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Aug 31, 2015

All Grown Up

The best part about being an attending physician is being able to act like a grown up. 


I get to make my own schedule! I get to say when I need a day off or want to work more. They ask me what kind of patients I want to see, and then they schedule those patients. I have some actual control over my life. I don't really know what to do with that kind of power. 

Studies show that a lack of control over one's schedule is the leading cause of burnout for physicians and I am starting to understand why. The sheer joy I feel at being able to click a button and be off, without much in the way of having to explain myself or why I need time away, is unspeakable. After years and years AND YEARS of being told exactly when and where to be without my input or personal life considered, this is a breath of fresh air. It's a hurricane of fresh air and I love it. 

I know that I will get busier and feel much more pressured. I understand that this euphoria I am rolling around in will become mundane and that I will grumble like everyone else. So when that happens, I hope to reflect back on the freedom I feel now and remember how much I wanted to be where I am, how hard I worked to get this much control, and the sacrifices I made to have these privileges. 

But most importantly, I never want to lose sight of how incredibly lucky I am to be here. 


Aug 20, 2015

Re-introductions

It has been four years since you've seen my kids and you would NOT EVEN BELIEVE how big and old and grown up they are. Let me re-introduce you! Have a seat friends, the flood gate of kid stories is opening.



Colin, who was once The Turnip.



Colin is now 6, almost 7, and in the first grade. He reads and writes, loves to be outside, and makes friends easily. Already he is an impressively loyal and trustworthy kid and his friends love him. Even older kids want to be with him because he is genuinely happy, positive, creative, and fun.



The kid is one of the most sensitive people I have ever known. When he started kindergarten, he was so upset by being separated from Caroline that he asked his teacher to call the day care several times a day to check on her. It was almost debilitating, so we switched Caroline to the preschool at Colin's school. Since then, he has flourished and it's incredible to watch.



He rides a gigantic bike, he begs for bike rides daily, and can ride circles around the rest of us. It is somewhat embarrassing, actually.



If I had to predict his future, I would guess a social worker. He likes to take care of people and make sure everyone's okay. Constantly checking on people and bringing them stuff to make them comfortable. When he's not absolutely losing his marbles because of how sensitive he is, the kid is an absolute joy of a human being.


Caroline, who was once The Secret Child.


Now 4, Caroline is, by all accounts of anyone who meets her, awesome. Truly, in the same way that masses adore celebrities even when they're poorly behaved and make incredibly bad decisions. Caroline has this way of attracting a crowd, wooing them into her graces, and then terrifically abusing her power.


She is smarter than I know what to do with and more clever than is fair. Once, when she asked about where the rain came from, I told her about evaporation and precipitation, getting all science geeky about it. She took it all in, paused to consider it, and then told me, "Mommy, I don't think you know what you're talking about."



I remember worrying about how I would teach a baby girl to respect herself, to stand up for herself in this world, but it turns out I didn't need to worry about it. The girl could teach a course on self-respect and self-defense. I would pay to go. Recently she was sent home from school with a report of getting into a fight. Apparently she and a little friend (a boy) got into an argument. The boy got angry and started yelling at Caroline, getting right up in her face. According to the teacher, Caroline got a terrifying look on her face, said "You are not being respectful to me and I don't appreciate it."

If that were it, I would throw her a party. However, she then grabbed a Mason jar full of water and clocked him.




If I had to predict her future, I am going to guess either President of the United States or assassin. Not sure which yet, and not sure which is worse, but either way, we are in trouble with this one.

We are different than the last time you saw us, but I can't wait for you to get to know us again!










Aug 14, 2015

Awakening

It has been a long, long time since I've been here.

I read through my last few posts and it was like reading someone else's writing, glimpsing into a different family, reading a blog written by an acquaintance. When I last visited here, I was a new doctor, still learning how to work the computers and OR instruments. My kids were babies and, while I can feel the fatigue in the words written, the world was still sparkly and new.

