Don’t wait.

We are a restless generation, I’m told. We are impatient they say. We cannot wait.

Nobody seems to get the fact that we CAN NOT wait. This is the pace that life dictates. If you haven’t noticed, every succeeding generation is more prone to impatience.

Why wait anyway? Our lives are most likely going to be short. Our productive life I mean. Not the cancer ailing, hypertension controlled, medicated life that is waiting for us sooner rather than later.

An old senior of mine, back from my undergrad days has been in touch with me in recent days. She is 37, an OB- GYN with a busy private and hospital practice. She runs triathlons and has a Great Dane named Albus and cat whose name currently skips my mind (I remember ‘Albus’ only because of the Harry Potter reference). Her husband is a 40 year old bodybuilder who also happens to be an orthopaedic surgeon (so cliched!). They waited to get married. Surgical training came first. They also waited to have children.

Everybody is entitled to make their own choices. I’m not here to berate or judge. In fact I have made some bizarre, downright stupid choices in life. And I have paid/ or will pay for them. But the choice to postpone our lives, to delay family issues in lieu of a surgical/ medical career is sometimes encouraged or indirectly imposed (poor maternity policies, stigma, patriarchal heads of departments, discrimination).

This triathlete OB friend has given me permission to write about her. She believes it the waiting that did it (science may not agree). She wants people to not wait. The public in general and the surgical trainees in particular. After 5 years of “trying” to have a baby and two more years of failed infertility treatment- they are disillusioned and tired.

She is almost a role model to me. A woman travelling the world acquiring special surgical skills. Publishing dozens of papers, when peers struggled to have one to their name. I was a teeny bit jealous too. I thought, not being encumbered by young children must be a great thing for her career wise.

She does not think so, not anymore.

I was acutely aware that my mommy- rants and constant whining about sleep deprivation and chronic fatigue might not sit well on the ears of a woman who seems to have everything except the one thing that she desperately wants. For the alpha- surgeon types being denied something makes one aggressively pursue it.

She and I both think that it is absolutely fine for a woman to chose career over having a family. That is her prerogative. We are not discussing them here. Here, we talk about those who do want to try a hand at having both but are forced to chose or delay one in order to further another. Our sincere advise to such women is- DO NOT WAIT. Go for both, it is possible and someday you will be grateful for it. That “someday” you will also wonder, how in hell did you manage all that sh%* together!

I seemed to have slowed my pace, while my male peers and colleagues are scurrying to attain training goals. But I do believe I will catch up. And surpass. Call it cockiness or confidence, I have to believe it to keep moving forward. (Our fraternity values confidence above all else.)

So ladies, do not wait. If you feel like it, go for it. Don’t wait. Train for that marathon, marry that gorgeous man, backpack across India, have that baby. Surgery will wait. Life will not.

Till next time.

J.

P.S. Cautionary warning- Yay for having a family and a surgical career. But let me warn you, the sh&^ will hit the ceiling on many days. Buy a long handled mop or wear a raincoat- that choice too is yours to make! 🙂

I never said it is easy, only possible.

Running away from errands.

Running errands.

It’s amazing how often we mention the phrase. Every time a friend calls, if I’m not at work I tell them I’m either doing chores at home or “running errands” outside.

Coming from a simple, salaried household- as a child I never saw my parents “just chilling”.

Ever.

Hard work was valued above all else. If my parents ever caught me sitting and watching TV or idling reading (reading novels, even classics was not considered a worthy use of time) they would invariably ask “Don’t you have school work to do? Or something more useful…”.

Therefore, it is passive- aggressively ingrained within us at a tender age, that it is criminal to do nothing. Doing nothing means watching a movie, or reading a non- scientific book, surfing the internet, blogging, even running.

Pray tell me folks, why do we relentlessly pursue chores and errands?


 

I spent last night sewing up cut, torn, broken people. Without a break, like a machine.

I was assigned to one of the tiny, surgical rooms in the ER. Triage would send people (bruised, harassed, bleeding folks who have been waiting for at least 4 hours) over. I would take a brief history, get X-rays if needed, assess the injury, sew them back up, fill in a bunch of papers, prescribe medications and send them on their way.

I remember reporting to work at 2150 hours, I remember looking at my watch one last time before I removed it from my wrist and tucked it away at one of the knee pockets of my cool, navy cargo scrubs. The next time I looked at it, it was 0547 hours.

Saying it was an intense 8 hours will be a gross understatement. Eight hours, on my feet, sometimes on my knees or squatting (you wouldn’t want to know why). Eight hours of craning my neck. Eight hours of placating disgruntled patients. Eight hours of concentration. And the pressure of seeing the “next guy” as soon as “this one is done”.

I finish my shift, gather up my belongings, grab a tepid coffee from the cafeteria and head to my car. I can sense summer approaching, the air isn’t so chill anymore and the sun is already on it’s way up. Until recently, it used to be dark at this time.

I open the sunroof all the way back and roll the windows down, my lungs crave some un-conditioned air. I listen to Mike Posner singing about how he took a pill in Ibiza and I lazily drive back home with the sun right in my face.

