Rants from the Crib

An Ob/Gyn gone mad

Archive for the month “December, 2013”

Travel. Really.

Since I have been traveling for work almost a year now, I feel I am in a position to offer some insightful travel tips and hints.  With any luck, these will not frighten you away from ever traveling again.

1.  Sweaters with festive metallic threads will light up a metal detector like a Christmas tree.  You will be groped and cavity searched.  Happy holidays.

2.  Atkins bars show up as liquids in the scanner.  They will open your carry on and paw through it.  They may or may not grudgingly admit that Atkins bars are not liquids.  They will not apologize for accusing you unjustly of smuggling liquids, nor will they apologize for pawing through your bras once again.

3.  Sometimes it is quicker to go pick up your rental car first than to go wait for your luggage.

4.  Sometimes it is not and they will whisk your bags away to Unclaimed Luggage when all you did was stop to pee and buy a coffee before heading to the luggage carousel.

5.  Ice scrapers mysteriously disappear from cars, especially when they are laden with ice and you are late.

6.  Do not torment yourself by repeatedly checking the weather before you leave on your trip.  Sometimes it will actually be better and sometimes it will be worse.  The only constant is that it will change a million times over that 10 days.  Get a quick impression.  Will it be crappy?  Will it be hotter than hell?  Will it be cold as f*ck?  Pack accordingly and then never look again.  Unless you really want to.  Or if it looks like the sky is falling.  Get a weather app for your phone and you can torment yourself hourly.

7.  You will always be seated next to a screaming baby.  Some people like to pay to fly their screaming babies first class, so don’t think you will get out of it that way.

8.  Everyone in first class will be swilling alcohol.  Especially the innocent looking little old ladies, who will get hammered and begin to swear like sailors.  A flight attendant friend of mine told me that all that drinking is because in first class the alcohol is “free”.  They will drink no matter what.  Even on a Tuesday morning at 8:30 AM.  Especially on Tuesday morning at 8:30 AM.  Especially if they are going to work that day.  Because it’s always 5:00 somewhere.

9.  No master how slick a traveler you think you are, you will always manage to do something that is wrong, clumsy, and awkward.  Get over yourself.  You’re not that slick.

10 You will always get lost in the Minneapolis St Paul airport.  The architect was drunk.  The people who made the signs were drunkerer.

11. You will hate the Denver airport.  It will hate you back.

12. The Houston airport always smells like tacos.

13.  You will always drop the bag your computer is in.

14. They do not allow you to bring food or drinks into the Delta Sky Club, even though the food and drinks they provide in there are free.  Go figure.  Yeah.  Think about that again.  Than, go figure, because I can’t.  But you can always sneak them in.  I do.

15. While waiting to catch your plane, you will be sitting next to a fat loud business man who is on his cell phone at top volume, thinking he is the Wolf of Wall Street, and looking and sounding like a fool.

16. The computer charge ports will be occupied by bored texting teenagers who have piled their bags into the adjacent seat, which you will have to ask them to move so you can charge your computer.

17. Sometimes your Kindle will spontaneously burst into flames while you are on an airplane.  No.  Really.

18. You may become trapped in an airport bathroom once all your luggage is dragged in after you.  Something will always fall on the floor.  The toilet will flush while you are on it.  The doors open inwards, so good luck getting out of there.

19. You will suddenly need to poop as soon as you get on the plane.

20. The soap in the bathroom dispensers always look thick and fluffy, but it is watered down and it is never enough.

21. The water in the sink will cut off on you 700 times as you try to wash your hands.

22. You will look at the weirdos at the gate and think, “Thank goodness, I won’t have to deal with them because I am in first class.”  They will be sitting next to you in first class.

23. The crossword in your Sky magazine will always be partially worked, in ink.

24. They may or may not detect a weird chemical while doing a random swoop of your carry on. They will not tell you what it is, or if it is dangerous.  They will then remove everything from your carry on, even your undies.  They will glare at you, and wish they could cart you off to Gitmo.

25. You will eventually be in a situation where you will have to receive a full pat down.  They have an entire hour long speech that they are required to give you first.  You cannot stop them from giving it by telling then not to worry about it and just get it over with.  They will give you the full speech anyway, even if you are late.  Especially if you are late.

26. The luggage is loaded on to the plane by large angry mountain gorillas, because they are cheaper to pay than people.  This is all the explanation you will need to understand the appearance of your luggage when you get it back.  IF you get it back.

27. Your ride to the airport will either be early or late.  Either way, it will be the most inconvenient outcome possible.

28. You will sit in the wrong row of seats on the plane many times.  At least I do.  I like to think of myself as Aisle Impaired.  The most common phrase I hear while traveling is, “Excuse me, ma’am, I think you’re sitting in our seat”.  I don’t understand how in the hell I keep doing that.

29. Just as you begin to happily think that the seat next to you will be vacant, your seatmate will be the last person who gets on the plane.

30. It may or may not be true that if the person next to you is so obese that they require a seatbelt extender, that the whole plane will tip over sideways in flight.

31. Your rental car’s last occupant was always at least 8 feet tall. All seats, belts and mirrors will be adjusted accordingly.

32. Every single rental car has its gas cap in a different damn place.

33. Your next door neighbor in the hotel will be a sex fiend screamer who likes to bang the headboard against the wall, a family with multiple small children with a father who likes to tickle and wrestle with them so that they scream and giggle while he hoots and hollers, or a drunken cowboy who indefatiguably loves to hurl all available furniture against the wall.

34. Virtually all hotels now are strictly nonsmoking, but someone on your hall will be smoking anyway.

35. Woe betide you if you are in your room when they come to clean it.  They will ask you if you want each individual service, in an effort to wear you out and shame you into telling them they can skip vacuuming today.  It is not considered acceptable to say, “Just do your damn job!”, even if you really want to, because next time they will spit in your coffee pot.

36. There will always be some elderly person checking in for a week long stay at the desk if you run down there with a quick request.  They will question the desk person about each item to be initialed, and argue about whether or not they need to sign it. They will have forgotten what kind of car they drive, and they will have to go outside and look.

