Thursday, February 9, 2012

Guest post: If I can’t freeze time, can I slow it down?

It’s FirstBabyBoy’s third month birthday today! Ack! Already he seems to be growing up too fast. It feels like yesterday when we weren’t sure whether he was smiling for real or smiling because of gas, and in truth, he has been smiling for real for ~ 7 weeks… we think.

I want to slow it all down. Stop it all even. Freeze. Like Evie from Out of This World.

I've been trying to juggle learning to be a new mother, taking care of lovely FirstBabyBoy, showing up to academic days, working on my research project, and trying to study. I know what I have to do to balance it all – efficiency, focus … but I don’t seem to be able to focus currently on things as intensely like I usually did pre-motherhood. I am determined to debunk mommy brain myths and not give us MiMs a bad reputation. But the plan is not working as well as I’d hoped… yet.

I am constantly struck by how I have had misconceptions in various stages of life and have to continually re-evaluate. I read my own journal entries from months previous and worry of even posting on this blog because I am concerned I will come back one day and say: can I retract what I said? There’s no second chance to make a first impression, but please, I am a different person now and am not really that ill-informed.

For instance:

Pre-Birth Thoughts: Being a first-time parent is going to change my life, but in some ways, it must be easier than residency, and I should have more time. After all, I’ve had all those call shifts to prepare me for sleep deprivation.

Post-Birth Thoughts: Hmmm…how is this going to work? It’s like falling in love all over again, and just like the first time (i.e. falling in love with professional husband not in medicine), I now have new goals on top of all the other life goals that I wanted… and wasn’t even sure I had time for those pre-baby goals before.

But wait, I try to reason, it’s only for some time i.e. 5 years if not more for fellowships or masters or research or other such pursuits. And one can always be more efficient with time. And work harder. And do more.

In reality, here I am doing things slower than ever… and dare I confess, enjoying the slowness. I was given In Praise of Slowness by my mother-in-law, and I am often tempted to practice it…. Or who am I kidding? Maybe I am practicing it more often than I should.

Maternity leave makes me feel like I have the luxury of time some days (a mirage if I am to accomplish all above goals). But there is such joy in puttering at times.

FirstBabyBoy is in week 14, and still, every smile feels like a gift. To smile at him and see that moment when he registers my smile and his lips start to curl, the corners of his eyes crinkle upward, and his face lights up, transformed, beaming with sheer joy: it feels worth every moment taken.

Right at this moment – FirstBabyBoy and Hubby are both lying asleep, rhythmic breathing, content after a home-made family dinner, baby having fallen asleep early… allowing hubby and I time to read interesting non-fiction literature, discuss those pieces, as well as check-in. I even got to chat with a friend as well – an amazing MiM resident who is transitioning back to work and has not seen her 13 month old for bedtime for a few weeks due to the nature of her current rotation. I don't feel like trading places. It is the first time since entering medicine that I have been able to celebrate the full 15 days of Chinese New Year with family.

Maternity leave is a gift.

But maternity leave also has its cons - there are challenges to being away from residency especially with procedural specialties like anaesthesia where being good and fast is very important… there’s always talk of the residents coming back who aren’t that slick. I don’t want to be that resident. Barash, Miller, other textbooks wink at me from the book shelf. And maternity leave may have paused residency for a while but the play button will resume. I would want it to. But it is a little bit of a changed game now. More than ever, it feels like a triathlon where I won’t be the best runner, cyclist, or swimmer, but need to be good enough at all three to be the best triathlete I can be.

Things will get more and more demanding on all fronts. As much as I want to think things are challenging as a junior resident, it will only become more so in further transitions as one moves towards senior resident in future years and attending. Not to mention as baby grows up and mommy responsibilities expand. And if I want this marriage to thrive through it all, as well as contribute meaningfully as a daughter and sister, it is going to require time and effort and efficiency, speed, not slowness. And compromises. Juggling between the various experiences. How will it all happen?

Everywhere I go, I see examples of women who have done it,who seem to have it all – the dazzling career, family, kids, beautiful home with the home-made meals and crafts. And the façade of ease. But how is it actually done?

As usual, pre-reading to prepare, I turn to scouring the world out there for information.
Imagine my relief at finding Mothers In Medicine, and the kind of community and voice a blog creates. A group of people willing to write, share, laugh, support, nurture…Being an extrovert, growing up in a tiny fishing village in a third-world nation, I very much appreciate community. This is different than a fishing village community, but it is an amazing and inspiring community – a global village.

I read recently that the difference between extroverts and introverts are that extroverts tend to de-stress by discussion with others whereas introverts de-stress by spending time on their own. Being extroverted Myers-Briggs, I do find that it’s in the multiple discussions that insights appear. So please, do share what you think of this fast, slow conundrum. Although, as my introverted husband points out, I also cherish these silent moments to write and reflect. But, add resident + wife + kid + daughter + sister + friend = very little time for such conversation with multiple people in life or for writing and reflecting. And now add “mother” to that list. How will this all fit?

It makes me think with renewed respect for those MiMs who have gone before, who in many ways had it much harder. Thanks everyone.

Now has anyone else had a secret urge to freeze time at times?



  1. Hi ASA,

    I totally know the feeling of wanting to freeze time. New babies grow and develop so quickly! I was away for three days and our baby girl seemed to get bigger in that short time!

    It seems like we're going through similar things (although you've been more successful at going to academic days than I). I have 12-week old at home and in a very procedural specialty (well, I'm in Urology). I'm going back to work this Tuesday but I'm hoping to have a routine when I go back to work. After work, I plan to spend some time with baby and hubby. After putting her to bed, I'll hunker down with my textbooks, journals and other stuff. It'll be tough but people make it work. If it's any consolation, our babies won't remember all the time we've been away from them. It's harder on mom than baby. But I'm planning to make the best of the little time that we are together.

    Good luck!

  2. Thanks UrologyMiM: Great ideas!

  3. I'm five weeks postpartum with my first (a baby boy too :) and in my lecture years of med school... and I agree 100% with this: "In reality, here I am doing things slower than ever… and dare I confess, enjoying the slowness." I didn't expect this before our baby boy was born. I'm pushing through exams one a time here while getting to know our son, but it is taking time to get back into the swing because I enjoy spending time with our new little boy. I also know in the back of my mind that some day, I will be spending much less time at home with him. Thanks for your post!

  4. I totally could have wrote this myself while on maternity leave. What a blessing that was - and oh boy did I enjoy the slowness on some days. It is a continued juggling act, but it is a fun one.


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