I’m going back in time, for this one. Back to residency, when I had only one child, my first – Sicily. She was six months old, and I often wondered whether I ever really knew the meaning of the word efficiency, before I had her. I also marveled that I used to look at the parents on the soccer field (my husband played soccer at the time), and feel sorry for their constant vigilance in keeping up with their babies and toddlers. Now I felt sorry for the childless ones.
3:45 a.m. Alarm goes off. Baby loves Bach. I don’t really know Bach, but I will forever associate this nameless (to me) song with this activity in this period of my life. I push snooze.
4:00 a.m. Alarm goes off again. I wander to Sicily’s crib down the hall, and bring her back into my bed to nurse her. Complete bliss. I smell her baby head and play with her starfish hands as she gulps down milk. I smell her sweet milky breath and soak in her long eyelashes by the light of the alarm clock as she falls back asleep, drunk and happy.
4:20 a.m. I put Sicily back in her crib, knowing that she will be out until 9:00 a.m., long after I have gone to work. I step into the shower to start my day.
4:45 a.m. I get dressed and dry my hair, careful to keep quiet as the rest of the house is still asleep.
5:00 a.m. I wander downstairs to spend an hour cramming for Step III. I chastise myself for saving Step III until the third year of my residency, but like I said, efficiency now has a new meaning.
6:00 a.m. My husband leaves for work. I heat up a bagel in the toaster oven, plaster it with peanut butter, and wash it down with strawberry milk. Nestle Quick, of course. Amazing how your childhood comforts return to help out during pregnancy and nursing. I pump off 10 ounces of milk in preparation for work.
6:15 a.m. My nanny comes so I can head to work. I march resolutely across the bridge to the Veteran’s Hospital, where I am doing research for a paper. Extracting DNA from paraffin blocks – a methanol extraction technique. I would later present this paper at a meeting in Vancouver. My presentation was on Sicily’s first birthday, so my mom took her to the meeting with me, so I wouldn’t miss it. Our departure was postponed a day, because I wasn't aware that I needed written permission from my husband to take my daughter out of the country (Canada counts??). When we finally arrived at midnight the next night, our room had been given away. We were thankfully placed around 2:00a.m. at a hotel I would later learn, on VH1, was Christina Aguilera’s favorite place to stay in Vancouver.
8:00 a.m. I report to my third year rotation – cytology. My first cytology rotation – a specialty I would later do my fellowship in. At the time, I was not aware of this. I shunned needles, or any extra work, due to exhaustion. But on this day, my attending had different ideas.
10:00 a.m. I practice performing fine needle aspirations (FNA) on an orange, after looking at pap smears for an hour. I am ready to head to the cancer clinic.
11:00 a.m. I watch my attending perform an FNA on an enlarged lymph node on the left neck.
11:15 a.m. I help stain the slides in the on-site clinic. I look into the extra head on the microscope. Squamous cell carcinoma, metastatic. We call the clinician to tell him.
11:30 a.m. My boobs are rock hard. Formerly small B’s are now at least double D’s. I need to find a place to pump. Apheresis lab usually has an extra room. I grab my breast pump and empty 15 oz. Quickly store in the fridge to take home to freeze and wash my pump parts. Head to conference.
12:00 p.m. Noon conference. Daddy’s Deli. Veggie sandwiches with sprouts, olive tampenade, guacamole, and mustard. Yum! Pumping milk starves me. Get pimped about liver unknowns over lunch. Performance OK, but not the best. Self-flagellate.
1:15 p.m. Back to cytology. Read fluids with attending. Pleural effusions, peritoneal fluids, cerebrospinal fluid, more paps. Spot Trichomonas before attending. Feel savvy and knowledgeable.
2:30 p.m. Back to cancer clinic. We walk in to see a 65 year old woman with a large sub lingual tongue mass. My attending decides it’s perfect for my first FNA. An easy hit. I brace myself against her cancer-ridden, tobacco-stench breath and dive in with the needle. I got cells. Stain them. No surprise. Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
4:00 p.m. Tidying up in cytology. Finish straggling pap smears and exfoliative cytology. Entertain my attending over the scope with stories. Hope like hell my nanny hasn’t fed my daughter in the last hour or so cause I am feeling full as a tick.
5:30 p.m. Home at last. Sicily is hungry, thank goodness. Feed her and play with her until her bedtime at 7:30.
8:00 p.m. Pump for the last time before bed. Study for noon conference the next day. Clean and sterilize pump parts in preparation for tomorrow. Watch American Idol with my husband.
There it is. A day in a former life. Not one that I envy, at this point in my career. But I miss those starfish hands, and rubber-band wrists. Today, on the way to Thanksgiving dinner, my six-year old daughter was singing Defying Gravity, from Wicked, at the top of her lungs, over and over. “Mom, will you please take my jacket off? I’m so hot from singing.” That sweet little nursing baby is gone forever. A fleeting memory. One that was so all-consuming, at the time. God I miss it, so much.