37. If you leave canned soda in the trunk of your rental car in a cold climate, it will violently explode and leave Cokesicles hanging from the underside of your trunk lid.  If you are lucky, it will be diet.  Don’t ask me how I know this.

38. Walmarts are like weird warps in the space-time continuum.  Once you enter one, you could be anywhere.  You can walk into one in Ohio, and when you walk out you may be in Alabama.  Strange but true.

39. Airplane bathrooms are scary biohazards.  One day they will discover that Ebola got started there.  Never forget to close the seat before flushing, or that weird blue water might get on you.  And then you will have Ebola.

40. You will forget about the drink you bought to drink on the plane until you get off the plane.

41. There will always be some chick on the plane who will glare at you for no apparent reason.

42. If there is one person on the plane with peanut allergies, they will not serve anything containing peanuts.  This is probably prudent on their part, but I am using this paragraph as a platform to segway into the fact that I think that it is totally weird that I knew no one ever who was allergic to peanuts when I was a kid, and now everybody is.  Same deal with gluten.  Will they one day no longer serve wheat on planes either?  Because if so, please remind me to bring my own snacks.

43. There will always be a kid behind you kicking your seat.  Their parents never notice, probably because it keeps the kids occupied.

44. Having children does NOT make you tolerant of other people’s children.  Does not.  Does not.  Actually, it’s usually the crappy parents I’m intolerant of.

45. Someone on the plane is always wearing shorts and flip flops on a flight to North Dakota in winter.  It is amusing to ponder how anyone could really be that stupid.

46. Money does not guarantee taste.  And no, a fuzzy chartreuse sweat suit that says Juicy Couture across the ass worn with a multicolor Louis Vuitton bag with blaring primary colored logos all over it and gold sequined Uggs do not make you look rich and classy.  They just make you look like Walt Disney threw up on you.

47. Someone always has luggage that is so nice that you want to bop them over the head and run away with it.  Do not give in to this impulse.

48. Who was the settler who arrived in North Dakota in the dead of winter, surveyed the 8 feet of snow surrounding them, stuck their nose out in the -19° weather and said, “This place is AWESOME.  I think I’ll stay”?

49. Your phone battery always runs down much faster than you think it will.

50. Accept the fact that something bizzaro is probably going to happen to you.  Today.  Revel in it.  If nothing else, it will make an awesome blog post.

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The Night Before Duck Fest

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‘Twas the night before Christmas,
And all ‘cross the pond,
Not a tree leaf was stirring,
Not even a frond

The leaf bags were were hung on the rushes near by
In hopes that St. Duckolas soon would fly by

The ducklings were nestled all snug in their nests
In need of a nice warm Christmas Eve rest.
Mama Duck with her brown tail
And I with my green breast
Had just settled our feathers
For tomorrow’s Duck Fest.

When up in the sky arose such a quacking
The owls were scattered; they all were sent packing.
To the edge of the nest I hopped in a flash
At the edge of the water I heard a loud splash.

The moon on the breasts of the local pond fowl
Gleamed off of their feathers and flashed off my jowl
And here to my wondering eyes was the sight
Of a flock of beautiful creatures in flight.

With a fearless feathered leader
The swans V’d behind
More rapid than eagles
With beady eyes kind.

St. Duckolas honked and quacked out their names:
On Flapper, on Flyer,
Now Soarer and Hopper,
On Honker and Flocker!
To the top of the rushes
To the top of the reeds
Now splash down, now splash down, now splash down with seeds!

As the wild birds that fly before winter winds
When they met with an obstacle, they banked their webbed limbs.
So up to the rushes
The white swans they flew
With packs full of snacks and St. Duckolas too

And then in a twinkling, I heard on the water
The splashing of webbed feet, the tossing of fodder.
As I poked out my head and was turning around
Down on the mud St. Duck stood on the ground.

He was fluffed all in feathers, from his beak to his feet
And his white feathers were clean, and tidy and neat.
A bag of wild oats he had strapped to his back
And a bag full of corn and stale Cracker Jack.

His eyes – how they twinkled! His beak all a-smile
His feathers all glistened
You could see them for miles.
An ear of gold corn he held tight in his beak
And a jaunty green feather he had on each cheek.
He had a wise face and a breast full of down
And great strong black feet
As he stood on the ground.

He was chubby and plump,
A well-fed old duck
And I quacked when I saw him;
He’d bring us good luck.
A wink of his eye and a cock of his head
Soon gave to me know that we’d all be well fed.

He quacked not at all but scattered his oats
And millet and corn and wheat that was roast
And leaving delicious fresh grains in his wake
He flew off again, that generous Drake.

He opened his wings
To the swans gave a quack
And they all flew away with more food on their backs
But I heard him honk, as they flew out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to Fowl
And to all a good flight!”

Merry Christmas to all from Guck and family!

Another Rollercoaster

I have been in two worlds. Like Tiresius in Greek mythology, who was both male and female in his lifetime and could finally reveal (but never did) which gender is happiest and enjoys sex more, I have straddled two places, fat and thin. I know that some people who will read this may have been overweight all their lives and my “awful” top weight might seem irksomely low. But for me, as shallow and as concerned about my appearance as I have always been, that top weight was disastrous.

I am 5’3″, and I have been as light as 115 pounds (I am 120 pounds right now). I was 190 pounds just before I gave birth to my daughter, and I hit my all-time “I may as well look like hell because I am dying an endless death in my soul-killing job” high at 175 pounds, definitively NOT pregnant.

When you are fat you disappear. This is largely due to humiliation – in those 3 years I carried so much weight, I passed up so many opportunities to connect with old or new friends because I was so humiliated to be seen like that. No one tells you look nice anymore, especially your husband, because you don’t. And people just look at you differently, or more accurately, not at all. When you leave the societal expectation of reasonable weight, you attain “nonperson” status, especially in the shallow and competitive world of the physician and Junior League spouses, which is where I now was. My neighbors didn’t wave at me any more. I will never know if it is because they found me grotesque, or because I found me grotesque. I suspect both.