And don't worry, the world is still wondrous and beautiful, but the sparkle has changed.

I finished residency a few months ago. Shortly following graduation I took the first part of the OB/GYN Board Exam, which gives the coveted "board certified" title. The push to the end of residency was on a road made of textbooks, study guides, and highlighters for this exam, which I took on a rainy Monday at the end of June.

And then it was all over and I had six weeks of vacation, during which time I relearned how to sleep and read books and hang out with friends and family like a normal person. While Patrick still worked quite a bit, the kids and I were inseparable, making messes and memories in a way we had never, ever done before. Weeks stretched on and we lounged in the luxury of time and love. It was not until the last few weeks that I finally felt awake again.

The last four years were incredibly difficult. There is no way to describe the level of exhaustion following residency. Profound, pervasive, endless exhaustion, which seeped into every aspect of my life. There is no denying that I gave my best at work and mostly left it there. What little was left was earmarked for the children to allay my fears of incompetence as a parent and that left nothing for myself or for Patrick. While I neglected friends and ignored my family along this journey, it was my marriage that suffered most. It is nothing short of a miracle that we are still married. It may be because we were too busy to bother separating.

As I recovered, my sisters said, "It's like we haven't seen you in years" and my kids remarked more than once "Mommy, you've never been this fun before", which is at once exhilarating to be BACK but also heartbreaking that I subjected everyone to this, including myself.

I have never once regretted my decision to go into medicine, but I often questioned my motives. Was it for equal respect as my husband and father? Am I trying to prove my competence, intelligence, worth? If so, to whom? With physicians in my family, I knew how hard this would be, and yet it was so much harder than I could have imagined.

Not to say that the last few years were miserable, not at all. I love my work and it makes me truly happy, which carries over into my mood at home. The joy I feel with my kids (despite tantrums and fights and the usual family drama) is relatively unaffected by my exhaustion and occasionally helped to refill my draining emotional reservoir. For this, I am eternally grateful. People often said, "I don't know how you do it, being a doctor and a mom!" but I don't think I could have made it without them.

Last week the kids started school. Colin is now 6 and in the first grade. Caroline is 4 and in preschool at the same school, one that we love. After getting them settled, my grown up job started this week. I am a licensed, credentialed, actual physician, my friends. I have my own office, an administrative assistant, and OR pick sheets. People are interested in my opinion and want my involvement in their projects.

Somehow, when I wasn't looking, I grew up.

After my summer vacation, I am ready to be who I really am again. I am obligated to be the best I can be, not just to myself but mostly to those who put up with me through this journey, who believed I could do it, who waited for me to come out the other side.

This blog has been a source of joy, confidence, and opportunity for me. Residency was too overwhelming to write about, but I am ready again. I promise ridiculous stories and lighthearted jabs and too many photos of my kids in the near future, but I needed to tell this story first to break the silence.


Nov 2, 2012

Gratitude: Fodder for Stories

Halloween is arguably the most kid-centric holiday in existence (Christmas is fun for everyone, New Years is for adults, Easter is... not really that "fun" in the classic sense.) and I tragically had to miss Trick or Treating. Owing to my current nights rotation, I left for work just as the kids were getting home from school and thinking about getting dressed up. I love Halloween and was feeling pretty sorry for myself that I had to miss it, both for myself and for the kids.

But let me back up and tell this story properly.

For months, Colin has not wavered in his desires and plans to be a Digger for Halloween, specifically, a Giant Excavator. I tried to sell him on the idea of being a construction worker but he was unswayed.

"THE DIGGER, Mommy. I'm going to be THE DIGGER."

Who am I do deny someone so determined their very dearest wish?

And so, planning commenced for an elaborate, functional Digger costume. A sure to be classic, it was constructed from several cardboard boxes which were spray painted yellow and assembled over the course of a few weeks. It did indeed have a working Digger arm, at least in theory.

"MOMMY! THE DIGGER ARM IS BENDING AND MY DIGGER IS SCOOPING THE WRONG WAY!"

