Oct 13, 2011

A Month on Labor and Delivery

Day 1: I feel great. Excited for labor and delivery, have my lunch packed and my latte in hand. Hair is brushed, lipstick-ed mouth is smiling. Bring on the month.

Day 4: Kinda tired. Thirty-two people are now in the world that were not only a few days ago, and since it was my hands that guided them out, I am now responsible for seeing their mothers every day starting at 4:30 am.

Day 5: Hair brushing now seems like superfluous vanity. Give up in favor of extra thirty seconds of sleep.

Day 5, later: Am primary surgeon on a cesearean section for the first time. Realize that nurses do a "count" of all surgical instruments/sponges before I close the patient, to make sure nothing is left inside. Nurse reports to me "Counts are correct, Doctor." I smile. Thank you.

Day 6: How did my fridge get empty? I seriously don't remember eating all that.

Days 7&8: Don't have time to go to the grocery store.

Day 9: I am now grocery shopping in the hospital cafeteria. What do we need? Milk? Cereal? Fruit? Dinner? A recent trip to the cafeteria yielded 6 milk pints, 5 pieces of loose fruit, a box full of salad, three tins of cheerios, and a takeout box filled with cooked chicken breasts and potatoes. The cafeteria worker laughed at me, then realized I was serious and rang it all up. Swipe...and done.

Day 10: Baby count continues to climb, as does the length of my postpartum rounding list.

Day 11: Find time to go to Fresh and Easy. Please bear in mind that F&E is about 500 feet from my house. Someone with a good arm could throw a ball into their window from my front yard. Nevertheless, I feel a great sense of accomplishment and provision for my home as I drive over. Get there and realize that the coupon I have been carrying around in my scrub pocket for five days has expired yesterday. Frick. My smugness evaporates, and deflated, I buy the groceries anyways.

Day 11, later that evening: Realize I have forgotten to buy dog food. Rather than make the journey across the street again, opt to serve the dog a chicken breast mashed with potatoes, left over from aforementioned cafeteria shopping. He loves it.

Day 13: Thinking of the raw pork loin waiting for me in the fridge (it seemed like a good idea sitting there all pretty and healthy in the grocery store case), I opt to bring home dinner from the cafeteria. Chicken enchiladas- a favorite of my husband's- were being served, and I bought a plate and took it home. I slid it onto my own china, reheated it, and served it. About halfway through, he squints at me, and asked if asked if I had made these? I just laughed and asked...what do you think? He laughed too.

Day 15: I didn't have time to do my laundry, and ran out of underwear. Opted to buy a new pack from Target instead of devote time to mountain of dirty clothes. Must remember to maintain efficiency and get all other shopping done as well while I am there. Cat sand? Check. New mop? Check. Dog food! Yes! What else? I just cant remember.

Morning of Day 16: What is that smell? I turn my head. It's stronger now. I surreptitiously sniff my armpit. Oh God. That's what I forgot at Target. Deodorant.

Day 18: Deodorant still not purchased. Just when I'm about to give up and start changing my scrub tops thrice daily, I pick up a prescription for the hospital pharmacy and notice they carry deodorant. Hallelujah.

Days 20 and 21: Working both weekend days. Miss husband. He comes to hospital for lunch. I feel bad that he's driven 45 minutes each way to see me, but he insists that the Banner Bistro makes the best chicken sandwich in town, and he was hungry for a good chicken sandwich, so it's really not my fault. He also brings me and my fellow intern our favorite frozen yogurt treats, which I know is an additional 20 minutes out of his way.

Day 23: So, so tired. Realize that between the drive home and needing to come back at 4, I will spend only eight hours at home. Decide to sleep at the hospital, which allows me to sleep in until 5:30, and roll out of bed and into my patients room. Don't care that my hair isn't brushed, but realize the deodorant I've worked so hard to procure is at home. Dammit.

Day 23, later that morning: Purchase another deodorant from pharmacy. Pharmacist grins at me. "Didn't you just buy one of these?" I glare at him, and add a toothpaste to my purchase. He laughs at me.