As I turn the lock of my front door, I already have a minute by minute plan for the next hour. Mr H and Z will have to leave in an hour. My shower will have to be a short, clinical one. No soaking in the soothing, luxury of the warm water or enjoying the citrusy- fresh fragrance of  the new Bath and Bodyworks shower gel.

An hour and fifteen minutes later, the home is devoid of other humans. The bed beckons, but I sense my body has moved on. It has realised, the sleep for the day does not exist and therefore it will make do without it.

I have washed laundry, lying in a pile in the guest room. It is as tall as my two- year old. The hurried cooking session for the nursery run, means a decent sized dish- pile in the sink. There is a long, pending salon visit, the dry- cleaning needs to be picked up, the car needs repair.  Cupboards need organising, make- up brushes are desperate for a cleanse,  some work- related emails need urgent replies. And oh! I need to feed  myself.

The little, salaried-parent’s child, self in my head tells me there is not a second to spare. I will be toddler and work free for the next few hours, and I should make the most of it. Get as much as possible done. I can sleep tonight.

Go on, get to it. She tells me. That darned voice in my head.

Chop, chop.

There’s TONS TO DO WOMAN! She screams.

I fight back.

I kick back, put my feet up on the recliner and settle in to watch a movie. To hell with doing chores and running errands.

Call me an escapist, procrastinator, or whatever else you wish to. I have about 5 precious, free hours, before I make the mandatory trip to the place where they keep little humans occupied till their antecedents come back for them. As sleep declines my proposal, I shall hook- up with youtube and do nothing for a bit.

It’s now 1330 hours. I did manage to fold some laundry and put it away while watching random crap on the tube, and yes I also got some work done over the phone, and I fed myself.

Everything else will have to wait.

For today, I shall hide from chores and run away from errands.

But I do feel insanely guilty about it. And my spunky, lazy self doesn’t appear so cool anymore.

 

Till next time,

Dr J.

Amidst the everyday humdrumness, finding your little haven is paramount.

I often speak about chaos and the everyday mundanity of life. About troubles and banes. About the insanity of new motherhood and the accompanying weight of responsibility. I often unburden myself here on the blog and use it as a portal to bemoan my troubles, at the expense of you lovely folks.

Venting troubles online can be cathartic at times, but today I do not wish to whine, vent, crib or complain. I would like to do the contrary in fact.

After a crazy week (nothing new there!) and a hectic “call” yesterday, I sit here; at a random beach. With a belly full of greasy but tasty takeaway food, a neither hot nor cool breeze at my nape, an unreliable but super- swift 4G data connection, a sand crusted baby and a comatose (food- induced sleep coma to be precise) husband – I’m forced to admit that I’m content. Dare I say- happy.

Almost.

Yes.

The sea has always been my Shangri- la. Even as a young child, I loved the sea apparently. Maybe The Little One takes after me, as she too finds the beach to be an instant mood- lifter/ tantrum- crusher.

I digress. Apologies for the disconnected trains of thought. This isn’t a systematic, planned, censored post.

Yes. There is something in the saliferous sea- breeze, that calms my senses and soothes my frayed nerves. As the sun gently descends into the horizon, and the eerie blue of the sky and the sea become one, instead of mourning the end of another day I’m encompassed with a feeling of unguarded optimism and unwary hope. For a progeny seemingly begotten by the enjoining of negativity and pessimism, these feelings are both rare and novel. I shall hold on to them for as long as possible and cherish the warmth they provide, and hope they melt some of the icicles within.

Winter is at Qatar’s doorstep. It means the inexorable heat will finally relent and yield to some glorious evenings and nippy mornings. The flowers at the medians shall bloom (with some help from the hard-working “immigrant” gardeners) and the seas shall change their hue. The days will become surprisingly shorter (I type this in almost complete darkness at 1720 hours) and the taps shall finally run some cool water.

Already, I have stopped dreading the tread from the parking lot to the air-conditioned lobby of the hospital. Thanks to the fact that I don’t drench my shirt by the time I get there anymore. Dawn is delayed, and the harsh sun is still hours away, as I walk into the wards in semi- darkness at the wee hours of the morn.

Having the window down in the car is no longer unimaginable. A gratifying day in the OR or a hectic call-day now ends with a car- ride home; Sia belting harsh truths or John Legend crooning sweet nothings with the wind in my hair. Thoughts of being pummelled by a boisterous, delighted- to-see-me, little person as I step though the door topmost on my mind and pulling my visage into a perennial smile.

The glorious morning runs..

It must be the change in winds, or the cyclical inner calm in my head.

Aah, how I look forward to the coming months!

I plan to utilise and enjoy every such day, and I vow to whine a little less.

On that cheery note, here’s wishing all you folks a lovely weekend. And for those in this part of the world, hope you have a great week ahead.

Seeking our own little haven!
Seeking our own little haven!

Nite nite (as The Little One likes to say) folks!

Till next time.

Dr J.

Walking on eggshells.

I assume many have abandoned this blog by now. I can see the numbers dwindle and my hard work wither away. It’s been so long, and so sparse. The posts on this page are as rare as rain in Doha, and I could blame circumstance, life and the universe for it. But in truth, I can only blame myself. My tired, sorry little self. My chivvied mind and fagged body.

