I have a number of male patients who are near and dear to my heart. Do not feel left behind but this February, in honor of the heart, I explore what lies in the center: moms and babies.
I became interested in women's health at UC Berkeley circa 1998. The "democratic education at Cal" series were student taught, student run courses. I joined, and later taught, the women's health and sexuality course. We learned about women's bodies, women's wisdom and women's rights from health care to the rights of sex workers in San Francisco. After being involved in the strong circle of women that ran this class, after graduating I recreated and joined several monthly women's circle when I moved to Santa Cruz, CA.
In medical school, I was fascinated with the reproductive health education. This is when my interest in birth sprouted. As a third year medical student I worked at Rose Midwifery, a rotation I had sought out on my own. I remember sleeping in the call room after seeing my first birth, exhausted and exhilarated.
During my training I actively pursued catching babies. In fact, for residency, I applied to 25 programs to be an obstetrician and only 5 family medicine programs! I heavily considered being an OB/GYN but knew in my heart of hearts that I was not a surgeon, I was a family doctor. I recognized the value and importance of men and their role in many families, their need for a trusting provider. Plus, at that point, I had fallen in love with babies.
As a third year medical student at Presbyterian St Luke's hospital, I worked with babies that were admitted to the hospital. I watched lumbar punctures (spinal taps) on babies less than a few months old. I saw a child with meningitis after a severe ear infection. My very first month of residency training was at The Children's Hospital and I fell deeply in love with the little people and their incredible resilience in the face of grave illness. I knew then that my passion for women's health was reflected in my love for children, mirror images of the same flame.
When I was in my training, and even throughout my early career, I would tear up often at the moment of placing a newborn baby on moms belly. As the mother and father wept with joy, I fought back tears many times, my heart glowing with theirs. So many times after I left a birth, I would soar on the sacred and beautiful moments I was able to share with families and single mothers. I have watched many women bravely face labor and delivery and then vulnerably hold their new little life.
Becoming a mom myself, growing a small human inside me and giving birth was a fascinating and incredible experience. Considering I was fascinated with women's health since I was eighteen, and gave birth to my first child fourteen years later, it was long over due for me to walk in the path of the mother and not the doctor. As we all know, there are not words to describe the depth of this part of the journey.
Now a new iteration of my passion for moms and babies is blossoming. Starting March 7 Keiko Yoneyama-Sims LMFT and myself will host a post-partum women's workshop series: The Fourth Trimester: Supporting Life with your Little one. Culminating my work with women and their reproduction we step into the next phase, finding balance within ones self and re-entering your life as a mother. As always, I continue to treat mothers and babies everyday from a holistic perspective, guiding health back to center with herbs, supplements, lifestyle changes or medications. Empowering women to keep their strength and resilience is one of my greatest clinical joys.
As I write I am on my way to a seminar on safe, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. I am paving the way for the next portion of the path, menopause. (Don't worry men, there is a seminar on male hormone replacement which I plan to study intensely as well).
A deep thank you to all of the families that have graced my path as a physician and mother.
May we step into the balance and find the Health together.
A poem from my journal just for you:
I walk in the confidence of
My own shadow.
Finding my voice.
Finding my place.
Balance is not a state of perfection.
It is a state of holding all of the balls in space,
knowing they will drop from time to time
But picking them back up
To keep going.
Some days I am
Deeply proud of where I am
I am, what you might call,
A strong woman.
Not strong like an immigrant woman,
Or a minority woman
Fighting the good fight.
Not strong like a single mom
Or a widow
Or a mother who has lost a child
Not strong like someone
Who is trans living fully out of the closet.
Those are life changes paths I know
That I know
But I am strong.
Like a girl who grew up
A big fish in a small sea
Who made it to an ocean
But did not get lost.
I am strong like a woman who has seen the
Ugliness of men
And survived it.
I am strong like a woman who can get up and
Time and time again.
When I am exhausted.
I can put in another load of laundry.
I can get up in the middle of a tired night and tend
To my children
Or deliver a baby.
I can sleep less and do more.
I can nourish and rest.
I can dig deep.
When I do not want to
I hope that my children
Will see me for my strength.
Will see me for my resilience.
Will know that I am not perfect.
And love me in my frailty and vulnerability.
For now I walk on