Sunday, March 13, 2011

Maybe I'm just tired, but this is getting hard

When you are in medical school there are ways to tell what you are really interested in.

If you love the OR and prefer your patients to be asleep when you are dealing with them - Surgery is for you.

If you love to think about details and the billion things this potassium value could be - well then, Internal medicine is key.

Never want to touch anyone?  Psychiatry, my friend.

(can you tell I am an OB . . . .  I am very glad there are lots of different doctors out there doing great jobs, but we all poke a little fun of each others specialty.  Believe me that most physicians rule out OBGYN before they even enter medical school - not everyone can handle what we do and I certainly couldn't mentally handle the medicine or psych.)

There are many of us however that fall in love with both OB and Pediatrics.  When we see these students come through, loving both of their rotations, really torn as to what to do with their lives.  We tell them that you can tell where you belong when you deliver a baby.  If you want to hand off the baby and stay with the mom - OB is your choice.  If you could care less about what comes after baby and just want to follow the kid . . . its pediatrics for you.  If you are torn and want to do it all . . . think Family Medicine.

Peds was by far my favorite rotation way back when I was in their shoes, and while I could have had a lot of fun at work dealing with kids everyday, I always wanted to stay with the mom after a delivery.   The occasional times where there is an outright emergency - I wanted to be the one in control, not the one waiting to be handed the baby.

This is just a personal choice because I am probably a control freak -- I certainly can't knock pediatricians.  My husband saves more lives than I do while dealing with bigger complexities than I could handle.  But there is a certain Zen that comes over me when the figurative excrement hits a rotating blade during a labor or delivery, and I can manage the chaos calmly and effectively.

Problem is, lately during the routine aspects of my job, I can't stop gazing at the babies.  I'm not sure I was ever really seeing them before.  Sure I used to look at them and comment on how cute they are or how hairy or how much they looked like dad, but they were just an object at the time.  Something that I had to get out of the uterus, or try to keep in.  An afterthought, when things were said and done with mom, I would just look at the kiddos and congratulate the happy parents.  Sure, I always cared about what happened to them, but my focus is always on mom after delivery.

But now, when I ultrasound them, pull them out or catch them, its just too hard to not see them.  My biological clock went off a long time ago, so its not really that.  Its the overwhelming sadness that I have because I do SEE them now.  I see the baby, the mom, the family, the love, the joy and I can't ignore that I am still far from getting there in my life with many more hurdles to get through.  And when things don't go well despite the best that medicine can offer, I feel the pain.  Deep deep pain.  I hurt so bad for these women and I can't stop thinking about them, and its all getting a bit overwhelming.

I really do love my job.  I have such a special opportunity to take care of women, but it is taking a toll on me.  There may be a time limitation on my happiness or an empathy limitation on how much I can haul.  But for now it is a sad and lonely place to be and any strength I had is leaving me.


  1. Wow. First of all, this is an incredibly powerful and moving post. The description on how to choose a specialty is excellent. And, I can feel your pain and uncertainty as your perspective has changed. I don't think I'll soon forget that description. It really changes how I imagine my doctors.

    My RE and his wife went through RPL and multiple failed IVF cycles. I'm not sure how he kept a positive attitude with his patients while he was doing that. But, one way or another, what you're going through makes you a more caring physician. I know it must be overwhelming, but I'm certain your patients appreciate it.

    I'll say it again that I truly admire you for what you do while dealing with infertility. It has to be incredibly hard. I am just so sorry that it is starting to take its toll on you. I wish there was something I could say that would bring that happiness back.

  2. I wish I could offer you some solid comfort back up with experience...but I can't. Just thanks for sharing. Do whats best for you...