Drama is inherent in the creation of any good Halloween costume, and Colin is at the age where everything is spoken in CAPITAL LETTERS and WITH GREAT URGENCY, but the arm did bend a bit so I employed some resourcefulness and duct taped the hell out of that arm. Eventually I taped some chopsticks to the inner aspect of the arm, which stabilized it enough for Colin's satisfaction.

Caroline is a baby, for all intents and purposes, and so does not know what Halloween is, nor is she permitted to eat any of the candy. She does not care for costumes or any of that silliness, as she is a very serious child, prone to introspection and reading books alone. If it were up to her, she probably would have stayed home with her book pile and Beloved Purple Hippo. But it wasn't up to her, so she was dressed up as a Construction Barrel to accompany her brother.

Her costume was much simpler: dressed in all orange, including an orange tutu provided by Aunt Jenny, she was wrapped in white duct tape (This Halloween brought to you by duct tape!) and given a small toy construction barrel to hold up as an example whenever anyone asked her what she was. Her hair was styled such that she had a pony tail sticking straight out of her head. It was, truly, adorable. She was several times mistaken for Nemo, to which I replied that obviously she wasn't Nemo, since I hadn't duct taped on of her arms down to give her a lucky fin. An obvious and clear difference between a construction barrel and a cartoon fish.




We went to a Trunk or Treat on Sunday in these costumes and they went over very well. Initially Colin had some difficulty walking in his Digger costume, but then a very cute little princess with long blonde hair said, "Look at that awesome costume! He's a construction machine! Cool!" and Colin suddenly had no difficulty in walking. He stood up a little straighter and suddenly loved his costume. (I was pleased to hear this comment as well, in all honesty.) Everyone loved the Digger and sidekick Barrel/Nemo. They made a killing in candy.

Then came Wednesday, Halloween. School had a parade in which all of the kids wore their costumes and visited each other's rooms in exchange for candy. Parents were invited and since I'm working at night and only doing something useless like sleeping during the day, I was not going to miss it. I darted home after work in the morning and collected the kids and their costumes. Caroline wasn't going to be with Colin, so her costume was converted from the Barrel/Nemo to Colin's old Candy Corn.



Colin, however, could not be dissuaded from wearing the Digger to school. I tried various tactics to get him to wear some dress up clothes that would let him run around like normal (eg: train conductor, chef, santa's helper, or any of the other dozens of dress up clothes that we have on hand) but he would have none of it.

"NO, I'M A DIGGER, MOMMY. I've never wanted to be anything so much in my LIFE."

I couldn't argue with that logic, could you? 

(There is a side story here in which I discover that I am stranded at home without car seats for the kids because my neighbor, who was not at home, had them to pick the kids up after school. I ended up borrowing a friends car who has similarly aged kids to even get to school. Then I started taking pictures with my camera, only to discover that it had neither a battery nor a memory card. This day was something else, I tell you.)

I dragged that thing into school and all the teachers and other parents looked at me with odd looks. I really wanted to believe it was envy: look at that awesome costume! And she's in scrubs too, wow, how does she do it? Instead, however, I'm pretty sure it was more: pitiful woman. That costume is ridiculous and she looks like she hasn't showered or slept. It's so sad when people live vicariously through their kids. And scrubs? What a dumb costume. 

Once the parade started, Caroline would have no part of the Candy Corn or any other costume. Which is fine, whatever. Right? Not according to Colin, who kept was watching for Caroline and kept running out of his room to attack Caroline from behind.

"NO, CAROLINE! You have to wear your COSTUME! It's the only way to get CANDY!"

And he would shove it back over her head, covering her face. She would flail her arms and scream in protest, and suddenly her costume and character became Haunted Zombie Candy Corn.



Colin's turn to parade around brought a new struggle. Kids everywhere were having meltdowns in the middle of the hallway, with other kids just stepping over them. A screaming Dinosaur here, a crying Elephant there, here is a Cupcake with tears the size of cherries on top. I looked over at one point to see Spiderman lying spread eagle on the floor sobbing and the teacher standing over him. He was completely unmoved by her pleas of "Spidermans don't cry!"

