Rounded Edges

I am pretty sure that if you had asked someone to describe me ten or fifteen years ago that “ambitious” and “driven” would have topped my list of descriptors.

In a little over a month I will start working (unpaid) at a hospital two days a week doing clinical rotations as part of the process of becoming an “international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC).  I am looking forward to the clinicals; I have no doubt that they will be interesting and enjoyable.  Along with the clinicals I will be taking classes.  The coursework and clinicals together will make me eligible to take the IBCLC exam in July of 2015 (it is only offered once a year).  Although the exam has a reputation for being challenging, I expect to pass and begin working as an IBCLC, either in private practice or in a hospital or pediatric practice shortly thereafter.  I am going to be a great IBCLC; after my children I probably talk more about human lactation than any other subject.  Husband probably knows a hell of a lot more about breasts and how they work than most women or doctors.  He is a very good sport about my daily breastfeeding rants.

But despite my obvious interest, I have been mulling over the idea putting off the lactation training for a year and spending the next year as a stay at home mom again.  Even though I am absolutely sure want a career beyond my children at some point, I am finding it hard to muster the kind of passionate, driven ambition towards my new endeavors that used to be a hallmark of my personality.  I mostly blame the children for this.    I just can’t imagine ever having anywhere near the same level of passion for a career – even a career that I know I will enjoy and be good at – as I do for them.  I suppose that’s normal, but I am a very all or nothing kind of girl and because of that I wonder if I am making the right choice for now.  Seven and half years into this parenting gig and it is pretty clear to me that I love the baby and toddler phase of parenting.  Maybe I should stay home one more year and eek out the last bits of Baby’s babyness with her?  Until recently I felt an imperative to go back to work as soon as possible.  We couldn’t live on Husband’s salary alone.  Several weeks ago he negotiated a fantastic and well deserved raise at work and now I don’t have to go back to work in the same way that thought I would have to a few months ago.  Sure, we still can’t get out of our two bedroom house, but other than being a bit tight on space (by American standards) out life is pretty close to perfect.  I realize how very fortunate we are and that this is a very first world problem to have but I can’t help but feel a bit unmoored as to what I want to do next year.

Next month, Baby is scheduled to start back at daycare three days a week.  I am not worried about her.  She will arguably be attending the best preschool in town, very developmentally appropriate, with the lowest student to teacher ratio I have ever come across.  When we drop Middle off at school (the same school that Baby will attend), Baby sometimes cries because she’s not staying.  She is ready.  I am not sure that I am.

I have been doing some pro-bono (volunteer) breastfeeding related policy work lately and I enjoy it.  It’s great to occasionally put my high heels and go talk about breastfeeding statistics and how we, as a society, can better support maternal and child health.  I do think that what we are doing is making a difference in the lives of women and children.  I have a PowerPoint presentation to prepare for a couple of events I am speaking at next week.  I am surprised that I am not up late working on it, far in advance.  Instead I am talking long walks with Baby, painting a bathroom, and organizing my house.  I will get the presentation done and I will do a good job of it; no worries there, but I am definitely not throwing myself into it like I might have a decade ago.  Is it simply that I am older and more relaxed about life in general?  Is it because I am never going to find anything that I care about as much as spending time with my kids?  Is it because my children are still relatively young and I am just not ready yet?  Is it because my previous career – that I devoted untold hours of effort and travel and late nights to – ended so spectacularly badly?  Am I afraid to try hard again and perhaps fail?  Have I lost my edge and if so how do I (and do I even want to) get it back?

I keep coming back to the incontrovertible fact that despite my intense passion for my kids and my somewhat lackluster passion for career ambitions at the moment, those kids are only going to get older.  I don’t want to hover over them as they grow up, volunteering for every school function, and being just “Older/Middle/Baby’s Mom” – no matter how good I am at it.  I could wait to do anything career-wise until Baby goes to kindergarten, but the idea of being forty years old with kids in school full time and no career to speak of is utterly depressing.  They are, as they should, growing up and moving on.  I suppose I need to move on too.

