Wednesday, May 30, 2012

General demoralization

Due to scheduling of one of my colleague's yearly continuing education, I ended up working 5 nights in a row this last week, including the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday shift of Memorial Day. Come Monday morning, I was exhausted to the point that I was having trouble thinking clearly. I had several very ill animals that need intensive, detailed care. It wore me out. By the time I left Monday morning, I was done.

Tonight, I had to work again. Tired and sorely missing my family time, I dragged myself to work. And of course, of course, of course, I would be faced with a patient of mine from this past weekend suffering a severe postoperative complication that may or may not be my fault. It lead to the pet's death this evening. Only a professional necropsy (done tomorrow) will tell if I am to blame.

On top of that soul crushing occurrence, I am dealing with ridiculous, needless technician drama that is making me crazy. I've barely seen my daughter in a week. I've barely had more than 10 words with my husband. He is basically solo parenting for all intents and purposes right now - other than breastfeeding duty, which obviously still falls to me.

This feels like the hardest job in the world, and right now, I hate it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ruminations on being a working mom

**Caveat: after re-reading this, I realize I meander a bit. Sorry about that. I DID title it "ruminations."

There is a tremendous amount of guilt associated with being a working mother. I try very hard to not allow guilt to creep into my thinking. It's a useless emotion. If one feels guilt, one should change the situation about which one feels guilty. If that's not possible, the guilt must be eradicated, as it is doing no good and quite possibly doing harm.

I love my daughter. She is the sun in my sky. I wake up every morning excited to spend the day with her, excited to see what new sound she'll make, or how she'll look when she's rocking back and forth in an effort to crawl. I take her to the grocery store with me just because I love her company. I think of things to do with her that will make her happy. She's pretty much the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Now, I'll say that I love my job. It's obviously a different sort of love. If I had to choose one or the other, the choice would be absolutely clear to me. That said, I still thrive at work. I'm good at what I do. I care about what I do. I have a great workplace that - while it has minor shortcomings - overall is a fantastic work environment. I do something that matters to people. There are days when I wish I could be a stay-at-home mother, and there are days that I realize just how difficult that job is. Spending all day, every day with a small person who cannot communicate effectively and who cannot hold an adult conversation, and further, who needs a LOT of care and attention, is exhausting. I admire stay-at-home mothers of kids, because it IS a job. And a difficult one to do well.

I work long hours. REALLY long hours. When I am away from my daughter, it is for long stretches of time. My shifts are around 15 hours typically, and I do several in a row. Thus, when I am home between shifts, I am sleeping most of the day. I "care" for my daughter by sleepily nursing her in bed, then turning her over to her father, so that I can rest more.

I am the primary breadwinner. I take a great deal of pride in my productivity - in the fact that I can provide for my family. Oddly enough, despite growing up surrounded by many family members with advanced degrees, I never really saw myself doing much in life. I certainly never envisioned that I would be a doctor. Financial woes were a part of my childhood, and ever since I was old enough to really understand finances, I was convinced that I would struggle with them. It's hard for me to believe even now that I own a house, provide for my daughter, have an IRA and savings, and am not in danger of a financial catastrophe. There are days when I still can't believe that my daughter will grow up with different worries than I did.

There are days when I realize that my being a doctor will be a fantastic model to my daughter should she decide she wants to have a career. If she decides to make her career being a mother and a wife, then I will be just as thrilled.

Those things make me feel good about being a working mother.

What doesn't make me feel good is watching my 8 month old daughter's face fall as I leave for a 15 hour night shift. Or calling to check on her around bedtime and hearing her wailing in the background, wondering where her mommy is to snuggle up against her and offer the breast. My daughter needs me in a very intense emotional way right now, and I am often not there for her. I wonder if this will somehow damage her emotionally, if she'll grow up not feeling safe and secure and loved.

Then I think how ridiculous that must seem to others. I breastfeeed my baby girl. I sleep with her. I wear her when the opportunity presents itself. I take her with me on errands, talk to her while I cook, kiss and hug her and stroke her face at every single chance. I don't take one day for granted with her. I watch her grow and I'm excited for the little girl, teenager, and woman she'll become, and my heart aches for the little girl that she is already leaving behind. How can a child raised with that ever be insecure? Not to mention that her father dotes on her as much as I do. Oh and don't even get me started on her grandparents - who are mad about her - and her aunts and uncles and cousins. And then of course, every single stranger we meet who has to come up and talk to my daughter.


I can't do it all. I can't do it perfectly. I can do it the best I can, and I can hug and kiss her every single time it crosses my mind. And she'll come out ok, I think. She'll know she's loved. She'll know she can do whatever she wants when she grows up - be it have a family and a career, or make her career that of motherhood.

