As salaam alaikum,
This past Sunday, I was busily cleaning my apartment in anticipation of meeting up with my SO after his trip to SF. My place usually lies in shambles because of the time I spend out of it either hanging out on the East Side or fulfilling my many residency responsibilities. When I planned his Sunday return to Seattle, I proposed he meet me at my place before returning to his place to attend a panel on life after residency by recent graduates with perhaps Ethiopian food thereafter. He happily agreed, even before I mentioned that my place would likely be clean when he came.
"Don't make promises you can't keep," he said flatly.
His dead-pan delivery of jokes usually takes me off guard, and I took mild offense before he told me he was just kidding. Even so, I spent much of my Sunday scrubbing and sweeping and vacuuming.
I was putting the finishing touches on my place when my phone rang. I expected it to be him, because it was almost time for us to leave to go to the recent grad panel. I looked up and it was instead one of my co-residents. I was simultaneously excited and crestfallen. One of my OB patients was due, or as wont to say, "one of my ladies" was due, so I thought it was her presenting to triage in labor. That kind of thing throws monkey wrenches into plans.
Instead, I hear that it is my patient who was supposed to be scheduled for c-section in the coming days. She was contracting painfully every 3 minutes.
I think, great, a c-section at least takes place over a finite amount of time, so I can go in and come out 1.5 hours to two hours later. I told my SO this as we adjusted our evening plans. He would go to a movie while I participated in the section.
Long story short, from anesthesia push back, to slowing contractions to a complicated section, I was not out of the hospital until 6.5 hours after that initial call. By this time, my SO drove back to his place, never having seen my sparkling clean apartment, both of us having missed the grad panel and neither of us having Ethiopian food.
In fact, I didn't eat dinner that night because I had nothing prepared and all food places that I would have bothered with were closed.
It was a gratifying section in which baby was fat and healthy and the surgeon commended me for the command I had over closing the incision. What was not gratifying was talking to my SO to find that he was upset with me after my Sunday was thwarted.
I explained to him that I probably didn't have to be there, but my co-resident sold it as if the delivery were imminent and I got there to find that it was pushed back an hour and a half, then another 2.5 hours, and so on. I couldn't easily say to my patient that I wouldn't return after I had essentially promised her in her last three visits that I would be present for the procedure and round on her in the hospital.
The next day, after I apologized again (even though it really wasn't my fault!) and my SO told me that he was going to ask me a question the next day and he wanted me to think it over. I asked him if it were an ultimatum. He told me it wasn't. I really had no idea what he was thinking, what he was really angry about, and what I had done wrong.
I knew he was going to ask it over dinner. So yesterday, after our quesadillas arrived at this Mexican restaurant near his place, he asked me, "How much of a career woman do you see yourself as? I think I know the answer, but I just want to hear it from you."
Really? That was it? All of that build for that question.
So I answered, "Well, you know, babe, I could totally see me taking some time off of my work schedule to spend time at home with children."
"I know you say that, but then things like Sunday happen."
Things like Sunday? What was special about Sunday? I've delivered nearly 30 continuity patients, some of whom have come in times that it interrupts my plans with my SO. He's understood before. Similarly, I've been called in back up at random times.
"I was fine until you said you didn't have to go in," he told me.
Ahh. And therein lies the problem. I said too much.
For him, I didn't have to go in, but I went in, anyway, prioritizing something I didn't have to do over our plans. Even though I explained to him that I didn't have to go in (I never do for continuities), but I promised this patient that I would come to her c-section when it was scheduled for a future date. I didn't have to but I felt obligated. And, more than that, I wanted to be there for a patient I had bonded with throughout her pregnancy.
"I just want to know if, after we're married, I'm eventually going to be seeing you only 1 or 2 times a week."
Really? This is what came of me scrubbing into one c-section, the exact circumstances of which I described to him? Him thinking that suddenly I'm going to become a workaholic who never comes home?
And he thinks there is some definable dichotomy between being a "career woman" and...not, whatever either of those mean.
So I told him, "First of all, babe, career woman is a really antiquated term."
"Yes, but I know what you mean."
So I broke it down for him.
Because, the truth of the matter is, if I could have married and started a family years ago, even as much as 10 years ago, I would have, if the opportunity came along. So it didn't. So I continued with my education. I asked him, if there were such a thing as a dichotomy between me being a working woman and being more domestic, I shouldn't have gone into medicine at all. I should have instead worked small-time or more acceptably domestic jobs until a potential husband came along. But that's not how I roll. So I continued my education and training, all the while knowing that whenever I did marry and have children, I would adapt it into whatever stage and position of life I was in.
Furthermore, I told him, it is hard to say what I will be like when I have children. Life doesn't stop because I plan to have children in the future. It is a fluid position that changes. So while right now I'd love to be involved in many of my continuity patient's deliveries, I recognize that, at some point, family time will take priority.
But that was such a hilarious question to me. If we got married tomorrow and he wanted to start a family right away, I would be game. But in the meantime, life goes on, I have a robust work life with many professional and patient-doctor relationships to maintain as well. I cannot put my life on pause for a course of life that has never been my decision alone to make.