A Parent’s Vacation

The house has been quiet today and for once the quiet does not mean that some massive mischief is taking place.

I canned 17 jars of salsa today.

I also painted our back french doors.

I hardly had to spend any time cleaning up toys at all.

No one got pee where it doesn’t belong.

There was no yelling at dinner.

My house has a shocking lack of mud in it.

We went out for ice cream at 8:00 pm.

Bedtime was a calm affair.

Have I finally achieved some sort of stay-at-home mothering nirvana?  Nah, my parents just came and took away Older and Middle for a week and Gran and Papa’s (my parents) house leaving us with Baby as our only child.  It’s hard to believe that I ever thought one child was difficult.  This, my friends, is a vacation – parenting style!

Birth Story

I can’t remember the first time I heard the story of my own birth, but by the time I was a teenager it was ingrained into my consciousnesses.  My mother had gone a few days past her due date with me when her water broke.  She didn’t experience any contractions but dutifully went to the hospital.  I was born in the late ’70s – a bit beyond the darkest of the dark ages of American birth.  My father was permitted to be in the room as my mother labored and gave birth to me.  My mother wasn’t tied down or forced to be “delivered” of me via forceps.  Even so, my birth was a miserable experience for her.  Shortly after arriving at the hospital she was given a Pitocin drip to bring on the contractions – or so she thought.  Turns out the IV had been hooked up incorrectly and so rather than flowing into her veins the Pitocin pooled on the floor under her bed.  My father discovered this after 12 hours without my mother having so much of a hint of a contraction.  Once the mistake was discovered there was much concern about how long she had been with her water broken and no contractions.  As such she was given a large dose of Pitocin which immediately brought her into hard labor.  Her descriptions of it were agonizing; screaming in the bed, told that she must lay down and endure it, without food or water for over 24 hours. As someone who has done a lot of laboring babies without painkillers I find it hard to believe how she was able to survive that level of pain without moving around.  For me, moving around was the only thing that made it better.  When it came time for her to push she was wheeled down the hall to the delivery room and lie on her back, again forbidden to move, while she pushed and was given the requisite episiotomy.  After I was finally born she was so traumatized she refused to hold me or even look at me.  When I hear this story I don’t feel sorry for little baby me, but I am filled with empathy for my mother.  She was only 26, my father knew absolutely nothing about birth and babies, and my mother was in a new city (they had moved while she was pregnant) far from any of her family.  Growing up hearing this story I learned that birth was something horrible that “happened to a woman”; something painful, and violent, and powerless.

Once Husband and I started talking about having children, in spite of, or perhaps because of my mother’s story, I started to read birth stories.  Blogging was not yet a word but there were a lot of women who kept online journals and I devoured the birth stories they posted there.  It was by looking through the windows into other women’s lives that I learned about how amazing birth could be eventually deciding to have a home birth myself when the time came.  Birth stories are incredibly compelling.  Joyous, tragic, difficult, and fast I imagine women have been telling them to one another for as long as we’ve had the capacity for language.  After giving birth to each of my children, I wrote down each of their birth stories.  For me, the stories, recall the feelings of that day (or days in the case of Older) more than any photograph or video could.  When I was hugely pregnant with Baby, a few days before her due date, I re-read the birth stories I had written of Older and Middle’s birth and just reading kicked off a series of contractions that I think was the beginning of my labor.

I have a good friend who is due with her third baby; in fact one day past her estimated due date.  I  promised her I would send her Baby’s birth story; I decided to post it here for her.  Maybe reading it will help kick-off her labor.   Birth stories are a powerful thing.


