The Impossible Myth of “Having it All”

I’ve severely neglected this blog after having lovingly tended it for over a year and a half.  I’ve gone underground – I can’t remember the last time I posted something.  I’ve been afraid that if I post, I will somehow jinx the good luck I have finally had in getting pregnant with a little baby girl.  But, today is the first day of my “maternity leave”, five days away from my due date (with still no baby or contractions in site!) and I am trying to find my voice…

The day started with tears, ambivalence, guilt, regret, uncertainty, anxiety, frustration and some anger

I have spent the last twenty years nurturing a successful career as a specialist physician.  I have tried my hardest to navigate the pitfalls of being a woman in what often feels like a man’s world.  And now I am finally having to take some time to take care of my own needs and it feels so unnatural and difficult.

I let my group know when I was ten weeks pregnant that I would be needing to take leave in August. – that my due date was August 23.  Typically, our group of six has a policy that only two can be away at a time.  But despite my boss knowing this fact, he allowed two of my colleagues to go on the vacation schedule this week.  This leaves the remaining colleagues very stressed out and frazzled.  It probably isn’t the greatest model for patient care, but welcome to America!

I had been playing it by ear.  Every day I asked myself whether I would be OK going in, and until today, I had kept calm and carried on.  I was a bit frightened being about 45 minutes away from my delivery hospital (in no traffic).  I was irritated everyday by the comments of others at my office saying stuff like “Wow! you look so big!  What are you still doing here?”  But I knew if I ducked out too soon, it would just add fuel to the undercurrent of feelings surrounding women in high power workplaces for this very reason.

My husband is from a traditional background and he had wanted me home resting from several weeks ago, especially, since it was so difficult for us to get pregnant to begin with.  He has also gotten comments and pressure from his family echoing that sentiment.  But our OB doctor corroborated my assertions that there was really no reason for me to be on house arrest yet, and so I continued to work.

Over the weekend, I started to feel a lot of pressure while walking.  I feel really bulky and uncomfortable. I’ve gained about 26 lbs so far, but it feels like the baby bump is more like a third or half of my body mass rather than just a lean 15%. Finally, the stress of the ordeal of getting to and from work, coupled with the fast pace and stress of actually doing the job seemed like an unnecessary burden as I analyzed things over the past weekend – especially, since I had hoarded a bunch of vacation time and sick days that I wanted to piggy back onto my 12 weeks of leave.

As I think ahead to when I must return to work after my leave time, I know that it is going to be a heart wrenching endeavor.  I tried so hard to save my days so that I could stretch what seems like a meager 12 weeks into an only slightly less meager 15 + weeks.  But who am I kidding?  The difference will be minimal.  Hence my anger and frustration.  My cursing that I wasn’t born in France or Italy or any other more civilized nation that understands that a baby needs their mom. (See NY Times article on Family Leave Policies).

The guilt and regret was due to the fact that I really am fine and if only I could do my job from right here at home, there would have been no reason to “waste” the precious days.  Guilt and regret also, because while I want very much to be “delivered” (in part not to waste the extra vacation days on “waiting”) I know I will look back at these days of feeling my little one’s kicks and pushes and rolls, and the estrogen high of being pregnant and miss them. The anger at my boss for putting me in the position of feeling bad about my leave because of his lack of management skills.

The uncertainty and anxiety and ambivalence because I am extremely fearful of the process of delivery itself and inherent risks to my baby and myself.  Uncertainty and anxiety, also because there is so little predictability of the experience I will personally have.  Finally, it seems like time goes by so fast and it will be so easy to miss the important moments if I don’t force myself to live in the present – hence the tears.