In high school I was never fat but I was awkward, curveless, had braces, and acne, and didn’t know what to do with my hair, which was stringy and awkwardly layered. I had had all my hair cut off, and instead of looking like a pixie, or, as my mother had hoped, Dorothy Hamill, I looked like an adolescent boy. I was absent all sensuality. I was a pariah.

When I hit college, I got beautiful. I was a late bloomer, very late, so I consider the beauty I had to be fair. It gave me the humility of the ugly duckling and the pride of the swan. I was a stunner. And I weighed 115 pounds. It was effortless, because I was always broke, and my quick meals were a Coke and a candy bar out of a machine, because that was all I could afford. I learned that my “skinny hair” could be made amazing by being grown out into a long straight curtain, with straight bangs that brought my sharp chin out of focus. I had huge blue eyes, and high cheekbones, and the acne went away. At 115 pounds, I still had the curves, and a size 36C bra. Men I didn’t know literally followed me down the street. I learned I could get a man to do ANYTHING, and I misused that and hurt both myself and them.

I have been a “yo-yo dieter” my entire life and I can tell you exactly what that feels like. My closet now and at any time contains a range of sizes from 2 to 12, because eventually, those sizes will come again. The time I hit rock bottom, or I should say, boulder top, there were size 18 clothes in my closet and I wanted to commit suicide. I destroyed those as soon as that weight finally came off; to paraphrase Scarlett O’Hara, I would never be that fat again.

My weight went up in college when I dated a guy who was 6’4″; I thought I could eat like he did and we drank beer and grilled steaks all the time. I gained a LOT. He was a great guy, but we finally broke up when I realized I was becoming obese. My mom made me try on and buy a size 14 dress; I slammed on the brakes and he stopped the relationship because he didn’t like and couldn’t afford the healthy foods I was trying to eat. We are still friends at a distance, and he too has struggled with weight his whole life.

I lost the weight. I went off to med school. I dated an athlete who pushed me to do crunches and windsprints with him – I was in great shape (although the muscles made me bigger). When we broke up, I had just moved to New Orleans to start my residency, and I was depressed over the failure of the relationship and drank and partied myself to an unattractive and unhealthy weight. In New Orleans, partying among professionals is not tolerated, it is expected. The mantra there: “We work to live, not live to work”. I dieted, and my weight swung between about 120 and 150 pounds, which remained my all top worst weight for years. 150 pounds at 5’3″ puts you at about a size 12. I never weighed because I couldn’t afford a scale, but the sizes of my clothes told the story. At that point I had dieted so many times that I could pinpoint my weight almost exactly by the size that I wore.

I moved to Atlanta for my first real doctor job. The shallowness of that town depressed me horribly. There was a homogeneity to the girls who went out at night in Buckhead; they all wore black and their clothes hung off them as if they were clothes hangers. I literally overheard, one night at a club, a guy say that he “couldn’t find beauty in anything larger than a size 5 dress.” I was miserable.

I met my husband in Atlanta and was a reasonable weight. I quit drinking and smoking, and was about a size 8, give or take, for several years. I looked beautiful in my wedding dress.

A year or so later I got pregnant. I was ecstatic; we both wanted a child, and for the first time since I was 12, I didn’t have to watch what I ate. The first 15 pounds of my pregnancy were my “Oh, thank God I don’t have to be on a diet any more” weight, which I joke with my patients about all the time. Most of them know exactly what I am talking about.

When I was pregnant, I ballooned to 190 pounds right before my daughter was born. I didn’t feel that bad about it; she turned out to be a huge baby and I figured I’d get the weight off after she was born. At that point I outweighed my husband by about 50 pounds – he is a small and fit man and he used to joke that I had gotten so big that “smaller OB/Gyns were orbiting around me.” I had heard him say the same things to his sister when she was pregnant, and it irked me, but didn’t really bother me that much. I threatened to sit on him if he pissed me off. He flung back that I’d have to catch him first.

I did have one eye-opening new experience while I was pregnant – for the first time a man looked at me with utter crawling disgust on his face. I remember the night well; I was in a Chinese restaurant picking up dinner and I saw a redneck bearded man looking at me, and the look on his face suggested that were he in a deer stand, he would do me a favor and put me down. I know that some men just don’t like pregnant women, but the look on his face really shocked me.

I was right about one thing though: I did lose the baby weight. I breast fed for an entire year, and when my daughter was 2 or 3, I got down to about a size 6. I hadn’t been that size since I was in college. I was thrilled, and dressed to the nines all the time. There are pictures of me with my family at the time, looking thin and relaxed and happy.

Then life happened. An OB/Gyn works hard, but my partner and I hit a really bad patch. There were 3 of us in the practice, and our older partner quit doing OB, as older folks will do because it takes so much out of you, so we hired a new partner. The new partner fooled us, and she turned out to be a bonafide sociopath. After tortuous debate, we fired her, even realizing that it would be just two of us covering call for an indeterminate amount of time. We didn’t want to hire just anyone, especially in light of our recent disaster, and that indeterminate amount of time turned out to be two and a half years. Being on call every other night, in a practice that delivers about 45 babies a month, is a life changer. You are either on call, getting slammed from every direction by extra phone calls, add-on patients, unexpected surgeries and deliveries, planned surgeries and deliveries, and just the kinds of crises that come up when you work with women for a living, or you are off call, which means you still have a full work day ahead of you, and which finds you bleary, fuzzy-eyed, staggering, unable to make up that sleep deficit because you need to at least say hello to your family when you get home, and filled with the knowledge that when the alarm goes off at 5:30, you have to hit the ground running and are on call for another 24 hours.

Damage was done. The job was destroying me. I worked 80 hour weeks, barely saw my family, and earned the enmity of my husband for providing no sex, no housework, and little or no attention for my daughter. I slid into a black depression, from which there was no escape, because no amount of pharmaceuticals were going to fix the underlying problem: I was working at a pace that was killing me. OB/Gyns are trained to be ultra-tough; it is a matter of pride never to call in sick. I only took 4 weeks off after my c-section, largely because I knew that at that point my partner had been on call for 4 weeks straight, and I couldn’t hit her with another 2. I went back to work and put my new daughter in day care. I literally fell to my knees and cried in the day care room the first day we dropped her off.