It will all be ok. That's what I tell myself when I hear my daughter crying over the phone.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I know you're dying to see pictures

Of my sweet almost 8 month old baby! My best friend from vet school is in town. We went hiking today, and the sprout had a wonderful time. So did we.

Friday, May 18, 2012


I'm off work for 9 days, so my time has been spent cleaning the house and hanging out with my daughter and husband.

My old man cat is home and doing well. He had surgery on Tuesday night. 50+ stones were removed from his bladder (small ones). His kidney values are better, and he is improving. He'll eat for us at home, but he is incontinent at the moment. It's not surprising with the stretching and moving of his bladder, and it will hopefully resolve in the next few days.

I'm late starting, but I finally got around to planting my garden. Well, half of it anyway. It's hard to do anything that takes focused attention for more than 1 hour when you have an 8 month old. I got one of my boxes planted (the tomatoes and peppers). I have 1 more box (cukes, squash, and maybe something else), and then I have a patio container that I'm trying out this year. We'll see how it goes. I'm feeling ambitious and plan on planting a late summer/early fall garden this year too - trying to grow lettuces and broccoli, etc.

The sprout is growing like a weed. We are still doing mostly baby led weaning. I'm not giving her big slices and chunks of food. I just can't do it. I am letting her feed herself though. She gets whatever we are having chopped into smaller, more manageable pieces. Tonight, she had meatloaf, baked potato, and avocado. She really likes feeding herself and loves to eat. It's fun to watch her, and my anxiety is eased by taking this middle-of-the-road approach to feeding. We've ditched the rice cereal, and we never did purees.

Today was her first experience at the swimming pool. We (meaning I, I think my husband had reservations about her tiredness level) made the mistake of taking her to the pool when she was over-tired. I didn't realize how tired she was until I saw the pictures. Her little eyes were so red! She hates taking naps, and she will fight them with every bit of strength she has. Getting her to nap is a constant battle. At any rate, she didn't seem to know what to make of the big, warm bathtub, but I finally elicited a few smiles from her by blowing bubbles in the water and "chewing" on her feet. We'll try again tomorrow maybe.

This weekend promises to be fun. One of my best friends from vet school is flying in to spend the weekend with me and visit with Evaline. I can't wait to spend time with her!

Lastly, to all that were concerned about the man that stabbed the puppy, he was arrested on the spot. He was already on his way to jail when I saw the dog, so thankfully, I didn't have to deal with that aspect of it. North Carolina has Susie's Law so hopefully this non-human will suffer consequences for what he did. I also hope that his daughter is taken away from him. If I get any further information, I'll let y'all know what happened.

That's all for now! I hope everyone has a good weekend.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I worked all weekend. We were very busy, so I didn't sleep on Friday or Saturday night at all. Once upon a time, I would've been able to handle that no problem. No longer. I blame my personal miss on my own cat on this lack of sleep. I noticed on Saturday morning that my old man cat seemed sluggish. He wasn't very active, just kind of lying around. I filed it away for further consideration. I noticed it again Sunday, but again, I didn't think too much about it. He wasn't vomiting or straining in the litterbox or vocalizing, so I wasn't too concerned.

Then, Monday afternoon, I caught him straining to urinate on the dog's bed. He has bladder stones. I KNOW this. I should've palpated his bladder when I first noticed the sluggishness. But I didn't. I snatched him up then and felt his abdomen. His bladder was HUGE. It was also rock hard. He didn't make a peep. That's highly unusual. Most blocked male cats I see at work are screaming their heads off. Their bladders hurt that badly. Archie never made a sound.

At any rate, he's at work now. He has a urinary catheter in place, and his urine is the color of cherry Kool-Aid. He is in acute renal failure secondary to obstruction. I'm hopeful that I caught it soon enough for it to be reversible. Hopeful that my slow-on-the-uptakeness has not caused him any permanent harm.

*Sigh* Why do the cobbler's kids always go barefoot?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hell hath frozen over.

I'm still in a state of shock.

The other night, during a spectacularly busy shift, I was presented with a large breed bitch in labor. Without giving specifics, I will say that the dog's breed was one usually associated with people that have lower incomes. At any rate, she was having trouble getting her puppies out. She'd been actively pushing for 4 hours, and no puppies were forthcoming. A sac had exited the vagina and ruptured, but no puppy was to be seen.

As I've mentioned ad nauseum, I hate dystocias. The owners never have any financial plan for difficulties with birthing, the patients are often poor specimens to be breeding, are generally unvaccinated and not on heartworm preventative. I see it every. Single. Week.

So I went into the room with serious annoyance. I recommended the usual after examining the dog and finding weak contractions and no puppies in the birth canal - X-rays to count puppies and look for an explanation as to the cause of her difficulties, as well as ultrasound to assess heartbeats, puppy movement, and the abdomen in general.

