Saturday, January 22, 2005

on the matter of timing

Wow, the announcement about Cletus has really brought people out of the woodwork around here. Thanks for all the nice notes, guys!

I've been waiting so long to tell people about the whole pregnancy thing that I saved up all these stories and topics that I can finally talk about now, which is why these past few entries have been all kind of on the same track. Yesterday was all about scary exposures in the hospital, like how when the portable x-ray tech comes around to shoot his films, he's supposed to yell "X-RAY!" to get people out of the way so they don't get all irradiated, but then sometimes he says it kind of quietly, like, "x-ray!" and then he shoots the film RIGHT AWAY before you get a chance to actually move out of the way, and then you're freaking out all night that your fetus is going to have twelve heads or something. For example. Not that this ever happened to me or anything. (Crickets.)

Today I'm going to talk about the matter of having kids during residency.

Keep in mind, of course, that I really don't know what I'm talking about, because as of this moment, I don't have a kid. Dog, but no kid. But this is more of a philosophical discussion, or the matter of deciding to having a kid during residency, and the things that we've considered in making the choice that we did. A hard enough path when even one partner is going through residency when the kid is born, an even more inflexible situation when both partners are in the middle of residency, with the end nowhere near in sight.

I think, first of all, that it all depends what you personally want. Some people really, really want kids, circumstances be damned. And some people want to wait until everything is perfect and all their ducks are in a row and they're settled into private practice before they have kids. And some people really don't want to have kids at all. All of these choices are OK. You should want whatever's right for you, and you're the only one who can decide what that "right" situation is.

When Joe and I first got married, we were good little med students and very intent on being good little doctors. We had talked about when we wanted to have kids, and at the time, figured that we would wait until we were both done with residency, or even with a good deal of fellowship before we started to build a family. This is what med school grooms you to do, you see. Med school teaches you how to be a doctor, and we were very focused on having these wonderful, booming, academic, fulfilling careers.

And then we graduated from med school. And started internship. And we worked and worked and worked. And we still liked being doctors, most of the time anyway, but some of that med school gloss starts to wear away. And as I've discussed before, you start to realize that while medicine is a calling, and while it's a big part of our lives, we didn't want it to be our whole lives. There are other things, after all, than rounds and lab results and progress notes, though it's hard to imagine it sometimes.

And I guess at some point, we both kind of got sick of mashing our Real Lives to fit around the nooks and crannies left by our Work Lives. We felt like we had been more than fair to Work Life, and now it was time for Real Life to get a turn at bat. We both wanted to have kids (though we were still pretty up in the air with the when part of the equation), and decided for once in our pathetically Type A lives not to be so rigid and scheduled and planned about everything. We wanted to be like normal people, in other words. Just let the chips fall where they may. So while we weren't trying to have kids per se, we weren't really trying not to have kids either, you dig?

So when we got back from Hawaii and found out about Cletus, we were a little surprised (see above, about not trying per se), and of course while had some concerns about how we were going to swing it on a two-resident schedule and budget, but ultimately we were pleased because this is something that we both really wanted. And that's really the long and the short of it. You decide what's best for you and work everything else around that. Don't change what you want just because you're afraid to perturb the rest of the equation. Life is constant change, adjustment, compromise. And we're more than happy to make some changes around here for something that's going to be so important to the both of us.

Is this going to be hard? Well, yeah. Even without our jobs, it would be hard, now wouldn't it, two bumbling first-time parents with a new baby? I shudder to think. But is it going to be worth it? Well, yeah. It's going to be fun and exciting and fulfilling and all of that. And let's not kid ourselves, sometimes it's going to be really tiring and frustrating and annoying too. But look, if there's one thing we know how to do, it's work hard. Sometimes we even laugh a little bit while we're doing it, because really, how hectic and ridiculous are our lives? And hell, we've already finished med school and half of residency. Psssh, having a kid, how much harder could it be?

Famous last words, I know.

Currently reading: I couldn't find my copy of "The Shining" after all, though I suspect it may be at my parents house. So instead I'm re-reading "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius." Every time I read this book, I think how brilliant Dave Eggers is. I haven't enjoyed his subsequent work quite as much, but this book does not lie--it is genius. And all those books that pretend to be "The Catcher in the Rye" for a new generation should just stuff it, because here's where it's really at.

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