I wasn’t sure when to start this birth story; did my truly labor start when I called our doula, C, and asked her to come over to help me through the contractions?  Or did it start when I felt a series of strong and painful contractions the night before Older’s birthday while re-reading his birth story?  Then there was the day, weeks before the birth where I felt regular contractions for about eight hours.  I was reassured that an on again/off again labor pattern is typical for third time moms, and I wasn’t worried, but it did leave me with something of an inability to ever be convinced that actual labor had begun…

On Older’s birthday, I found myself feeling different.  The occasional contractions were still infrequent, but had become noticeably stronger and more painful.  I was queasy and I found my patience for everyone and everything wearing thin. I asked Husband to take the morning off of work (he had already planned to take the afternoon off so that we could all a museum as a family for Older’s birthday).  After resting all morning we did end up making it to the museum but I was quite happy when Older decided that he would like to order pizza in at home rather than go out to dinner.  I spent the next day, a Friday, running a few errands, enjoying lunch out by myself, having our midwife over for a visit/prenatal where we chatted over leftover birthday cupcakes and steamed milk, and making up pie crusts to slip into the last remaining crevices of our very full freezer.  I did not sleep well at all on Friday night and happily slept in on Saturday morning while Husband took the kids to their gymnastics class.  I had infrequent, but strong contractions, that felt real and productive.  While Husband and Middle napped, Older and I quietly made paper chain decorations for Older’s birthday party the following weekend.  I spent the rest of the afternoon playing Tetris, making a braided white bread, and generally just puttering around the house.  At about 7:00 pm, as Husband readied the boys for bed, I began to suspect, although didn’t want to get my hopes up too much, that I was, in fact, in labor.  I sent off a heads-up email to our midwife, E, our doula, and our neighbor who we had planned to watch the kids while I was in labor.

The kids went to bed about 8:00 pm and at that time I realized that the contractions were now actually regular – every 15 minutes apart.  After the kids fell asleep my body seemed to sense that all possible obstacles to labor were out of the way and the contractions grew closer together, perhaps 5 to 10 minutes apart; with a pattern of a long, strong contraction alternating with a shorter, less painful one.  About this time I was taking the bread out of the oven and mentioned to Husband that although the bread had smelled and sounded delicious to me earlier in the evening, it no longer interested me.  I also started to feel really, surprisingly very anxious about labor.  All the pain and work of laboring with Older and Middle came flooding back to me and I started to wonder if I really wanted to give birth at home; really wanted to go through all that pain without any possibility of medical relief.  I decided to take a shower – more for calm than for pain relief.  The shower was good, but I couldn’t stop wondering if I was really in labor.  I thought that more distraction was a good idea so I decided to play more Tetris.  I played one game for about an hour and half until I finally lost my Tetris mojo and the game was over with me getting a little over 5000 lines.

I thought that it was probably a good idea to get some rest and we picked up the house and got ready for bed.  We talked as we lay in bed, pausing for contractions.  I realized that I was hungry and Husband got up to make me some toast on the bread I had just made; first with butter and strawberry jam and then with butter and honey (and then another batch with butter and honey again).  Around midnight I had the realization that regardless of whether or not this labor was going to stop, I would not be able to sleep for the time being; the contractions were simply too strong and painful for rest.  About half an hour later I began to crave some more help through the contractions and decided to call C the doula at 12:32 am.  C was clearly sleeping when I called and I felt, for a moment, a bit of guilt that I had woken her, but she said that if I felt that I needed her she would be happy to come over.  I then thought that if I had called C that I should probably call midwife E and called her after another contraction passed.  I was happy that E sounded awake and she asked me to stay on the phone through a contraction.  After a few minutes a strong contraction hit and I handed the phone to Husband while I moaned and breathed slowly through the pain. E decided to come over and told me that in the event this was not the final act of labor then she would simply set up her equipment and go home later or nap on the couch if it looked slow, but promising.

