The Real Struggle

I woke up this morning feeling like today would be a struggle.  I have these days every so often, and it is always the same thoughts and issues that plague me.  I feel lost and lonely – like I haven’t navigated my way through life very well at all.

I am days-to-weeks away from having a third baby.  For this whole pregnancy, and even the months leading up to it, I have questioned whether this is a reasonable step to take in my life.  I obviously can’t go back and change things now, but it doesn’t make me feel any less stressed about how everything is going to fit together in the coming years.

I know I should be looking forward to my maternity leave, and I *kind of* am.  But I am nervous about what I’m going to do with all that time at home!  I know I’ll be taking care of my baby and for the first weeks I will be so exhausted that I won’t know night from day (can you tell I’m looking forward to this?), but sometimes I find that my home is not the peaceful, relaxing place where I imagine spending my down time.  There is so much to be done around my house: teach my nanny how to cook, deal with the clutter that has accumulated over the time that I’ve been neglecting housework (and letting my nanny do a sub-parr job of keeping up), figure out how to discipline my children, decide if I need to hire a new nanny (since the one I have seems to have difficulty with all the above things that I have to remediate)… That just part of the home list.

Then there is my anxiety about work.  Failing my exam has certainly not made me feel any better about my position and my performance at work.  I know that I likely didn’t prioritize studying as much as I would have it I actually had to pass the exam.  However, I feel like it reflects poorly on my ability to balance my work like and my home life, and in the coming weeks that struggle is only going to get worse.  Add in the fact that I am going to be taking 5 months off work and will be that much behind – I feel like I am going to have a target on my back, setting me out as “the weak one.” Any why am I the weak one?  Because I have kids and a family, and I can’t make my work my top priority all the time – especially when something in my work world doesn’t really matter (like a test that I don’t need to pass).

I struggle with finding people to connect with in my life.  All of my good mommy-in-medicine friends are back in the place I left behind when I moved here for residency.  I have yet to find some good friends here.  I marginally succeeded in finding some out-of-work friends, but since work has gotten so much busier in the last year, those relationships haven’t been well maintained.  Not to mention, I can’t really talk about most of my difficult struggles with them… I mean, when someone tells you they had a bad day because their kid’s school bus was late so they missed their aerobics class, how do you respond when your bad day was doing a STAT c-section on a full-term baby who didn’t survive?  And there is the opposite situation with friends from work.  All my co-residents are wonderful people, but most of them don’t have kids and that makes it very difficult to commiserate with them.  Who can I talk to about my feelings of inadequacy as a mother, or about my decisions to prioritize my life differently because my kids and my family are an important (arguably the MOST important) part of my life.  Mostly, I feel like this position is a very lonely place to be and I don’t know how to make it better.

I’m sure that in a few days I will be feeling better than I am today.  For today, though, I have to push through the discomfort of the struggle.

 

First Failure

After almost 6 years as a learner in Medicine,  I have received my first failure. 

A few weeks ago I wrote a surgical theory exam. This exam was annoying and difficult both to wrap my mind around as well as to study for. The exam is not designed for Obstetrics and Gynecology residents, but in an attempt to align us more with other surgical specialties, our program enrols us in the program for this exam. Since it’s not designed for us, it’s difficult to study and prepare for, and since it’s not required that we actually pass the exam, our program doesn’t make a huge effort to help us adequately prepare for it. Regardless, we all want to pass and most people do. 

Except me. I got my results today, and I was “unsuccessful.”

I have had failures in my life – some bigger and more consequential. However, this is the first time I’ve failed at something in Medicine. 

Why should I care that I failed an exam that I didn’t even need to pass?  I made a decision to prioritize my family and my health in this pregnancy over preparing well for this exam. Regardless, I did spend some time studying… And I think I hoped to actually pass. 

For my entire medical training I have maintained that I can do this “Mommy in Medicine” thing well. I struggled endlessly with feelings of guilt that I was only ever a mediocre mom and a mediocre medical student/resident because each role was competing with the other. Up until now, my kids have survived and have done okay, and I’ve always done okay in my assessments and very well in my clinical evaluations: there has never been a reason for me to believe that something was really suffering. Until now, that is. 

