Sunday, January 30, 2011

Long time no blog

It's not for lack of having things to talk about...I've had several drafts of blogs that I've saved but have been unable to hit "publish." It's been a very introspective few months, and most of what has been consuming my thoughts isn't stuff I'm quite ready to talk about.

In general, life is good, and I should be skipping around happily every day with a giant smile on my face. Everyone is healthy (minus the usual winter crud), my PhD stuff is totally turned in and done until I walk across the stage in May, our budget hasn't been busted by anything unexpected (knock on wood), and most of the drama in life has settled down. I should be thrilled.

Sure, 3rd year med school is stressful. OB/Gyn was just painful. I'm on a mix of outpatient family medicine/pediatrics/OB-gyn now. It's not fun, and it's made for a few late nights when all heck breaks loose in the clinic, but there is no call. I start surgery in March and medicine in May, which will be a much different story, but I still have a few weeks before then. The weather has been gray (I think we had three days of sun so far in January), and although we've gotten a few big snowstorms, it hasn't kept us from getting to work.

And we've had two weekends in a row where we've either gotten to go out and be social (the winter lab party last weekend) or have people over and be social (my high school friend last night).

So what could possibly be bringing me down?

That's where the personal stuff comes in. Some of it is my own feeling of inferiority based on standards and expectations I put on myself. Sorry for being vague, but that is tied into the personal stuff I am not quite ready to talk about. A lot of it is worry about Tim--he's been working crazy hours (going back into work most evenings after I get home, and going into work every weekend). Add that to the fact that he does most of the daycare drop-off/pick-up, and he's really burnt out. I don't see work letting up any time in the near future, and it's not like my schedule will get easier any time soon.  I keep trying to encourage him to get out, find a hobby, do something fun, but it hasn't worked. I can tell he's exhausted, but nothing I've tried has helped.

That actually ties into the biggest thing that has been on my mind--and it's something that is completely hypothetical at this point. I've debated talking about this too, but honestly, it's been so stressful that I'd rather just have it out there. I think most of my family knows anyway.

Tim and I have been debating what we call "the hypothetical third." Yes, third baby, not third cat or some other possibility--we're trying to decide if we want another one, and if we do, when we should have it. I'm going to be 31 this year, and my family history says that I don't have all of my life to wait. If we want to do this, it needs to be in the next few years.

The two available chunks of time would be 4th year med school or during residency. As I think I've mentioned before, the thought of having a baby during residency is absolutely my last choice--while I didn't need bedrest or have other complications, I am not one of those people who feels good through their pregnancy. I have a few months in the middle that are ok, but the first and third trimester are not fun times. The thought of trying to do that while being a resident sounds like torture. I am unwilling to be pregnant during my intern year, so if we got pregnant my second year of residency and delivered early in my third year, I'd be 34 or 35. That's the absolute latest we could push things. It also means there would be 4.5 to 5 years between Josh and another baby. Honestly, I think that if I had a 7 and 4 year old (or 8 and 5 year old), going back to a newborn would be pretty difficult.

So, that leaves us with 4th year. There are parts of this that would be great: after I finish my clinical time, I've got months of elective time free. Many of these electives can be done at home, or can be vacation time. At the earliest, I could be done in January 2012--although February/March would be more likely. Still, if residency doesn't start until July 2012, I'd have several months free any way my schedule would work out. That would be the longest maternity leave yet--I had 6 weeks with Sophie, and I was back in the lab on the weekends 3 weeks after I had Josh. The thought of having several months at home sounds great.

And my salary goes up in residency, so the bump would cover the jump in daycare costs. We'd need a bigger vehicle than my Civic, but considering I bought that in 2002, and it has about 150k miles on it, it's due to be replaced around that time anyway. We've got an extra bedroom, we have everything we need for a boy or a girl, and the kids would be 4 and almost 2 when the third was born.

Sounds obvious, right?

It's not. As much as I would like a third, and Tim is on board (on his good days), I think it would be too much for him. He's told me as much. Both Sophie and Josh are in tough stages right now developmentally. Josh started walking right after New Year's, and he's standing and getting ready to walk. All of the changes mean he is sleeping like crap, which means we are sleeping like crap. This is much tougher on Tim than it is on me--I'm getting ~5 hours of sleep per night, which is like vacation compared to how it was a few months ago. For Tim, that is misery. And Sophie has been regressing in her potty training the last week for some unknown reason, which also drives us nuts. I can suppress my frustration, but the accidents just drive Tim up a wall.

He's a very good dad, and the kids just love him to pieces--I don't want to paint him in a negative light at all. He handles almost all of the daily kid duties. That on top of his crazy work schedule is exhausting. And when I am in residency, he'll take on even more of the day to day jobs. As much as I really want another child at some point, if he says he doesn't think he can handle three, I have to respect that.  I don't have to like it. And I'd be lying if I said I was at peace with the idea of being done having children. I don't want a herd--three is my max--but I always thought it would be nice for at least one of the kids to have a same sex sibling.

If it stayed just the four of us, I'm sure we'd be happy. I just feel like I am grieving a little for the third baby I always thought we'd have. The last thing I want to do is have a third kid without Tim on board--I don't want him to resent me or the baby if that isn't what he wanted. But he's really the one doing most of the daily child care, and I can't just have a baby and dump it on him. Already, if the kids get sick, he has to leave to get them. If they have an appointment, he has to take time off. I try to have something for dinner for them when they get home, even if it is leftovers, but he has to feed them and take care of them until I get home. And then he goes back to work for a few hours. It's a tough job, and I'm thankful I have someone willing to break out of traditional gender roles and do many of the things that are usually assumed to be the mom's job. He is the one who keeps things running in the house.

