Category Archives: doctor

An experiment to try

I was at a talk today by an infant psychologist. It was about attachment and the importance of babies’ social interactions. The need for love has long been established as stronger than the need for food in some rather unpleasant experiments sensorily depriving rhesus monkeys in the 50’s and 60’s, which by the way would never pass any ethics committee these days. The following video shows it, it isn’t very “nice” but fascinating nevertheless.

The speaker showed us a video of the “Still face experiment” where the researcher got a parent to show no emotion and not interact at all with their baby and watched their response.

I tried it today on The Boy, it was startling, at only 4 months he reacted just as described in the video, given his level of development (i.e. he smiled, he waved his limbs around, he looked away, he vocalised then cried. He didn’t point or gesture at anything – he isn’t capable of it) what was more startling was that he did it in only about 30 seconds.

It is abundantly clear that if only 2 mins gets this reaction imagine what damage having a disengaged distant parent would be, or worse the psychological damage done by having no stable parent at all like in the Eastern European orphanages reported so widely in mid the 90s.

Apparently your social responses and desire for social interaction is hard wired by about 18 months! The speaker put up pictures of a functional MRI study that showed temporal lobe activity in the sensory deprived kids is grossly reduced – whole bits of brain aren’t turned on when they should be! Some other researchers did weird sensory and social depravation experiments on animals (I missed the details) and their temporal lobes just didn’t develop properly. It’s amazing to think your social interaction and how people treat you determines how well bits of your brain grow!

Try it on your little one – it’s fascinating! (Clearly I mean the face experiment, not depriving them then dissecting out their temporal lobes).

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Filed under Baby, Biology, Dads, doctor, psychology, science

Zombies and babies

It is clear when a child is to young to see violent/disturbing films but when is a baby too old to see them?

I was contemplating this as I was cuddling The Boy one evening whilst watching a particularly graphic dismemberment during an episode of The Walking Dead. If he was 3 there is no way in hell it’d be on TV. Once I thought he understood any of it it would be instantly banned during waking hours, but my little fella is only 6 weeks old. He can see 30 – 60cm and reacts to light and pretty colours, admittedly mainly red during this episode.

I quite like The Walking Dead, I feel a definite kinship with the brainless shells of people bumbling around mindlessly because something had destroyed their ability to function, I do wonder if the protagonists accidentally take out the odd ante-natal class meet up in the erroneous impression that the groaning haggard new mums are infact zombies.

(From Apocalypse Cometh)

The Wife hates horror films and so anything about zombies and she’s outta there, much to my discredit it has to be pretty graphic and awful for me to even register it, I usually only register it when a severed limb squirts with the wrong number of arteries or arteries blatantly in the wrong place. Then I get irritated and not disgusted or scared. Medicine ruins horror.

In fact, the last time I saw something really disturbing that made me feel sick on TV (other than Jersey Shore) it was the reality show “One Born Every Minute” which had a baby with shoulder dystocia getting into trouble and I almost had to leave the room because it was making me anxious. I KNEW that they’d never show it if either Mum or Baby carked it but nevertheless… I felt sick ….. and bloody glad I didn’t choose obstetrics!

But when should we start being careful about what’s on TV? I suppose we should be circumspect about what we watch right from the beginning but it seems a bit excessive. The Boy doesn’t even have a concept of self yet, let alone being able to recognise and understand death, violence or, most importantly in this particular situation,  hoards of half decomposed exploding bloodthirsty zombies. We are surrounded by sex and violence and we are desensitised to it all, not batting an eyelid when an “unsub” is said to have “raped all 12 murder victims” or something equally hideous, much like me any my occupationally induced inability to register gore. Think back to the last five things you watched on telly, I bet at least three of them had something you wouldn’t want your little ‘un to see. For me this was Wallander, Criminal Minds, The Walking Dead, the NZ News and a documentary about shark finning, a pretty nasty collection of real and imagined violence and gore.

I fully anticipate this issue to become more and more complex once The Boy grows up enough to browse the internet. Do an experiment for me – type something innocuous that we probably say to our babies on a daily basis like “bum” or “poo”  and see if you would want your 5 year old looking at those images. Then think what they will find once they type in more interesting words that they learn. The first thing I did when I learnt a new rude word, as a growing nerd, was head to the nearest dictionary to giggle and marvel at the enormous variety of ways genitals can be described. It disturbs me that the equivalent of sniggering in the dictionary corner for my son will be staring wide eyed at google images. I sincerely doubt every computer he accesses will have safe search turned on.