A long, hot shower sounded appealing again and I thought it would be a good test of my labor; if the contractions slowed down then perhaps I would be able to relax and sleep and Baby was not quite ready to be born; but if the contractions kept coming (or got stronger – not that I was expecting that) then I must really be in labor.  After what seemed like only a few minutes in the shower I was surprised when I quickly began to feel contractions very close together.  As one would hit I would turn so that the hot water poured down over my back while I hung against the shower door.  Although I didn’t feel any pain in my back, the hot water felt wonderful as a distraction from the contractions.  The contractions seemed relatively short but quite closely spaced.  Despite the pain, I truly took pleasure and satisfaction in this part of my labor.  It felt good and productive to be up on my feet.  I was excited that our baby was coming to us.  And the wonderful, hot water of the shower really erased my anxieties or any lingering stress from the pain of the contractions.  C might have been asleep, but she must have been all ready to go and arrived at our house just half an hour after I called her at 1:05 am.  I was doing well in the shower so I just kept going.  I wondered just how close the contractions were at this point and when I asked, Husband said, to my surprise, that they were only two minutes apart!  They also seemed short to me and I asked if that was OK, but C said that they were about 45 seconds long.  That sounded like real labor so and I decided to stay in the shower as long as possible as it was working so well.  I began to feel hot in the steamy shower and asked Husband for some water.  He brought my bottle to me quickly (I think he was very happy to have something concrete to do) and the water was deliciously cool and refreshing.  I started to want company during the breaks between contractions and although I didn’t ask, Husband seemed to sense that I needed him and stayed in the bathroom from then on.  The contractions grew more painful and we started a new routine.  During a contraction I would close the shower door and hang off of it while grasping Husband’s hands tightly.  After the contraction passed, I would open the shower door, take a deep drink of cool water, hold a nice soft towel up to my body and chat with Husband and C.  I was still in the shower at 1:30 am when E arrived.  After more than an hour in the shower I was starting to feel a bit weak in the knees and restless and at 1:50 am I decided to get out.  I dried off and put on the same black nightgown I was wearing during Middle’s birth.  I went out into the living room and after walking though a couple of contractions I sat down to rest for a bit.  I kept expecting to have to get up at any moment to walk through a contraction but after several minutes none came.  I worried that meant that labor had stopped, but E thought that it was only a break and told me to enjoy it while it lasted.  E soon called over her assistant, N.  I was surprised that she would do so already; I didn’t think I was that close to having a baby, but clearly E thought that the birth was coming relatively soon.  Only five minutes after the break in contractions ended I noticed more pressure during a contraction.  E told me she thought I would have the baby before the sun came up!  By 2:30 am the contractions were coming long and strong.  N arrived and E decided to start an IV for hydrocortisone (I need a “stress dose” of steroids during and after labor due to my rheumatoid arthritis) and fluids.   It took her awhile to find a vein she was happy with in my left arm.  I was starting to lose any cares other than labor and didn’t mind at all when she ended up placing it in the crook of my left elbow.  I was sitting on a birth ball in the living room and rapidly starting to turn inwards.  From this point on labor became something of a blur for me.  I started to get loud through the contractions, yelling “Nooooo!” and “Owwww!”  The shower had worked so well earlier that I decided to get back it.  It was helpful, but I wouldn’t call it enjoyable like the second time I had been in.  I still squeezed Husband’s hands with every contraction – but now I was squeezing a lot harder.  Husband later told me he thought I might actually break his hand.  I thought I was only in the shower a short time before I became restless and frustrated that it “wasn’t working anymore”, but C’s notes show that I was in there for 25 minutes – longer than I thought.  I tumbled out of the shower onto the bathroom floor during a contraction.  Someone brought the birth ball in and it felt good (or less bad) to rest on my knees leaning forward on the ball.  I managed to gasp out that I wanted a towel over the ball as the surface of the ball was cold and slippery and that towel felt positively luxurious.  We staggered out to the living room and E said that she was confident that I would have the baby by morning.  E and C were trying to “coach” me through many of the contractions at this point saying things such as “Melt”, “Relax your shoulders”, “Soften your hips”.  I didn’t find the coaching very helpful; I wasn’t sure what “Soften your hips” even meant and I was frustrated that they kept repeating the same things over and over.  Sometimes two people would try to talk at the same time which was supremely annoying.  I found it incredibly hard to focus on one person but two people talking was like trying to listen to the radio and TV at the same time – maddening.  I also asked C to try counter pressure on my back and hips during a contraction remembering that it had helped for a time during my labor with Middle and it unfortunately felt wretched and I immediately told her to stop.   