I gained weight. An unbelievable lot of weight. My life was so overwhelmingly out of control, and I had so little time off, that literally my only spark of pleasure during the day would be to stuff down a cinnamon sugar Pop Tart on labor and delivery or an extra dessert in the physician’s lounge. I tried to diet and get the weight off, but at this point I loathed my life and everything in it so much that I fell off any diet near daily, whenever I encountered any setback. I tried Atkins Diet, which had worked for me in the past. I even tried a diet where I ate nothing but dessert in the doctor’s lounge 24/7, because I thought maybe just carbs and fat would shut my body down and make it start losing weight, or I might get so sick of sweets I’d stop eating them. Such was my blurry logic.

My fat clothes stopped fitting. I had never gotten to the point where those 12’s didn’t fit. I shuddered as I bought my first pair of 14’s – God bless J. Jill for her stretch jeans. I started wearing size large scrubs, and it must be noted that they don’t make surgery scrubs in women’s sizes – just men’s. Even worse, scrubs can really let you lie to yourself for a long time; they are so loose and they come in so many sizes that you can just convince yourself that the scrubs you are wearing are still loose; things are OK. I think for me, rock bottom was when I bought a pair of elastic-waist jeans on sale at Coldwater Creek – they were a size 18, and my fat still rolled the waist down. I was too tired to even cry.

Then something amazing happened. Our hospital was bought by a large outside entity, and due to incredible skullduggery, my only chance for a job in that town was to agree to work in the new “elite” practice which was run by unethical hateful men whom I had known and avoided in town for 10 years. Oh, the stories I’d heard, and the things I’d seen them do. I could not work with them. They just wanted me because I was female, and had 10 years worth of patients accumulated in that town. They owned the practice and I would have been their employee. I was well acquainted with two women who had been employed by them previously; their experience had been so bad that they had both quit the practice and moved to another town. The men were stunned when I turned them down.

My only other choice was to start a difference practice, an act which I was made to understand would not be sanctioned by the hospital and would have been seen by the hospital as an act of war. With sheer glee, I turned in my resignation and decided I would do what I had wanted to do since residency and become a locum tenens, which is Latin for “traveling temp doctor”. I could work as much or as little as I wanted, depending on what my family needed.

I got myself the hell out of that job and began traveling for work, part time. The weight just fell off. I made 2 rules: I never ate out, and there were only certain foods I was allowed to eat; fruits and vegetables that were minimally doctored with fats and sugars, fish, chicken, and yogurt. Lots and lots of yogurt. In other words, a healthy diet.

When the weight started coming off I felt so happy. I felt happier every day. I didn’t know how much I weighed, or how much I’d lost, because traveling I did not have a scale. On one of the greatest days of my life, I went to a mall in a small town I was working in and saw a pair of jeans on the sale rack that were beautiful. I picked them up and thought to try them on, but they were a size 6. I didn’t think there was any way in hell that that would be possible, but they didn’t look that small and I thought, “What the hell.”

I went to that dressing room and they fit. THEY FIT!! I was beyond astonished. I hadn’t been a size 6 in at least half a decade. I hadn’t thought it would ever be possible again. I was delirious. I was ecstatic! I went back to the hotel and posted a selfie that night on Facebook, with the caption “Size 6 Jeans!”. My nurse friends, who had last seen me topped out at 175 pounds, were AMAZED. The well-wishings and the compliments and the “how did you do its” poured in. I felt beautiful.

When you are thin you are an object of mock horror and annoyance. I had forgotten about that; it had been so long. I must say, this is much less onerous than the personal and societal disgust that come with fat. I’ll take “skinny shaming” any day. The nurses in North Dakota where I traveled watched me drop sizes until small scrubs were loose. “You need new scrubs,” they told me. “You look like a stick,” they told me. “You’re probably cold all the time because you don’t have any body fat,” said one of them.

I love it! You can skinny-shame me til the damn cows come home! “You’re so little,” said one of the nurses in Ohio. “I’m used to hunting for 2X scrubs for our regular doc.” Don’t throw me in that briar patch, Br’er Fox!!

I let myself slip and put on 9 pounds. I went off the deep end. I was alone in a hotel room, and I cried. I screamed. I hit myself in the head. I threw things. I sobbed for 2 hours straight. I was a madwoman. I did a lot of soul-searching. Why would I overeat and sabotage my hard work, this acheivement that brought me so much pleasure? Overeating is such a fleeting rush, leaving only an uncomfortable feeling of fullness and shame. Thinness is a rush that lasts all day. Why would I sabotage myself? I took a deep look at my life, at the things that had brought me to this point.

I was raised by a mother who was a beauty queen. She was actually homecoming queen of a huge state college in 1962, among other things. When I was a kid, I was walked around the house with books on my head. I was a small child, never an overweight one, but Mom told me I couldn’t have a pair of jeans because they wouldn’t look good on my “lazy little tummy”. By this she meant that I wasn’t self conscious enough to walk around sucking it in all the time. Yet. Weirdly though, when things went wrong, she’d soothe me by taking me out for ice cream or a gingerbread man. But I could only eat when SHE sanctioned it. She could hear me peeling a banana across the house and would swoop upon me, objecting that I would “ruin my dinner”. She once told me that if I didn’t stop eating, she’d have to buy my clothes in the “Husky” section at Sears. I weighed maybe 65 pounds.

I went on my first diet when I was 12. I was not a bit overweight, but I saw all the diet tips in my copy of ‘Teen Magazine, and I guess I thought I’d become miraculously beautiful, or popular, if I did what the beauty magazines said. My mom wholeheartedly applauded my attempts at betterment, even though in the 7th grade I was still wearing girl’s sizes. When I fell off the diet a week later, when confronted by a plate of doughnuts at a school function, Mom expressed disappointment in my lack of willpower.

My mom treated my father’s eating with equal scorn, even though he wasn’t fat either. In fact, he was a jogger, did military pushups, and was in fabulous shape. My father and I became partners in an eating conspiracy. We would happily meet each other in the kitchen after bedtime, and would share cartons of ice cream or bags of chocolate chips. When I was home alone, I would scour the kitchen, eating marshmallows, brown sugar, cereal, chocolate chips, and raw oatmeal.

