Thursday, August 4, 2011

This Won’t Hurt a Bit (and other white lies) - My Education in Medicine and Motherhood – A Book Review

I first heard of Michelle Au on Mothers in Medicine – saw that KC, our fearless leader, admired her blog. As an admirer of KC and all things MiM, I started to follow her blog over a year ago. I was not disappointed. Her mind is incredible, I envy her picture-taking abilities, and she is an endless font of entertainment and wisdom. She’s a hop, skip, and a jump away from my home in Little Rock, AR, and I enjoyed watching her struggles through the ice storm last winter as I flew into her current home Atlanta to visit my brother and sister at the end of their long icy convalescence. She drove to work bravely and safely, I drove to work bravely and safely. I feel a kinship with her.

I’ve been following the acceptance for publication of her first book, and stole away from work one day to buy it at Barnes & Noble toward the beginning of the summer. So when KC posed the question in Big Tent – that is our group discussion area for all the bloggers – “Who would like to read and review Michelle Au’s new book for MiM?” I literally jumped at the chance. “I do! You don’t have to send me a free copy – I’ve already bought it!” And so here we are.

The book is a series of vignettes that takes us through her med school experience, residency with major decision changes, and new path to motherhood. She is brilliantly funny, has enormous emotional wisdom beyond her years, and displays honesty and humility that brings the reader to the center of her journey, rather than preaching from a false ivory tower of medicine.

Art, music, and books are as important to humankind as serving others. They forge a common link by bringing out experience and emotion that we all share. Nowhere is this more real for me than sadness. There is a story in the book – I hate spoilers so I will be generic – about a pediatric patient she encountered in her training. Her description of witnessing a bedside interaction between the patient and two other children brought me to tears – they don’t come easily to me. When I collected my feelings to return to the book, I saw that she too collapsed in sadness at the nursing station, and I felt a strong connection, even though I don’t know her. That is what makes a great book.

I obviously enjoyed the book because since her path is so similar to mine, it brought back many memories from my training. One thing that was remarkable to me was watching her navigate the physician/physician parenting dynamic. She and her husband seem to support each other so well. Physician/physician couples have a higher than average rate of divorce – those who know me here know of my own experience in this arena. I asked her today in an online interview (swoon! I talked to her!) to give advice, which I think applies well to any home situation where both parents are working.

“Well, first of all I'd like to ask your readers to e-mail me any tips that they might have, because even twelve years into our relationship, we're still trying to work these things out. But I'd say that most important thing in a two-physician family is the idea of triage. On the whole, a family with two working physician parents is going to be strapped for time, and quite simply there is not enough time in the day to do all the things you would like to do. So just do the things you need to do and screw the rest. You need to spend enough time with your patients and do a good job at work. You need to feed and clothe and bathe your kids. You need to spend time with your family before bedtime, just goofing around and loving them. Everything else can wait. Triage.”

Love the medical parallel. Triage. Take care of your needs. I went to visit my best friend from med school, who recently had her second child. Her house was an absolute mess, but her family was happy. Taking care of your basic needs is most important when times are tough.

So I hope it’s obvious, I loved the book. Highly recommend. I might even go out on a limb to say that it should be required reading for all women interested in medicine and/or starting a family. I could go on and on, but then I would be telling the story. Of the book. And frankly, I think you should just go out and get a copy and read it. I have no financial interest in saying that. Incidentally, I also discovered in my interview that Michelle loves Chinese soup noodles. And she cannot write while listening to music (me neither!). She is super cool.

9 comments:

  1. You should have coffee or dinner with her when you go back to Atlanta to visit your family!

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  2. In my dreams . . . I would love to!!!

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  3. Gizabeth: You should! Bring your kids! Our door is always open. (Not literally, but...you know.)

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  4. Just got back from there last weekend (Aquarium! Wow!) so it may be a few months, but will definitely give you a heads up next time I go there to see if you are available for a quick meet up.

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  5. I just finished this book, and also loved it! I bookmarked her blog to start following it, too. :)

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  6. You will not be disappointed, I assure you!

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  7. I just finished the book and agree completely with Gizabeth, I Really enjoyed it. I have been suggesting it to all my friends.
    Such a great description of all the emotions that crash through you during residency and motherhood.

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  8. . One thing that was remarkable to me was watching her navigate the physician/physician parenting dynamic. She and her husband seem to support each other so well. Physician/physician couples have a higher than average rate of divorce – those who know me here know of my own experience in this arena.

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  9. I loved the book. It was fantastic, even for me, who can't relate to the experiences of medical school and residency.

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