Life is akin to walking on eggs all day, everyday. A game which you are forced to play, but that you can never win. You can hope to cut your losses and save face, but you may never conquer.

Today I write to applaud and commend all those men and women before me who have done this before us. And to inspire and instill hope in those who will embark upon similar endeavors in life in the future.

To tell them that it is incredibly hard, and yet profoundly gratifying. To confess that silent, inner tears of frustration and exhaustion notwithstanding, a five minute power nap in the middle of the day (in the OR changing room or an empty conference room at office) is as invigorating as a good night’s sleep.

Being a surgical trainee and having a young child (or several) with no family support means your life is propped up on a grand tower of conjectures and uncertainty. There are dozens of ifs and buts and very few certainties . You live each week by the day and each day by the minute. There are so many things that can go wrong each day, chances are something invariably does. Plans are vague notions and back up plans are mirages on the dark horizon. Despite your religious notions you often find yourself seeking divine intervention. You plan for the best and hope the worst does not transpire.

You run and run and run. And just when you think you can do it more, night falls and late as it may be you finally get to give in to the blissful, heavenly weight that weighs your lids down and shuts your harried mind off. You hit dreamland a second before your head hits the the pillow () and at that sweet interlude between awareness and somnolence you know within your deepest, truest self that it is all worth the effort. That you are doing your best and that this too shall pass.

Dr J.

They actually left me!

So, one day Mammaa woke me up early. She usually lets me sleep till I want to, but that particular day was different.

It was different in so many ways. She kept cooing things to me. Went on rambling about going “bye-bye” and “having fun” as she prepped my milk.

Pappaa was ironing my clothes and Mammaa was frantically searching for a particular pair of socks of mine. (What is it with Mamaa and lost socks!)

I didn’t know what all the fuss and hurry was about. I couldn’t quite lay my finger on it, but something was different. And I sensed something wrong was about to happen. Something very wrong.

My parents were palpably tensed. I could smell their anxiety in the air. Their fake smiles, and high, pretend- happy voices. The phony excitement. I saw right through them.

If you do not know, let me enlighten you- babies are born with an extremely potent gut instinct. It fades away with age, but it is paramount to our survival. We can sense fear, danger, anxiety, deceit and falsity. And that morning, there was a nasty cocktail of all these things thick in the air.

Was is a “pokey- appointment”, where they stick a needle into me again. Oh no! No way are they going to get me this time. No. NO.

I tried to delay the inevitable. Whatever it was.

I stalled. I refused milk and spit up breakfast. I ran away when Mammaa took me to the loo for a clean up, and I threw a fit when they tried to get a diaper on me.

But at the end, they got the better of me. I was dressed and ready. And Mammaa pulled out about half a dozen bags from no where. What were in them, I wondered. And where did they come from?

They strapped me into my seat and tried to say some reassuring words. We love you. You are fantastic. You are so smart. You will have sooo much fun. Yada yada yada….

I tried to tune them out, and concentrate on my favorite song which was on loop on the car stereo. It played about 4 times, and we stopped. Pappaa got me outside, and Mammaa got all the bags.

We went in. I vaguely remembered the place from before. I was sure we’d been there before, not exactly sure for what though.

It was bright and airy. And there were loads of pretty. smiley people walking around. It smelled fresh, but a sort of artificial fresh. Smelled like the stuff Mammaa sometimes rubs her hands with.

And there was an eerily disproportionate number of little people there. In short, I did not like or trust the place one bit.

I was curious though. What was this about? And maybe if we hung around there, I could explore the myriad colored, attractive stuff that was lying around.

My parents and the lady at the entrance spoke for a while. They all exchanged smiles and pleasantries. We were then taken to a room inside. It was then that the unthinkable happened.

Pappaa handed me to the strange lady with the cap on, Mammaa deposited all the bags and they said bye. I wailed and screamed with all my breath and might. I fought. They hung around for a bit and then….. THEY LEFT! They actually left me there!!!! Just like that.

Thereafter, I refused everything. Cool water, delicious strawberries, tasty treats, the most magical looking toys, the smiley people, the cool little people, the enticing bed; I did not care for any of them.

Would they ever come back I wondered. Is this where I’m going to live from now on. With these weird, smiley, big people and the multi-hued small people.

I ultimately did fall asleep that day and “they” (as in my untrustworthy parents) did come back in a bit. But I woke up in that strange, new place with a new perspective. And a plan.

If they ever try this stunt on me again…ever…. they would have hell to pay. I will see to that!

Till next time.

A determined, stoic and world- wise Zoe.

An entire generation of confused women.

Each passing day, makes me realize how hard it must have been for my Mum. To be a homemaker. Day in, day out. Every single day. Without a break.

On Sundays, when the kids wanted their favorite fried treats, and Pappaa wanted to lie in and watch cricket and read the news.

On Eid and holidays when we’d entertain guests and she’d cook up elaborate, lavish spreads of authentic albeit incredibly time and energy sapping Malabari delicacies. At the end of it, we’d be almost thankless, and would instead nit- pick over dessert choices or the table-ware.

She’s always up at the crack of dawn. Cleaning, organizing, clearing away our mess, cooking, washing, ironing; she was perennially busy. And I wondered why she was always occupied. How utterly foolish of me, I now realize!

