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Oct 19, 2011

Distance

About a week ago, I got home while it was still daylight and got out of my car to find the kids at my neighbor's house. Colin was running joyfully around the backyard, in a furious lightsaber battle with the older boys. Caroline was carrying on a very deep conversation with my neighbor, telling all about her day. I sat down and scooped Caroline up into my arms, breathing in her sweet baby smell. She smiled and laughed before spitting up all over me.

"Katie! You didn't tell me that Caroline could roll over already!" My neighbor looked at me expectantly, but was visibly shocked when my eyes welled up and tears spilled over.

"I didn't know, actually."

I just finished an incredibly demanding rotation. The hours were greuling and the work was constant. It was incredible learning and the people I worked with were wonderful, but I never saw my kids. I left hours before they woke up and came home only in time to put them to bed (on a good day). Patrick did 90% of the parenting for more than a month. The other night, when Colin woke up a feverish, sweaty mess, he cried for his Daddy. I put him in our bed and he and Patrick snuggled, Colin with his thumb and his MaiMai, while I laid in Colin's bed, trying to get Caroline back to sleep after all the wailing.

This morning, I happened to have a late day, and I took the kids to school. As I walked in, I realized that I had never taken Caroline to school. Ever, in her now eleven weeks of attending school. Colin has changed classrooms since the last time I was there, and I didn't even know which one was his. I didn't know where his coat hung, how to sign him in for the day. He looked at me curiously and said, "It's okay for you to go now, Mommy."

It was the first time I questioned my choices.

Why was I even in medicine? It wasn't what I started out to do, so how did I end up here? Why am I a mother to two perfect children if I'm not going to be with them? Who am I to give advice to pregnant women about being a mother when my own son calls for someone else when he's sick?

This post is not going to end with a shocker about how I'm dropping out of residency. Not even close. I love this work and look forward to coming to the hospital every day. I am unbelievably grateful for the opportunities I have been given to participate in the care of women.

But this post also isn't going to end with a happy story about how we all snuggled on the couch and giggled until we fell asleep. I didn't know Caroline was rolling over because I never put her down once I get home, instead holding her close to me and breathing in her sweetness like a drug. I quiz Colin incessantly about his day and his new classroom. Who are your friends? What color is Your Spot? Do you like the potties there? How awesome is your new, big playground?

By the time the kids are fed, washed, and asleep, I have nothing left. Patrick gets the absolute worst of me, the part that is left over after everything else has been taken during the day. If we're lucky, we  will swap stories from the day and pow-wow about the plan for the next day while we pass out in bed, but most nights I am asleep within an hour of putting the kids down.

I haven't figured this out yet. I don't want to wish away my life, live for tomorrow. My kids and my husband and my life is here now, and that deserves my attention and so much more. I give everything I have left to them and tell them a thousand times in that hour or two how much I adore them, cherish their every breath. I kiss them enough times to make their skin red and chapped, but it still feels inadequate, too distant. I expect that this pain will dull, but I can't imagine that this ever gets easier.

12 Readers rock!:

MamaDoodle said...

You don't need me to tell you that this is a season in life and it will get better. That's what I tell myself on a nearly daily basis as I think "what have I gotten myself into?" and I wonder how my decisions affect my family.

You're amazing to have made it through med school (and now residency) with a child/pregnant.

Your supportive husband is a gem. And while it might sting a bit that Colin calls out for his dad, at least you know he's well-cared for even when you can't be the one providing primary parenting. No one bats an eye when a child cries for his mom instead of dad; surely this is no different.

While it was my husband's turn for grad school and work and ungodly hours, I played the role of single parent to our daughter. Now it's my turn for school and his turn for primary parenting. I'm a bit sad that I'm missing out on some stuff, but I know that my daughter is in good hands and ultimately she'll benefit by having more time with her dad and by seeing me complete something I've been pursuing for so long.

Seasons change. You can do it!

