1- Be nice to the people you went to high school with.
I went into labor with the plan to get an epidural, as long as it wasn't one of the anesthesia residents who I dislike on call that day. This is the downside to delivering at the hospital you work at: you know all the Ob and anesthesia residents a little too well. There were a small handful of anesthesia residents who I wouldn't trust to shake my hand, let alone stab a needle in my back. But lucky me! I got one of the great ones. A long long time ago, in a town far far away, I went to Andover High School with a fella named Zack. Thirteen years later, Zack is the anesthesia resident giving me my epidural!! As you will soon learn, I did not have an easy labor, so Zack quickly became the new love of my life. So be nice to everyone you went to high school with, someday they may be the most important person in your world.
My labor was long. We went through 5 different nurses, who each did an 8 hours shift. For the math impaired, that means I was in labor for 40 hours. For friends of Rachel, that is longer than all of her marathons combined. Also longer than all of her labors combined. But I was a trooper for 38 hours. We listened to relaxing music, bounced on yoga balls, and laid in all kinds of crazy positions to try to get the baby to move, but she was very cozy and content in Hotel Uterus. I started pushing at 36 hours of labor. But after 2 hours, I had made no progress and I LOST IT. Usually, I'm the kind of gal who doesn't get overwhelmed or give up EVER. Heck, I did a Whipple (8 hours surgery to remove pancreatic cancer) three weeks before I gave birth, and didn't even take a bathroom break. But after pushing for 2 hours, I hit the lowest point of my whole life. I couldn't stop crying and I refused to push for about 30 minutes. It was awful. I can make myself cry just thinking about it.
Fast forward another 2 hours, and my baby girl was born!! We did the whole granola, crunchy, hippy, put-the-baby-on-my-chest-even-though-she-is-still slimy thing and it was AMAZING. The combination of sleep deprivation, adrenaline, all the labor hormones and her big blue eyes made me so high that I cannot even describe it. It almost makes me forget about the terrible 40 hours that lead up to it. Almost.
I went back to my job as a general surgery resident 5 weeks after Elliot was born. If you've ever watched Grey's Anatomy, then you know exactly what life as a resident is like: attractive co-workers, long coffee breaks, and plenty of time to shower everyday and look normal. Oh, no, wait. It's the exact opposite. Being a resident is HARD. We work a lot, and it's very physically and mentally demanding. It's a good hard, though. My job gives me so much joy and satisfaction that I would never consider doing anything else. Same thing with being a new mom. It's HARD, but its a GOOD HARD. I went back to work with the attitude that I was incredibly blessed to have TWO things that both fill my heart with so much happiness- being a surgeon and being a mom. I figured that the amount of joy I got from each would help me gloss over the difficult parts of making them fit together.
I've learned that having two "good hard" things in my life is a roller coaster. Sometimes the good wins- I have an awesome day operating and come home to a sweet, happy girl. But sometimes the hard wins- Elliot stays up all night, and I have to be up at 4:30am for another 14 hour day. I can't expect the goodness to always outweigh the hardness, but I try to remember that it's a yin-yang sort of thing. The goodness is gooder because of the hardness.
4- Don't ask for help. Demand it.
Pregnancy and motherhood have changed me in one very obvious way- I am much more confrontational. Before pregnancy, I let a lot of stuff slide because I disliked confrontation and conflict... I wouldn't call out the junior resident who was slacking, I would rearrange my schedule continuously to fit the needs of my co-resident and attendings, I would put myself second all the time. Overall, I felt like I needed to be a but more assertive, but never really knew how to do that (and it seemed like a lot of work). Enter pregnancy hormones. I spoke my mind. I took time off when I needed it. I called people out for being slackers or passive aggressive. I think I settled into a much better balance of being nice but firm.
The biggest challenge I've faced coming back to work has been pumping. I have to pump every 3-4 hours, but often I'm in 6-8 hours long operations. So I have to arrange for other residents to scrub me out for a break, which is not a common request. Most residents will never take a break from a surgery during their whole residency, and I'm taking a break from basically every case. The first day I needed someone to scrub me out, I asked around to all the mom-residents. The second day, I figured I'd include all the female residents. By the third day, I decided to include anyone who benefitted from breast feeding, ie anyone who had every been born. Now I've stopped asking and starting just telling people when and where I need to be scrubbed out. And I've stopped apologizing to the attendings who get a rotating group of residents in their OR. When I need help, there is nothing wrong with telling people what the plan is without negotiation (nicely).
Slight aside (not related to motherhood at all)- I think I've developed a very nice way to phrase my demands where they don't sound demanding but its clear what is expected. I have started "giving permission" to do things that I need done. I say, "My next pump break will be at 3pm, so you can scrub in then." Or "You can go ahead and start working on that thing I told you to do." It suits me well because I am definitely telling someone what to do without question, but it sounds nice. I guess it could sound passive aggressive if you said it with the wrong tone, but I always say it with the tone that I am nicely granting them permission to do something.
After I came back to work, I had a Jewish rabbi as a patient who was very concerned about being discharged before sunset on Friday so that he could keep Sabbath. Something about him stuck with me. I've always liked the idea of having a weekly day of rest, but its impossible as resident since I work many Sundays.
I can't keep a whole day without work because that's insane- but I'm trying to set aside special time where I hang out with Danny and Elliot and don't multi- task. Last Saturday morning, I hung out with Elliot for about 2 hours and didn't play on my phone, watch TV, or try to fold laundry/do dishes/clean the house. My to do list will never be empty no matter how much I multitask; but my little girl is only going to be little for a while. So when I have the opportunity, I try to keep a little, few hour block of time each weekend as Sabbath with my baby where I just rest and appreciate her.
That's all! My daughter is the best.