The halls at school are not exactly huge, and when filled with a bunch of small children in itchy, poorly sized, uncomfortable clothes, it can be hazardous for even the most careful Digger. Every time Colin turned around, he would take out some poor one year old Monkey child with his Digger arm. He would back away from the stunned kid only to run over a little Captain America. The more flustered he got, the more dangerous he became.




About ten minutes in, he looked up at me and said, "Mommy, I am SO DONE with this costume." I reminded him that he'd just told Caroline that it was the only way to get candy and he shrugged it off, marching ahead and collecting candy anyway. I trailed behind with the sad, forsaken Digger.

 After school, he sat at the counter as I readied for work and tried to talk up Trick or Treating.

"It's so fun!" I promised, "everyone's dressed up and you get to meet new people and get candy!"

He looked tired, perhaps worn out from his vast destructive Digger path at school. "Mommy, I don't want to wear my Digger. I don't like it anymore. I just want to be Normal Colin."

I should have anticipated this. I looked at the clock. 5:25pm. My shift starts at 6pm. Nothing like a deadline!

"How about a chef?" I said, waggling the dress up clothes at him. Nope.

"Fireman? Doctor? Leprechaun?"

His eyes lit up. I froze. God, what had I done? I held in my hands a green top hat with four-leaf clovers around it left over from St. Patrick's day of the days when that was a really fun night at a bar. Where had my brain come up with Leprechaun? Regardless, that's what it was going to be, by God.

"MOMMY. I have never wanted to be ANYTHING so much as a lepa... lep... what is it again?"

So, in the five remaining minutes before leaving for work, we threw together a Leprechaun outfit and he was thrilled, Best Thing Ever. Caroline went as the Candy Corn but quickly transformed into the Sleeping Orange and Yellow Rock on her daddy's shoulder. They had a blast, going out with friends. Colin made friends with two more little girls dressed as princesses, who were quite enamored with him. Caroline slept well. Patrick ate a ton of candy.



I wish I had more photographic bragging rights for this phase of Halloween than this picture of Patrick (who was costumed only in an orange fleece), but Patrick reported to me later that night as we spoke on the phone, "Sorry, we were just having too much fun to take any pictures."

And with that, I lay Halloween 2012 to rest in a dirty, dusty grave. We'll try again next year.


Oct 24, 2012

Roses Persist

There are two rose bushes that live on the east side of my house that were there when I moved in. They are beautiful and strong, they live on and grow high despite their neglectful current owner. I don't know anything about plants, sadly, but I know they are not knock-out roses. They are pure and simple, white-streaked pink blooms. I love them.

They were planted by a man who lived in my house many years ago, the second owner of the house which was built in the 1920s. Mr. Simpson was his name. Simpson was his first name, I have no idea what his last name was. He was a proper Southern Gentleman. It is his legacy that, still, everyone on the street is Mr. or Ms. First Name to all of the children. By all reports, he was a very good man. Helpful and compassionate. He had a huge car in the 1950s, apparently, and a late night parking mishap was the event prompting the larger bump out of the garage. Mr. Simpson was a well-liked man and has friends who were willing to help him with his house as he got older. These are the friends that helped to build the ridiculous kitchen that Patrick and I love/hate. It sold us on the house but is very... amateur.

Moreover, Mr. Simpson was a well-loved man. There were two Mrs. Simpsons of the house and he outlived each of them. He loved those women, my neighbor says. He took care of each of the women as their bodies became ill and their spirits drifted away from him. He planted a rose bush for each one after she died and tended them as carefully as he tended to his beloved Mrs. Simpsons. I think that the roses live so well now because they had such a loving start, watered by Mr. Simpson's sweat and perhaps his tears, thinking of his wives.