Katie! said...

Thanks, MamaDoodle. I know you're right. I'm so grateful for Patrick and for the friends and family who care for the kids. Like you, I've done the primary parent role before too, and didn't think a thing of it. Why I perpetuate this double standard, I can't say.

I'm excited for you that you are rocking out your grad degree and still being a wonderful mom. You're a great example, both in action and in attitude. Thank you!

Dr Mama said...

Oh, Katie.
It's so hard. I've been there.

I want to write more but I don't want to come off as "blah blah this is what we did" because the solution is different for every family. You seem happy with your program choice though, and that is good.

Thinking of you.

Ginevra said...

I stumbled upon this post because it was linked in an email received about medical school. I feel like what you've said is all too real, as I am also a mom in medical school and, ironically, leaning towards obs/gyn for residency. The whole situation you describe is all to real and daunting, but it makes me feel a little more human to know that other women (moms) are doing the same thing, experiencing the same feelings, and making it work! Thanks for the inspiration! I'll continue to follow your blog!

Alm said...

Thank you Doc!
You have no idea how good it feels to know that I am not the only woman who questions whether what she is doing is right!

I have also asked myself why I have these ambitions to become someone in the Medical Industry when I chose to have children who I am supposed to be raising myself!

Thank you for your shared thoughts! Know that you are helping women even outside of your practice and we appreciate it!

Brian Fishman said...

Hey Katie! I just read this post over on Medscape when I went to check on my own post :)

It's funny how my wife and I are in a very similar situation (minus the babies, of course). She and I both get home after 6A-6P shifts and we're both asleep by 10. If it makes you feel any better, I know the time commitments get a little easier after residency :)

Hope OB/Gyn is going well for you. I made a last minute switch from Peds to EM. And I'm getting more OB experience in the ER than I ever did on my OB rotation :)

Wish you all the best,
Brian

Anonymous said...

Your blog has brought me to tears. I too am a mom of three little ones, a wife, and an OB resident. I kiss my son's chubby cheeks until they are chapped, too. Eucerin Aquaphor works well for that. Carry on, and thank you for the read. God bless our husbands.

Sarah

Anonymous said...

Now i'm scared. Im a medical student and im hoping to get married and have kids

Georgina said...

Hi Katie,
Was really good to read your blog and the other readers comments. Sounds like you are not alone! You can be proud to have completed a medical degree, have 2 beautiful children, a supportive husband and still love your job. It almost makes it harder for you, if you hated your job then it would be easy - quit! I am an O and G registrar in New Zealand (we call it registrar rather than resident) and am just about to sit exams. Plan is for babies after that! I love my job too and certainly wonder how I will get the work/life balance right. Let me know if you figure it out!
All the best

Anonymous said...

Dear Katie,
Reading your post completely hit home for me! I just had my son, he is 2 months old today. I am applying for Ob/Gyn residency this year and have wondered what I am getting myself into? I have wondered how hard it is going to be when I have to close the door those early mornings and say goodbye to my baby? My husband has been super supportive thus far but as I am sure you know its hard to maintain that spark when you are going a thousand different directions and when you wake up and you and your husband are shoved into a corner of the bed and the baby has take over. But at the end of the day I cant see my life any other way, as you have said. All the best and thanks for reminding me that I am not alone.

InBetween said...

I appreciate your honesty. This is going to be me in a few months after I find out I matched and where. I am a stress ball now, hoping it all works out and I match but at the same time apprehensive. My baby is due end of April, so I will have a newborn at the beginning of residency and probably have to do orientation and be away from her when she is little and hopefully do something like you did and take some time off after orientation before starting work. phew! its tough to think of and I find myself already questioning my choice to go into medicine... but I guess that is part of growing up,living with and working out the choices we make for the best. Good luck to you and I would love to follow and find out if you figure out the best work/life balance. Like someone else said, know that you are helping more women than your patients with your honesty!

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