The Coffee Chat (#37)
My conversation with Dr Taylor Nichols - Emergency Medicine physician, Health policy enthusiast and a very proud girl dad!
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Hi there 👋🏽
It has been almost close to a month since Decks and Diapers landed in your inbox. This was not because of a lack of something to say but instead because so much was happening in the world and in my own little bubble that I just did not get the headspace to process it all.
Roe vs Wade was overturned and while I should not personally be impacted by this (Abortion in Canada is legal at all stages of pregnancy, regardless of the reason, and is publicly funded as a medical procedure under the combined effects of the federal Canada Health Act and provincial health-care systems) the news nevertheless filled me with disbelief, anger and shock. Parenting by far is one of the most demanding relentless jobs out there. As a parent who really really wanted a child there are days when I feel totally defeated, drained and exhausted. The last thing you want to do is to force someone to become a parent who does not want to. Unwanted children do not typically grow up to be great citizens of the world
There were a whole host of mass shootings that took place in the US. The Highland Park tragedy marked the 309th mass shooting in the U.S. in 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as four or more shot or killed, not including the shooter. I travel to US frequently enough that I now try and avoid as many public places and gatherings as possible. I don’t understand how one of the most developed country on Earth has gotten so numb and so accustomed to this senseless gun violence?
Closer home my family grieved the loss of a loved one. I witnessed a daughter say good bye to her mother and it made me reflect a lot on the dual role I play both as a daughter and a mother and how truly life goes by in a blink of an eye…
☕ Now, on to today’s coffee chat…
Meet Dr Taylor Nichols
Dr. Nichols is an Emergency Physician based out of California, USA and a proud girl dad.
I find that one of the best ways to inspire a whole bunch of people is to show them role models. Relatable folks who are not too far removed from their realties. To me Dr Nichols is one such inspiring individual. He is a committed doctor and an equally committed father.
Below is my conversation with Dr Nichols….
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your family
I'm Taylor Nichols an emergency physician. My wife is also a physician and we have a daughter who is a little over 3.5 years. Outside of work my primary focus is also advocacy. I serve on the board of The California Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians where I was elected to my first term on the board starting in the summer of 2020. And then I also serve as a delegate to the California Medical Association for my district. Outside of that my hobbies and my family hobbies are mostly outdoor activities. Hiking sports, mountain biking, etc.
I also enjoy using Twitter to share my thoughts and experiences about being a dad and being a "girl dad" which is another huge aspect of my life outside of medicine.
Being a parent in the midst of a pandemic has been hard specially as one learns to balance parental life, your professional life and staying sane!
By the way, bravo to you for doing given your daughter was born in the pandemic and so you have not known any life outside of this...
Ya I guess you are right, I have not known what parenting was like in the before times! What do you think are the big differences? Your daughter must have been close to the one year mark when the pandemic started?
The biggest thing that I experienced in terms of parenting in a pandemic versus not, is the amount of support you're able to get from your community. Which by the way is also the hardest part. My wife and I actually moved after we had our daughter to be closer to our families. We are both from Northern California and had been living in Oregon and then moved back to Northern California to be closer to the family. So we are about an hour from my wife's parents and an hour and a half from my parents. So in the before times, it was nice to be back closer to home to have to have our parents, sort of, take turns coming out and helping us out with child care because they really wanted to see their granddaughter. And that was exactly why we moved and exactly what we wanted. And then we went into our first lockdown and ever since then everything changed.
We didn't have the help of our community and not just not just grandparents but even friends that live close by. A lot of our friends are in the medical community and so we all knew early on that we're higher risk. We were all incredibly nervous and potentially paranoid about the risks that we face in bringing this home to our own families and we certainly did not want to bring it on somebody else's family so we didn't get to see our friends which also meant parenting at times felt isolating.
Given that my wife is also a physician sometimes we get called into work and in the before times we knew friends or neighbors could be relied upon to provide ad-hoc support. In the lockdown early on, especially when we did not know how this virus was being transmitted we saw no one….no one came into our house. And so the isolation part became the hardest part of parenting in the pandemic and obviously this gets compounded as we were healthcare workers in a pandemic.