Aug 6, 2012

Gray

When I was younger I loved to dye my hair, but my hair never really took to the color. I tried to go blonde, but it turned out just slightly lighter brown. I went red and kept it that way for a long time, but it was really just reddish-brown. Even when I dyed it purple, you could only tell if you looked really closely that it wasn't just an unfortunate color of brown. Brown is where my hair stays, and that is just that.

Except recently, my hair has been switching gears and going gray. I noticed the first gray hair almost four years ago on Colin's first birthday, just before his party. Predictably, I cried out in agony and ripped it from my head. The grays keep coming, and now there are more than just one. Still only a few, and difficult to see (it still just all looks pretty brown), but they're there.

This is in no way surprising: both my parents and all my grandparents are gray. My younger sister has grays all over, has for a long time. I truly expected them much earlier. But now they're here, so what's to be done?

It is not feasible to rip them all out. Aside from ouch, there is the inevitable thinning that would result. As someone with fine hair to begin with, this is not a good strategy. I stopped dying my hair about six years ago because I recognized the futility in trying to deviate from brown. Brown Brown Brown. But now gray.

Those grays are part of me, I suppose, and it's a waste of time to try to convince myself otherwise. Just like my nose that's turned up but is my father's and my ears that stick out a bit too much but are my mothers and her father's before that, they connect me to my family. It may not make me more beautiful, but it is from them and that's enough. The grays are from delivering my babies and now mothering them. They are from my patients keeping me up at night, worrying over their problems and lives and futures. They represent the painful, frazzled, wonderful life of a mother, a doctor, a person in the world.

I think the Olympics have given me some grays, too, both because of the suspense of some of these competitions and also because I have been choosing to forgo sleep to watch. Hopefully I'll get some more grays in the near future that represent the maturity I develop when I get myself to bed on time. We'll see.

I think that I will leave them for now. Live and let... grow gray.

Jul 3, 2012

Moving on Up

Shortly after I wrote my last post, I started on my nights rotation, a six week block of time during which I worked 14 hour shifts five days a week overnight. It was an incredible experience; since I did this rotation last of the year, I was the most prepared, the most confident I could have been. I knew what I was doing a lot of the time, which is not a feeling an intern experiences all that often. I felt comfortable with my hands and knowledge, familiar with the patients, and I became friends with and earned the trust of the nurses. It was lovely and I felt like I rocked it. During this block alone, I performed 76 vaginal deliveries, more than doubling my total for the year.

Simultaneously, I didn't check my email for approximately six weeks, nor did I see the sun, brush my hair, or speak to my mother (sorry, mom! I'm alive!). I saw my children for minutes at a time, and only then when I was either waking from a too-short sleep during the day or just before they hurried off to school and I collapsed into bed. Also during this time frame was my seven year wedding anniversary, father's day, and Patrick's birthday. I am ashamed thinking about how little attention I paid to these, and to the man who cared for me and my children during this block.

Caroline had a birthday too, can you believe that? She turned one. ONE, fortheloveofpete. She's huge, she's almost walking (three steps at a time!), she's signing her preferences, and she love love loves her brother. She's beautiful and wonderful and while I was on nights I missed her so much it hurt.

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Colin is ENORMOUS. He has these new shoes that he says make him jump better but I think he is just using that as an excuse to show off how coordinated and grown up he is. He has a new bike with training wheels that he rides up and down the street with the big kids, no problem at all keeping up.  During the time I was working overnight, Patrick took them to visit his parents and he took Colin to a car show. They participated in a pinewood derby and Colin won a (participant) trophy which he loves passionately and sleeps with every night.

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Patrick started his fellowship in renal (kidneys, blech but yay for him!), I moved up in the academic world and am now a second year, and we are all feeling a little beat up. But happy, which, in the end, is the goal. It's just so hard when you get to happy by slogging through such exhaustion and guilt and pain and loneliness. It's hard work to be happy, did you know?

I hope you're happy. I've missed writing here and hearing from you. Let me know how you are.