So I internalized a couple of things in childhood. First, appearances and beauty were tantamount. Second, when you were sad or blue, you got a sweet treat. Third, sneaking around and eating was a way to spite and defy my mother. I used sneaking and eating later to defy boyfriends, my husband, and more importantly, myself. Somehow I was punishing myself by taking in those calories.

Then, in high school, I was such an ugly duckling that the message of the importance of beauty was really slammed home. I couldn’t be less awkward, or have fewer pimples, or make my hair do anything, but by God I could control what I put in my mouth. It was the only thing I felt I could control.

In college, when I was pretty, that brought home the kind of power that a beautiful woman could wield. I was heady with that power, and hurt a lot of people. I also established unhealthy relationship patterns that would persist well into adulthood. And at the top of that list was the constant need to be reassured that I was beautiful, prettier than everyone else in fact. And I raged when I met a man who denied me that reassurance. I dated him for 5 years to make him change his mind and grovel. He never changed, and he never groveled. Many years later, he admitted to one of my friends that we had had one of the better relationships that he had ever had, and that I was probably one of the prettiest girls I had ever dated, but he denied me that to the end. The pain of the failure of that relationship dogged me for more years than we were actually together. He was an emotional terrorist.

I have a terrific marriage now, but my husband is a certified fat-phobic. He is ex-Navy, wiry and muscled with big lats and the proud carriage of an ex-military man who has stayed in shape. He and my daughter have the metabolisms of shrews, or hummingbirds, and it seems that they must consume at least twice their weight daily in food and remain in constant motion to surive. My husband does not like overweight people, and does not censor the things he says about them. When we first moved back to Alabama, he was horrified by the obesity he saw there. One day in Walmart, we encountered a family: the two parents were each in one of those motorized carts, with their fat rolls hanging down. They were each probably 400 pounds easy. Their teenaged son was with them – and he was well on his way to 300 pounds. I kid you not, they were in the candy aisle, heaving bags into the baskets on their carts and arguing about which multipack to pick up next. My husband backed away from them, eyes wide, as if he had encountered an intruder with a gun. He pulled me swiftly into the next aisle and whispered hoarsely, “Oh, my God, can we please move back to Atlanta?”

I know that my massive weight gain hurt him, but he was actually very kind. I think he understood, at some level, how much stress I was under and how really broken I was. And he knows me well enough to know about the “spite” game – he knows I was passive aggressive enough to fight him with sneak eating if he forced the issue too much. He just stopped complimenting me. Which was OK, it wasn’t hurtful as far as I was concerned because I knew how he felt about fat, I’d let myself go, I looked like hell and didn’t deserve complimenting. It’s nice to be married to someone who knows you well enough to provide you with the best strategy to keep yourself from shooting yourself in the foot.

He’s delighted that I’ve lost the weight. Now he compliments me. And when he sees a heavy woman pass by, he does what he did when we were first married, and leans over and whispers, “Thank you”. I’ve worked my way down to somewhere between a size 2 and a size 4 now, and I am holding. I reined back in, tightened up, and got those 9 pounds back off by giving myself a positive peptalk, rather than belittling myself. I lost a total of 55 pounds in 9 months, and I hope with my new attitude, with an understanding of where I have come from, and my new enjoyment of my appearance, that I will keep it this way.

I did mention to my husband that I thought it was odd that fewer of my long-term acquaintances had mentioned my new appearance than I thought would. He thought about it and said that in today’s world, sometimes extreme weight loss means that something bad has happened. I thought about “divorce diets” and HIV and cancer and decided that was right. He also suggested that they might be jealous. I was OK with that too.

So I’ve been on both sides now. Many times. And as the Tiresius of weight gain, I have lived with fat and fat predjudice, and thin and thin predjudice. And I will say, having worked both sides, I’d rather be sassed by somebody who is jealous than by somebody who is feeling superior and disgusted. And, shallow as it may be, looking great is the best revenge!

Come Ride The Rollercoaster

I am an OB/Gyn. For some, the first thought that comes to mind is, what is that? In this case, you are probably a single male. For those of you who are single men, the answer is, I take care of women.

I do pelvic exams. I do pap smears. I hand out birth control. I catch babies. I do c-sections. I do hysterectomies. It sounds straightforward. It almost sounds easy.

I deal with pain, physical and mental. I deal with disease, physical and mental. I deal with disasters. I deal with miracles. I deal with women. I deal with women and all their world around them. All of it.

An OB/Gyn gets to know their patients, unlike surgeons. Surgeons meet a patient because there is a sick organ, they remove the organ, they take care of the patient for the required six week recovery, and say goodbye, unless they find another broken organ to remove. We also remove sick organs. But we remove them from people we have known for thirty years.

An OB/Gyn begans their journey with a woman when she is still a girl. Girls have cramps, they bleed until they soak their clothes, they start thinking about sex, they have sex. Girls get pregnant.

We talk about sex, we talk about pregnancy, we talk about diseases. We try to prevent them and we look for them.

The girls become women. They come to you because they are getting married. They don’t want to get pregnant. They do want to get pregnant. They have never been examined before. They have been examined a million times.

The women have their babies. We deliver them. We deliver delight, we deliver pain, we deliver reality, and sometimes death comes when it shouldn’t.

The women get older. Their marriages get longer, or shorter. The sexual partners increase, or they go away altogether. Things start bleeding weirdly, and hurting. Things start growing where they don’t belong. Things start falling out.

Then things shut down entirely. Here come the hot flashes, the wrinkles, the dead sex drive, the dissolutionment, and the next generation starts making them crazy.

They lose their husbands, when they weren’t ready to. They lose their children, when they shouldn’t have. They spend a decade of their life caring for invalids. They forget who they are; who they were. If they are lucky, their children start driving them around.

Come ride the rollercoaster with me. Spend a day with me.

C-section, early morning. There is blood. You are tired, from lack of sleep. The day is just starting. You have to explain to a woman that you have to cut her open. She doesn’t want to be. Her husband doesn’t want her to be. There is no choice. There is nothing worse than explaining to someone that they don’t get a choice, that any different choice they make may result in death. The baby is born. The mom is OK. There is relief. Life is good.

