baby

Perfect motion.

9 years ago my husband and I got in an old Magna and moved our entire lives to this state so I could go to medical school.  That day, driving away from my childhood home is forever etched in my memory.  It was burning hot, and as we drove away I cried and told him to turn the car around.  I couldn’t imagine a world without my whole life in it.

How do I put 9 years of my life into a blog?  How do you even begin?  All I know is that the pace of my life increased a thousand percent and didn’t stop until now, 9 years later.  Years and years of the most amazing journey that’s shaped the person I am today, so profoundly different from the one that arrived.  9 years of the most solid friendships I’ve ever made.  Transitioning from terrified arts grad through the incredibly rigorous physician training program to the mostly self-assured doctor that I am today.  I have my moments.  I have a million photos of the things I’ve done.  I have the scars from the tragedies that have fallen in the duration, and the strengthening of those friendships as a result.  The beliefs I entered with are not the same as the ones I exited with.  That breathtaking naivety that you enter medical school and internship with, that you have to enter with otherwise you would never survive, replaced with a gravitas that comes from the things you have seen and a gentle patience for that breathtaking naivety in your juniors that you cultivate for as long as humanly possible.

How do I describe that life in which I had a baby, the one that came at the end of a rainbow, who irrevocably took my heart and put it outside of me in the form of fat little arms and legs?  Who slept while I studied and cried while I slept?  Who broke my heart with every 15 hour shift, endless weekend and evening teaching, and those single days off where I was torn between wanting to sleep so hard and being with her?

How do you put a decade into a single post?  I don’t think you can.

And here I am, in my final 15 hour shift as a basic physician trainee, in my last ever shift at this hospital that I’ve been at for 3 years, the hospital that broke me and reshaped me over and over.  The residents are buzzing about the wards, I’ve got some downtime after seeing some very sick patients.  That panic that used to consume me at arrest calls replaced with that sense of calm that comes with experience.  That knowledge that there’s always someone you can call, and the sense of achievement you get when you lose the fear of calling anyone!  I feel no fear about starting advanced training.  I should.  But after everything, god, after everything that has happened, I have no fear left.  I’m here to learn my craft.  I’m here because I want to be.

Right now I’m wrapping up my last ever med reg job.  I’m moving interstate.  I’m sorting out daycare.  Reading my orientation timetable.  And I’m saying goodbye to this wonderful state that has given me so very very much.  There are no better friends than the friends I have.  No better job.  No better husband and no better child.  I’m exhausted from a sick daycare petri dish baby, I’m not sure when I last washed my hair, and my husband and I haven’t had a moment alone since before she was born and my house would almost qualify as squalor but, here I am, okay with it all.

Through it all, like golden threads woven through my time, shine my incandescent friends with whom we have laughed and cried every step of the way.  Thankyou so very very much.

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The delightful first birthday

In a way The Baby’s first birthday was the first day of the rest of our lives for both Mr G and I.  Playing around with icing, planning food, overcatering – my career hasn’t left any room for entertaining ever and I’m completely new at it.  I bought the Australian Women’s Weekly Vintage Birthday Cakes books from my childhood and went all out on the number 1 cake.

Here it is, freshly iced with buttercream icing that I watched a million YouTube videos on how to do because I had no goddamn idea.

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And here it is after I bombed it with a million decorations and spelled out her name (blurred) in silver balls that Mr G found in Woollies for me.

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I also made Nigella’s Nutella Cake from Domestic Goddess.  The ganache split but the hazelnuts hid it well.

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I’d never had honey jumbles as a kid (nor heard of them) but found this attractive looking recipe on Taste.com so thought I’d have a crack.  They were delicious and I’m told they were true to people’s childhood memories.  They are basically iced gingerbread renamed for some reason.  At some point when I’m less tired, I’ll start photoshopping my food photos to perfection like other blogs.

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Here’s one heavily filtered with the Instagram filters.  Those are peanut butter squares also from Domestic Goddess up the front.  They taste exactly like Peanut Butter Cups – it’s frightening.  And delicious.  Note the copious amounts of cheese and glass of champagne,  because as I quickly learned, the first birthday party is really for the grownups.

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And here’s the baby taking off because the grass is full of far more interesting things than a grownup has to offer!


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I can happily report that much champagne was drunk, the baby cried and fell asleep in her pram while the rest of us stuffed ourselves full of party food and reminisced about childhood and discussed handbags.  The little things are so brilliant so sometimes.

Stardust.

3 months.  3 months I saw patients with varying degrees of attention and quality.  3 months I walked those corridors, struggled through them, cried in them.  I cried every. single. day.  In cupboards, to my friends, and into my lunch.  I left evening teaching early because my breasts were like rocks and leaking but I couldn’t stop breastfeeding because it’s all I felt like I had for her as a mother.  I had nothing else to give her.

3 months I froze and practiced and froze and practiced and froze and froze until I didn’t anymore.  The words started to come, not perfectly, but there they were.  A semblage of structure, something approaching sense coming out of my mouth.  I was struggling and behind right up until the last two days, two days before, it suddenly started to click.  I have lived my life to varying degrees of raw and burnt out and never before have I been so raw and burnt out.

3 months I sat in teaching, feeling like an outsider, feeling like I shouldn’t be there.  Mother’s don’t do this.  My colleagues were already in study groups, they didn’t know me nor I them and I was alone.  Mother’s on TV were doing washing and not letting their babies watch television and steaming sweet potatoes.  Mother’s don’t do this.  They don’t become mothers and sit both specialty training exams in the same year. I cried.  I can’t repeat how much I cried.

