8 Things a Pediatrician Wished She Knew About Motherhood…Before She Became a Mother
Dr. Diane opens up about her challenges of being a new mom
When I cruised out of pediatric residency kid-free, I thought I knew it all when it came to raising a child. Little did I know how little I knew.
- I’d be Terrified the Day my First Child was Born. Guess what? Reading tons of books about the health of children makes you no less prone to the paralyzing fear that arrives when that new cute little elephant-in-the-room appears. I wish they came with an instruction manual instead of a placenta.
- Breastfeeding Ain't Easy. I had a lot of difficulties breastfeeding one of my children. He had horrible reflux, a poor latch, and a stubborn disposition. I thought, "hey – breastfeeding shouldn’t be that bad, right? You just put the baby on the boob and they figure out the rest!" Nope. It’s no wonder there are some wonderful people out there who dedicate their whole career to helping women breastfeed. And guess what? I had to use some formula to get my kid through his first year. And that’s OK.
- Children Sometimes (All the time) Don’t Go By the Book. First teeth don’t always appear when the books say they do. Weird rashes never look like the pictures online. My daughter had lots of motor delays, way past when the books said she should….and she’s fine now. It takes the experience of a good pediatrician to let you know when to worry, since all kids are so different. We gain experience via treating thousands of patients with time. I had to take off my pediatrician hat and only wear my mama hat when it came to my kids. And had a great pediatrician reassure me that everything would be OK.
- Fevers Make Me Worry, Too. My son once woke up with a 105.6F temperature when he was a toddler. Of course I was supposed to be seeing patients in the office 20 minutes later. That was one of the most difficult mornings of my life. I had to choose who to care for – my son, or my patients? I took some deep breaths and tried to talk myself through what I tell my patient’s parents. Warm bath, dose of ibuprofen, lots of snuggles (with Daddy). He was fine. But it reinforced why I’ll never judge a parent who is worried even about the tiniest of temperature elevations.
- Living with a Toddler is Like Living with an Irrational, Angry Drunk Person. I’d read all the books about effective behavior management. Learned techniques for distraction, offering choices, creating reward charts. But when your three year old is flailing on the floor, mopping the tile with his Oscar-worthy tearfest all because I offered the blue plate instead of the red one…one questions how many bottles of wine to buy for the week.
- Explaining Simple Things Can Become Very Difficult. “Why is that man in a wheely-chair, Mommy?” “Why did Harper’s dog die? Where did he go?” “How do planes work?” “How come kids go to different churches?” Being a board-certified pediatrician doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with how to explain things to my kids. I want to be fair and accurate and informative…and somehow word it in a way that my little people understand it. It’s hard, I know. And I can’t promise I do it any better than you. But like you, I’m trying my best!
- The Online Mothering Community Can Be Both Supportive and Judgmental. It really does take a village to raise a child. And I really hadn’t dabbled in the online world of mothering until I became one. What are the best breast pumps available? Where are the best parks in town? Which restaurants are most kid-friendly? I loved all the readily available advice I found online, but with that help also came the judgmental comments, the guilt, and the unintentional comparing of myself to others. I quickly put a stop to the latter in my mind – and now understand how to better reach my patient moms, who struggle with this dichotomy of feelings social media can conjure.
- Becoming a Mom Doesn’t Mean I Have to Change Who I Am and What I Love. I was fiercely independent and very driven before I had kids. This hasn’t changed since my two little turkeys came into the world. It did however change how much time I’d have to practice my hobbies and be the best doctor I could possibly be. My lifestyle had to change a bit, but I’ve found that staying true to what you need to be happy – whether it's picking up a camera, a book, getting some time at the gym – makes you a better mom. Do it, and don’t feel guilty about some time to yourself.
I share these pieces of vulnerability and advice with you so that you know you’re not alone. Being a great mom means many things, and know that even childhood experts have their daily struggles. I’m still learning every day. And I always tell my patient’s moms: my two best teachers are my kids. At the end of the day, no matter how many arguments and challenges have ensued, if your kids know they’re loved, you’ve reached beautiful success.
Get to know Diane Arnaout, M.D.
Dr. Diane Arnaout joined the Cook Children's Willow Park practice in 2011. You can stay connected with Dr. Arnaout and the Willow Park practice on Facebook. Dr. Arnaout was born and raised in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She attended college at Texas A&M University and medical school at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio. She did her pediatric internship and residency at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital and M.D. Anderson at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, TX where she served as a leader on the medical education committees. She is a board-certified pediatrician. Click to learn more.