Eating out was an uncommon affair, one reserved for special occasions and for times when out of town relatives were visiting. I never once wondered how incredibly hard it must have been to put together three (or four!) ‘full- on’ meals a day, and have it piping hot for people who strolled into the home at different times of the day. Somebody comes in after hockey practice, someone comes in even later because they had their debate club meet; and another person walks in close to midnight because it’s audit season. All want hot, comforting food, on clean, dry, homey plates. And yes, most Indian dishes involve a lot of soaking, kneading, mixing, blending, grinding, cutting; in short they can be complicated and arduous. And this was a time, when mixes and pre- packed, frozen or “short- cut” (e.g.store- bought batter) foods were just coming into the market and were generally looked- down or frowned upon.

She did it all, with hardly a sour face. With no aspirations of a high- flying career (which she laments about now) or wishes for freedom from the chores and mores of domestic life; she lived out her young adult life dedicated to her family.

And here I am. Every time I do the dishes at night, I’m squeamish to admit, I feel a twinge of resentment. A smidgen of self- importance creeps in, and I feel “above” doing dishes. That I’m too qualified, too refined; that doing measly domestic chores is beneath my high and mighty self!  I quickly clamp the feeling down and seal them shut. After all, I do it out of love, and not force or coercion I tell myself.

Why does an otherwise family- oriented, well- rounded (hopefully!) family girl/ woman have such feelings of resentment toward homely duties and obligations? When did washing one’s own bathroom, or doing the family dishes become lowly. When does one become too lofty to fold their own underwear?

The fault, probably lies in our upbringing. Equal opportunities and equal treatment of male and female children, in a society where gender stereotypes are rife and real creates a whole generation of well- meaning but confused young adults. The woman wonders if it’s demeaning to be so educated and yet lead the the life of a stay-at- home homemaker. The man wonders if he will be judged by his family, relatives and peers if he decides to take a year off and be a hands on daddy at home.

In our current generation, we like to believe that there are no clear- cut gender definitions or gender- determined roles. We’d like to believe that there are perfectly content and happy families out there with stay- at-home dads and mothers who despise the stove. My generation of Indian women, not all, but at least my friends, acquaintances and peers, growing up, hardly ever spent a moment in the kitchen. We were never really taught to cook, sew, or fold laundry. I never washed a single item of clothing until I moved out of the home to pursue my residency in another city. I never cooked a meal, until I married, and moved to another country.

We’d like to believe that we have truly evolved into a gender- neutral family system and have left our “woman equals gatherer/ nurturer and men equals hunter/ provider” days behind.  Yet, ask any man and he will tell you that he feels obliged to bring in the dough every month, to be the primary bread- winner/ provider. And most women I speak to (including myself) admit to feeling the pressure to put some food on the table everyday.

No matter how much I try, every time we eat out or order take away, I feel a sense of failure. Failure to nurture my little family with lovely, home- cooked meals; meals that provide a warmth and homey comfort that no pricey, gourmet meal or cheap, tasty take- away can provide.

And there is this other aspect of gender stereotypes that we cannot seem to be rid off. Even if the woman slogs outside the home and brings in a big, fat paycheck, she is still obligated almost to make sure the home is tidy and organized. That the laundry is sorted, washed, folded and put away. That the sheets are fresh. The surfaces and kitchen counters are clean. That the fridge is stocked. The toys put away. A man doing these chores is a requested exception; most likely a one- off, emergency- dictated occurrence. At best they would make the effort but still leave enough for the woman to re-do or undo and at worst it would lead to a silly tiff!

Maybe the men are not to blame. Mostly likely, they are not inherently programmed to do all of the above. Maybe they do not perceive the mess and chaos as women do. Maybe perceived gender- roles are more ingrained in our psyche than we realize or care to admit.

Even with all the juggling and multi- tasking we do, we are not the superstars. The true superstars are the women before us. Who sacrificed their dreams, aspirations, desires and lives. Who devoted their lives to our upbringing and well being. Who were selfless and giving. Who have worked tirelessly for us to be where we are. We can never be them, sadly, but we can learn great lessons from them. Of patience. Of kindness. Of contentment. Of life.

I have no idea, where we women are heading to. We are not sure what we want from life. We are humans who were no different from our male- peers and competed with them in all aspects, and had similar aspirations; all until the day we got married of course. Thrown blind into the deep end of the new- age family structure, we are unsure of our role and place in this society and its family systems. Our dreams often collide with the future of our families’ and we almost always have to scale back the proportions of the vision our own selfish- future, to accommodate all the new entrants into our life. No matter how differently we think and behave as opposed to the women before us, we still have to do many of the same things they did. Most important of those- bear and nurture progeny. It is a fate we can neither fight nor change, for the continuation of the human race dictates we perform that role. And therefore, we are lost and confused.

Marital roles and motherly feelings are not often conducive to worldly conquests and scientific pursuit. The harsh truth is that, women will always have to work harder, faster, better, smarter; mainly because we just have more to do. And we almost certainly will have to step back a few times, slow down and then rejoin the race and run harder than ever before. We just have to. Or we could opt out and hope to flourish in roles that have been traditionally set out for us. It is a choice, one no more better than the other. Both hard. Both fulfilling.

