Queens Don’t Fail

 

 

Last week a friend of mine from medical school send me this snapshot from a book she’s reading: Constance Halls, “Like A Queen.”  She felt that this sentence embodied me.  Just the day before I told her that I was considering a specialty change.  I confessed that one of the feelings holding me back was that of failure.  In my mind, switching means failure.

The past few weeks have been a challenging time for me.  For years now, I have thrown around the idea of changing specialties in medicine.  Initially, the idea started because I struggled greatly with my work life balance: there is no room for family life in a surgical residency.  When A. was diagnosed with ASD, I took some time off and realized that I needed to give more to my family.  Despite that, I tried for a long time to convince myself that as long as I loved my job and enjoyed what I did while I was at work, the sacrifices at home would be worth it.  I honestly believe that, even now.  However, as more time goes by, I wonder if I really do enjoy my job as much as I tell myself I do.

Lately I find that I haven’t been as interested and engaged in my work.  I do my work and I take care of my patients, but I haven’t really been enjoying myself.  I wake up in the mornings dragging my feet and I spend a large proportion of the day waiting for it to come to an end so I can get home to my family.  Surgery is technically challenging and pleasurable, but I don’t feel passion when I am in the OR – Just a sense of obligation.  My call shifts are becoming more and more onerous, especially as they stack on top of each other: all I want to do is sleep.  When I think ahead to the heavy rotations, the year of being chief resident, and the studying that is going to have to happen, I cringe.  I know that not too far from now, I will have to neglect my family even more than I do now for an entire year if I want to pass my board exams.  And, I just don’t think I’m willing to make that sacrifice.

So, does that mean I need to change my goals?  Or am I just experiencing a bad case of burnout?  Maybe a little bit of both?  Is this really a good time to make a change in career paths?

I feel dissatisfied at work and I feel like I am falling short as a caring and engaged mother when I am at home.  I know, for certain, that these two feeling are not exclusive of one another.  Together these feelings play into a vicious negative-feedback cycle: I dislike my job because of how it affects my family life, and I feel guilty about what happens to my family because of how much I commit to my job.  Inadequacy in all aspects of life make for an unhappy life.  Despite all of this dissatisfaction, I feel frozen and unable to make a decision on how to move forward.  Staying in the same place, expecting things to get better feels like the wrong decision.  Yet, committing to change, admitting that I’m not happy, and taking a new path is frightening and feels like failure in disguise.

All these thoughts, ideas, and stressors have caused havoc in my mind.  Just a few weeks ago, after decideding to move ahead with the change, I felt empowered and giddy with excitement that I was taking control of my life.  That excitement has now completely dwindled away to leave only more anxiety and fear over the decision.  I fear that I am making this decision for the wrong reasons and that one day I will regret not “sticking it out.”  But I also fear the perception of failure.

I know I could finish this if I tried (and if I wanted to).  But is it what I really want?

 

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MEternity Leave? Really?

Over a week ago, on June 1, I sat down to start writing a blog post.  I wrote one sentence of that post and I have not been back to WordPress since then.  It’s not because I haven’t wanted to blog, and it’s not because I have nothing to blog about… it’s because I’ve quite literally had no time to myself – at all.

This phenomenon of having no time to myself, despite being home from my 80-100hr+ work week, reminded me of the MEternity fiasco from a few months back.  For anyone to think that a maternity leave is a “sabbatical” or “vacation” or anything that resembles an opportunity for “me time” has got something seriously wrong.  If I’m going to be completely honest, I would say that I haven’t really been enjoying my maternity leave that much.  Before I divulge all the reasons I’m not enjoying it, I’ll state the few things that I do enjoy about maternity leave (just so I don’t seem to be complaining all the time):

  1. I love baby El and I love to spend time watching her grow and change.  I want her to stay small forever, but I know she won’t.  I’m cherishing the time I get to spend with her now.
  2. I get to see my other kids more often than I did when I was working.

