Mealtimes...an example of motherhood through a doctor's eyes
Getting Alyvia to eat a piece of toast for breakfast is harder than persuading a cocaine addict to give up.
Weaning was the thing I was looking forward to the most as she turned 6 months. I pictured Alyvia sitting with us as a family while we all ate together and enjoyed each other’s company. The reality was, eating more than 1 spoon of anything slightly nutritious took over an hour!
By that time, CD had finished his breakfast, and had started planning our activities for the weekend. My cold breakfast was barely palatable and my sweet and pleading tone had quickly disappeared from my voice! In that hour, I could have seen at least 3 patients, discussed and formed a comprehensive management plan for their heart failure and reviewed one patient in emergency! I HATE inefficiency and yet in the back of my mind, this is how I was being.
CD on the other hand, spends his time operating and striving for perfection and reminded me that it could take all day as long as his daughter finished her food. Apparently I needed to practice the skill that I have been utilizing for all these years…patience!!! So we swapped, he entertained her with anything we could find and her breakfast was done. We both breathed a sigh of relief and got on with our day.
At lunchtime we went to a local restaurant and I asked the waiter to warm up Alyvia’s beautifully made vegetable puree. While we waited for our food, Alyvia looked at hers and turned her face immediately. I was still somewhat hopeful that she might want it as soon as she tried it. I cut up all the organic vegetables that morning and added a few little natural spices to make it more appetizing for her. Having tried it myself, I was proud and hopeful she wouldn’t be able to resist her mother’s food.
Having made every farm animal noise to get her to open her mouth, she finally let me put an eighth of the spoon in. She tasted it, made a face and spat it out. I gave CD the look and we tried to keep our cool in the restaurant. I thought of my colleagues and what they were doing at this time. Obviously they were busy working and making a difference to people’s lives. I’m sure their patients listened to them, they also probably got a smile from them too!
I took a huge breath again and got out our savior these days…the phone. It contained her favourite nursery rhymes and as she got lost in the music, she opened her mouth like a robot and ate her food. There was not much interest in the food. This reminded me of the sick elderly patient in hospital who had no interest in engaging with the world, nor her appetite, and was fed by the hospital volunteer reluctantly. ‘Come on Alyvia, my food is better than hospital food at least!’ I thought.
I regularly exercise the qualities I have as a doctor on Alyvia and tolerance is usually the skill I practice the most! Along with patience, courage and lenience. Alyvia on the other hand has perfected her negotiating skills!
I smiled and gave her a kiss as she took her last spoonful. Again, my food had gone cold and CD and I didn’t manage a real conversation other then agreeing to leave a generous tip for the waiter for all the mess Alyvia had made.
Following Alyvia’s afternoon nap, the day flew by and dinnertime was now upon us. I had made mashed potato with flakes of salmon. This time, she pointed at the phone before I even started trying to feed her. Having tried to distract her with something else, as soon as it was time to open her mouth, she asked for it again. I spoke to her sternly and left a minute for her to try to understand what I had said. She displayed a mini-tantrum and I sat there and listened…after all, the doctor-patient relationship worked best when there was a mutual understanding so surely this ought to be the same for the mother-baby relationship? No. Alyvia won and out came the alphabet song. Dinner was over for Alyvia while the guilt began for me.
Guilt is a strange emotion. It starts with a voice in my head telling me that I am not bringing up my child correctly and then ends with the conclusion that I am a bad mother. A guilty doctor in my eyes is an underperforming one, hence I didn’t feel guilt very often. Somehow perfecting my profession wasn’t as important to me anymore. I wanted to be a perfect mother.
I went to bed with that thought and woke up the next day feeling motivated. Every day was a challenge and I was determined not to be so hard on myself. After all, I couldn’t possibly save EVERY life could I???
Alyvia and I had breakfast together that morning while watching her favourite story ‘The Hungry Caterpillar. ‘
P.S:- If any of you are wondering about Sophia, well she is officially one month away from being weaned and I am not going to put any pressure on myself this time!