Amidst all the inner- conflicts, mood- swings, decision swaps and womanly chaos, we must also thank our long- suffering, ever- supportive, eternally understanding partners. After all they are the other wheel of the proverbial bicycle of life, whether we like to admit it or not!

Till next time.

Dr J.

Ma Wednesday! Mommy pangs.

Ugh. This is turning into quite the mommy blog. I seem to write about Zoe and my Mummy adventures more than anything else. Apologies, if you find these mommy rants boring and repetitive. It’s just that, even though I have a dozen (read half a million) other things going on in my life, this one aspect of me (or my life) seems all consuming.

Nothing else worries me, irritates me, gives me more joy than motherhood does. It also sucks me dry. Tires me like nothing else does. Honest to God, running a marathon IS easier than taking an 8 hour flight with my little one. NO joke. No exaggeration.It sounds utterly rehashed and cliched, and I’m one to stay away from cliches but I cannot put it any other way.

Irrespective of how I interact with people in real life, I try to remain true to myself here, on this blog (I shall not share my “swearing, short- fused” self though!). Therefore, even though I wish to appear as an uber- cool, fuss- less, manicured, soft- spoken, poised Mum who always has a handle on things, I sometimes end up being the stereotypical, routine, blubbering, weary, confused, screaming Mum who can’t get her scrambled eggs done.

All said, we contemporary Mums seem to make a lot of fuss and noise about parenting and motherhood. Our parents and the generations before them did this too. With far less brouhaha. We need to step down a notch or two I assume.

I digress from what I wanted to address today- me missing my “little one”.

Oooooh! I miss her so much.

I love my feisty, boisterous, destruction-on-two-legs, crazy 14 month old, but I miss my cuddly, cooey, calm, less-mobile little baby. I was so caught up in the storm of things, her first year of life seemed to have slipped by.

I feel like I did not cherish it enough. The picture of her in my mind, as a newly born, miracle six and a half pounder, already seems hazy. The sleep deprivation and the poo explosions at 3 am is now a distant memory. And it has barely been a year!

The sands of time slip away, ever so hastily, while I try my best to reign in the chaos and hold on to a precious few moments to cherish and enjoy each day.

I feel this eerie sadness, for the passing of her infancy; I can only imagine the state I’d be left in when she leaves the home to go to college or to pursue her own life and dreams. I dread that day.

I also look forward to it!

She is no longer the sedate, content baby, and getting food into that tiny belly is more difficult than fixing a really, really bad fracture; but she still surprises and delights me each day with her spunk and personality.

The very attributes that drives me up a wall, are traits that will one day stand her in good stead. Single- minded, stubborn, willful, ever- smiling, and not- easily distracted from task at hand- I can slowly see fleeting snippets of what she may grow up to be.

The Mister who until recently called me a Diva/ Drama- Queen has to now reckon with a whole new level of Diva- ness! She has him hooked around her little finger. Lord bless the poor soul 🙂

Extremely vociferous, with a uncanny knack of letting us know exactly what she wants, even with the limited vocabulary of hers; I know these are priceless days. And when she is in her terrible twos, I will sorely miss my crazy but loving one year old. I will possibly even miss her terrible twos when I have to trick her into doing her pre- school homework!

I see a pattern developing here. So, I need to step back and vow to always (or at least sometimes) try and live in the moment. Each day, unbeknown to us is a blessing that we will not receive again. Every day is unique, and one that shall never be relived or repeated no matter how much we want it to. A day may be mundane, exciting, joyous, miserable or boring; but it can never “be the same” as yesterday, or the day before that.

I hope I remember my vow, even when I have a glass of milk thrown at my face with tiny hands!

Till next time..

Dr J.

A working mum’s perspective.

Lately, Facebook newsfeeds have been awash with stay-at- home- mum write- ups and blog posts. They call themselves SAHMs. Great. I love short hand. Sticking to the norms of nomenclature, I am therefore a sometimes-out- of- the- home- mum or SOOTHM. I don’t say “working mum” because all mothers definitely work!

The articles say such cool and wonderful things. They talk about the merits of being a “full- time mum”. They talk about how peaceful their lives are. How rounded and accomplished their kids turn out to be.  And for the briefest of brief moments, I feel guilty, a tad jealous even. Then I go down the familiar path that most mums and women travel down whenever they are presented with a new situation- second guessing oneself.

Most mums (and dads!) are generally just trying to do the best they can. It is not our place to judge or belittle another parent. I shall therefore not speak for or to the SAHMs, they do a fabulous job holding down fort at the domestic end and kudos to them. Bravo! I would however like to share the tale of a working mum. And how and why we roll the way we do.

I was a SAHM too you know, albeit for a brief period. I loved it. And hated it. In equal measure. I loved every moment with my fresh- into- this- world bub, but I hated the feeling of being “stuck”. Stuck at home. Stuck in my PJs. Stuck in life. Stuck in a rut.

My decision to take a year off, was a highly debated/ deliberated decision. Debated within. Deliberated outside. Endlessly.  Finally, I made the decision without any (absolutely none) regards or opinions sought from outsiders. Even The Mister was not to have a say in this one. It was my decision, and mine alone. And in the first few months, destiny proved; that I had made the right decision.

