Saved two lives today. At least, and maybe more.
Then, I walked out of the Emerg and back into my life, where I am no longer lifesaving hero doc but Mommy and wife. The hands that held the tube that opened the airway to bring a person back to life today, now hold tiny hands of sweet smelling children who snuggle me as they fall asleep. The brain that pulsated with knowledge and medical puzzle solving energy shifts into multitasking parent mode. The confident, firm, strong female physician softens, becomes just a bit less of that, on the homefront.
When I leave the ED, I walk to my locker and change out of my black scrubs and into soft clean clothes – a metamorphosis, I shed the skin I wear that gets me through my days. When I used to work on an ambulance in Israel, I was quite aware of the wall I built around myself to shelter from the storm of emotion all around. Here, in my daily work environment in Canada, I no longer have to have a firm brick wall to block out fear. Instead, I have this snakeskin that I shed as I shed my scrubs.
At work, I can be fierce. I can be what I need to be, to get things done for my patients. I can feel the armour of scales around me as I confront the sorrow, the anger, the vulnerability of patients before me; and I can peel those scales back a few at a time if I choose. Maybe I will sit on a patient’s bed like I did the other day, and take a few extra minutes to feel real feelings with them. Maybe I won’t – maybe I will be stoic and the tears will flow later. If at all.
When I leave the ED, I enter a world of joy and happiness where people are lovely, beautiful, fresh and innocent. I lie in the bed of my daughter and smell her clean skin, feel her perfect heartbeat, hear her deep calm and normal breathing. I hug my bouncing baby boy in my arms and hear him giggle with a clear voice, feel him pull my hair with strong hands. I admire my husband’s muscled arms and toned physique, feel his strength as he holds me. I move from a world of sickness, to a world of health. A place of so much darkness, to a place of joy and light.
How do I do it?
I wish I could tell you.
I wish I knew.
Sometimes, it’s hard to make that transition.
Stories of my patients get caught in my heart, and it’s hard to let them go.
Sometimes, my daughter wants to hear “work stories”, and in telling them I bring together my separate worlds. Is that a good thing? I don’t know. All I know, is that hearing her want to know about my other world, makes me feel something intangible. Pride? Love? Vulnerability? Fear? I want her to stay innocent, but I want her to know what Mommy does. It’s a fine line.
Motherhood. Physicianship. Balance. Sometimes it’s all I can do to stay whole.