Late for clinic. All doors closed, with charts in them. Lights are blinking. Phones are ringing. Your nurse is looking at her watch. You are looking at your watch. You start running. You must be terribly efficient.

There is something in humanity that abhors efficiency. The further behind you are, the more complicated the patients become. When someone bursts into tears, you just can’t rush out their door.

Here is my day.

Room 1. There is a little girl in there, a scared, skinny little girl. In the nurse’s hand is a positive pregnancy test. She knew, but she didn’t know. Her mom is in the waiting room. She doesn’t know. Skinny Girl doesn’t know what to do. She is crying, and twisting the friendship bracelets on her arm. How does she tell mom? How can she have a baby? How CAN’T she have a baby? These issues have to be discussed. NOW. You are scared for the girl. You are sad for the mom. You are sad that another kid isn’t going to finish high school.

Room 2. Elation! You have been taking care of her for almost 10 years. She just got pregnant! She has been trying so hard, so long! You can’t help it, you’re ecstatic for her. You’re ecstatic with her. You hug her and whoop.

Room 3. A lonely tiny bedraggled little lady slumps on the table. This is her first exam in 8 years, because she has been home taking care of her sick husband for that long. Now he has died. She is trying to remember how to take care of herself. She doesn’t remember, it has been so long. She hasn’t seen her friends in years. You leave the room, and feel profoundly lonely for her. You feel her loss. You see her emptiness.

Room 4. A black eye. Where did she get the black eye? She fell. You give her the shelter number, tell her to sneak it in her shoe. You document. You pray.

Room 5. One of your favorite pregnant patients. She’s brought her mom to meet you. You’re flattered, and tickled, and happy to meet her! You joke, you laugh, you enjoy each other’s company. You hate to leave this room.

15 minutes. You were alotted 15 minutes for each.

Back in room 1. Tragedy. Your patient has been going through infertility treatments for two years. She finally got pregnant. The ultrasound shows that the little heartbeat is gone today. You are the one who has to tell her. You watch her eager face go to apprehension, to dread, and watch it crumple. The sobs are gut wrenching. Her husband is sobbing too. It is so hard to watch a man so bare, so crushed. They are destroyed.

Back in room 2. She has a rash. It hurts, it hurts so so bad. It hurts to pee. Her glands are swollen. What is it? She is a sweet girl. This has been her first sexual partner since a long relationship. She gambled. She lost. She has herpes. To do the test, the swab, you have to hurt her, scrub the spot with the sore. You have to tell her, she has an incurable disease. You have to try to figure out how to help her live with it. She cries and cries.

Back in room 3. Your patient has brought in her beautiful new baby! You pass the baby around, hold the baby, hold back sentimental tears at his silly little hat. You have your picture taken. You are the hero. You feel great!

Back in room 4. You discuss birth control. Your patient wants to know options. ALL the options. Now. She wants you to help her decide. Now. You struggle not to look at your watch. She wants you to explain how the IUD works again. She might want that. She might not. She doesn’t know. You feel impatient, and rushed, and put upon. So tell me about the IUD again?

Room 5. Again. The woman there doesn’t want to have sex with her husband. She wants to know why not. Is there a pill? A magic cure? You try to explain how complicated female sexuality is, how many dozens of factors that can affect it. Is there a pill? A magic cure? You can’t fix her. There is no pill, no magic cure. Frustration. Sympathy.

15 minutes.

By the end of the day, you are wrung out. Destroyed. And you may likely be on call for the night. All those feelings; you’ve been tumbled around in them all day. You felt them. You felt them all. You couldn’t NOT feel them. You know these people. How could you not feel joy for them, fear, anger and pride? Not to feel is to die. You can die, or you can ride the rollercoaster.

Up. Down. Up. Down. Down again, just to break the pattern.

When you drive home, it is dark. There is no dinner. You don’t want any. You don’t have time to make any.

Your husband wants to know, why don’t you want to go out to dinner with friends? You need friends, you never see your friends, we don’t have any friends. You try to explain your job.

You tell him, honey, this is my job. All day, I enter rooms containing people who are scared, broken, overjoyed, sick, hurting, elated. I have 15 minutes to see them, get to know them, persuade them to take their clothes off in front of me, and tell me their darkest secrets. Small talk. You are the world’s leading expert. Small talk is what gets you through their embarassment, their discomfort, their fear. You are so good at it that sometimes they ask you when you are going to do their pap smear. It is done. You did it while you were chatting, distracting them, making them laugh.

Now he wants you to leave your house, go to a party. A party filled with people. The small talk. You just can’t handle it. You’re small talked right out. You never want to talk to anybody again. You are so tired. Your husband looks at you. He doesn’t understand. He thinks you are introverted, and disinterested, and no fun. What you are is out. Out of emotion. Out of love. Out of hate. Out of caring. Out of conversation. Out.

If you are lucky, you get to go to bed. If you are not, you get called back into work. More joy, more fear, more elation, more sadness, more blood, more babies. Now you are doing all this in the dark, all night. You mustn’t drop your guard. You must be ON for everyone, to explain, to persuade, to rescue them from ignorance and fear, and choose the right thing for them, the good thing. Sometimes there is no good thing. Forget your own issues; you are being paid to maintain their energy, keep them compliant, keep their spirits up.

If you are lucky, you get to go to bed.

The alarm goes off at 5, and you are up again. Another whole day. And another. And another.

Room 1. Room 2. Room 3. 15 minutes.

Come ride the rollercoaster. Come ride it with me. Today, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…

Kindle FIRE!!! No! REALLY!

Sad Bedraggled Guck

Sad Bedraggled Guck

Guck had his first bath today, which should explain the unlikely proximity of a wet stuffed duck and a blog post titled Kindle FIRE. Or not. Guck’s bath was the culmination of the day’s whack-ness. Guck and I had a really strange day.