Oh wow that does sound pretty rough specially given that you were all out there in the middle of it all. How did you manage life with a 1 year old?
So the only person who did come to our house was our nanny. We are so so very fortunate that we have a nanny who is absolutely wonderful with our daughter and we would not have been able to survive all this without her.
She continued to to come, knowing that we were higher risk as physicians as we were still seeing patients in person. We discussed things with her and we were fully transparent with her so she knew the risk she was potentially taking and was free to make her decision. We told her that we were going to take appropriate precautions when we got home as well as everything we were doing at the hospitals. We were literally coming home and leaving all of our work stuff in the garage, stripping down, going straight into the shower, not touching anything because we didn't know if this was transmitted by touch. We washed things down really really well. Had so many bleach wipes everywhere…
Sometimes it is easy for a lot of us who have jobs that can be done remotely to forget the sheer intensity of what someone like you and your wife went through! When did you feel you could finally start relaxing a bit?
Two weeks after i got my 2nd vaccine dose! Finally I could relax and breathe and have some reprieve from that anxiety that I had felt in the beginning. Up until that point, you know, it was like being in a constant state of stress.
But I worried about did I have like a lapse in my use of my a PPE - throughout my shift I wore a N 95 mask and a face shield. I trusted the science I knew that that was enough protection to reliably keep me safe. And if that kept me safe that kept my family safe, but always worried like what if I didn't accidentally took it off too close to patient care area...So you're always worried. And there was no way for me to not be with a patient in person as an emergency physician.
You truly are a hero. Actually every single one of you in the health care profession, commendable that you all went through this everyday...
It certainly was hard but the big silver lining was that day to day didn't change drastically. I still went to work every day, did all my shifts was seeing my colleague. I got to do this job that I love and take care of patients. So I was really grateful that my routine generally was intact.
It is weird that the thing that was putting me at risk was also the thing that kept me sane. I survived some of the stress because I went to work.
Also, I guess being a doctor becoming a new parent must have been relatively easy? At med school I am sure they teach you about babies and you understand the human body a lot better. I for one had no idea. The minute my baby was born it hit me how complex everything is...
Being a parent, as a physician is probably both a blessing and a curse. You sort of like know too much, but at the same time, like, not enough! And I'm not a pediatrician so I don't claim to like be an expert on kids, or on parenting. I will say, as an emergency physician I had delivered babies and also as part of my training we rotate through OB GYN, so I felt comfortable enough to actually deliver my baby! We had an OB GYN who was providing all the prenatal care and was there at the delivery. She let me catch my daughter, as my wife was delivering, and so that was one of the cool parts of being a physician parent and feeling comfortable, or knowing that I could actually deliver her, which was just such an incredible experience and being part of her life from the first second she was born...basically being the first person to touch her.
Anyway, becoming a parent was the most rewarding and hardest thing that I've ever done. It just fundamentally changes and sort of by necessity has to change your entire life.
So I get the blessing bit, what is the curse?
I am an emergency physician and that means maybe I have a skewed perspective sort of....I see the extreme of life, where people are particularly ill or badly injured etc. And so I have had probably a bias, maybe in in like the opposite direction. New parents from what I hear are especially freaked out about everything. My perspective was a little bit the opposite of like, this is fine like nobody's dying. You could say i was maybe freaked significantly less than your average new parents. Maybe a healthy dose of fear is a good thing. My profession certainly impacts the way I parent...
Oh I am sure it does. My parents are both doctor. I have grown up in a household with two physicians and I think the good thing is that I always felt very confident knowing that I would always be taken care of, but I guess the negative was they would constantly keep diagnosing me with things. Like you'd be standing, and then would have spotted some rash on your arm ..
I think you may have better perspective than me then on being a physician parent. Having been the child you were at the receiving end....*laughs*
Well for one it did push me to always find work that has impact. I used to see them going out to work every day making a difference and coming back feeling really fulfilled. But it is a demanding profession. It can be so emotionally draining and physically exhausting. What are some of the choices that you and your wife have made to make this work for you? To be a dual career household with kids...