And for 3 months my husband, not without his own challenges, got the baby up and fed the baby and changed the baby and played with the baby, rinse and repeat for 12 hours a day.  That precious hour I got with her was a shadow.  I could barely look at his drawn and haggard face, the guilt nearly killed me.  3 months of the most crushing guilt and escalating burnout.

I showed up on the day, exhausted, in something resembling a suit that I’d cobbled together to fit my new odd-shaped body.  My hair has all fallen out from breastfeeding and stress and it was barely passable.  My tights felt uncomfortable.  I walked in there and did my thing.  I forgot to do so many things.  I said stupid stuff.  I ran away in the lunch break and cried some more, somehow there were still tears left.  I listened to the other candidates bang on at each other with nervous excitement.  I sat on hard plastic chairs in a 1970s hospital lunch cafeteria and ate a bad sandwich.  After lunch I did embarrassingly badly, I can hardly think about it.

Afterwards I went and sat in my hotel bar and bought myself a glass of champagne because everyone who’d sat it sent lots of messages to our group about how happy they felt that it was done.  I drank that glass and cried some more.  I didn’t feel happy.  I felt broken and defeated.  And stupid.  Really really stupid.  Only a stupid person would attempt this with a baby and no extra family support.  For the next two weeks I was so sure I’d failed.

And there it was, like stardust.

In my inbox, there it was.  For whatever reason, uncomfortable stockings, imperfect skills and hair and motherhood, I passed.  In spite of it all, I passed.

No one I worked with could ever really understand the self-doubt I felt.  From the outside I seem to have it more-or-less together except for the corridor-tears with my inner circle.  So much has happened since I started this journey in 2013.  More than I want to recount or even think about.  I’m a different person than the one who started.

The further down the rabbit-hole I go the less I feel like I know.  But I know that for what it’s worth, I did this.  I really really did this.  I got into medical school, survived it, and did the physician exams and passed them.   Whatever happened long ago, who I might have been and the things that might have happened just don’t matter anymore, because I did this.  And I can’t wait to get on with my life.

The perfect set of circumstances.

It’s December.  The sun is shining but I can’t feel it.  I live over the road from the sea but the water feels like it’s a million miles away.  My body feels a thousand years old and the baby has been asleep for no longer than an hour at a time over the last few days.  My exam notes are on the floor in a corner and I’m staring at the wall, asking my mother, through a veil of coffee-tinged fog, what craziness had entered my head that thought I could sit a five hour written examination with a newborn?  My mother shrugs and says “you can spend your whole life waiting for the perfect set of circumstances”.

And there it is, like lightning.

And here I am again, 3 weeks out from exam number 2, horribly horribly behind, with a small baby, the loving and long suffering husband, and us, just us, in our tiny place, with all our family interstate.  My colleagues put in hours and hours and I come home to see my little girl who gets a new superpower every day without me being there.  She is always happy to see me and my heart lives in various stages of broken.

I cry at work almost daily, mainly out of frustration.  Too many patients, not enough time, I don’t really know my colleagues, I have no little group.  They walk around the hospital in their study groups, diligently seeing cases.  I have no courage.  I present cases, I’m told things like “you need to work on your knowledge, your confidence, your face, your eyes, your words”.  I cry some more, and keep going.  The circumstances are far beyond ideal.  I’m incredibly close to failing.

And then I come home, to my loving and long suffering husband, to my smiling baby and my tiny apartment near the sea.  I talk to my friends via text because phonecalls in the evening are pointless with a baby and they cheer me on.  I think how lucky I am to have everything I have, exam or no exam.

have the perfect set of circumstances.  Maybe not for a huge exam, but I’ll do my best.

And now, as you breathe out.

I read back over this blog today and realised it’s been going since 2010.  The bulk of it was written in internship and residency and it very much reads like someone living their life in between those two years of utter disarray.  And then, two years ago, the snow globe that was my life was shaken and shaken and shaken.  By the time the pieces had settled, so much had happened and the day-to-day vagaries of my job stopped mattering, as I’m sure they do anyway.

It’s hard in medicine to have a blog.  Really really hard.  You have to be so careful.  I still remember Barbados Butterfly who had the best blog about being a woman in surgery until the hospital bloody made her take it down.  There’s so much I want to say about the last two years but just can’t.  All I can say is that 2013 was the worst year of my life.  So bad that I quit the Internet.  Which for long-term readers from the early 2000s is probably inconceivable but it happened.  For all bad events that happen in your life though, things settle eventually and you get to process and box it all up to put on your trophy shelf of Life’s Big Event’s.

The biggest and best thing that has happened for me though is that I had a beautiful baby girl with five fingers and five toes whom I can only describe as being sunlight personified.  To steal a phrase, she is incandescent.  I never thought I would feel that way about anything.  Babies are nothing like what they’re sold to be.  She put everything, absolutely everything into perspective for me and for this I am eternally grateful.

The Internet is weird these days.  Everything is packaged up so you can sell something.  Mummy blogger.  Daddy blogger.  Doctor blogger.  Fitness blogger.  Fake-cancer-survivor blogger.  You’re almost pushed into sieving yourself into one kind of thing and only posting about that.  If you eat healthy you can only post one YOLO meal a week.  Green smoothies compulsory.  Fitness?  God forbid you should post a photo looking like a slob on your couch.  I don’t think I could filter myself even if I wanted to.

I thought about deleting this one and starting again, but then realised that the progression through internship and residency, and then to registrar is probably worth a read.  Even if two years of that registrarship isn’t documented, I can write in retrospect about some things.  So watch this space, and if you were holding your breath, you can breathe out now.