Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Great Many Juxtapositions that are My Life as an OB/GYN

It was 9:35 pm and I found myself staring longingly at a trash can, salivating at the beautiful sandwich perched precariously on its rim. My hands were trembling from hunger. If you would have checked my blood sugar at that moment, it would have likely been critically low.
My day had started at 6am with a 5 mile run and I hadn't stopped moving since. I got paged for a stat delivery while I was in the shower and the day had seemed to go down hill quickly. A full office and multiple laboring patients awaited me. My emergency protein bar served as my lunch and during the cafeteria's dinner hours, I was in the OR on a hemorrhaging ectopic pregnancy. I was so tired I could feel every muscle in my body, and each one throbbed in their own unique way.
Clearly the sandwich is above the rim.
That is how I found myself in my real life Seinfeldian dilemma. After realizing the cafeteria was closed I had went back to my office in hopes of grabbing a leftover sandwich out of the refrigerator only to realize in horror that someone had thrown the precious salted meats in the trash. However one specimen had perched itself slightly above the rim, still on its original plastic tray.
Do I eat refuse or trek across campus to the doctors lounge for a poptart? If it is above the rim is it technically garbage?  Not to me in that moment. I wolfed down the cold cuts and said a little prayer against listeria and all other types of food poisoning. It tasted divine.
I thought about how very strange my life was, as I sat back and patted my full belly. A mere two weeks earlier I was dining at leisurely at cafes in Paris, now I was George Constanza eating out of the trash.
Beautiful gourmet meal in Paris.
The next day  I ran into a casual acquaintance who remarked how glamorous my life seemed on social media. I laughed and told her my trash eating story. The incident made me think of the many other strange juxtapositions of my life.
There was the time I found myself in one of the messiest deliveries of my life a couple of hours before the hospital Christmas party. While birth is a beautiful moment of life, sometimes it can also be a giant hot mess. During this rather difficult birth I was initially pooped on quite extensively. Then as the baby delivered, I was hit with a tsunami wave of amniotic fluid that soaked me to the core, making a mockery of my 'protective gear'. The patient then began hemorrhaging, so I performed an internal uterine massage to help stop the bleeding, which equals me inserting my entire arm into her uterus, making me feel a little bit like a large animal vet. The only bodily fluid missing from the event  was vomit. Hours later after a "Silkwood  shower" and a quick makeup application, I find myself at a country club in a little black dress having small talk about the weather.
Many times I've been at the playground with my kids only to sneak away a few steps to answer a call from the hospital about a STD or other topic that is definitely not a 'playground friendly'. Bedtime stories or games of 'hide and seek' have often been interrupted with stat pages to the hospital. I've gone from reading Dr. Seuss to performing an emergency C-section in moments.
The worst juxtaposition is dealing with loss in the middle of a regular day. While OB/GYN is often a happy specialty, when it is sad it is heartbreakingly awful. I often have to deliver the worst of news: miscarriage, infidelity, cancer, infertility. There have been days where I have went from placing a lifeless baby in a mothers arms and with barely a moment to catch my breath and dry my eyes, to seeing a patient for a new pregnancy right down the hall. Death and life with only moments in between; the roller coaster of emotions is so strange.
I'm not complaining about my job. I'm well adjusted to the bodily fluids and tumultuous schedule. I simply find it intriguing how my life can go from one extreme to another so very quickly. I'm sure most other doctors would have similar stories (well maybe not the trash). Also this serves as a good reminder that if you see me looking semi-fancy in a picture, the special ingredient that made my hair extra shiny, might just have been amniotic fluid.
Cross posted @


  1. I have definitely eaten questionable food while on call. One of my lowest moments was when I was so hungry that I grabbed food from the leftovers on a patient's meal tray; thankfully I realized what I was doing before the food reached my mouth and I became infected with goodness only knows what.

    1. If it makes anyone feel better, I've stolen food off the tray of a patient that I had just intubated after a long ICU shift. Plastic-wrapped banana bread, yogurt and orange juice never tasted so good.

  2. I don't run into a lot of bodily fluids in hospice work. I do often pick up my daughter, bring her back to my office, and then answer questions about homework in between hugging sobbing family members and listening to stories of terrible tragedy. "Mom, is that person going to die? Well, yeah, I guess, or you wouldn't be taking care of them".

  3. i am not a MIM - but i do read this blog on the regular as a woman in medicine, and find it very helpful - and as a fellow Ob/Gyn, i must say AMEN, sister! been there, done that!

  4. I do full spectrum family medicine and just the other day delivered a baby and right away entered orders to admit another patient to hospice. It is quite the roller coaster and pretty special to be part of so many good and bad parts of life.

  5. This is just another example of how doctors are not equipped with the knowledge of diet.....Why don't you pack some nutritious meals..I cook a pot of rice (or other grain) and a pot of beans every Sunday and manipulate them into various meals. along with some chicken / fish and vegetables. Take them in a thermos.....remember the old thermos? and take them to work. We all have to actively create out own best diet intake. Unfortunately hospitals are the worst when it comes to diet (which should be the top of any healthcare facilities list). Diet is the chemical reaction we put in our bodies at least 2-3 times a day and it should be good fuel.

  6. All so true, If there is food in a call room or work area -its always fair game!

    The mid day deaths are the worst. And having kids make that juxtaposition so raw. There are days when I have to sit in a parking lot near home for 15 minutes just to gather myself and breathe away the horrors of the day so that I don't bring it to my joyful daughter waiting for me at home!

  7. So much respect for obstetricians (and full-spectrum family medicine)! … The juxtapositions you describe surely are the fun, the payment for the stress, the weary bones, the circles under the eyes. What a fun and fulfilling (and heart wrenching) life you lead. MS3 choosing a specialty. I don't think it will be Ob/Gyn, but boy do I respect what you do. Thank you for your hard work and for sharing the ups and downs with MiM.

  8. Oh goodness! Great post - my skin was crawling and I just searched "Silkwood Shower" - gotta see that movie about Karen Silkwood now.

  9. My garbage can story: Saw a recovering cocaine addict today 2 months sober and after he left I noticed a crumpled unsmoked cigarette under his seat. I left it on my desk figuring he would return and when he did not, I threw it in the garbage which is right before he came back looking under his seat for it.

  10. This is beautifully written, and funny and sad in its own right. I'm a surgery resident and I too have loved this juxtaposition. It's hard to explain the roller coaster to someone who hasn't lived it. And yes, I've eaten something out of the trash while on call ;)


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