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A Reflection on Doctoring and Mothering

Sometimes I say that I am a doctor and a mother. Sometimes I say I am a mother and a doctor. It depends on the situation and who I am talking to and what is on the forefront of my mind at the time. And both are an essential part of my identity. I don’t always realize how much one affects the other.

I read an excellent article this week in JAMA written by a doctor at UCSF about her experiences sleep training her first daughter. It brought tears to my eyes as the slightly blurry transition from physician to physician-mother came into focus. Not until I read this did I realize how profoundly my experiences as a physician shaped me as a mother.

I did residency just before duty hours restrictions were enacted. As a result, every fourth night, I spent 36 hours working in the hospital. Then I went home for 10 hours and went back to work by 6 am the next day. I learned so much, but also confronted unimaginable heartbreak and difficulty. I saw addicts who spent a month in the ICU locked into their bodies. When they woke up, they were detoxed, and no longer could imagine using. I saw them come back, high, defeated, broken. I delivered babies too early and too small who did not survive. I cared for gunshot wound victims who were resuscitated heroically but who did not survive. And then I told their parents and cried with them when they wailed in grief. This was before the time where support to process these things was part of training. My fellow residents and I shared war stories and our grief but these things become a part of you. We all dealt with it in different ways.

When I finished residency, I started my first job and was very happy to be pregnant with my first baby. All was smooth until I woke up one night at 7 months pregnant, itching my hands uncontrollably. My itching got worse, soon involving my soles of my feet as well. I found out that I had a liver condition associated with pregnancy called cholestasis. However, mine was a severe form. The risk was not to me, but to the baby. My doctors told me that they would monitor closely, but that we should be aware that the baby could die at any moment.

I cried everyday. I couldn’t sleep because of the itching. I was in the hospital constantly with terrible contractions. One day, my doctor called and told me that my bile acids were very high (“I’ve never seen them so high before! It’s remarkable!”) and that the risk to the baby was unacceptable. That day, I had an amniocentesis to confirm that the baby’s lungs were mature. When we got the results that night at 9 pm, we were scheduled to come to the hospital the next morning for induction.

After a crazy day, with my husband and my mom by my side, our beautiful Diya was born. She was 5 weeks early, 4.5 lbs and perfect. The days afterwards were an exhilarating process of discovering an incredible love with this tiny baby. However, they were also filled with more stress of another hospital admission for her high bilirubin, too many blood draws to count and no sleep.

I went into debt: sleep debt and self care debt. Already sleep deprived before I became pregnant, I did not sleep more than an hour straight for the first year of her life.

And yet, when the question about sleep training came up, I could not do it. After so many years of helplessly watching so much suffering, I could not watch her suffer. I would not. And thus, we started co-sleeping. The type of parent I became was directly a result of the trauma of residency and then the pregnancy. So I put her first, always, for a very long time.

I would like to say that over time, and after having more children, and getting older and wiser, that I am more balanced now. I do take better care of myself. But, I will still hold Nisa longer if she needs it even if my arms ache and I need to put her down. And I will suffer too much along with Esha when she has a belly ache.

I don’t think that I can be any other way. I am a doctor and a mother. And a mother and a doctor.

Thank you Carly for helping my see my mothering with more clarity.

Double Chocolate Cookies

Happy Wednesday!

We tend to be a chocolate chip cookie eating family. We love all types: oaty ones, brown butter ones, thin and crispy ones….but sometimes we all want something really chocolaty. We have made Deb’s brownie cookies which are delicious – but take a bit more work as you are supposed roll them out. These double chocolate cookies are much more forgiving – I definitely didn’t chill them for the full amount of time and they still came out delicious.

In other news, we went to the Taylor Swift concert last week and it was EPIC!

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I hope that you all have a wonderful rest of the week and that you get to eat some cookies!

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 10 tablespoons/141 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups/ semisweet or bittersweet chocolate discs (or use 2 cups chocolate chips – which is what I used)

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Instructions: 

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
  2. Using a hand mixer (or a stand mixer if you have one), beat together butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until very light, about 5 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until well combined.
  3. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients and beat just until combined. Add the chocolate chips and mix briefly to combine. Chill the dough for at least 30 min (the original recipe calls for 24-36 hours).
  4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out the dough into balls using your hands – you can decide what the best size is. Be aware that the cookies will spread a little. Bake the cookies until set, being careful to remove cookies from the oven when still soft in the center, about 18 minutes. Transfer the parchment with the cookies to a rack to cool. Serve warm.

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Dal Poori

Happy Wednesday everyone!

As someone who cooks a lot, I spend a lot of time trying to use the leftovers – we do end up eating most of the leftovers for lunch but sometimes that doesn’t quite work out.  This is my mom’s way of using our leftover dal (Indian lentils). As kids, we used to look forward to this more than the original meal! Poori is a fried bread and generally very popular with kids – my kids certainly love eating this and it makes for a pretty nutritious dinner for them when they eat it with yogurt. I hope that you try it and let me know what you think!