We had a rough beginning; the sort of beginning that all new parents dread. We ended up being the anxious, harassed couple who were perpetually at the paediatric ICU and the emergency room. The Hubster had to manage both work and worry. I had only my little one to think of. I had no leave applications or deadlines to distract or annoy me. Work and career suddenly became inconsequential- this for a woman who is borderline maniacal about her work. She once called it the air that sustains her and keeps her sane. Life is definitely bizarre.

Slowly routines and wonts crept in. I settled into the role of being a mother and the sole caretaker of a tiny human. Though I occasionally flipped through surgical journals, my daughter was now the crux of my universe. I spent about 10 hours a day, alone with her at home. I knew more about her than was normal or necessary. I knew the rate and depth of her breathing, the colour and quantity of every pee and the consistency and odour of her every bowel movement. My life revolved round her naptimes, I  maitained a nursing- journal and whenever she slept I researched everything (on PubMed no less) from ABO incompatibility outcomes to parenting styles to sleep cycles.

Everybody had an opinion on everything. Every mother was an expert. And everything was complicated to the point of being beyond comprehension, most times utterly unnecessarily. We after all live in an era of “helicopter parenting”. I was being sucked into the crazy vortex of over parenting.

I’m sure even Mr H must have thought to himself “Where is my crazy, impulsive, full- of- life wife ? Who is this zombie like momzilla who hovers over my daughter?” I was a new and not entirely pleasant person.  The sleep deprivation made matters worse.

Back home, having a baby is a communal affair. Postpartum, there is a veritable army of elderly, experienced women who descend upon the home of the recently birthed. They pamper the mother and coddle the baby.  The mother can rest and recuperate, whilst basking in all the care and attention. Massages, oil baths, herbal concoctions for healing, special diets- all are part of the postpartum package. But the downside of being part of a nomad couple who called several alien cities their “home”, I unfortunately had none of that.

Even so, life was great for a while. The post-delivery blues quickly gave way to all the lovely things that accompany the experience of being a first time mum . But ever so often, an ex- colleague or friend  would call to inquire about the little one’s health and we would end up discussing the previous day’s cases and OR lists. Other times, I would hear of someone getting into a prestigious fellowship or receive an email with the most recent publication by a not- so- talented peer. And slowly but surely, cracks started to form in my carefully structured, blissfully- free, stay-at-home- mother bubble.

I missed the OR. I missed being someone other than a mother. I missed getting up in the morning and heading somewhere. I missed feeling important. I missed workplace interactions. I missed adult conversations. I missed my work so bad that I started practicing hand ties while nursing. The worse part of it was, I wasn’t sure where to direct the growing frustration. I doted on my little one though. and was an over- involved parent. An intense, restless person is asked to pull away from her very full, very hectic life and is given one and only one thing to take care of. No prizes for guessing what the consequences would be.

I vented most (okay all) of my unpleasantness on my poor, unprepared husband. He is a stoic, balanced man. And therefore, he took it on the chin and never flinched. As days wore on, I turned into a spiteful wife and a resentful woman. A wonderful mother still, I was told; but an unpleasant, morose human being. Also, I had no friends and no social life in the new town that I was forced to call home. And ‘my time’ did not exist anymore.

I resented the neighbour lady who woke up at the crack of dawn, put on a pair of stylish leggings and trainers and went for her run while I sat on the armchair with a fully awake, nocturnal bub on a nurse-athon.

I resented my husband for getting out of the house. For wearing a spiffy suit and shiny shoes and going to work, while I languished at home in unflattering , spit-up riddled pyjamas. He wore after shave, spritzed perfume and had board meetings while I barely managed a shower a day.

I resented my colleagues and friends who were busy learning and perfecting new surgical techniques and getting ahead of me, while the uber- competitive me was itching to just ‘get back into the race’.

I stuck through though. I fought hard and sought happiness in mundane everyday matters. The first babble, the momentous “roll- over”, the day she sat up unsupported…aah! I still remember those moments vividly. A little too vividly perhaps. I even found solace in posting inane, meaningless posts online every night at ungodly hours and called it blogging. And before I knew it, my one year sabbatical was over. And I went back to work.

The adult conversations returned. The feel of self- importance was back. I was busier than I ever thought could be possible. And I revelled in my new role as a working mum. I missed serval precious moments with Zoe every day, but the moment I was back from work – I was BACK. I was right there with her, every second; not lost and mourning and thinking other things. I am no less involved, but the few hours of separation every day makes our time together in the evening that much more special. I have more patience to deal with all her toddler shenanigans, and I smile at almost every mess she creates, even when I’m bone tired. Every morning, as I head to work, I have time to step back and recall the previous night’s antics in the bath, and the capers in the crib and I smile to myself, amazed at the depth of my love for the little munchkin. When I was stuck at home the whole time, I did not have this luxury of stepping back and looking at the picture from afar.

Mothers continue to work outside the home for several reasons. Some for the independence and sense of self- worth, some for financial reasons; many for a mix of both. The problem with my generation of women is that we are brought up in a gender neutral environment. My education was given the same importance as my brother’s. Even more possibly, since I was the nerdy one. I was encouraged to think for myself and was involved in all the family decisions. I spent my entire adult life training for my work and my career is of vital importance to me and my parents. Basically, I was brought up just like any man, in terms of education and career choices.

