Seven years and seven days ago I got engaged. Life has been in a bit of a spin ever since. Less than six months later I was married, pregnant, feeling knackered and nauseous. And now, well I’m only just starting to see a time ahead of me when I can start to breath again.
I’m starting to wonder how I got here, where all those years have vanished to, and where to go from here. I’m a doctor, which gives us a secure financial future (unless Hunt manages to completely destroy our health system of course!). I love emergency medicine, but I have abandoned any kind of career advancement for the foreseeable future in order to live in one place and be around for my kids when I’m not working, rather than spending all my spare time studying for exams.
I was not born desperately wanting to be a doctor. In fact my first memory of having a career ambition, was writing in to Jim’ll Fix It (!! Pretty glad now that I wasn’t chosen) asking if he could fix it for me to be a teacher for a day. That lasted me a few years, until I was ten or so, and I decided I wanted to be a writer. In fact, my top ambition was to be a poet!
Now poet has considerably less financial security than doctor. I know this. Plus above all else I was rubbish! Not that my decision to study medicine was purely financial, I am truly interested in how the human body works and how that impacts us, and how we can manipulate that for the benefit of people’s wellbeing. I couldn’t help myself though, studying literature and philosophy alongside my science A levels. I spent more time in my second year at medical school reading Plath than biochemistry. Pretty much until I qualified I would find myself browsing prospectuses for studying English at university.
Then I qualified and worked crazily hard through my first couple of years, with little time for anything but patients. And then I fell in love and gave up any kind of ambition, much happier to be at home than returning after work to get extra operating time in theatre. I realised I didn’t have the temperament to fight tooth and claw to the top of the surgical profession. Emergency medicine turned into a very good second choice which gives me the craziness and urgency I loved most about general surgery, alongside the ability to walk away at the end of a shift, knowing that tomorrow was a new day.
Then marriage, children, sleep deprivation, and here I am. I think I read three books in 2016. I listened to two music albums in their entirety. I made it to the theatre once (to see a comedian!) and Death in Paradise is more my style of tv than Shakespeare adaptations.
I’m not sure which is the real me, the one before or since children. I still have some hope that once I get some sleep, and the chance to think a single thought through to a conclusion before somebody says “Mummy, Mummy, have you seen my Lego Scooby?” then I will still be capable of having deep and interesting thoughts. That maybe one day I may be able to articulate one of these thoughts. But I’m not there yet.
I see others who manage to combine having young children and being creative. I am so totally in awe of those people. Part of me hopes it’s because they have way more support than I do. Before I ever had children I read an article about how children should have full time one-to-one care until the age of three, from a primary care giver. Now every single other piece of pre-conceived child-rearing information got ignored pretty much from the moment my daughter was put on my chest, her umbilical cord still attached to me. That however totally stuck with me, however much it’s probably nonsense. It was a big part of our decision to wait till my daughter was three before having another baby, why my husband gave up work, why neither of my children had any kind of outside childcare before the age of three. Add to that a very intense first child who was always very distressed at the merest hint of being left in anyone else’s care, and it adds up to almost six solid years of never getting a break. People who manage that and still find the energy for creativity are infinitely better people than I!
I think this transition from mother, that state where absolutely every single breathing second of every minute is entirely, intimately tied up with desperately trying to keep another human being, that you created and grew, alive, to woman, where you can once again try doing things purely for your own satisfaction, is such a difficult one. One that I am not really managing to start very successfully. I feel like I need guides on my path, show me how it’s done. Whilst I am slowly finding Mummy friends who are helping empathise with my mothering situation, who are in its depths like me, I don’t really have anybody close who is further along the road than I am. Anyone who has managed to find themselves again, whilst also having children. I definitely know others who have managed not to lose themselves so completely to start with, but nobody that is out the other side. Is there even another side??
I had hoped that once my mother had retired that I would have significantly more time with her. She has launched herself head first into retirement though and seems busier now than ever. There is also my incredible doula who was so instrumental in my journey into motherhood, but she is in constant demand from other new mothers. I also have some pretty incredible work colleagues who I hugely admire and respect, but who understandably have a lot on their plates. So for now I guess I need to find my own way through this stage, maybe that is the way that it is supposed to be after all. My very own path to merge the mother I have become with the woman I dreamt I would be.