I couldn’t stand anyone to touch me at all actually.  I did want to hold Husband’s hands but it was vitally important to me that I be the one holding his hands (not him holding mine) and I would slap him away when he tried to grasp my hands.  I remember very little detail from this time; save the feeling of the towel on the ball against my cheek.  For some reason that towel felt like it was the only good thing in the universe.  I was starting to feel caged, trapped in a never ending cycle of pain.  I remember thinking, in a moment of seeming clarity, “What the hell am I doing here?”, “Why am I not in the hospital getting an epidural?”, “What was I thinking trying to do this at home!?!”  My doubts finally broke free and I yelled “I want to go to the hospital!  I want an epidural!”  No one, including myself, really took me seriously though.  I just needed to say it and then the urge passed.  What I really wanted was the labor to be over with.  I felt so battered by the never ending waves of pain.  I was so tired, I was starting to yawn in between contractions.  I just didn’t see how I was going to make it through what lay ahead and I had no idea how long it would take to get there.  My new all consuming thought became “I just want her out.”  I was getting very loud through the contractions, but it couldn’t be helped.  I didn’t want to wake up the kids, but then I heard chatting and what sounded like giggling coming from their room – apparently they were already up.  They didn’t seem distressed, rather, if anything, they were amused by my yells.  I completely lost focus thinking of them though.  Although I had hoped that they could stay and just be woken up right before the birth, it wasn’t to be and I asked Husband to bring them over to the neighbor’s house.  The kids left sometime between 4:15 and 4:30.  I worried that it might take Husband awhile to get them settled in, but he came back within a contraction or two.  I don’t know how far apart the contractions were at this point and I didn’t care enough to ask.  At one point I do distinctly recall saying “Three kids is good.  I am done.  I am so done.”  I began to crave rest like I have never craved anything before.  The contractions seemed to be right on top of one another with no real relief.  As one would end I would sit back and just try to catch a moment of respite; my knees were sore from grinding into the carpet.  I remember very distinctly thinking of the contractions as a storm that would carry me out to sea, toss me around, and then wash me back ashore (the breaks in between contractions) bruised and battered only to carry me back out to sea all over again.  Husband would remind me to think of the baby and I honestly could not think of her in any concrete way; I couldn’t think of anything but, “I want her out.  I want this to be over.  I am done.”   I thought of the birth not as getting to meet my baby, but as the pain and exhaustion being over.  Somewhere around this time I spontaneously moved from yelling words to moaning which in some part of my brain I recognized as a good thing.  I heard the word transition being discussed by E, C, and N.  My water hadn’t broken yet and E asked Husband if we cared about the rug in the living room.  I didn’t say anything, but I thought, “I don’t care about anything other than getting this baby out!”  Husband, however, said quite sensibly, that he did care about the rug and the ladies (I have no idea who – my eyes were closed much of the time now) built a nest of chux pads under me.   I began to feel some desire to push; not a strong urge; it was more that pushing made the pain somehow more tolerable.  E said to go ahead and push and kept subtly checking my progress.  E began to get energized and kept saying that as soon as my water broke that this was going to go fast.  I asked for a promise that this was going to be over soon.  A little past 5:30 one of the ladies suggested a change of position and we moved into the hall to try squatting with the chin-up bar for support.  The bar was too high and someone placed a towel over it to hang off of but it didn’t feel comfortable.  After a few minutes C suggested that I sit on the toilet and that sounded good – I knew that babies were often born at home on the toilet – so I shuffled the few steps to the bathroom.  I sat on the toilet, exhausted, pushed and my water broke with a big splash right into the toilet – quite convenient!  I had a moment of happiness and excitement flood through me at my water breaking – only a moment of respite, however, as I then felt her head begin to crown.  I gave a mighty roar and pushed one, twice, three, times.   It hurt, but it was a good hurt; a really good hurt.  I knew that this was finally, truly the end.  I stood up, moved forward a bit, pushed two more times and she was out!  I sat back in relief as she was handed to me; warm, wet, and very slippery.  It was 5:44 am.  Words fail me but I remember thinking how real and intense this moment of my life felt.  My senses were overwhelmed.  I held our just birthed baby girl in my arms and I could hear her whimpering, feel the pain in my body and the heat between us, see how she was quickly turning a robust, healthy pink.  We rested and someone began to rub baby girl with a warm flannel blanket.  I just sat there not really thinking, relived and talking to our baby girl, telling her that I was her mama, that I was so happy she was here, that everything was going to be OK.  I think that in some ways I was comforting myself as much as I was comforting her.  The next few hours were a blur of quietly soaking up the perfection of our new baby girl, intensely painful after-contractions, introducing our daughter to her siblings, and eating a delicious meal of cinnamon rolls and scrambled eggs.


