Married to Medicine

Married to Medicine

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dear Baby #4

Dearest M,

Can it be that nearly ten months of your life have passed and I haven't sat down to write you another letter?  It's too bad... I will have to hope that the thousands of photos and video snippits have done a good job documenting your babyhood. 

Let me first answer a question from one of my older letters, now that you're here: 

Is it better to dream and hope for the future of having children, fantasizing about how neat it will be, or is it better to live it? 

A thousand times:  It is even better to live it.  Matthew, being your mother has exceeded the highest limits of the bliss I dared hope for.  So many people warn about how hard parenthood is.  "It's the hardest job in the world," you hear.  "You'll soon wish they could put the baby right back inside you."  A study that came out shortly before you were born reported that people feel less happy after children than before, prompting questions of why couples continue having them.  But for me, these past ten months with you have been the absolute most amazing of my life.  I loved - *loved* my first year of college... I thought nothing could ever rival the rush of being on a beautiful campus surrounded by new people, on a new adventure, and falling madly in love with one of my very best friends.  But this year has been every bit as wonderful as that year.  Yes, it's been a lot of work.  But I've cherished every day with you, even the hardest ones. 

By the time you read this, you'll surely be very familiar with your own birth story.  I went into labor around 4 pm on September 10th.  I labored fifteen hours at home before being admitted to the hospital.  I labored another eighteen hours in the hospital.  We barely made it to September 12th... we spent about 31.5 hours convinced you'd be born on September 11th.  When I first began pushing, the nurses were very impressed and thought I'd have you out in about twenty minutes.  But you turned out to be much bigger than they thought you were, and at a bad angle (in retrospect, the angle probably caused the slow labor).  You were born 9 lbs and 10 ounces, after 2 1/2 hours of pushing (and 33 of labor) left me utterly spent.  They used forceps - your daddy had to look away.  You came out not doing so well - you scored a 2 on the APGAR test (out of 10).  They wouldn't let daddy cut the umbilical chord; they were very concerned for your health.  But you soon bounced back and became the healthiest, strongest baby imaginable!  Thank goodness for modern medicine.  I have no doubt that it saved at least one of our lives, and enabled me to meet you, hold you, know you, and raise you.  My heart aches for the hundreds of thousands of women throughout history who were never given that chance, and for my grandmother who lost a son when he was six years old.  Nothing - NOTHING in my life has ever made me as vulnerable as motherhood.
Tipping the Scale.

From the very start, you were a calm, sweet baby.  You only cried if you were hungry, and once you ate you pretty much went back to sleep right away.  You seemed very "mature" for your age and very "serious."  That, combined with your multi-sneezes, caused your father to declare you "Dada's Man" (but I knew you were "Mama's Little Man.").  Throughout these past ten months of your life, you've kept pretty much that same sweet personality - as long as you're well rested, and you LOVE to sleep.  You love when Mommy reads you a book, and you pretty much sit quietly and attentively while being read to.  You're very brave and very secure, and your feathers don't ruffle easily.  You've enjoyed every exposure you've had to water, even going under, and you already kick your feet and move your arms to try to swim.  Your first three words were Mama, "Da" (or "Dadadadadada") - which your Dada insists is a purposeful word, and "More" (which usually comes out as "MAAAH!!").  You tend to do an army crawl instead of a regular crawl, presumably because we don't have carpets and it's easy to slide around.  As an infant, you sucked your thumb and forefinger together - preferably with lots of my hair wrapped around it.  

You've been a foodie from the get-go, and the only two things that ever make you truly upset are (1) hunger; and (2) seeing Mommy and Daddy eating in front of you and not sharing.  Even if you're full, you want to try what we're having.  You start by staring intently at our food.  Then back and forth from the food to us.  Your expression becomes one of increasing disbelief if we don't share.  Then you start sqwaking until we do.  You've had everything we eat:  Thai food, coffee, sushi, all sorts of seafood, beets, brie, etc.  Your original favorite was avocado, but currently you're into bing cherries, blueberries, and Mommy's banana-blueberry muffins.  Ah, summertime. 

One of our favorite infant memories of you was your crying in the morning, waking up hungry.  You'd have worked yourself up a little and the rubbing of your head on your cradle swing made your hair crazy and poofy in the back.  Your little face would be scrunched, red, and dimpled as you cried your pitiful, sweet "Mrrrrroooo, Mrrrrroooo" cries.  It was beyond cute.  The very first cry would be short, then longer, then a big long one.  We took to saying "Ar-Ar-Arooo!" when you cried, and to this day if I repeat it, I get a big grin from you.

One of our most favorite "baby Matthew" stories happened a few weeks ago.  Mommy and Daddy were playing with you in the living room, and both ended up in the kitchen cooking.  You were left to play.  After awhile, it must have dawned on you that we were gone - and that we were in the kitchen, cooking without you.  At all of 9 months you let out a distinct, indignant yelp and then you literally stormed into the kitchen.  Yes, all the way from the living room we heard your purposeful, angry army crawl getting closer and closer and then you appeared, looking none too pleased, and demanding to be included.  Oh Matthew, it was so cute!

And your sweetest habit is kisses.  One morning when you were ten months old, I put you on our bed and told you to "go wake up Dada."  To my surprise, you did exactly that - you crawled right over to him, made your way to his face, and planted kiss after kiss on his cheek and lips.  Our hearts melted.  To my further surprise, you did the same thing the following day, and again and again until now it's a tradition.  You'll occasionally give Mama a kiss but oh, your Dada gets a kisses almost every time he sees you.  And boy does he love them - a big grin and an "Oh, that's nice!  That's very nice!" are his responses.  Your latest is kissing the pages of the books we read - especially if there's a cow on them. 

