Katherine Noreen arrived on a sunny July morning with a wide-eyed, questioning glare, as if to say, “ Why was I just pulled out of my warm comfy place?” Those words have been the metaphor for the last six months of my life.
At 42 years old, I had nine months to contemplate what my life had become. Three years prior I was a pediatrician working in rural Bethel, Alaska. My parents were deceased and I was so engrossed in my work that I had no intentions of getting married or having children. Everything changed when I met my now-husband Justin while on vacation in Mexico and he showed me that life could be different. I took a leap of faith, moved to Edmonton and now I am a mother.
Considering I am a pediatrician, you would think I was well-prepared for motherhood. Well, not so much. My two worlds came together in a startling fashion on the day she was born. When I brought Katherine home, I was terrified but up for the adventure. My education taught me how to take care of sick children and ensure they are developing properly. I also learned how to stay up all night while functioning the next day. This has been a very useful skill. At work I gave the children back at the end of the visit. Now I had to take care of my little one 24 hours a day.
I had assumed that being a mother was intuitive. I had the same ideas about breastfeeding. I was wrong. I had to get acquainted with Katherine’s habits, needs and wants. She had to figure out I was her mother and could depend on me. And breastfeeding is a learned technique just like everything else we do. It takes time, patience and practice.
Learning how to be a mother is an evolving, complex process. I spent the first two weeks crying, mothering and hoping that I was doing a good job. All the things I didn’t know about babies in the practical day-to-day events surprised me. Babies make a vast array of noises while sleeping and they sleep at least up to 18 hours. I kept checking on her to make sure she was still breathing. I also wondered whether there was something wrong with her since she made so much noise. I could not shut off my medical brain and was constantly thinking of things that could be wrong. I calmed down when I realized it was just her vocalizing sounds.
Katherine has given me a world of knowledge I get to share with my patients’ parents when I return to work. Becoming a mother has made me a better pediatrician. All the pieces have come together and I still have a lot to learn. I feel empowered by all the women I have encountered in my journey. There is no shame in asking for help or asking questions. There was so much support from friends both from Alaska and from my new home.
I have found a warm comfy place in Edmonton. I am excited and curious to discover more about my daughter and myself.
Cynthia is a newcomer to Edmonton and a pediatrician in Bethel, Alaska. She is excited to learn more about this great city.