Now I am weeks away from having my third baby, all under this illusion that I can do it all. But maybe I can’t, and I find that reality upsetting and worrisome. Life is only going to become more difficult with anther child and the increasing demands of my training program.

 My confidence is shaken and I’m just not sure I can pull this off anymore. 

The End is Near (or is it?)

  
 Apparently I have about a month left in this pregnancy.

 This morning I managed to squish my little water filled potato sacks (more commonly known as feet) into the biggest sandals I could find. They will not come off until the end of the day because if I unwedge them, I am guaranteed to never get them back on. 
I am trying to come up with a name for the maneuver that I’ve recently devised for getting into my vehicle without ripping my pelvis in two. Suggestions are always appreciated. 
I wait with wanting anticipation after each Braxton-hicks contraction for another to follow, preferably within 5 minutes. I am sadly disappointed when they rarely come. The most painful ones are my favourite, as they seem more promising. 
I daydream about the best places for my water to break. In my car or in my bed are my least dreamt of places – only because then I have to clean up after myself. I’m not sure where the best place would be. 
“You dropped what on the floor and you want me to pick it up?” That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all day – funnier than the production titled “applying compression stockings,” which you all missed while you were still sleeping. 
I realize I make look like I’m “ready to pop.” I assure you that I do, infact, still have a month to go. Please don’t remind me of how impossibly big I look. 
No wonder the last month of pregnancy seems to go on forever!

Nearing the End

This afternoon I will be writing the first part of a two-part surgical exam.  This exam is the reason I haven’t been around blogging and reading other blogs much in the last few weeks.  I just want this exam to be over.  The saddest part about this exam is that I don’t even need to pass it – it is the biggest waste of money and time away from my kids and my life ever.  However, when is a Type A personality like me ever going to be okay with failing a test?

Don’t ask me too much about the reasons why I need to write an exam that I don’t actually have to pass – it’s all “politics” within my residency program.  Let’s just say that after tomorrow, it will be over and I can stop feeling guilty about being poorly prepared for it and for spending time away from my kids to prepare so poorly.

I am also nearing the end of pregnancy.  I have, though, reached that point where I wish the end was here now.  I have begun suffering from the “pregnancy insomnia,” to help round off the extreme fatigue I had before that. My poor pubic symphysis is ready to tear apart and my left SI joint is in collaboration with the pubic symphysis to make all daily activities a living, painful nightmare.  My physiologic dyspnea is getting worse and I am starting to have tachycardic, bordering on pre-syncopal episodes every day.  However, I don’t want to start medication for this because I am so close to the end, and I remember from my last pregnancy that the medications just made me more tired.  Plus there is all the other non-pleasantries that go along with the end of pregnancy.  Almost 35 weeks!  The end is close!

I am stressing out about the end of work, as well.  I am still having a hard time accepting the idea that I am taking off the next 5 months of my training – and postposing the completion of my program by as much.  I feel lost with the idea that I will fall behind my cohort of residents, but that i won’t actually be part of the new cohort – I will be floating in this in-between, neverland space, like I already feel I do in most of my life.  I know I am taking this time to be with my baby and with my family, and I will never get it back, but I can’t seem to get over that right now.  I am also supposed to be starting a new, 4-week rotation next week and I am uncertain as to how it will go.  Will I be able to finish enough of the rotation that it will be considered complete?  Will I be able to stand all day in the OR?  Will people just wonder why the heck I decided to try and work right up until I go into labour, instead of taking time off to relax and prepare for the baby’s arrival?  I just don’t know!  I am motivated to finish this rotation because it means that I don’t have to do it when I come back from my maternity leave (and I don’t have to do call right now, so that makes it more pleasant).  However, I just want my pregnancy to be over and the change over from one rotation to the next seems like a good time for this baby to come!