Honey, I've failed to write down every cute story or quirk of your first ten months.  After you finish your sigh of relief, please just know this:  My days with you have been blissful and amazing.  I miss you when you nap and get excited when you wake up.  So does your Da-da, who will literally push me out of his way to be the one to greet you if he's home as you waken.  I've always loved children... from my karate students to my French students in France, to my campers, my day-care charges, and my nanny-ee Ruthie.  I've always thought they were sweet, almost-magical beings.  But you... for me, you are like an angel sent into my arms, entrusted to my care.  I don't think I deserved a baby as "good" or "easy" as you, and the few times you've ever been truly inconsolable have made my heart just ache for new parents with colicky or otherwise difficult babies.  But your sweet, calm nature has made parenting you an absolute joy and privilege.  Your firsts - your first purposeful smile (I called you a "lady killer"), the first time you said "Ma-ma," the first time you put your head on my chest for a snuggle, the first time you "gave Mama a kiss," the first time I heard your tiny baby voice laughing - have been the highest of highs for me, oh that I could bottle each one up and take it out to relive it on occasion.   

As I write this it makes me sad to acknowledge that the first ten months of your life are over, and you'll never again - not even for a second - be that tiny baby I first fell in love with.  But I also know that I'm beyond blessed to have had a healthy baby at all, and to still have you today.  I know that the "you" I love so much - with the sweet soft baby hair, the chubby cheeks, and the sweet infant profile - will still be the same you even when you're grown... it just doesn't *seem* that way now because I can't imagine how you'll be.  M, I thank God for you every day.  I can't wait to see what your future brings.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Reentry Shock: "I am not one of your nurses."

(let me preface with the disclaimer that my husband and I both laugh when I resort to making the title statement of this entry).

Last week, after a brutal spring of bad rotation after bad rotation after someone else's bad rotation on the hit list, we finally reached a glorious milestone in the grueling world of residency:  My husband became a senior resident.

Back in the old days (as in, just a couple years ago) senior residents lived The Life.  They'd put their time in and could relax as junior residents skillfully managed the interns.  Many even made good money moonlighting while they were officially working their senior resident shifts.  No more.  The work is flowing up in an effort to protect interns (and their patients) from the notoriously hellish existence of those early residency years.  Most practicing physicians I've spoken to believe the regulations have recently gone too far, and that patient care is now jeopardized by too-short shifts (meaning a complex hospitalized patient gets a brand new doctor every 16 hours now, instead of every 30), among other issues.  Suffice it to say that it needed to change back when my dad went through it on Q2, but even with our crazy commute my husband's intern year wasn't that bad.  What was bad was his junior year, when the work flowed up to residents who already had a full plate.

In any case, all of a sudden my husband is back "at home" (working regular hours).  Well, for a few weeks anyway.  This is the moment we've been waiting for, and the moment to savor before he's onto the next bad rotation, and then his brutal first year of fellowship. 

So... why is it fraught with frustration?

I'm sure the medical spouses (and significant others) who do read this blog can relate.  It's the "reentry shock."  Suddenly your medical spouse, who is used to being "The Boss" in his or her world, is supposed to be someone else's equal - *your* equal.  And the goal is no longer efficiency...  it's happiness and contentment.  Move over Mars and Venus:  We're talking a whole new galaxy here.

In the medical world, your spouse is prized for his (or her) ability to make tough decisions quickly, and to be sure of the decision made.  When my husband talks about why he loves MGH, and why he believes physician training can't be a cakewalk, he'll say he doesn't want to be one of the physicians who wavers or is unsure for lack of training.  The physicians he looks up to are the ones who know their stuff - cold - and can practice medicine with confidence and efficiency.  The better a doctor you are, the faster you'll catch things, and the less your patients and their families will suffer.  And he's seen mistakes... even at the revered MGH. 

But how does this translate to being at home?  Well... it sort of doesn't.  If one "partner" is making lightning-speed decisions and just announcing them to the other partner... especially if the other partner has more experience with, say, how a baby's schedule needs to work... it just doesn't work.  Compromise is key in relationships and homes. (By the way, can anyone even imagine him being this way?  Our college friends out here are shocked at the transformation... at first they thought it was Boston, but it's definitely the residency.)

Even AS I'm typing this and reading it TO my husband - and we're both laughing - he is insisting that I go on my run now so that I can bring back portabella mushrooms and he can make a caprese salad for lunch.  Okay... but what about the fact that I don't want to jog while holding my wallet and mushrooms?  No, no we "have to try new recipes!" he declares.  This would be great in the hospital:  Doctor sees the best end-game solution and sacrifices all to achieve it for patient.  But home isn't about the end-game... it's about enjoying life and stopping to smell the roses.

To be honest, I don't think there's a great solution here.  I just assume that being one week into a "normal" work schedule isn't enough for my husband to really be "himself."  Plus, sometimes it's good - he's been grilling up culinary masterpieces this weekend and we had the Andersons over for a truly gourmet dinner (even if it did result in a super messy kitchen and an off-schedule baby).  He also forced me to go to a pilates class that I ended up loving, and will now go to every week.   So, I find myself choosing my battles.  I don't think I'll be jogging with my wallet and portabella mushrooms in tow; he'll have to understand that.  But if he wants to bring grilled-veggie gazpacho soup to our get-together today, sweet; I will relax about the kitchen getting messy :)