I expect I’ll just play it by ear knowing that if at any point he takes out the neighbours with a pump action shotgun or I find dismembered hitch hikers strewn all over the garden again, I have probably been too lax in supervising his viewing.

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Filed under Baby, Dads, doctor, fatherhood, Nerd, television, violence

All my base are belong to The Boy

What on earth has just ht me? Where am I and what time is it? …. And how many days have I been wearing this T-Shirt for?

OH MY GOD! He weighs less than 4Kg, I can hold him in one arm, and he has completely taken over. Like all new parents we have had good days and very bad days. A screaming baby is bad enough, but when that screaming baby is YOUR screaming baby, and your biological imperative is to do everything you can to keep him safe and happy…. It’s hard. The Wife is finding it especially hard to tune out the noise. It drills into your head, in a way another baby’s crying doesn’t. I had heard about this phenomenon before but I am surprised at how strong it is.

Aother change is that I have become Dadzilla. My life perspective is now quite bizzare and polarised. My facebook feed is full of revolting offspring photos, all I talk about is The Boy, I am boring all within earshot with tales of my cute amazing offspring, despite the fact that he can do nothing and keeps us awake all night screaming. the number of conversations I have with The wife about breasts has increased exponentially, but not in a good way. I’ll spare you the whole breast feeding saga bu needless to say, lots of time and energy is being devoted to it.

I can now see how important that oxytocin I mentioned in my earlier post is. You immediately fall in love with them in the first few hours and that feeling and that cuteness is what keeps the little sod safe when he is screaming at you for no apparent reason at 3AM. On a more unpleasant note I can really see how hideous things befall the infants of agressive, maladjusted, inarticulate men.

Standing there at my wits end in the small hours of the morning, not knowing what on earth to do to settle this little guy who has taken over my life (in a good way) I had a thought. I manage cardiac arrests, I calmly deal with life threatening asthma attacks, I deal with people at trauma calls with bits of their face missing …… but it’s a healthy screaming baby that has reduced me almost to tears and made me feel a useless failure. I’m sure all you other parents out there will agree, your living room at 3am with an inexplicably screaming child is an unexpectedly dark and unpleasant place.

The “Healthy” thing is another problem. The worst thing I could possibly imagine at the moment would be for something bad to happen to The Boy. North Korea launching nuclear war would be nothing in comparison! Every time he coughs the over protective new parent in me twitches with anxiety. Every spot on his face, every time he doesn’t feed well, I am convinced he has some hideous problem. I am a classic case of a little knowledge being a very dangerous thing. I know virtually no paediatrics, I spent 6 weeks out of my depth on a paeds ward as a student and that is the sum total of my experience. Children are not just small adults from a medical perspective, but inevitably I worry and invent problems in my head. Is there such thing as “Hypochondria by proxy”?

Everybody you speak to has advice, all conflicting, all “the only way to do it”. In my experience in Medicine, if there are numerous strongly expressed opinions there are inevitably no right answers. I will just comfort myself with that thought as I slink off to address some more nappy issues.

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I know it’s only biology – but I like it!

The Boy is here! He arrived on the 4th weighing 8lb 4oz. He’s small, cute, cuddly and making his presence known. For someone who can’t yet control his facial muscles, let alone his hands he’s doing a very good job of controlling us! Already my days are pretty unrecognisable – hence the delay in posting.

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As super proud parents do, we went for a newborn photoshoot at 10 days with a local photographer. In true nerd fashion we had seen her on facebook and it turned out she was in the next town to us. She really was superb and very slick. NZers in the Waikato should look her up!

His birth was an interesting process from many perspectives. I had to go from Doctor where I run situations to what amounted to Cheerleader, and it took some adjustment. I had to constantly remind myself I was The Wife’s husband and not her doctor. This was especially difficult as it was unfortunately quite a “medical birth” no waterbaths and whalesong here my friends! After various medications, an epidural and lots of pushing and some pulling he was out. Out and screaming.

oxytocin

Oxytocin – The “Hug Hormone”

The biologist side of me knows that I am designed to like my offspring. Oxytocin released by both of us when I hug my Little Man is there to help me bond with him and him to me. I am SUPPOSED to be smitten, to be instantly protective and adoring. I am an animal like all other mammals before me, I’m nothing special and these biological mind control tricks are as likely to work on me as they would on a dog or a badger.