Despite wanting this pregnancy to be over, I am actually really nervous and scared about the changes that come along with bringing home a new baby.  Like most people, I hate change.  I fear change.  I feel like I am in a holding pattern, waiting for this monumentous change to happen so that I can stop fearing it.  I am beginning to feel sad that the life as I know it, with my two boys, will be over soon.  I remember feeling this way before E was born, but he came only such a short time after A and there wasn’t much of a family routine at that point.  But this baby… she’s coming after 4 years of us being a family of 4.  We have family vacations, traditions, memories, and a large family portrait of the four of us over our mantle.  This is a really big change and I’m not sure I’m ready for it.  I feel very out-of-touch with the reasons why I wanted a third baby; now that she is almost here, I fear that having three kids won’t be what I expected it to be.  Obviously, there is nothing I can do to change this now, which leads me back to the beginning of my circle: I just want it to be over so that I can stop worrying and fretting and just live!

 

What’s The Reason?

Last night I watched the movie “Sisters” with my husband. It’s not often that we get a chance to watch an adult movie together and we were both in the mood for some mindless comedy. I am also a huge fan of both Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. I enjoyed the movie enough, yet something about the last scene of the movie struck a sensitive chord with me.

This scene, which extended into the rolling credits, sees both women dancing with each other, obviously havin a good time just goofing off and enjoying the best parts of their friendship with each other. Watching this reminded me of the chapters in each of their books where they talk about the development, importance, and significance of their friendship with each other. I was reminded that I don’t have this kind of friendship or relationship with another woman. It makes me sad to realize that. 

This realization was significant for me at this moment. Over the past few days I have been having more dreams and pervasive thoughts about my old friend Kay, whom I’ve mentioned a few times here on this blog. While she is often on my mind more than I would like to admit, I don’t know why dreams of her and I becoming friends again seem to come back in waves and bounds and overwhelm me, with little explanation. Sine the middle of last week, I have probably dreamt about her 3 times and then spent the proceeding days fixated on why they are plaguing me, or what those dreams mean.

This week, however, has been different from the previous times I’ve thought about her. This time I have an overwhelming feeling that I should be acting on my thoughts: reaching out to her and somehow telling her how she’s been on my mind. I almost feel like there is some kind of “force” that is telling me that she needs to hear from me. 

But why?

When I am sad about how our friendship failed, I try to find solace in pictures, quotes, and memes that circulate through social media: Those ones that encourage us to let go of the people in our lives who hurt us, or to recognize when people are causing distress in our life and decide to remove them (as I try to understand why she ended the friendship), or just simply accepting that the sun sets on some relationships even when we don’t always know why.  So, I don’t understand why, after so long, I still feel compelled to reach out. What good will it do?

Besides likely lead to more rejection, what could possibly come from this? What do I think is going to happen?  It’s not like anything will ever be close to what it was before – it’s not like I will ever have the valuable closeness and sister-like relationship that I saw in its purest form at the end of the movie last night….

However, I can’t stop thinking about the one time, far back at the beginning of our mentoring relationship, when I took a step out of my comfort zone and sent her a letter of kindness and support. I feared, for weeks, that I had steeps over a boundary; yet it turned out that my letter was the exact offer of kindness and compassion that she needed in her moment of struggle.  It was that letter that really paved the way for what Our friendship did become. Are these dreams and thoughts just some calling that she needs this kind of compassion now?

I don’t know.  It’s doesn’t make sense to me. And mostly, I am just confused about what I am thinking about and why I feel so compelled to reach out to someone who hurt me so much an showed such little compassion to me in my time of need. 

Baby Junk

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Aden and Anais Muslin Swaddle Blankets – My Splurge

I had a moment of weakness yesterday while at the bookstore with my littlest boy.  He was playing with the train set in the kids/baby section of the store while I browsed at the baby items.  I saw these beautiful (Beautiful!) muslin swaddling blankets that I wanted very badly.  They were expensive.  But they were also the perfect baby girl swaddling blankets.  I do have plenty of worn-in, mostly boyish flannel swaddling blankets sitting in my basement.  I knew I didn’t need to buy the blankets, but I just wanted something frivolous, luxurious, and girly for my baby girl.  So I bought them.