Oh man that's such a good question. That is the most the most difficult question you have asked so far. I think about it a lot - How can you be both a good parent build a strong career simultaneously. Some people sort of talk about work life balance, and I just don't really think that exists. I think it's impossible to be both perfect at your job and a perfect parent. It's something we don't acknowledge enough in society. I think we act like you can have both simultaneously. And this puts so much pressure, specially on women who are expected to be perfect.
And I readily acknowledged that as a man it is easier for me in society. That is one part of why I talk so much about being a dad, and about the fact that that's important to me and the fact that that's something that that I've spent so much time on and have had struggles with. Men should share that same burden in society and at home. In my opinion, we should all give leeway to each other specially women who are moms.
While you can't be perfect in both, I do believe it is possible to manage either of those things. You will have a limited amount of time and you're taking from one to give to the other
My wife and I recognize and acknowledge that our professions are demanding and so we can't always be there for each other or for our daughter. And we both acknowledge that and try and understand and balance for each other.
I generally work out of that schedule so I almost exclusively work at night in the emergency department. So during the day, specially the afternoons I can take care of my daughter before my wife gets home from work. This has helped us to have some sort of consistency with our schedule and allows us to be present and available for our daughter at different times.
It also helps that our profession allows for us to have a more distinct boundary in our work. Like my work is in the emergency department and when I come home, more or less, I'm home.
What advice would you give others who are on the cusp of becoming parents?
I guess my biggest advice is to really embrace the change. Everybody says about parenthood will fundamentally change your life. This will absolutely change your life.
I would say the biggest thing for me was to accept it. You can't know what it is going to look like for you until you're in it.
It is the most fun and difficult and rewarding job I've ever had.
📖 My private thoughts from my very public diary…
🤓 Open tabs…
(I have modeled this section after those “open tabs” that we all have with a few (okay 30-40) interesting links that we promise we will eventually get to one day. These are the links that I had open for sometime that I finally got to …)
⭐What’s the Best Way to Raise Good People? A Debate - an episode on parenting from Bari Weiss’ (newish) podcast Honestly.
The podcast covered open questions such as - What is the right way to raise kids who become good, responsible, kind adults? Can we blame our problems as adults on our parents? What about Or do parenting styles not really matter? Is it nature that determines just about everything?
It is a 1 hour 20 min a debate with three parenting experts who have radically different ideas about raising kids. Bryan Caplan, an economics professor at George Mason, is the author of “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids.” Michaelleen Doucleff is a NPR global health correspondent and the author of “Hunt, Gather, Parent.” And Carla Naumburg is a clinical social worker and the author of “How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids.” Totally worth a listen :)
⭐ ‘What are our lives for?’: a philosopher answers kids’ existential questions
Little kids sometimes ask the smartest questions. Made for such a fun Saturday read
An old friend from university connected recently. She has embarked on her own entrepreneurial journey (after saying bye bye to a decade long corporate career at Google and L'Oréal)
I thought it was pretty cool and so wanted to share with y'all …
Anara (translate: powerful, complete) is a five day immersive experience in Alaska (Aug 26-31) for women in high impact professions seeking a deeper connection with themselves to recognize, accept and manage their fears, insecurities and limiting beliefs to step into their power. Over the five days, you’ll dig deep into Financial, Emotional, Mental, Physical, Spiritual and Sexual Wellness through 6 incredibly badass Coaches who will hold space for you and help you navigate uncomfortable feelings such as imposter syndrome, poor boundaries, unworthiness, languishing, to empower you to be your own Champion and Cheerleader in all areas of life.
Sounds like just what I need, where can I learn more?
You can learn more at The Human Inspired or by reaching out to Neha at email@example.com.
Registrations are open for the 4 slots in August’s cohort (schedule) at this beautiful Girdwood mountain home !
I would love to hear from you, feedback is always welcome!
And if you happen to know an inspiring working parent who should be featured in a future edition (or if you yourself are one) - please do get in touch
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