I pride myself on being able to take life in stride. After all, I am a gynecologist, which by default will bring weirdness into one’s life, and I currently travel for a living, and I am a wife and a Mommy. Between all these things is the constant potential for Truly Bizzaro Occurences. Life is always like that. Truth really is stranger than fiction. You just can’t make this shit up.

Today was a business travel day. I was flying from Alabama to Ohio to cover Christmas vacation for an OB/Gyn who is studying for her oral board exams. She has my complete sympathy. I did that once. It was ugly.

Everything was Packed, with only the rigid sameness that complete OCDness can produce. I bring the same things every time. I pack them in exactly the same places. That way I can grab anything without thinking about it, and all my frequently used items are convenient. I have a System.

I have a constant travel companion. You may have noticed him at the top of this post. His name is Guck. He is a gift from my daughter, who has given him to me to travel the world. Everywhere I go, I take pictures of Guck, and I email them to her. Guck, at this point, is extremely well traveled. Guck headlines quite a few Facebook posts also. He has quite a following.

I had to get up at the crack of doom this morning and drive myself to the airport. Usually I have a shuttle pick me up, since my business reimburses me for it, but Christmas madness has ensued, and the only time they could pick me up was 4 AM, which even allowing for my paranoid insistence on arriving hours before a flight, seemed a little extreme for a 7:30 AM flight.

I park in the same row of the airport parking lot every time. That way I always know where my car is, without having to think about it. My husband parks in the same row when he travels. We are crazy. But in a very practical way.

I made it to the airport in plenty of time, checked my bag, passed through TSA with minimal cavity searching and headed to my gate.

I should have known that things were going way too smoothly.

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men… and anal retentive obstetricians.

I had my backpack, packed the same way as always. It contains, among other things, my computer, my birth control (as an OB/Gyn, I can assure you that I am well aware that being separated from one’s birth control is a Bad Idea), charging cords, and a kit for doing beadwork with a stash of beads, so I can indulge my terrifying bead habit on the go. My MP3 player and my noise-canceling earbuds (yessssss) are stashed in a top pocket. Sometimes there is a passport. My jewelry is there, so the nice TSA people can’t “lose” it. Guck lives there, always, in the top of the computer pocket. That is just where Guck lives.

In the front pocket, there lives a receipt bag, and boarding passes, an adorable little wristlet containing my ID, cash and credit cards, and printouts of all my travel info. There also lives a Kindle Fire. The key word here is FIRE.

We boarded the plane. I started taking off my coat, and shifting stuff around so I could sit in my seat. My rollie bag was stowed. Same as it ever was.

Exept this time there was a POP.

Then there was a high-pitched squeaking sound, like a balloon whose neck has come untied.

Then gray smoke began to BOIL out of a pocket in my backpack.

My first thought was, it was some kind of party trick, and it didn’t sink in at first that the party trick was in my backpack.

The smoke was pouring out. When I was a kid, my best friend and I used to light smoke bombs and put them in our mailbox. The effect was the same, coming out of my backpack. Except smoke bombs smell a lot better.

I could hear exclamations all around me. “There’s a fire!” “What IS it?” “There’s SMOKE!”

Let’s just say that a backpack full of hissing reeking smoke is not a hit on an airplane in our post 9/11 world.

The flight attendant hustled over, shoving boarding passengers aside. “It looks like a dry ice packet!” Regretfully I informed her that I was not in possession of any dry ice. I wished I had dry ice. Dry ice does not catch on fire, I can tell you with virtual certainty.

She snatched up the bag and hauled ass with it off the plane. I followed her, squirming against the tide of boarding passengers. What the hell was going on in my backpack??

I met her on the jetbridge and we started ripping open pockets. Everything out on the jetbridge. Computer. Birth control. Guck, who was now gray and smelled as if he had been barhopping all night. Tampons. I told her at least the tampons were not on fire. That would be tragic.

Unzip the front pocket. KINDLE.

The damn thing was on fire. The fact that this was indeed a Kindle Fire was not at all lost on me. Not at all.

The screen was full of gray smoke. Weirdly, it wasn’t cracked and the smoke was just kind of roiling around inside of it.

The captain emerged at this time, to inspect the madness that was his jetbridge. “It’s the Kindle!” he cried triumphantly.

Well, thank God. Seriously. I was dealing with intelligent people who actually understood that this was not a bomb.

The captain was really very nice. He told me that since I lived there, they would take the no longer smoldering but still warm Kindle to the Lost Baggage Area, and I could pick it up when I came back home.

That’s great, I told him. Except I REALLY don’t want it back.

This guy was a quick thinker. I am pleased with that ability in a pilot who is going to fly me around in an airplane. He told me I needed it to show it to the Kindle people so they would give me a new one. At this point, I admired his cool thinking, but I wasn’t really sure I WANTED another one. Ever. But I thought that was really understanding and neat.

They let me back on the plane. THEY LET ME BACK ON THE PLANE! Holy crap, it was so cool that they let me back on the plane. I was fully expecting to be escorted off, at gunpoint, and carted off to Gitmo. That was unbelievably good.

The flight attendant told me as an aside that if the thing had caught on fire when we were in the air, they would have diverted the plane.

I slunk back to my seat with my reeking backpack. I do not embarrass easily but this seemed as good a time as any. The lady behind me said, “Hey, I’m really sorry if I embarassed you by yanking my kids off the plane.” I thought this was also nice. I assured her that I would have done exactly the same thing with mine.

I was sitting next to her kid. When I sat back down, he looked up at me from his video game and said, “DUDE, that was so TOTALLY AWESOME!!” I looked at him. A smile began to twitch at the corners of his mouth. He said, “Hey, was that a Kindle FIRE?????” I smiled at him. Yes, I told him. Yes, it was.

Downgraded To First Class

I have been doing a lot of flying lately. For almost a year now, I have been a traveling OB/Gyn, flying from state to state to fill positions for docs who need time off. I have been enjoying the hell out of this. I escaped from my soul-killing full time job in my awful town, stopped working 80 hour weeks, and now work when I want to.

Because of the awful lot of flying, I have achieved the lofty status of Delta Gold Medallion, which is cool and means I can get upgraded to first class for free. The hopeful word here is UPgraded.