Yes, I think that’s about it.  Here are all the things I dislike about my maternity leave:

  1. I am always tired – I am lucky to get 6 hours of broken sleep a night, and the sleep I do get is far from quality as I am paranoid about my baby and her ridiculously low risk of SIDS (this is where I say that, contrary to all advice on how to reduce SIDS, I can’t abide by t all.  Baby El refuses to sleep unless she is right next to me, with easy access to her precious boobie – All. The. Time.)
  2. I almost always have a little human being attached to my body.  This is either in the form of breastfeeding or babywearing.  Baby El usually needs to be nursed to sleep.  And, she doesn’t really like to stay asleep unless someone is carrying her.
  3. I am always yelling at the boys: Either they aren’t listening to the Nanny, so I get mad at them for that.  Or, they aren’t listening to me, so I get mad at them for that.  Or they are too loud and running around every part of the house and waking up the delicate baby that I just FINALLY GOT TO SLEEP.  I feel like all the time I spend with my kids involves yelling.
  4. I miss adult human interaction.  You can only text message people so much before you get bored.  Plus, everyone is working while I am home, so there is no one to go out with during the day.
  5. I have fleeting thoughts of finishing that book I started weeks ago, or working on the cross stitch birth announcements (for E first, before I can start El’s), or blogging, or even getting some exercise.  However, those thoughts are vanquished by one of the three kids that are demanding my attention at any given time of the day.  If I’m lucky, I can get outside for a walk with the baby in a carrier (she won’t even stay settled in a stroller)… but not before getting the 10th degree from A, who wants to know where I’m going, when I’ll be back, why he can’t come, am I sure he can’t come, and what kind of punishment I will get if I’m not home when I say I’ll be home.
  6. I miss my job… dearly.  If it wasn’t for my baby, I would go back tomorrow.
  7. I’m sure there is something I’m missing.

So there you have it… My maternity leave is far from relaxing, enjoyable, or a life changing revolution.

And, I’ve gotta go… baby El is awake!

A Good Tree Cannot Bear Bad Fruit

A few weeks ago, I was in the midst of “the perfect storm.”

I was still pregnant and close to giving birth to my (first) daughter.  I had just received yet another insulting form of rejection from a person whom I have kept in my life for far too long.  I spent that week’s therapy session discussing the role of this person in my life, the emotional importance her relationship served, and how welcoming my daughter into the world would likely change how I felt about that relationship.  Then, at the end of that week I attended our new church where the message of the sermon was about Matthew 7:18 – “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.”

I listened closely to the pastor that Sunday.  He said, “When things aren’t what they used to be, you have to change what you’re used to doing.” 

People love truth, and people love authenticity.  There is a low tolerance for the inauthentic in our society.  The tree that bears fruit is the perfect example of the difference between the authentic and the inauthentic.  Just as a tree grows and develops fruit over time, we as people grow and develop our habits and behaviours.  Just as a person would stop picking and eating rotten fruit from a bad tree, they would also stop dealing with or interacting with a person who routinely showed poor or inauthentic behaviours.

I used to think that I was the person with the poor our inauthentic behaviours: Why would someone be so hurtful towards me and make such an effort to exclude me from their life?  I have worked hard over the years to overcome this thought, attributing it to my low self-esteem that developed from my difficult childhood and poor relationships with my parents.  It may have taken years to believe this truth, but I am not a bad tree – I am a good tree that bears good fruit.  I really am.

However, even good trees have branches that are heavy and burdensome – branches that are overgrown and don’t produce any fruit.  These branches take up the resources and energy of the tree and prevent it from producing abundant fruit.  This idea reminded me of the advice I received from a fellow gardener last summer when I asked her about her fruitful tomato plants.  She told me to trim off all of the branches on my tomato plants that were not growing tomatoes.  This way the plant would stop wasting energy on the branches that weren’t growing fruit and instead would use that energy to grow bigger, more healthy tomatoes.  I used her advice and sure enough, my tomatoes grew bigger and faster.

If a tree is a metaphor for my life, it is only natural that I would have these heavy, burdensome branches that are weighing me down.  It is only natural, then, that I should need to prune my own boughs with the hopes of removing those parts of my life that are only causing me grief, so that I can concentrate more on the best parts of my life.  The pastor continues on in his sermon, addressing the need for pruning in our lives.  Like the gardener’s advice for my tomato plants, he quoted another part of the scripture: “The farmer cuts off branches that bear no fruit and prunes the ones that do bear fruit so that they will be more fruitful.”  He continued on, addressing all of us and saying rather matter-of-factly: “Most of us know exactly what areas of our lives need to be pruned.”

Despite all this advice, pruning is not easy; It is the targeted removal of something from our lives.  It isn’t fun – it cuts to the core, it is invasive, painful, and it is cutting something out of your life that needs to be removed.

