Sunday, August 16, 2009

Trading Places

So I was having one of those precious days, where I thought I might actually get to sit down and eat lunch. It was 12:15 and there was just one patient left. A “routine” OB at about 20 weeks. She’s one of my favorite patients. I had delivered her little girl a few years earlier and now she was having a boy. Boisterously, I entered the room, but seeing her tear stained eyes, I quickly changed my tone.
I listened as she described the frustration that was her current life. She could barely handle her 2 year old and wasn’t sure she was ready for another. Also, her husband wasn’t overly supportive. What she wanted, more than anything, was a career. She had been taking premed courses before getting pregnant with baby number two unexpectedly. As she asked my opinion about her likelihood of making it through medical school, I tried to be supportive, but also give her a realistic picture of what that entailed. More than anything I just listened. Letting her cry and talk for most of my lunch hour. Holding her hand. Passing her tissues.
The irony, of course, is that I would give anything to trade places with HER. Not that I am ready to give up my career (neither is she unhappy about baby #2), but I my heart aches for another child. I coveted her fertility, much as she coveted my job. Genuinely I felt compassion for her, but to be honest , there was some amount of jealously as she lived out her own version of the American dream : a healthy boy and girl 2.5 years apart.
By the end of the visit my eyes welled with tears. She thought they were for her… but that was only partially true.

13 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Wow, what a powerful post. How many times have I thought the exact same thing! It never gets any better--when I am working I want to be home with my kid. I wish I had some pithy comment to make it all better, RH, but I don't! Hang in!

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  3. Very very beautiful and powerful.

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  4. hugs to you, RH.

    We're blessed with different things. Sometimes it takes someone else's sadness to make that clear.

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  5. Oh, I needed that post! I've been weepy all day about starting another week of nights...it's so easy to forget that being a doctor is special, mostly because it's so obvious that being a mom is!

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  6. aw, RH+. Thank you for sharing this with us. Such a powerful post. Hugs to you.

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  7. In a way she was there for you as you were there for her. Very moving, thanks for sharing this with us. The dream you mention takes different formats and we can only go with the dream we're experiencing at any given time. Be well, and continue to feel.

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  8. Kudos for taking the time to listen and not get frightened by a patient's tears.

    So often I hear from patients that if they cry tot heir ob/primary that they get a referral to a psychiatrist. And sometimes it is the right referral but sometimes, a person just wants to vent.

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  9. Thank you for the supportive comments. SOmetimes the best things we can do for our patients and each other is 'just listen'

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  10. your post hits home with me so much. There are so many times I wish that I hadn't gone down the path of being a physician (now that I'm 12 years out of residency). I have a wonderful almost 3 year old that took us 5 years and thousands to achieve. I would give anything to provide him with a sibling. And there are others who would give anything to trade places with me.

    Life is never exactly what we want, but we somehow make it as beautiful as it can be.

    Thank you for the post.

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  11. Beautiful post, RH+. Good to "hear" from you again.

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  12. You were a sweet and compassionate person to get through that.

    How long will it be until you have a "career" woman in your exam room sobbing because she can't get pregnant?

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  13. I am happy she got to talk to you. Fertility is so unfair.

    I went to medical school after unplanned child #2. It is possible. If she wants it and can make the grades, she can do it. There is a grandmother in my class. She can do both. She won't be the first.

    I hope it all works out for her.

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