Someday my daughter will ask me to tell her about her birth.  It would be easy to tell her that giving birth to her, at home, was the hardest thing I’d ever done.  It’s a truthful statement.  I can still vividly remember how I thought “I don’t know how to do this!” as I labored with her, battered by wave after wave of agonizing pain.  But it’s not the whole truth.  The whole truth is that is was the hardest but also the simplest, most powerful thing I’ve ever done.  I can hardly wait to tell her the story.

Paging Dr. Emily…

During freshman orientation at college I attended some sort of meal with my fellow soon-to-be freshman.  We were assigned seating at big round tables.  As we ate we went around the table proclaiming our intended majors; at least half my classmates, including me, planned to declare “physics”.  Seventeen years later I can’t tell you what the purpose of the meal was, what we ate, or even what meal it was.  However, I can clearly recall that two of the the students at the table added that in addition to whatever their major was to be, they were “pre-med”.  I remember being startled as a flash of jealousy coursed through my body and I was hit by a sudden and entirely unexpected urge to say “me too!”  For a moment, I wanted to be one of those two students; I wanted their future.  Sure, I was always reading about all things medical and I was the rare person who actually enjoyed doctors appointments and found hospitals fascinating, but I had never considered becoming a doctor.  I squashed the feelings of jealousy as I would an inconvenient bug.  Nothing was going to district me from my mission of majoring in physics (with a focus on astrophysics), then pursing my PhD., and finally becoming an astronaut.  Becoming an astronaut was something I had dreamed about since I was seven and half years old.  I was focused, I was ambitious.  It was not a matter of if to me, but when.

A few weeks later, halfway though my first quarter of college, I was so blindsided by my classes that I was no longer thinking about my distant future but about how I was going to survive yet another all nighter of physics problems and still remain conscious in class the next day.  It was four years of my life, but I remember shockingly little about college and not because I was in a drunken haze (I think I can count on one hand the number of times I drank at all in college).  I was so stressed, so deeply unhappy that it is lost to me in a fog.  I had a boyfriend (now Husband) but rarely socialized.  The highlights of my college experience were when I would allow myself a break from our regular Wednesday night physics all-nighter (I literally did not sleep on Wednesday nights for two years in a row) and drive over to In-N-Out burger just before they closed (1:30 am) to procure us some food to sustain us for the rest of the night.  The workload itself was punishing enough, but what truly made the experience miserable was that it turned out I hated physics and math.  I was so bored in my classes.  By the time I realized that I should switch majors to something else (anything else) I was in too deep to change without spending more than four years in college.  At the time, I was barely making ends meet, supporting myself through school with a summer job and loans and with a boyfriend who paid my rent and bought our food most of the time.  I couldn’t fathom adding another year of debt onto my already crushing burden.  I stayed the course, managed to graduate with a B average, got into a second tier graduate school in physics, and then finally euthanized my astrophysics career two quarters into my PhD when I up and quit one day.  I had no idea what to do with my life but conveniently a big aerospace company knew just what to do with me and hired me after a perfunctory interview.  I knew during the interview that I wasn’t the least bit interested in the job but hey I had those massive student loans and my starting salary was more than my dad’s salary at the time and so I took the job.  The next few years can be summed up in a few sentences.  I got married just shy of my 23rd birthday.  After a year I got another, better paying job with a different company (Evil Corporation).  I was good at what I did and built up an expertise in a niche field.  I bought a house at age 24.  I worked full time and also got a masters degree in systems engineering.