My husband would be outraged if he knew how much I spent on baby blankets.  The thought of lying about having bought them or even how much I paid for them also made me feel bad.  So even though I took them out of the box and unfolded them and held them up to my cheek, and imagined the joy I would experience while using them with my baby, I eventually folded them back as best as I could, stuffed them back into the box and put them into the trunk of my car.  I plan to return them today.

I know why I had this moment of weakness.  I often feel that I work so very hard in my life that it would be nice to have it pay off a little now instead of all later.  We live paycheck to paycheck paying for the necessities like food, mortgage, car payments, childcare, energy bills, and the biggest monthly expense: loan interest.  My husband is very strict about how much I am “allowed” to spend on this new baby and if it was up to him she would be wearing all our boy’s hand-me-downs.  So I just thought that if I could have these beautiful, trendy, bright, and much desired blankets, they could be the thing that I splurged on for my baby.

This has all taken place on the heels of the small baby shower that my mom and sister held for me this past weekend.  I knew it would be small and limited to family.  It was being held in the city where I grew up and where my family lives, but where I haven’t lived for 10 years – so I no longer have any friends there.  I never had a baby shower before and so I went to one of our local baby store chains and set up a registry.  Aside from the expensive car seat that I want, mostly for its safety profile, everything else was the “usual” stuff that I liked and wanted for this baby: Bottles that I know are most compatible with breastfeeding, pacifiers that are used in NICUs across the country and that I used with both my other boys, breast milk freezer bags, muslin swaddling blankets, a baby carrier, bouncy chair, girly items… despite my efforts at selecting the stuff that I really wanted or needed for this baby, only one person actually made use of this registry.

Instead, people either bought clothes (which were much appreciated) or Baby Junk.  It might sound ungrateful, but “baby junk” is the term I have coined for the stuff that looks cute, seems useful to the non-mother, is cheap (in quality and in price), unnecessary, and will likely never be used.

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Most of the “stuff” I got from my baby shower

I have a cousin who runs a business making gift baskets and her, her mother (my aunt), and her sister-in-law all pitched in to make me a basket.  Rather than containing many of the thoughtfully chosen items on my baby registry, this basket was filled with cheap infant/toddler toys, baby layette kits (with poorly made bibs, hats, booties, gloves etc), various brands of pacifiers, tiny baby washcloths that are too small to wash anything, and other miscellaneous “stuff” that was found at a local discount department store.  I don’t doubt that it cost them a fair amount of money to assemble such a wide variety of un-needed baby items.  However, at someone else’s mention of my baby registry, my cousin said something along the lines of: “Oh yeah, I looked at it and it just had the usual things on it.”

Just the usual things?  You mean the things that I actually want/need for this baby… Those aren’t important…

This basket was only one example of numerous gifts I received at my shower that will likely not ever get used by me for my baby:piggy banks, trinkets, a minion nightlight that sings an annoying minion lullabye (I already want to crush it with a hammer since the boys found it).  While I did receive a few nice surprises and some good clothing, I get sad thinking about the things I actually wanted and that I likely will not get – instead of a good haul of Baby Junk.  I know it sounds whiney, ungrateful, and is really a first-world-problem, but it did get me down.  I know I wouldn’t care so much if I had the freedom to go out and get the stuff I want without the worry of justifying the expense to my husband.  It would also feel better to know that I work as hard as I do so that I can enjoy these little luxuries in life.

Anyhow, that is the end of my little rant.  I am sure I will feel better in a few days, and maybe next time I go to the book store, the blankets will be on sale.

I’ll end this rather greedy sounding post by saying that my mom and sister put on a lovely shower that I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated.  I also realize that the stuff I refer to as “Baby Junk” would  be greatly used and desired by those less fortunate than me.  I do plan to donate any of the stuff that I don’t use to a local shelter.