I am so very happy though. It was magical, seeing my little man for the first time. Holding him and staring into his grey eyes as we studied each other for the first time will probably be one of the defining moments of my life. It is a bigger deal than any previous life event. the pride and happiness I felt at that moment was better than all my graduations, my wedding and pretty much anything else all combined, and yet ….. it’s nothing special, babies are born every minute of every day. I am not particularly clever or unusual in that my wife has had a baby. In the grand scheme of things – SO WHAT?

I know it’s only biology that makes me feel like this. Pure and simple. It’s only biology but it’s bloody awesome! I have never felt happier!

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Filed under Baby, Biology, Birth, Dads, doctor, Photography

Y I H8 Txt Spk. Drvs me Nts.

1stly Plz xcuz Rnt.

I M Sic ov hvng 2 contnd wid stupd txt spk @ wrk. I wrk as a Dr @ hsptl n I h8 reading txt spk in notes. The new Drs kp sndng me mssgs in BS TXT Spk and Tks Ags 2 d-cfr. Drvs Me Nts

ImageFor heaven’s sake you have spent 5 YEARS at university learning to be a professional and yet draw little circles over every i, use ‘l8r” in notes and last week I saw A ****ing SMILEY in some notes. AAAAAAaaagh!

If you can’t safely use bloody apostrophes how in holy hell are you safe to prescribe DRUGS?   Oh ….. and you cannot, CANNOT, pluralise everything just by adding a Z. REALLY you can’t. REALLY.

N shrt U R S2pid! I H8 U. N fact – 4Q! NE body I catch doing it in my notz n futr wll be flogged. Flogged tll dy R ded. K?

Rnt Ovr.

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N.B. this blog entry took me longer than all the others I have written put together.

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Just keep smiling, look straight ahead and say nothing – A doctor negotiating ante-natal classes.

I have been worrying about this for a while.

I have heard horror stories from colleagues of blazing rows and pointless futile arguments. Stories of brave warriors confronting unyielding walls of nonsensical pseudoscience and coming away battered and bruised with a very pissed off wife. This doctor is about to enter THE ANTE-NATAL CLASS!

I had been dreading having to listen to some earth mother homeopathist homebirther rant at us about the evils of vaccinations, how they cause plague, epilepsy and …. um… Osgood-Schlatter disease. I forget what is it that stupid people say vaccinations cause again, I would look it up …. but it’s hard to look up unpublished, non existent data (I could probably find the fraudulent data that started it all, if it hadn’t been retracted).

It was with great trepidation that I entered “The Parents Centre”. Antenatal Classes are quite important for us, we live 12,000 miles (literally) from our nearest family so we are rather alone. I was desperate not to look like a prat, psycho or know-it-all in front of potential friends that have only just met us. A surefire way of probably achieving all three impressions would be to have an argument over something like homeopathy or vaccinations with the person running the class. Being the Dad and not the doctor is my challenge.

As it happened, news of my profession slipped out and soon I was being asked “What do you think Nerd Dad” by the “birth educator”. This was embarassing.

Bear in mind I do general and respiratory medicine. The last time I saw a placenta was in medical school, I poked it and it squirted gore at me and I nearly spewed, I know next to nothing about all the medical bits. Saying “You are a doctor, tell me about the complexities of placentas” is like saying to a french teacher “you are a language teacher, how do I say “This constitution in unacceptable” in Swahili?”. I had three options, smile vacantly and make a sort of “uuuugh” noise, Bullshit my way out of trouble (Something I am very good at, given my profession) or impart my, probably flawed but well intentioned rudimentary knowledge of babymaking bits to the class. I chose option 3.

I couldn’t use my usual flippant response to gynaecological questions* which get asked of us doctors in social occasions disturbingly often. Why do people do that? Do  dentists get asked to do fillings on kitchen tables? Do IT specialists get asked to reconfigure routers? … maybe. But why would you bring up your defective bodily functions in polite company …. ever, regardless of the presence of a physician? What do they expect me to do? Excise their mole there and then with a steak knife? Do some intimate examination in the kitchen?

Anyway, I digress. So far the classes have been fine. I almost leaped with joy when the educator answered the question “What about alternative therapies like homeopathy or reiki” with a blank look and “I have no idea, I have seen no evidence for it, ask a homeopathist if you are interested” … I could have kissed her!

So, the not-so undercover foray into antenatal classes is progressing well. We have made some friends, none of which seem to think I’m a psycho.

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The Parents Centre is the organisation providing our classes. There is some good advice on their site.

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* This response is “I’m afraid my recent experience in that area is entirely recreational and as a married man rather infrequent. You had better ask someone who knows what they are talking about.”

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