Day 24: Baby count: 97. How is it possible that there is anyone still pregnant left in Phoenix? I must have delivered everyone by now.

Day 25: My first needlestick, while suturing a difficult vaginal laceration. Must figure out how to get to occupational health.

Day 26: Buy second pack of underwear and larger laundry basket.

Day 28: Mother, upon hearing laundry plight, mails me five pairs of Victoria's Secret panties. I'm sure the postage cost more than what I spent on Fruit of the Loom pack from Target. Gratitude for supportive family eases my tiredness and makes me smile.

Day 30: Had a slow day today. Only delivered one baby. Is it true? Did I really deliver everyone? I was kinda joking before. Hmmm...

Day 31: Never mind. Pregnancies, if not in Phoenix, have now appeared from surrounding areas, including, but not limited to: Camp Verde, Strawberry, Show Low, the Grand Canyon, Colorado City, Buckeye, Salt Lake City, and California. None of these places are within two hours drive of the hospital. Appreciate, really for the first time, that this is a true tertiary care center. Humbled by the fact that I am part of a program/medical center that people travel hundreds of miles to get to, because of what we can provide in terms of high-level care. I don't work with these patients right now- they go to the more experienced residents- but wonder how it happened, and will happen, that in a few months I will be helping to provide care that people drive hours to receive.

Final Count: Babies: 106. Husbands: 1. Supportive family members: more than I deserve. Lost hours of sleep: countless. Pairs of scrubs: 44. Hospital Meals: 61. New pairs of underwear: 17. Exhausted and humbled residents: 1.

Counts are correct, Doctor.

Oct 9, 2011

Pretty (Tired)

I used to be pretty.

Theoretically, I still could be. I have some decent raw material. Taller than average. Slender, athletic frame, if a little pear-shaped. Hair that is straight without intervention, light brown with natural strawberry highlights. Brown eyes, dark eyelashes, full lips. Clear skin with a few freckles. Maybe not beautiful, but okay. More than some people have to start out with, and I feel like I should make the most of it.

I'm working in the clinic right now. I adore office work. Things that most people take for granted- sleeping at night, wearing your own clothes to work, eating lunch- are joys that I get to experience in clinic that I don't usually get while working on the wards. I can put on pants that fit, a purple shirt that looks good with my skin tone, and put on thirty seconds worth of makeup. Undereye concealer, powder, a little blush, a lipstick that has been in my white coat for months. Four people stop me this morning to tell me how great I look. "Wow, are you wearing makeup?" "You look great!" "I like you in your clothes" (side note: does this sound inappropriate to you? Would you also like me out of my clothes?) "You are really pretty." They always sound a little surprised when they say that.

I smile and laugh a little. I tell them thank you, that this is how I used to look in my other life. This is how I looked before I went to medical school, became a doctor, and worked harder/got less sleep than a mother of perpetually newborn twins.

When I'm at the hospital, I wear the required men's scrubs. They are too short, hug my hips too tight, and gap in the chest. My hair is always up and never combed. Sometimes I wear my surgical hat even when I'm not going to the OR, just because I feel like it's cuter than my head. My skin is dull, I have pimples from my surgical mask, and I look bruised on the thin skin under my eyes. My joints ache with tiredness. I look weary. I feel old.

I always sort of wondered when I would start looking older. I look young for my age, and always have. Indeed, the "little doc" came out of people's surprise that I was old enough and accomplished enough to be wearing a white coat. When would I stop looking like the "little doc" and just a doctor? Now I know.

I think this process will age me. Like the presidents. Those guys always start out looking okay, and gradually their wrinkles form and deepen, the skin looks sallow, their hair goes gray. By the end of the term, they have aged much more than four years. And I think this four years of residency will do the same to me.
However, hopefully then I will have a stable practice that I love, a little more sleep at night, and more working hours during the daytime. I can wear comfortable scrubs that are made for women. I'll feel better, even though I'll be older.

And hopefully I'll make enough money to buy more expensive cosmetics, and afford a few units of Botox. I think I'll probably need them. :)