If we could afford a nanny, then maybe this would be doable. However, 1) we can't; 2) I think it's important for kids to be socialized, especially after they are 12-18 months old and are starting to understand that other people exist in the world; and 3) it would be silly to have a nanny for one kid and still send the other two to day care.  And it's not like I want to have kids and never see them. That's probably the biggest thing that has been miserable in third year--I hate not seeing my family. I miss them like crazy, and I make sure that the weekends are about them. I hate that my training will keep me from them many nights in the future, but I have promised myself that I will make the most of the time I have with them. And ultimately, I'll have a job that provides us with the ability to go on fun vacations and hopefully lets me be a part of the activities that are important to them. While my medical specialty choice won't solely be based on lifestyle, it'll be a big factor.

Anyway, I'm torn. I can already feel that Tim is stressed and exhausted, and I don't want to add to that. But if we don't have a baby in fourth year, chances are we won't have another one at all. And, umm, gestation takes 9 mos+, so this is a decision we'll have to make in the next six months.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't terrified of making the wrong choice. I don't know what the right answer is. What is best for the potential third baby? What is best for Sophie and Josh? And Tim? And me? We know that we could provide for another baby--the food/clothing/shelter bit is covered, and daycare would be covered too. It's a personal decision, something I think about every day, and something I am praying about. I'm a rational person who makes decisions by weighing pros and cons. Trouble is, I don't know how to weigh personal feelings and choices.

If having the hypothetical third would only make MY life more difficult, but it wouldn't increase the burden on anyone else, I would do it. I would do anything for my kids, which is why not sleeping/constantly cleaning dirty underwear/reading the same book 37 times doesn't bother me. It's for my kids--so that makes it ok. I have so much fun with them. Watching them grow up has been completely amazing. I feel guilty every day that I don't have more time to spend with them, but they are well taken care of at "school" (what we call daycare) by people trained to take care of kids. And they come home and know we are their family. We try to get them to see extended family as much as we can. Most of all, I think they know they are loved.

My favorite times are when we are all snuggled together, or when Sophie is making Josh laugh hysterically, or when they discover a new skill that they couldn't do before. We have such fun together--there are stressful times too, but I think I do a pretty good job of letting the stressful times pass. Tim holds onto those stresses more than I do, which is why I think life takes more of a toll on him. I'm already worried about how he is coping with the current stresses--I don't think there is any way I could add to that. We've always been a team, and every big decision we've made, we've made together. There's no way I'm going to go solo on a decision as big as having another baby (and, umm, that's not really a solo decision anyway....). We'll keep talking about it. Maybe a way will open. Life has a way of working out. Until then, this will continue to be on my mind.

I always thought that getting through med school would be the most stressful thing I've ever done. In reality, it's not too bad. Yes, the hours can be crappy. But many of my lab years were worse. Yes, it's tough dealing with grouchy attendings. But you are only with them for a set number of weeks. Yes, there is a lot to learn. But it's something that has already been studied and described by someone else--you just have to read and learn it. Yes, I feel stupid on a daily basis. But it's only my ego--better to confirm/ask an attending than put the patient at risk. I'm only a medical student. If I knew everything already, I wouldn't need to be trained.

Maybe that is something positive to come out of my PhD. I take med school so much less personally that I took my PhD. That was MY project, and I felt like it depended solely on me. It didn't, of course, and it should've been my former PI's and committee members' jobs to help me. Hindsight is 20/20 on that one. In med school, it's my job to do the best I can, but the patient is also seen by an attending, and ultimately it is their responsibility to make sure that we haven't missed anything. It won't be this way forever, of course, but it's a comforting safety net at the moment.  I haven't missed anything major yet, but I am sure that day will come.

On the other hand, I am responsible for my family--there is no safety net there. I have to do what is best for them. Every day, there are decisions that need to be made, and I try to make the right ones. I'm lucky that Tim and I think alike. We've been together for 15 years this month, and we know each other pretty well. I read other blogs where the wife comes off as subservient and the inferior partner in the marriage. That is so not us. We work because we keep the other person's needs in mind, and we want to make them happy, but we know that we are equals. It's give and take, based on what is best for the family at the time. We've done a pretty good job of making it work so far. There are decisions we'd like to take back, of course, but nothing really major. Maybe that's why I am feeling so much personal pressure about the "hypothetical third." We're such a good little family now--I'd love to add another little person to the mix, but I'd hate to mess up what we have.

Enough rambling for today. If you've wanted to know what's been on my mind, here's one piece. Like I said, there are also personal issues I'm struggling with (many of which have been a struggle for a long time), but it's not something I want to get into yet. Besides, I think this is plenty personal for one day.

I don't know what will happen yet. We've still got some time to think. But I feel like this is probably one of the biggest decisions we will ever make, and I want to make sure we've thought about everything before we decide. At some point we will have to commit. I'm nervous and terrified that will will choose wrong. But, no matter what happens, we'll make the best of it. And if that means we stay a foursome, I can't say that I won't be sad in my heart, but I will be thankful for what we already have.