I was, by anyone’s measure but my own, a success.

But I had a secret.  When I read, it was never, ever about the latest satellite launch or space technology.   People praised my efficiency at work.  I was efficient because it is just naturally my personality but also because then, when everyone left, I would have time to read what I really wanted.  I read about the influence of hormones on auto immune disorders and how epidurals slowed the progression.  I checked out every doctor’s memoir I could find at the library.  I stayed too long at my own and my children’s doctors appointments asking questions about how things worked longer; seeking out information that I had no real need to know.  For years, no one, not even Husband knew of my “habit”.  I never even acknowledged to myself what I was doing; but I was absolutely ravenous for knowledge.  Once at a party a a friends house (who happened be a resident in emergency medicine) I found a quiet corner of the party and curled up on the sofa happily immersed in his OBGYN textbook.  He found me and was laughing at me for willingly reading such a thing in the middle of the party.  He questioned whether I was actually reading it (I had actually read through about half of it at that point – I am a crazy fast reader) and began to quiz me, “What is the most common cause of heavy uterine bleeding in a woman over 40?”  I shouted out “Fibroids!” loud enough for the other party goers to turn and look curiously in my direction.

Although it seems glaringly obvious in retrospect, it didn’t hit me what all of this met until I was 32 years old and had to have surgery for an endometrioma.   I was at my post-op appointment with my fabulous OBGYN and she asked if a medical student who was working with her could come in and take my history.  I said “sure” and a nervous and oh so young woman came and took my history.  As I helped the med student along, knowing rather a lot more about my condition than she did, I was hit with that same flash of intense burning jealousy that I had experience so long ago.  I wanted so badly to switch places with her, to be 23 and in medical school that I was momentarily rendered speechless.  “Oh”, I remember thinking as I got into the car after the appointment.  “Oh.  I want to be a doctor.  I think I have wanted to be a doctor for a long time.  I belong on the other side of the medical history form.  I get it now.”

Somewhere after that I told Husband about my thoughts and I very quickly followed my telling him with the reassurance that, of course, now it was too late for that.  I knew even then I wanted to leave Evil Corporation but I was thinking something along the lines of taking my aerospace policy experience and parleying that into some sort of healthcare policy job.  Six months later I was pregnant with Baby and was again consumed in the pregnancy and newborn haze.  Until one day the shit hit the fan with Evil Corporation and I just stopped caring about what I should do and started thinking about what I wanted to do.  I started taking prerequisite classes for medical school at our local community college.  I told everyone I was working towards becoming a lactation consultant (which is true) and then casually said “and maybe more”.   After a year and a half of going to school at night without a break, last week, I completed all of the prerequisite courses for lactation consulting and a master of public health.  I will enter a one year lactation consultant program this September and next July (assuming I pass the exam) will be a board certified lactation consultant.  I could then get a master of public health in two years and be on my way to a new career in health policy with a focus on maternal child health.

Then why do I find myself tonight signing up for more classes at the community college for this fall; chemistry and Spanish to be specific?  It will be a shit ton of work to take chemistry and Spanish, plus my lactation classes, plus do lactation clinical rotations two days a week.  Because I can’t let it go, this dream of becoming a doctor.  I am not ready to let it go.

Every day I go back and forth.  There are a myriad of cons to becoming a doctor:  all the time away from my family for med school and residency, taking on massive amounts of debt in my late thirties and early forties, years of inflexible schedules, entering a highly patriarchal, hierarchical system, managed care (being a doctor isn’t what it used to be).  They say that you should only become a doctor if you can’t imagine doing anything else and being happy.  I wish I knew if lactation consulting and the administrative side of public health could be enough for me, but I don’t.  So for now I am leaving the door to medical school open.

I am pretty sure that I should have been a doctor, but I am not sure that I still should be.


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