Last week in Target I was surprised by a woman thanking me for saving her and her child’s life. Today, my baby clapped for me when I turned the vacuum on. So, that's kind of the same.
Leaving a career to stay home with my children has been a crazy change. It's been one year since I last drove into the hospital at my little boys’ bedtime, a sweet fetus kicking in my belly, to spend the next 15 hours delivering babies, responding to emergencies, hopefully avoiding the ER and OR, refilling annoying college students’ birth control pills, and discussing mucus plugs and vaginal discharge in too much detail even for a gynecologist. I would come home exhausted the next morning and crash, my kids spending time with a teenaged au pair who we depended upon quite heavily. If my doctor spouse’s call schedule overlapped with mine there was added stress of potential overlapping trips to the hospital, leaving the kids alone (um, no) or asking the au pair to stretch her hours (um, yeah right).
I missed so much with my boys in the early years. They spent long days five days a week at the University day care. I struggle to remember so many moments - probably because I missed the actual moments and only had their "progress reports" to read after they were asleep. What toys did the favor? What made them giggle? What did they need when they cried? In those years it was daycare and us; but we had family close by for snow days and random holidays when we still needed to be at work. For sick days when the usual day care bugs reared their ugly heads.
Then we moved half way across the country to a bigger city with better opportunities. We have no family within 10 hours driving distance. Last year, we were finally and completely fed up with the stress of planning back up child care in a place where we have no family. Especially with a soon to be addition to the brood. It made sense for me to quit a job that wasn’t a great fit anyways and stay home. So I gave my notice and wrapped up my shifts and never looked back.
And holy shit. It's hard. I mean the work load is less - we didn't have a housekeeper or food prep service or send out laundry before so all of the work is the same (minus all those hours in the hospital). The difference is me. How I feel. How I define myself - for myself and for others ("you're going back to medicine though, right?"). Of course it's hard to manage an infant and two challenging toddlers (and two cats and a puppy - because this is the time to get a puppy...) all day every day. I was not prepared for the strange challenge of letting go of a label, a descriptor, an identity. Medicine is such an all consuming field (especially in obstetrics where there is no such thing as regular hours) and takes so many years to get to the top (college student, med student, resident, chief resident, attending). My Ivy League MD is little more than a slightly crooked framed piece of paper on the office wall today. Sitting next to another MD diploma which gets much more use (and covers both of our student loan payments).
So...is saving lives the best it gets? I guess for me its not, not now. Which is a surprising realization and one that I've only slowly come to accept during my year away from medicine. In many ways this photography journey has grown out of an intense need to fill the void left by leaving and losing a career.
Now instead of worrying that each shift will bring the unavoidable bad outcome and litigious family, I find myself bounding out the door to a session, racing home to upload my card and see what images I get to send to my lovely clients (for they always are), a smile on my face the whole time. Now instead of rushing to daycare drop offs and speeding home to let the au pair off I can really just be with my kids. We play board games. We eat ice cream sandwiches in the backyard, feet splashing in the kiddie pool, baby and puppy snuggling at our feet. I know the pleasure of dollar movies on weekdays (even if it is Minions), nearly empty kids museums, and lazy mornings when my boys make me four cups of (kuerig) coffee - so proud to contribute and help and show me how grown up they are. And the really are grown up in so many ways. Ways that I would miss without this opportunity to trade in scrubs for yoga pants (and a camera).