by FreshMD | Martina Scholtens
When Ilia was a few weeks old, Pete asked, and said it so casually from the couch where he was reading after dinner, "Do you miss our old life?" The relief to hear it said. I did. I missed the old routine, driving in to Vancouver in the mornings with four-year-old Ariana in the back seat, CBC on the radio and a day at the clinic ahead of me. Yes, there will be a similar routine in a few months, with an infant in the car and a graduated return to work, but those other days, the particular way they were, are done.
"I guess you'll never have another son-baby, hey, Mom?" asked my six-year-old son cheerfully as he ate his after school snack the next week. I could have cried. I saved all my kids' clothes in anticipation of this possible fourth, and now that she's here I have boxes of corduroy pants, sneakers, little ball caps to set afloat. Somehow my daughters' infancies seem preserved through Ilia wearing their hand-me-downs, but I can't kid myself: my son's baby days are over.
And then I overheard Ariana greeting her little sister. "Good morning, Ilia," she said seriously. "It's your medium-sized sister." Saskia's still the oldest, and Leif's still the only boy, but the crown of youngest child has been passed from Ariana to Ilia, by my choice. Then, after church an elderly woman tugged on my arm, admired the baby and confided, "Mothers have a very special relationship with their youngest daughter." At that moment Ariana came into view, long dark pigtails, thin legs in purple boots making their way across the room to the gardens outside. There she was, the daughter with whom I would have had that extra special relationship - except I'd taken that from us and given it to this newest baby.
Those first two months, I missed my bodies. The one before this last pregnancy. The one before I had ever been pregnant at all. The pregnant one, even, that at least looked purposeful. A week post-partum, sitting at the breakfast table, Leif gestured at my paunch with his spoon and asked, "You know why that looks like that? Because all the equipment is still in there."
Most of all, I've struggled with the (temporary) loss of my identity as physician. At the little good-bye party over cake in the chart room in February, I asked the clinic to please just stagnate until I returned. Of course they will forge ahead and do all sorts of interesting things while I'm away, and I hate to not be a part of it. Some of my patients requested six-month supplies of medications to tide them over until my return. I didn't comply, but I understood. I'm grateful for my locum, but I'm jealous of her, too. I miss the collegiality of the clinic, the focus on others' lives, the escape from my own head, the sense of contributing to the community, the academic stimulation. I'm back to work in the fall, but in the meantime, I feel a little unmoored.
This is my daughter:
How I love this little face. I marvel that someone I couldn't have imagined months ago could feel so inevitable, could have an entire family happily orbiting around her.
Don't mistake this for ingratitude. It's simply an acknowledgment that for this new mother, mixed in with the bliss of those first six to eight weeks, were feelings of loss and grief. Surely I'm not the only one.