Tuesday, April 19, 2005

sense of foreboding

I had to bring a kid up from the ER to the PICU the other day, and up in the unit I saw John, one of the third year residents. He and his wife just had a kid four and a half months ago.


MICHELLE
Hey John, what's up?

JOHN
Meh.

MICHELLE
How's the kid?

JOHN
I haven't slept more than two hours at a stretch for the past four and a half months.

MICHELLE
What? Still?

[In my don't-have-any-kids-yet mind, I have this fantasy that babies start magically sleeping through the night at around 4 months. And also that they are adorable and giggle and flop into piles of soft, fluffy blankets like the Snuggle fabric softener bear. Clearly I am living on Fantasy Island.]

JOHN
(Looking kind of glaze-eyed)
Sleep now while you can.

MICHELLE
So he still wakes up every two hours to eat?

JOHN
Yes. Don't breastfeed if you ever want to sleep again.

MICHELLE
I won't tell the general Peds establishment you just said that.

JOHN
It's true, though.

MICHELLE
Yeah, but you don't have to get up. You don't have the boobs.

JOHN
Yeah, but I wake up anyway.

MICHELLE
Not the same, though.

JOHN
True. I don't know how women do it. Women are strong.

MICHELLE
Is your wife working too?

JOHN
No, she's taking a few months off to be with the baby.

MICHELLE
Oh. That's nice that she can do that.

JOHN
Yeah.

MICHELLE
(Suddenly filled with premonitory dread at the thought of
juggling a new baby and a new residency at the same time)

Wow. This next year is really going to be hard, isn't it?

JOHN
(Flatly)
Yes.


Sometimes when I think about the timing of this whole thing, what with the baby and the switch to Anesthesia and all the assorted other things that come with juggling residency and real life, I start to have a little panic attack and have to sit down and think of nice calming things, like puppies in a basket. But then I think back to medical school, when the idea of being an intern was so impossible, and I watched them dealing with a thousand different things at once on no sleep with this sense of total third-year med student awe. "How do you do it?" I asked more than one of the residents that I'd been assigned to for the month. "I feel like I'll never be able to do all this stuff that you guys do."

And they all said the same thing in response. "You'll do it when the time comes, because you have to." And they were right. I just hope that the "have to" part of it doesn't suck all the joy out of our lives. And all the sleep.


* * *


Hey look, a new pope! And he looks like Hannibal Lecter!

Currently reading: Nothing. Took a cab into work last night, and fell asleep on the subway on the way home this morning. There was a small amount of drooling involved. But, I was sleeping and drooling over an open issue of this week's New Yorker, so maybe technically I was "reading" that.

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