Suddenly though, I had to travel back to the days of my foremothers and turn into this docile, domestic nurturer. And to be honest, I was blindsided for a while. Life turned upside down. That is the root of my problem (and probably many other SOOTHMs). Even though instinctively, I love my little one to death, and would like to spend my every moment with her, it goes against everything else I want as an adult. In short, I HAVE to be a working mum, for my sanity and for that of my loved ones. It probably sounds all wrong, but “just being a Mum” isn’t enough for me. I was so much more before, and being a mum has only enriched my life further (like nothing else probably could have).

My grandmother knew what her role in life was even as a young girl. Get married, have babies, take care of them. She was married at 14 and had my mum at 15. Most girls around her had the same life. She was happy with her life because she did not know any other life. She had five beautiful children, and she found peace and contentment in domestic life. It’s easy to live a life that you are trained for from an early age. But we live in different times. And so arise the legendary work-home- balance conundrums that millions of women face.

Of course, there are many who chose to devote themselves entirely to their families even today, and I look up to those domestic goddesses with awe. Alas, I am not one of them and though I sometimes begrudge that; I have found peace in my standing in life (well, almost!). My laundry basket may not always be empty, my dishes aren’t always clean, I skip meals sometimes, I don’t cook elaborate delicacies for my husband each day, and I sometimes have to let my one year old watch Little Baby Bum on the iPad to get stuff done in the morning. I also don’t have free time to lounge about and paint my nails or do  my hair. I have not visited a salon in ages and I read with the little one sleeping on me. I am definitely not a domestic goddess 😦

But the sense of accomplishment, of somehow getting through each day at work and home keeps me going. I feel like I’m utilizing and ‘putting to work’ all part of me (and the decade of training I have).

And the “separate” bank balance helps too!

Till next time..

Dr J.

Female surgeon rant.

I rarely talk about my work or my colleagues to you folks. I have my reasons. But today I shall throw caution to the winds and open Pandora’s box. A box rife with excitement, prejudice, innovation, sexism, toil, blood, gore, guts, hard- work, parties, gossip, laughter, tears, stereotypes, misconceptions and sempiternal action.

My work gives me pure, distilled, unadulterated joy. It also takes an illimitable toll on my family- life and drives me to the edge of sanity. It exhilarates me. It unhinges me.

I have been “studying” this subject for a decade now. And nudging the end of my third decade of existence, I still am at least half a decade away from becoming a SURGEON.

I work in an unapologetically male environment. I have never been harassed or abused. But I have been teased playfully and taunted willfully. I have been poked and prodded in ‘jest’. I have been ‘asked- out’ by some and ignored by a couple. I have been laughed at by some and singled out by others. I have been assumed to be inept and dumb. Have been thought to be a girl who landed here by chance. Or worse, by momentary stupidity in decision making. It doesn’t help that I am a petite 158 cms and that I barely tip the scales at 100 pounds. Strength and weight jokes are common when I am in the OR. Being a “girl- woman” is another bane. Patients often are hesitant and less- forthcoming to a young- looking, small, girlish, woman doctor, let alone a surgeon who might have to cut them.

I had to stave off 83, ooo odd people to get hold of the undergrad seat that I wanted. And after 6 years of toil and madness, I had to kill the hopes and dreams of another 8,300 odd post- grad aspirants to get my dream (almost) residency, in the only subject that I wanted to specialize in.

I work- out to keep fit. I lift weights and do yoga to improve my upper body strength and core. I run to build stamina. I wear heels in the OPD to look taller. I dress to look older. I read to get smarter. I practice to get better.  I aspire to be smarter, better, faster and fitter than all my peers- MALE or FEMALE.

Yes. A man has to work hard in my field. Just not as hard as a woman has to!

With time, and effort; I gain respect and acknowledgement. I can outlast my male peers, in long surgeries. I am more flexible and can stand still for longer. All the running had paid off- and given me some serious, kick- arse leg muscles. They rarely complain. Ten hours of standing is nothing to them. I have overcome the lack of strength (marginal it may be) by refining my technique. I have rid myself of any “girly” machinations and have built a hard- shell of no- nonsense demeanor. I try to reach earlier and leave last. I try to speak up, and am rarely shy to speak my mind. I have stopped trying to fit in, I prefer to stand- out. I am not “one of the boys”, but I do not wish to be “treated like a lady”, at least not in the wards or the OR.

I had just started to find my groove. My niche. My respect was well and truly hard- earned.

And then it happened.

Motherhood.

Now there is a big chink in my armour. My little baby. My helpless little Zoe. A human who is entirely dependent on me. And it has began all over again.

I am considered to be less “hard core” because I am a mother. My male peers think I am done. That I have gone “soft”. They think I am now to be left by the wayside. That the flame has dimmed and shall finally be extinguished by the blanket of motherhood.

Aah, here we go again! The same bias. The same prejudice. How many times am I to prove myself?

Yes. I have scaled back. Taken a step back. It is a choice I have made. But I do not for a moment believe I’m out of the game.