For 18 months I have let myself hold onto the idea or illusion that Kay would come back into my life and that we would, gain, have some kind of friendship.  The timing of this sermon immediately after the mix-up/rejection from Kay was nothing more than perfect.  And, what better time to prune something so heavy and fruitless from my life than right before I prepare to welcome my daughter into my life.

My relationship with Kay initially sprouted from a need to fill in the missing mother-daughter relationship in my life.  It may have worked for a small while.  But there is never a replacement for the real thing – and now I am at the beginning of the best most real opportunity to develop this type of relationship… With my very own daughter.

 

 

Identity Crisis

For almost 6 years, I have been a mother.  For almost 6 years minus 13 weeks, I have been pursuing a career in medicine.  Neither of these tasks are particularly easy on their own, let alone together.  No one gives out medals and prizes to the Mom who “accomplishes” the most with her kids, or who “does it all right,*” or who raises the best kids.  It’s different in medicine, though.  In medical school there are awards for many aspects of study.  There is a constant, hidden agenda, enticing students to be better than their peers, to be the best student they can be, and at the end of it all, to compete with each other for the best residency positions.

*What does “doing it right” mean as a mother, anyway?

For 6 years I have struggled to be the best mom I can be, despite the overwhelming time and energy commitment that goes along with medical training.  Along the way I have received little recognition for my hard work (like every mother out there).  For 6 years minus 13 weeks, I have struggled to be the best medical student and then resident that I can be.  Fortunately, that role always came with significant recognition: Scholarships and Bursaries, conferences, accolades from my peers and preceptors, and the all too often phrase: “I don’t know how you do it.”

We all thrive on positive re-enforcement and recognition for our accomplishments.  As a result, I felt more reward from excelling in my work life because the rewards were tangible.  Even as recently as being pregnant at work, I had people telling me that they couldn’t believe how hard I was working, or how dedicated I was to be working so late into my pregnancy.  It made me feel good to know that other people noticed my effort, how much I loved my job, and how well I performed.  But now that I am off work, at home and being a full-time mom, all of that is missing.

I’ve been home for 2.5 weeks and I really miss work.  I feel guilty because I should be happy to be home spending time with my kids – I never get this opportunity.  I would argue that staying home with three kids (while one if a newborn) is tough work – tougher than my actual job.  The worst part of it is that I feel like I don’t know how to be this person… the mother who gives all of her love, attention, and effort to her kids all the time.  It makes me sad to realize that for the entire time I’ve been a mother (minus 13 weeks), I don’t know how to fully identify as a mother.

I have, somehow, let my life as “medical trainee” define my identity to a greater extent than my life as “mother.”  I feel like this is so wrong – like I have it all backwards.  I mourn for my children, who have never completely had a mother who knows what it means to be their mother.  They have always been competing with my other identity – an identity where they have merely been accessories to my apparent success.  And now I am home all the time and I feel lost.  I am having an identity crisis, and I only have 5 months to sort it all out.

Best Mother’s Day Gift

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful Mothers out there!  I feel privileged to blog amongst all you amazing women!

My Mother’s Day this year will be one of the most memorable of my life.  Baby El was born quickly and without fuss early in the morning May 3. I don’t usually post pictures of my kids online, but today I will make my one and only exception. 

Happy Mother’s Day from both baby El and I!

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 🙂

15 Best Parts of 2015

This past year has been a tough one. Instead of focusing on the worst parts of my year, let me highlight the best parts!  If only I didn’t vow to not post pictures of my kids and I on the blog… This post would be slightly more exciting for you all!

In order from the beginning of the year:

1. Watching my two little monkeys grow into crazy little boys!

2. Registering A. For kindergarten. 

3.  Mountain retreat with my resident buddies. 

4.  E’s third birthday party. 

5. A Mother’s Day surprise after spending the morning sick in the emergency room. 

6.  Running my first half marathon. 

7. A’s fifth birthday party. 

8. Time with my family at my sister’s wedding. 

9. Disneyland and Florida with the kids!

10. Rappelling down a building for charity. 

11. A summer of gardening with the kids. 

12. Excelling at taekwondo. (I actually got my blue-stripe while I was pregnant). 

13. Reaching my goal of reading 12 (non-education  related) books this year. 

14. Finding out I was pregnant. 

15. Finding out I am having a girl.