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Spinning Life’s Tires

I have days like today, and weeks like this week, where I feel like I am spinning the tires of my life.  My day-to-day life is is routine, ordinary, and far from exciting.

I am acutely aware that my work is my training.  I have yet to reach a point in my career where I love my job.  I know this is because I am not in control of my daily choices.  Work, therefore, becomes a place I go because I have to.  It is paying my dues and eventually it will be over.  Just last month I was starting to get to a point where I felt like I was almost over the worst of it.  This year of residency – the workhorse year – where I we are expected to work like slaves, it is almost over. But then this week we started planning out the schedules for the next year of residency (which is supposed to start in July) and once my maternity leave is incorporated into the schedule, I won’t actually start that year of training until November/December.  I thought I was so much further ahead.

I know – I am taking off that time to have a baby:  Time I will have to spend at home with my new addition and the two boys I already feel I never see.  I shouldn’t complain, because it’s not time that I’m working, it’s time that I will be investing in something else… Something arguably more important than work.

This belly of mine, it continues to grow, yet it feels slow.  In two months this pregnancy will be over and life will never be the same.  But it scares me to think of this change.  Why did I decide to do this again?

76e54768477746b60f20cfb43bd40995It’s hard to see that life is moving forward when each day is a repeat of the last.  The mornings are rushed to get out of the house and start a 10 hour working day.  The evenings are a blur of kids activities, snack time, reading, bedtime routines, and exhaustion.  My bedtime quickly ensues.  And so, from day to day, nothing changes.  I feel like I’m stuck in a hamster wheel and that my efforts are taking me in circles.

How, exactly, do you step back to appreciate the way your life evolves over time?  How do you come to understand the role of the little things in the “big picture?”  I want to feel like I am moving forward every day:  I want something to change, to be momentous, and to remind my why I am here and living and working so hard.  What is the answer?

 

Unexpected Revelation

It was the Friday before Valentines Day and my Husband forwarded me an invitation over text message.  The invitation was from his clinic partner for his daughter’s “Dedication” on that Sunday at their Christian Assembly Church.  My husband asked me if it was something that we should go to.

We are not a religious family by any stretch of the imagination.  I was raised Catholic and I consider myself educated in the tenants of Christianity, as well as the basics of other major World Religions from classes I took in university.  My husband would identify himself as “agnostic,” although I would argue he falls more on the side of strong atheist.  We have had many arguments  discussions about how to raise our children when it comes to religion and I eventually just gave up on him.

In response to my husband’s question, I told him that it was something important to his partner and that it would be a nice gesture for us to attend.  So, he sent the RSVP to his friend and we prepared to attend a Sunday Church service together… for the first time ever.

It just so happened that on this weekend, my Mother was visiting us from out of town.  My Mother is on the complete opposite end of the religious spectrum from my Husband: She is a prophesied born again, Evangelical Christian who belongs to circles of self-proclaimed prophets and the likes.  I have worked very, very, hard to establish boundaries around religion when it comes to my Mom – and these do fail at most opportunities.  As you can imagine, my Mother was beaming when I told her we were attending a Christian Service that Sunday, and Of Course she would be honoured to attend the service with us.

Sunday morning after filling up on a rather rushed breakfast, we all piled into our SUV to drive across the city to the Christian Assembly Church.  I could feel my Mother’s smugness emanating from the back seat of the car and I was already beginning to worry about the conflict that would certainly arise following the service.  I hadn’t been to Church with my mother since I was a teenager and I had no choice but to go with her after the weekly reciting of the “My House, My Rules” speech.

I signed up the boys for the pre-school Sunday School class and we found ourselves some seats half-way down the congregation.  We stood during the Worship – My Mother on one side of me swaying to the music, with her arms open and giving praise, and my Husband on the other side, shifting his weight uncomfortably.  I felt a strange surge of emotion, knowing that my Mother was in her element while my Husband was just using every ounce of energy not to leave the service.  For me, the worship was exactly what I expected it to be: not foreign but not familiar.  Not uncomfortable by any means.