The chink in my armour has hardened the flesh underneath. Scarred it enough to make it impenetrable. It has revealed strengths and talents that I did not know existed within me. I have now reached a new level of expertise when it comes to multi- tasking. I can now think, plan and execute tangentially diverse matters and tasks at the same time. I have also stripped away all inconsequential and irrelevant facets of my life. Time has expanded exponentially. I now have to prioritize every task, errand and chore, true; but it’s not something that I think I should complain about.

My life is now a million times richer, thanks to The Little One. I have a steadfast pillar at home – The Mister. And a fortress filled with people who love me and will support me in any which way they can-  My Family. So yeah, I shall not complain. Or whine about petty matters like biased fools and ignorant sexist morons. I shall just keep my head down and keep at it. Working.

I really do not care what people think I should be doing. And I do not want to know how other female surgeons are working in “softer” environments. I shall do what works best for me. And my little family. We shall forge our own unique path.

The fun’s just started folks. Like I always say-it ain’t a sprint friend, it’s a bloody darned marathon!

And it has only just begun..

Till next time..

Dr J.

 

Ma Wednesday! Getting ready.

I toss and turn and rove in bed. I can smell Mama, I know she is close. I use my leg as a feeler and locate her. I keep my eyes closed and move toward her. I then climb onto her, go above and over and strategically place myself between Mama and Papa. With my mission accomplished, I drift off again.

I wake up to utter chaos. Mama is moving like a tornado. Leaving a trail of destruction behind her. Clothes. My diapers. Dishes. Spilled milk. Overcooked idlis.

She’s late. Nothing new folks. I yawn and stretch in bed. I sit up. My balance takes a while to warm up. So, I roll over and fall. I yelp. Mama notices I’m awake. She’s looking for something in her closet.

Papa seems to be done with his bath. He’s trying to get some tea going. Both my crazy parents are yet to iron thier respective work garbs. Anyhoo, I need my morning “tea”; so Mama gets to it. She fiddles with her phone all the while. She blackmails Papa into ironing her clothes as well- using poor me as an excuse!

We all sit down for a hasty breakfast. I decide to have some fun and test Mama’s already worn patience. I splutter and spit everything that Mama puts into my mouth. Just for fun. So we have a war of wills, early in the morning. I want to have a fun, leisure breakfast, Mama wants to be done with it. After a while, we call it a truce; I relent and eat. For her part, Mama lets me play with whatever I want to, including her precious phone 🙂

Papa has an early meeting, so he heads out first. Mama is distraught, she was counting on him to watch me while she gets ready. She mumbles to herself senselessly as she cleans me up and gets me dressed.

She is forced to leave me in my walker just outside the bathroom door. I am allowed to watch my favorite Peppa Pig episode on the iPad. Yay! I wish Papa had to leave early everyday.

She finishes her bath in record time and heads out dripping. Plugs in the drier and goes berserk. I occupy myself with some sheets of papers on the night- stand while Mama changes.  Mama screams and pulls them from my grasp. Oh oh, some are torn. Maybe they are important. Who knows!

Mama pulls up her hair into a messy but functional updo and starts to put stuff on her face. I guess she has somewhere important to be today. I don’t really care folks, I am utterly bored in this stupid walker (which doesn’t really “walk” anywhere). I wish this thing breaks or just falls off the face of the earth one day.

I make sounds and try to get her attention. She doesn’t look my way. So I do what I do. I cry. This time it works. She picks me up.

My Mama thinks she’s super- woman. Or rather she is forced to be one. She can do almost anything one- handed. She puts her creams on one- handed. She can brush her teeth and load the laundry one- handed. She can mop and cook. She can wear lipstick. Even type.

Today, she was doing something to her eyelashes. With a black brush like thinngy. I wanted to check it out. So I tried to grab the thing.

Oops! I think she poked her eye. My bad! She’s hurt I think. And there is a big black mark across her face. It’s funny. I laugh. Hehe.

Poor thing washes her face. And this time doesn’t bother with the eye stuff and lipstick. She packs her hand- bag and my nappy- bag. I’m to be dropped off at Grampy’s you see.

She then goes in search of a pair of socks. Like always, they are impossible to locate. She finally comes out of the room with a pair. Ha! They are Papa’s I notice. Oh Mama, Mama!

She collects her keys, puts her watch on and puts on the bags, one on each shoulder. My designated location is her left hip, so I get pulled up and propped on her hip. We are just about to get out of the house, she slaps her forehead with her right palm and goes in again.

She frantically starts looking for something. The closet, cupboards, drawers, laundry bag…. Even the washing machine. Finally, with a triumphant expression on her face and a damp piece of cloth in her hand; she comes out and loads everything onto herself her again (the bags and me- we were all left on the floor).

By the way, the damp piece of cloth was part of last- night’s laundry. Not fully dry yet because it lay forgotten in the washing machine. It is Mama’s favorite navy- blue polka dotted head cap. I’m sure she has an important surgery today. (Papa and I call it her “lucky” cap, though she refutes the allegation vehemently. She says she is not superstitious and does not need luck to help her.)

Anyhoo, we are almost an hour late by now.Mama looks really harried. I feel bad for her now. Poor thing.

I shall not trouble her from now on, at least in the mornings. I promise!

Till next time…

Zoe.