The owner readily agreed. I was delighted to find that the dog was vaccinated fully and received monthly heartworm preventative. X-rays showed 12 puppies! The first puppy, attempting to make its exit, had an accumulation of gas bubbles around it on X-ray. This is consistent with fetal death and decomposition. I discussed this with the owner and made the dreaded recommendation. C-section. I did this fully expecting to hear the "how much is this going to cost me?" snarl, followed by the 4 hour attempt to scrape up enough money for a discount/el cheapo c-section.

To my shock and awe, the owner produced the necessary funds without complaint. As we discussed the finances, she said to me, "I save money in case this happens. It's irresponsible to breed if you don't have the money to deal the problems that can arise."

I'll be honest. I had to scoop my jaw off the floor. I want to erect a statue to this woman in the lobby.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I weep for humanity

I suppose that if I work long enough in this field, I will see everything. Last night brought something new and terrible.

Sleeping soundly at 4am (the ER was slow), I was awoken by my technician informing me that there was a hysterical woman in the lobby, the police were here, and a dog was bleeding.

Sure enough, it was so. Why was the dog bleeding, you may ask? The male owner of the dog wanted to teach his toddler son a lesson about disobeying daddy. So he picked up his son's helpless, 5 month old puppy and STABBED it repeatedly. The dog suffered 14 stab wounds from nose to tail, most penetrating the thorax and abdomen.

The poor dog was in pain and shock, shivering but able to lick my hand while I examined her. Her wounds were grievous. She needed an exploratory surgery of her abdomen and possibly her chest. The woman that brought her in had no finances, so we had to euthanize the puppy.

I weep for humanity. I really weep for that little boy.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Public service announcement

In the last couple of months, 3 children (2 infants, 1 toddler) have been killed by dogs. You can read about it here, here, and here. Warning: these are graphic and horrifying stories.

I have briefly posted about this before, but I want to reiterate it yet again.

The real tragedy is that these needless, horrible deaths could have been prevented.

No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child. EVER. PERIOD. And I'm not just talking about Huskies and Golden Retrievers and Rottweilers. Even small dogs can pose a threat to a newborn baby. A Pomeranian killed a newborn in the bassinet by grabbing its head (several years ago, I believe). Small dogs pose a threat too. And when I say supervise, I mean that any child should be supervised by an aware, sober, responsible ADULT any time a dog is in the room.

Dog are wonderful additions to families. They can grow up with children, offering companionship and important lessons in how to treat those who cannot speak for themselves. They can also teach responsibility for another living creature and respect for others. I don't think that having dogs automatically equals creating a dangerous environment for your child. I own a 75 pound Doberman.

But I know without a doubt that I would never trust her alone with my daughter. She is the sweetest, most docile Doberman I have ever met. Once, as I was holding my cousin Stephen, he reached over and poked her in the corner of the eye. His finger went into the socket about 2 knuckles deep. She didn't even flinch. She's that forgiving. And STILL, there is no way I would trust her with my child unsupervised. Why? Simply this - I have nothing to gain by leaving my child alone with my dog, but I have everything to lose.

So, here are the things I think every parent should know and do to prepare a dog and a child for dog/child encounters.

First, every parent should learn the warning signs of an anxious dog that might bite. This site: Liam J Perk Foundation has several excellent links on the warning signs in dogs. (As an aside, if you don't want to cry, don't read Liam's story. If you need more convincing, read it). The ASPCA has an excellent article on dog body language.

Secondly, every child needs to be educated on how to interact properly with familiar AND strange dogs. Sure, you can be vigilant about monitoring dog/child interactions at home, but what about when your child is walking home from the bus stop and meets an unfamiliar dog? All children need to learn how to interact in this situation. The ASPCA has some good links on this subject.

Third, every dog owner should set up and maintain a "safe place" for the family dog - somewhere the baby can't reach by crawling and where the dog can feel safe. Crate training is essential for this sort of thing. They are indispensable for any number of behavior problems and are absolutely a must when large groups of people visit. They create a safe habitat for dogs.

Fourth, large groups of people are not good places to mix children and dogs. There is too much going on, and everyone assumes everyone else is supervising. When planning for a party or holiday gathering, dogs should be crated or otherwise removed from the excitement. This is when having a crate becomes very important - again, a safe environment for the dog.

In summary, dogs are great additions to a family. But having a dog, like anything, is a responsibility that must be taken seriously and never lightly. There is no reason to trust your dog with your child's life.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Animalicious - updated link

**Hopefully the error is fixed. Try the website again. I added a new link to the right: Animalicious - brought to you by some great veterinarian minds. One of the authors is Tony Johnson, a very funny, irreverent board-certified emergency/critical care doctor at Purdue. The page is in its infancy - but I recommend you check it out. It's at the bottom of my blog list for veterinary stuff.