Being a doctor and a mom is difficult. I do so many things that people don’t even realize I’m doing. I feel like my wings are constantly going but on the surface I look calm. Similar to how when you see a hummingbird they look as if they’re almost motionless but their wings are beating 1200 times every minute. I imagine if they stay like that for too long their tiny bodies will become fatigued with effort. I feel like I was nearing the point of exhaustion from effort at the end of my month in the Children’s Hospital in January. I was on a weird shift from noon-midnight daily, which meant I went to bed at 1-2am & had to either wake up with 5 hours of sleep to spend time with Adelaide, or sleep an adequate amount & never see her. I always chose less sleep. The payoff was that I got to spend my mornings with my little girl, quality time I definitely cherished. The only thing that could’ve made it better was being well rested. My weird hours also meant David left before I woke up, and I got home after he was asleep. He was able to bring dinner up to the hospital several times which definitely helped our household morale, but the long hours & our schedules being opposite took a toll. I also worked a weekend from 6am-6pm between my Monday through Friday shift, which totally threw off my sleep schedule. I worked another weekend at the hospital downtown rounding on the newborn babies, which also messed with my sleep schedule. Shortly after my month ended, we had the opportunity to take a five day trip to Phoenix. Even though we took our rambunctious 10-month-old baby, the trip was very restful and exactly what I needed to recharge and reset before another month of service at the Children’s Hospital. The trip made me really reflective. I never thought I’d ever want to live anywhere besides Tulsa, but Phoenix got to me. I missed it. When the plane landed, I looked out the window & pointed & showed Adelaide where her first home was. We had back-to-back plans with friends the entire few days were there. It was so nice to be back in a place so familiar, and it was exactly as we had left it. I’m not sure if we’ll stay in Tulsa forever. We may move back to Phoenix. We may just make it a point to visit every year. Who knows? But the possibility excites me.
I worked another month in the Children’s Hospital in March. I realized then that, by pursuing this career, I will never again be able to sleep soundly. My concern for my patients intermingles with my life. I’m not able to sit at the dinner table & act like I had an ok day. Luckily my family, my friends, & my amazing coworkers are willing to shoulder the burden of some of our more difficult patient stories. They let me cry when I need to cry, curse when I need to curse, and they never pass judgment on me for what I’ve seen or thought. I’m not sure why I thought once residency ended, I would feel equipped to handle patients alone & would ever be comfortable & secure in my decision-making. Oh no. Medicine is anything but secure. I’ve learned now that once you learn a topic, you learn 5 more things that you didn’t realize you didn’t know before. You are constantly questioning yourself and the treatment choices you’ve made, comparing them to others’ decisions, & trying to establish your own style of providing care & interacting with families. And just when you think you have something figured out, (and bonus if it follows a beautiful algorithm!), you have a patient that breaks the mold & demands flexibility & alteration of the treatment plan you so carefully crafted. It is frustrating & rewarding beyond belief.
At the end of the day, the thing that keeps me going (in addition to knowing I get to squeeze my adorable now-1-year-old daughter) is the little things. The tiny rays of sunshine in an otherwise dark world. The moments when a 3 year old patient takes a walk around the medical floor & sees our fishtank & squeals, “mommy, I see marlins & nemos!” The moments when a family thanks you profusely for taking the time to connect with their teenage daughter. The moment that moody teenager gives you a hug because you really listened to her. These are the things that make this career worth it. There are many days I question my decision to enter the medical field. There are still more that I question my own ability to care for patients. Despite my doubts, or perhaps because of them, I’ll press on and continue trying to improve myself every day.