Dal Poori

Image result for masoor dal

Ingredients: 

Leftover dal (I usually make masoor dal – the small orange lentil – see above)

Chickpea flour and whole wheat flour (can easily make this gluten free by using chickpea flour only)

Salt to taste

Cumin

Oil for frying

Instructions: 

  1. I don’t have any specific measurements listed because the amount of dal I have depends on what is left over – sometimes less and sometimes more, so I will tell you the how and you may have to experiment a bit.
  2. Let the dal sit out to warm a bit, otherwise, your hands will freeze! Put it into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Start adding in the flour. You can start by adding a cup at a time of the chickpea flour. Once it starts to come together into a dough, switch to adding whole wheat flour. The dough has a lot of moisture in it so you will have to be careful when you start rolling it out.
  4. Add cumin and salt to the dough to taste – I usually sprinkle the salt over the dough and then incorporate by kneading so I don’t over-salt.
  5. Here is a good video tutorial for how to make poori. Start at 1:26 in the video as the starting process for these is different.
  6. Make little balls out of the dough and knead them well in your hands to make them smooth and elastic. I usually make them about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. You may need to dip them in flour to combat the stickiness.
  7. Generously flour your working surface and roll them out using a rolling pin. How thin you roll them will depend on 1. how sticky the dough is (these are delicate and sometimes require quite a bit of additional flour so they don’t stick to the rolling surface) and 2. how thin/crispy you like them. For the kids I make them a little bit thicker and for myself, I make them thin and crispy. (see heart shaped one for Esha below)
  8. Heat the oil in a wok – 3-4 inches deep of oil – until shimmering. Lower heat to medium.
  9. After it has fried for about 1 minute on the first side, press down on it with the skimmer (I have this one), if you have rolled it out well, it will puff (mine do about 70% of the time! I’m getting better with practice…..)
  10. Fry each poori, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Drain out on paper towels placed on a cookie sheet.
  11. Serve with a dollop of greek yogurt for dipping.

Some recent pics:

Diya took this amazing one of our sunset view: IMG_0017.jpg

Esha and Nisa – all dressed up and ready to go:

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My most recent favorite memes:

 

 

Love,

Pooja

NYC and a couple of recipes.

Today the food focus is on Deb Perlman from smitten kitchen. She is one of our favorite bloggers and has recipes that are dependable and delicious. This week, I made her melting potatoes which turned out amazing and were actually pretty easy in terms of time spent and effort. They are highly recommended. Recipe here:

Melting Potatoes

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Diya was craving cake and even though she didn’t feel like baking one, she did it anyway. Sometimes the craving wins over the laziness, you know? Diya made the chocolate peanut butter cake and although it was a little lopsided, it was her first layer cake and I was proud. And it was delicious!! Recipe here:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake


The end of the week we went to NYC for a big girls trip. And we learned a lot. We remembered how much fun we have together when we get to adventure without an agenda. We also learned that we all got stressed out leaving Nisa behind – and stress manifests differently for all of us: migraines, reflux and general crankiness. So we learned that we won’t plan to do that again anytime soon. And we learned that we must be grateful for all that we have in our lives – because what seems to be a big obstacle now (throwing up in the taxi) is really a very small thing in the big scheme of things.

We learned that drinking a big fishbowl drink from Dylan’s candy bar seems like a good idea but sometimes really isn’t.

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I also learned that having a friend who says the exact right thing to you at the exact right time is an absolute necessity (Tati). And that my mom always has a helpful suggestion when I am stuck.

And NYC is a lot of fun. Plus, we walked 7+miles every day we were there!

Here are some of the pictures:

Let me know if you try the potatoes!

Love,

Pooja

Self-Care

Good afternoon all! This post has been a long time coming. I have been cooking but I haven’t been taking many pictures of the food. Honestly, in the middle of it, I always think, I need to take a picture of this, but then it just gets away from me and when I remember again, the food is half eaten and doesn’t look very sexy anymore.

There have been some inspiring moments though – especially with the beautiful weather that we have been having. Here is what we are eating tonight: veggie chili!

A lovely flower that an old friend brought as we rekindled our friendship:

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Signs of warmer weather! Grapefruits on our tree: img_1695

And this succulent, called “Mother of Thousands”, budding new baby plants:

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A good reminder that there is always something beautiful to see if we look for it.

I am here today to talk about self-care. And burnout. I don’t know – are they two sides of the same coin? Maybe. Probably. The last few weeks have been crazy and much of the craziness was out of my control. I won’t bore you with the details but I can say that in the delicate balance that is motherhood and life, sometimes you are just barely  keeping all the balls in the air. And when something unexpected happens, sometimes something big and sometimes a bunch of little things, then, sometimes things just go to s**t. Sometimes there’s vomiting, fevers, partners traveling, public speaking commitments etc and they all happen at the same time.

I was literally drowning, super tired, overwhelmed and worse, feeling sorry for myself. I was super cranky and there was no relief in sight. Then, I read this article called, “This Is What ‘Self-Care’ REALLY Means, Because It’s Not All Salt Baths And Chocolate Cake.” And it really gave me pause – because I was literally thinking something along those lines – this self-care stuff is a crock when things are really hard. Sure, on a day to day, I can take care of myself and everyone else and also be optimistic and kind. But not when things are in dire straits, I lose all perspective and revert back to my pessimistic, doomsday self.

