Not All Superheroes Wear Capes

ER doc pens children’s book about hero moms

Dr. Amy Ho isn’t a mother herself yet, but she’s a big fan of moms.

The emergency room doctor at Baylor Scott & White, in her “spare” time, has written a children’s book celebrating everything mothers do on a daily basis. 

The book, Is Mommy a Doctor or a Superhero? has already cracked the Amazon Top 100, Ho (a Preston Hollow resident) said. 

“There are so many superwomen moms in Park Cities and Preston Hollow that I work with, who are real like sheroes, balancing it all. It has never been more important to recognize them, between the pandemic, homeschool, furloughs,” she said. “They say not all heroes wear capes…but from my experience, real heroes wear a N95 mask and a breast pump while doing CPR.”

We talked to Ho about her book, and about balancing family and work during a pandemic.

You’re an ER doctor with a family, in the middle of a pandemic. What is that like?

It’s unlike anything we’ve seen in modern medicine before. The amount of uncertainty and fear at the beginning was really taxing. Protocols on everything were changing hourly in the first few weeks, and the same questions would race through our minds — were we doing the right thing for patients? Were we keeping ourselves safe? Were we risking our families’ health by our work in the hospital? And most importantly, how did we know for sure?

This was one of the first times where our work directly threatened our personal lives and lives of our loved ones. 

Conclusive data and information even now is still limited, and we still ask ourselves constantly the same questions. It’s just my husband and myself at home now, but everything we used to take for granted came into question. We talked extensively about how he and I would feel if I became infected at work and brought it back to him. We’d discussed how other physicians had actually started living separately from their families to minimize this risk.

For us, I started using a different entrance when I came home from work to better create a direct path for “decontamination” from the door to the bathroom. Some of my co-workers would change in their cars in the parking lot. It was a lot of constant risk-calculations for simple decisions that could spiral into big impacts.

There have been a lot of stories about how much of the load falls on mother’s right now during all of this – why was it important to you to recognize how hard moms are working?

I’d been working on this book actually well before the pandemic. As early as medical school, people would constantly tell me things like, “why’d you choose to be a doctor, don’t you want to get married and have a family?” 
It was almost implied that if you were going to be successful in a demanding career as a female, you’d necessarily have to give up all else.

This isn’t a problem just in medicine, but it’s somewhat exacerbated by the long training timeline with college, medical school, internship, residency, and fellowship. It was only through meeting a lot of really strong women who showed me how they balanced it all — kids, family, career, self-care — that I felt like I was ready to say I could do it too.

This was always supposed to be a book to honor them and their authenticity and strength.

When COVID happened, the urgency to finish the project just went up. People started saying “not all heroes wear capes” as a way to honor healthcare workers. We were all in the trenches of COVID, but I felt like moms took it to another level. They would wear their breast pump and their N95 mask, while literally saving lives on a long night shift, following a full day of running homeschool at home. There are heroes…and then there are mom-heroes. 

Moms have always known what it means to be there for everyone, everywhere, at every hour of the day. They’ve always been the unassuming heroes keeping our families together. When the pandemic turned our lives inwards back into the home, that burden fell largely on moms. Now more than ever, moms are perfecting balancing it all with grace and grit — and it’s overdue time to celebrate them.

What was the process like for writing this? It’s not like you have a surplus of free time, I imagine.

It’s a passion project, for sure! I’ve been a writer since I was in medical school, usually topics in healthcare and sharing stories of my experience in medicine as it related to current events and social commentary. Most of that work was in opinion editorials in places like Forbes, NPR, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, etc. It’s very different from a completely creative project like a children’s book. 

I started with the concept, and after mulling over that for many months (maybe years), I wrote out all the text of the book. From there, I put together sketches and concepts of the feeling I wanted to convey in each scene. I interviewed illustrators to find one that “got” the concept of the book and the feeling of the art. That illustration stage took several months of back and forth edits, particularly because it was so important to me to make sure anything medical that appeared in the art was anatomically and medically accurate.

When the book was done, and the proof was finalized, it opened up a whole new world of business details like setting up a website (DoctorMommyBook.com), sales tax reporting, ISBN numbers, shipping logistics, Amazon listing, etc. It’s been a huge learning curve, but a really fulfilling one to see the book in the homes of so many superhero mommies! 

What is the biggest piece of advice you can give fellow young women right now?

You really can have it all. As women, we are bombarded with conflicting instructions: to lean in, to lean out, to break the glass ceiling, to free ourselves from the sticky floor.

It’s exhausting, even without all the other inequities we’ll inevitably face in our careers and lives. For most things in life, there is never a perfect time, and you’ll never feel completely ready. But, trust in yourself and your ability, and you’ll find the superhero inside of you.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, deputy editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at [email protected].

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