Balancing Act

imageI know I am WAY late writing this so I apologize! August was my month working in the newborn nursery. I love newborns and the senior resident I was working with was fantastic and taught me so much I didn’t expect to learn, but this month challenged me in many ways. It was supposed to be one of our “lighter” months, but for me it ended up being a tough month.

I had to take my medical boards (purposely scheduled them for this “lighter” month). Adelaide got croup and stopped sleeping through the night. And we had more DHS referrals than not for our newborns, as well as a spectrum of other complex social & legal issues like HIV+ moms, complicated adoptions, a surrogate mother, and women with little to no prenatal care walking in off the street and delivering their babies. Despite all of those challenges, the thing that was so difficult for me was to take care of other peoples’ babies when all I wanted to do was go home and take care of my own.

I was asked numerous times by people “How do you do it all?” The thought never occurred to me, because honestly, do I have a choice? I can’t wake up and not take care of my family. I can’t decide to sleep through the night- I have to wake up and pump or feed Adelaide, or I’m physically in pain. I can’t ignore Adelaide when she’s barking like a seal all night and having trouble breathing (I have to turn her humidifier to full blast & stay awake and formulate the fastest drive to the children’s hospital ER & figure out who in my residency is working in the Peds ER tonight & get their number in my phone ASAP). I can’t decide not to show up to work when I’m upset by a difficult case or when I’ve stayed up all night worried about my own baby or about a baby we sent home with a mom who has very little access to resources to care for her new baby. I simply have to “do it all.” What other choice do I have?

We went to dinner one evening to celebrate a student’s birthday. I was on call and got 2 calls as I carried Adelaide and her huge diaper bag into the restaurant. A med student who was working with me said I was like super mom- balancing Adelaide in my arms, holding her teething toy, and putting in orders while on the phone for a new baby at the hospital. It was flattering- isn’t that the ideal? Isn’t that the goal we put in front of us, to ‘have it all’? But it wasn’t true.

On a good day I feel like super woman- doing the mommy thing, doing the doctor thing, seeing my family and friends regularly, making time for my marriage. But on a bad day, I don’t feel like super mom or even adequate mom. When Adelaide is sick and cries when I put her down because I have to work, I feel awful. When she’s running a fever and I have to drop her off at my mom or sister’s house instead of daycare, I feel like I’m giving the job I should be doing to someone else. Often times I feel isolated. I’m constantly stepping away from my patients so I can pump. I also miss out on lunch table talk with my colleagues, which is often the most debriefing for difficult situations that we get, so I can pump. I had to miss a delivery because I had to pump, and I even missed a twins delivery because I had to pick Adelaide up from daycare. It is so difficult to balance everything. Impossibly difficult. But I keep going and the world moves forward.

So for now I’ll continue putting one foot in front of the other. I’ll keep trying to learn as much as I can both medically and about the crazy balancing act mommy physicians face. As long as Adelaide wakes up and greets me with a smile everyday, I’ll keep working. To set a good example for her and show her that being a working mom doesn’t mean I have it all or can do it all or that I don’t have bad days- but that I keep going in spite of that.