There are a lot of great points in this article, the first of which is “Self-care is often a very unbeautiful thing.”  Yup, it’s not chocolate and watching “Jane the Virgin”. The other point that stuck with me is “It is letting yourself be normal. Regular. Unexceptional.” – I know, so obvious, and yet also made me realize that I spend a lot of time working/being at my maximum capacity – work, multi-task, spend quality time with the kids, cook, write, pursue my passions etc etc etc. And lastly, “actual self-care, which has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness.” Now here was the gold – making choices for your long term wellness. SO, now I am thinking about what this will mean for me. I don’t have any good answers yet but I think that some good starts are sitting down when I am tired (super basic I know), not reaching for the next thing all the time. And not taking pictures of food if I am distracted.

I will leave you with one last quote: “It means being the hero of your life, not the victim. It means rewiring what you have until your everyday life isn’t something you need therapy to recover from. It is no longer choosing a life that looks good over a life that feels good. It is giving the hell up on some goals so you can care about others. It is being honest even if that means you aren’t universally liked. It is meeting your own needs so you aren’t anxious and dependent on other people.”

That’s all I have to say. Work in progress. And, for now, I am okay with that. And, despite all this, Haagen Daaz Vanilla Swiss Almond does help. 🙂

Love,

Pooja

Kale Salad with Pears, Pistachios, Almonds, Dates and Feta

Happy Tuesday everyone,

So much going on here lately! Diya turned 12 and I can’t believe that my oldest is such a mature young lady (although using that phrase does make me feel old enough to have a mature young lady). We also had my nephew staying with us for a few days and watching him and Nisa together warmed my heart every moment (even the fighting – SO interesting to watch the negotiations).

In the midst of all this craziness, we made this kale salad with the stuff we had in the fridge and it turned out amazingly well. The nice thing is that you can improvise with whatever you have on hand (nut free? use pumpkin seeds, no pears? use whatever fruit you have on hand, I think that grapes would be amazing!)

Let me know if you make it and use different ingredients!

Kale Salad with Pears, Almonds, Dates and Feta

Ingredients:

One to bunches of kale (we used about 1.5 and the dino kale variety)

one pear (we used D’Anjou)

3-4 Medjool dates

1/2 cup nuts/seeds toasted (we used a combination of sliced almonds and pumpkin seeds)

crumbled feta

salt/pepper

olive oil

juice from one lemon

Instructions:

1. Clean the kale, dry well and rip the leaves off the ribs, toss the ribs. Cut into bite-size pieces.

2. Put a tablespoon of olive oil on the kale and sprinkle salt to taste. Massage the kale until it softens and becomes shiny (about 1 minute).

3. Add chopped pear, chopped dates, nuts/seeds.

4. Make the dressing: 3-4 tablespoons olive oil, salt/pepper, juice of one lemon. Whisk until the acid is incorporated with the oil . Drizzle over the salad.

5. Add the feta and toss until the dressing and the ingredients are distributed evenly.

6. Enjoy as a side salad or with protein as a main meal. Serves 8 as a side.

 

 

Chocolate Truffle Torte

This post is coming a bit late since this is what I made for Valentine’s day. Before we had kids, we didn’t really celebrate Valentine’s day. Now, it feels like a good reason to do something special (even on a weekday) that is focused on love. So we have a “family romantic dinner” with candles and a fancy dessert. This year, Vivek was away, but the girls and I had a greek-inspired dinner and I made fresh pretzels (who doesn’t love fresh bread!). The celebration was complete with this chocolate torte – it was pretty simple to make and came out amazing – the girls and Vivek  all said that is tasted “professional”. Now, you should be warned that it is incredibly rich and it lasted more than a week in our house because you can only eat just a sliver. But, it is SO good in the afternoon with a cup of coffee (how I prefer it) or in the morning for breakfast with a glass of milk (yes, i did let the girls do that once or twice!). The other nice thing is that it is flourless and so naturally gluten free. I did cut the sugar down by a bit so if you like things sweeter, you may want to use a half cup. If you try it, please let me know what you think! And, love to you all for a belated Valentine’s day!

Dinner pics:

 

 

Chocolate Truffle Torte

Ingredients:

15 ounces chocolate chopped (I used trader joe’s dark chocolate and some semisweet chocolate chips)

7 ounces butter, chopped

5 eggs

2 tablespoons water

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler or microwave (in short intervals), stirring occasionally. Pour the chocolate-butter mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer (or just a large bowl if you’re using a hand mixer).

3. Add the eggs and mix at low speed, scraping the bowl as needed, until the mixture is completely smooth, 2 to 5 minutes.

4. Pour the water into a small saucepan, then add the sugar and salt. Cook over medium-low heat until the sugar and salt dissolve (a minute or 2), swirling the pan to aid in even cooking.

5. With the mixer at low speed, stream the melted sugar mixture into the chocolate mixture. When all the sugar is incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and mix until the batter is smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes.

6. Scrape the batter into the springform pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the edges look set but the center still looks shiny. Let cool before serving.

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My Valentines:

 

 

Love,

Pooja