any spelling bees. It did, though, highlight my early commitment to serving kids.
I love children. Their innocence, purity, resilience and simple outlook on life is what inspires me. I’ve always been a kid at heart myself so working with kids for a living is my jam. I get to make silly faces with them, participate in dance offs and engage in impressively creative discussions with them. I love my job. It’s rewarding for so many reasons but one of the biggest ones is that it keeps my perspective on life grounded.
I am a Pediatric Hospitalist. I take care of children who are otherwise healthy and get sick enough to be admitted to the hospital. We see a lot of sick children - most of which have a positive outcome. There are still difficult conversations with parents and children in pain and discomfort. But at the end of the day I usually can offer some hope to these families.
My experience as a mother has permeated so much of how I practice medicine. I see my own children in each of those tiny faces that are admitted to my service.
And I’ve even been on the other side when it was my child in the hospital. As pediatricians, our decisions to draw labs and get scans are not simple. Kids are scared of needles and sometimes it can take multiple attempts as their veins are small. They can’t sit still in a big, huge scary machine for a scan. They often need to be sedated. At baseline, the way we approach our management as pediatricians is different from our colleagues in the adult world. However, it’s the internal “mom-ness” that takes my medical decision-making and puts it into context with a parental perspective and experience. I didn’t have that before I had kids.
For example: A new mom who is breastfeeding is feeling completely overwhelmed and exhausted - now she’s in the hospital with her baby who is wearing goggles while laying under a blue light for jaundice. She is feeling like a failure because her baby lost weight. I can now give that mom a hug and tell her I understand how difficult those early days are, how painful that latch can be, how the sudden lack of sleep changes your entire personality and how every cry makes you desperate for an answer to immediately soothe your baby. I tell her she is doing a great job. She looks up at me, breaks out in tears and says “thank you. I’m trying SO hard.”
A six year old sibling walks into the room while his two year old sister is hooked up to multiple cords and an IV line. He breaks down in tears at the sight. Asking him to take a walk with me down to the playroom where he can choose some toys (supplied by Child Life Services) for her is enough to distract him and allow his parents to process that overwhelmingly heartbreaking scene. In the playroom, we talk about Lightning McQueen, the way he helps mom at home and his favorite things about his baby sister. We talk about the fun things they may do together when she comes home. By the time we re-enter the room he is happy to show his sister her new toy and the mom, from across the room, mouths the words “thank you.”
The residents come to get me because a father is extremely upset and getting aggressive at the staff. Walking in, I see an infant who we are evaluating for seizures. The parents are scared, frustrated and at a complete loss as to how to make their child better right away. That feeling - I can’t help my child. I could hear their inner dialogue “How do I help my child. Please help my child. Do something. Do it right now. Why aren’t you listening to me? Take me seriously - something is wrong I know it - I have a gut feeling. I DON'T CARE about your normal reports. STOP poking him - that is painful. My gut tells me something is wrong. Listen to me! I know my child. Fix it NOW!!!!!”. That’s not aggressive. That is a parent just wanting to do everything in his power to help his child. Understanding that feeling firsthand as a parent helps me to navigate very challenging situations as a physician. I calmly listen without saying a single world. When he is done, I validate every single feeling. I validate his complete lack of sleep. I validate the rather objective way results have been presented to him. I validate his gut feeling. He is instantly calm, apologizes for his behavior and asks if he and his wife can hug me. I of course love group hugs.
My own experiences as a mom - those feelings, those moments - they’re what connects us as parents and allow me to make decisions for my patients that are rooted in science and evidence based medicine, but mindful of what the entire family is facing. Motherhood has forever changed me as a physician.
I must say the reverse is true. Being a doctor changed the way I practice motherhood. You know those moments in motherhood when you just need to scream? I still have those. However, when I reflect on what other parents are facing with children in the hospital, I can remind myself to not sweat the little things. I blessed with a job that I love. It's a profession that continues to teach me important life lessons and help me focus on the big picture during challenging times I face in my own journey of motherhood.
Becoming a mom made me a different doctor. Being a doctor made me a different mom. And both of those together have allowed me to become the founder of a company that is rooted in combining my passion for children, health and motherhood.
I am fortunate enough to be a Ped-EA-ti-SHin, a Mom and an entrepreneur. And just like I practice medicine I, along with my team, intend to connect with you, understand you and hear you. We are focused on the big picture. Ahimsa’s mission is to DO better and BE better for our kids and our planet. With the power of parents and the strength of steel - I have no doubt this mission will be accomplished.
You are doing a great job as a parent. Sometimes, you just need to hear that.
With love and Ahimsa,
Learn more about the author of this blog, Dr. Manasa Mantravadi:
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