After the Worship we sat down and listened to a guest Pastor and his wife talk about Marriage.  That was the theme of the day – Marriage in the Bible, and how to apply it to the modern day marriage.  I found some of the information presented to be interesting and inspiring.  I resisted the urge to look over at my Mother, who was contently listening despite the fact that she has never been remarried and still hold significant resentment towards my father and her divorce from 25 years ago.  I was beginning to predict the criticisms I would hear later from my Husband.  Finally, the service was over.  We collected the boys from preschool class and piled back into the SUV to drive to the Dedication Brunch.

Silence.

We drove for a little while before my Mom started: “That was a beautiful Service, wasn’t it?  So much interesting information.  What did you guys think?” Why does she have to start these conversations?  I’ve been through this with her before.

“It was nice.” My husband replied.

I quickly shifted the conversation to ask the boys about what they did at the Sunday School – They talked mostly about crafts and playing with toys.  I was relieved that this strategy worked.  I said my own little prayer hoping that this would be the end of the “church discussion” between my Husband, my Mother, and I.

Thankfully that was it.  We enjoyed the brunch together, congratulated my husband’s co-worker on their daughter’s dedication, and proceeded to go on with our Valentines day.

Later that evening, as my Husband and I drove away from the house on our way to our Valentines Day date, he started the conversation:
“That Church service was interesting today.  I’ve never been to a Church that plays live music and has such relevant and modern sermons.  I think maybe I’ve misjudged the role of church.”

I tried to keep my eyeballs in their sockets!
This, coming from the man who absolutely refused to entertain the idea of sending out kids to Catholic school for fear of indoctrination!  Even with my efforts over all our years together to explain to him that religion/faith has a lot of offer, even if it is just learning the stories and parables in the Bible.  I told him, many times, that “God” can represent anything you want it to – it doesn’t have to refer to the Omniscient Creator, if you don’t want it to.  He never seemed to care… Until that Valentines Sunday, that is.

“As I was listening to the Pastor, I realized that even though he talked about God a lot, God can be anything you want it to be.  When I thought of it that way, what he said about Marriage seemed to be really good advice.”

So I can tell him that numerous times over the years of our courtship and Marriage, but he won’t believe it until we actually go to Church???

“I think there is a lot of value in what they were saying today.  I think, maybe, our family could benefit from doing something like this every week.

!!!

I almost fell out of the car!  “You mean, you want to start going to Church, every week?” I asked my Husband.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t mind giving it a try.”

And so, at the request of my beyond atheist, cynical Husband, we have been attending the Christian Assembly Church every Sunday since Valentines Day.

Naked

“Mommy, why are your boobies SO BIG!?!”

We’re pretty open about nudity in our house. The boys have seen me naked their whole life and they don’t think twice about it.  Just recently we’ve been drawing the line on the boys coming in the women’s washroom with me when their dad is around, mostly so they learn that there is a reason we have “men’s” and “women’s.”

If I’m being honest, I’ve only started to be more self-conscious about being naked around the boys because of my growing belly and the amount of weight I’ve gained in pregnancy.

This morning, on my day off, I was showering the boys and I got that wonderful question.  I guess it was better than another comment on how HUGE my belly is….

“My boobies are getting ready to make milk for the baby.”

“Oh.” He said. And he walked away.

I thought I was in the clear…

“But Mommy, why is that middle part of your boobies so much more brown and red than the rest of them?”

“…Um… They just are.”

Oh, kids…

Family Drama

There is always something. 

My mom is throwing me a baby shower for Baby Girl. Despite this being my third baby, it is actually my first baby shower. As you can imagine, I’m pretty excited. 

My mom asked me who to invite, and I gave her a list that was primarily my husband’s family members and a few of my close friends.  On this list, of course, was my MIL… But also my FIL’s fiancé. 

I received this message from my MIL this morning:

“I understand you invited [FIL’s fiance] to shower. Please let me know whether or not she is coming as it will determine my attendance. Thanks”

Seriously, this is normal and acceptable behaviour for a 60 year old woman!?!

Let the fun begin 🙂