I was flying home from a 2 week job in Ohio, and I had just settled into a seat next to a very nice man who helped me with my carry-on, when the flight attendant appeared in my aisle. “Mr. Beadstork?” MRS. Beadstork, I told her.

I guess it should be MS., since I was too lazy to take my husband’s last name. Or if I were snotty (which I am not), I would have told her it was DOCTOR Beadstork. I do not use that though, except at work, where it is preferable that the nurses address me as such (at least in rooms with patients). I am not enmeshed at all with my title, and it is not on my checks or in any other place that is not work-related. That is my job, not my identity.

I of course thought I must be in some kind of trouble when the flight attendant appeared. This is residual from my misspent youth. She smiled. “You have a seat in 1A.”

Yay! An upgrade! I of course had to retrieve my carry-on from the overhead bin so I could move it up, and the nice man who helped me put it up helped me bring it down.

I should have stayed in that seat.

When I walked up to the front row, seat 1B was occupied by a very large, very drunk, very crotchety woman, who I swear reminded me of Mimi from the Drew Carey Show, minus the blue eyeshadow, and with a worse attitude. She was VERY put-out that she would not have the 2 seats to herself.

Since it was a bulkhead seat, both my carry-ons had to go into the overhead bins. I opened the bin. “There’s no room in there!”, she snapped. There was room in there.

I went to tuck my backpack in and she snarled at me. “You can’t put that there! There is a VERY SPECIAL BOX up there; I hand carried it across the country for a VERY SPECIAL PERSON!” I felt sorry for the Very Special Person. I told her there was room. “There is NOT room! That box is breakable! And that is my purse!!! It must not be crushed either!”

At this point, another nice man came up from a couple rows back. “There is room. I will help you rearrange things.” At this point, she was pretty much delaying the flight departure. She was standing in the aisle now, rigid with rage, with her hands parked on her ample hips.

The man started to rearrange and she barked, “Don’t touch my package! Don’t touch my package! Don’t touch my purse!” The man gently rearranged and gave her a LOOK. “There,” he said. “Everything fits. Everything is fine. Nothing is crushed.” The woman flounced into her seat, not waiting for me to get into my window seat.

I told her I needed to get into my seat. “Oh for GOD’S SAKE,” she said, getting back up and giving me a look that would wither weeds. I got into my seat and she snatched up both waters, and chucked both blankets and pillows onto my side.
The nice flight attendant inquired whether we would like a beverage. The woman told her, “I’ll take a good gin, with just a splash of tonic.” Normally I would have applauded this decision, since a drink might have mellowed her out, but she was already hammered and was clearly a mean drunk. What she needed was a tonic with a splash of SHUT THE HELL UP. I got a Coke Zero.

I have noticed that everyone drinks in first class. It’s kind of bizarre. I’ll get on an 8:30 AM flight, on a weekday, and I would say 60-70% of the passengers get alcohol. Seriously?? 8:30 in the morning?? Well, I guess it must be 5:00 SOMEWHERE. Like in Bosnia. I am curious. Aren’t they working that day when they arrive? Do they just bop into the boardroom reeking of alcohol? Because I thought 2 martini lunches went out in the 80’s.

I have a flight attendant friend who told me most of them get the drinks just because they are free. “Free” being in quotations because nothing is free, especially not first class. She said the airlines are happy to provide the drinks because most of the time they calm people down. Most of the time.

My delightful seatmate snarfed her gin down and asked for another. The flight attendant brought her another.

She thrashed about and sighed heavily the entire flight. The act of sharing the row was obviously just too much for her. I wanted to say to her, “FIRST WORLD PROBLEM!” but I decided she might deck me and squish me like a bug.

Right after the captain announced our descent, she quickly grabbed the flight attendant. “Time for one more drink?” Grudgingly, the flight attendant brought it to her and told her she needed to finish it before we began our final approach for landing. I was seriously questioning the flight attendant’s judgment at this point but figured that she was just happy to be getting the beyotch off the plane, and was probably as terrified of her as I was.

After finishing that drink, the woman slumped over forward, with her arms dangling in front of her. Great, I thought. She’s going to freaking YACK all over the place. The perfect ending to the perfect flight. Instead, she began to snore. Loudly. Who the hell snores through a plane landing? We even bounced a couple times and slammed on the brakes, and she was still rattling the windows.

She didn’t wake up until folks were standing in the aisles getting down their things. Seldom does one see a woman that fat and that drunk move so quickly. SOMEONE MIGHT TOUCH HER PRECIOUS BOX! And her Louis Vuitton bag! Noooooo!

She tugged at my backpack. “Is this YOUR bag?” She grabbed a strap. Be careful, I told her. It’s VERY heavy. (My computer was in it).

Without giving my statement an iota of thought, and before I could collect my bag myself, she snatched violently at it. And it went straight down with a CLUNK because it was real heavy. Like a couple of bowling balls heavy. And it smacked down straight on her foot.

“OW!!!!” she yelped, and at this point, the entire plane was staring at her aghast because we were, after all, in the front row. And she was being FREAKING loud. And WAY inapropriate.

“OW!! Dammit! That thing is HEAVY! I THINK IT BROKE MY FOOT!” Well, shocker, sweetie. I told you it was frickin’ heavy.

“My foot is BROKEN!” The nice man in the row behind attempted to soothe her. It occurred to me that my computer might well be broken, although its fall was pretty much cushioned by her ample foot. I decided not to point this out to her; my computer might be broken but at this point she was wild-eyed and violent. And LARGE. And MALICIOUS. And SCARY. I decided not to get smashed into a pulp.

She jerked her bag and her box out of the overhead. She yanked them more vigorously than any of us had while trying to rearrange. I thought I heard a faint crunch in the bag.

Broken foot? CRUNCH in the irreplaceable bag? Couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.

She shoved in front of me and lurched off up the ramp, moving in serpentine fashion as if to avoid being hit by gunshot. She was, of course, just drunk. I contemplated the gunshot option with great pleasure.

I feel I escaped with my life, barely. When I booted up my computer at home it worked just fine. I never knew it was possible to take a DOWNGRADE to first class. But I really should have stayed in the back.

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