Sunday, April 05, 2009

I Am Not a Doctor

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I am not a doctor. According to my dad, I wanted to be one when I was three, but I must have changed my mind. It would have been a bad career choice for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that my knees buckle under when I so much as hear the words “bile” or “mucous.” I would have never made it through a dermatology slide show, much less an anatomy class. When I watch Grey’s Anatomy, I keep one finger on the fast-forward button, skipping the surgeries in favor of the banter. In college I only pulled one all-nighter and vowed never again. I like my sleep. I like my sanity. I like to have time to sit on the grass in the sun and write poems. I am more cat than crow, more inchworm than hummingbird.

Sure, I can run around crossing things off a list, accomplishing an impossible number of errands, but at the end of the day I feel dull and hollow—and possibly bipolar—and who needs that?

Dr. Fiancé and I have, as he puts it, “different ways of dealing with discomfort.” Namely, he throws himself into situations that cause it—hiking, kayaking, running, playing basketball, traveling to places that don’t have proper toilets, whereas I like to avoid such things. Life is uncomfortable enough as it is without seeking out blisters and sprains and fatigue and revolting smells.

Likewise, some people enjoy traveling to countries where they don’t speak English so that they’re pushed out of their verbal comfort zone. I, on the other hand, do not require a foreign tongue to feel challenged and self-conscious and misunderstood. An audience of two—or sometimes even one—is all it takes for me to develop performance anxiety.

This is all to say, my “approach” to “handling” the discomforts of pregnancy has caused some tension chez nous. Dr. Fiancé is of the school (specifically Harvard Medical School) that believes in pushing through discomfort. I suppose that’s what you have to do to make it through medical training, but it seems ironic—the people in charge of helping us take care of our bodies are forced to take such poor care of their own, deprived of rest and sleep and three decent meals a day. If you’re running yourself that hard, don’t you lose touch with what’s going on with your body? If you need sleep but aren’t able to get any, aren’t you setting some part of yourself up to mistrust the rest of you?

Many times these past few queasy weeks I have wondered—frequently out loud—how other women do it. How do pregnant doctors-in-training get through residency, for instance? Do they just accept the fact that they might throw up on a patient? I’m scared to throw up on my car. And do they just not worry about the fact that their brains are muddled with raging hormones and thoughts of food and waves of nausea and that those distractions are probably preventing them from performing at the level to which they’d previously been accustomed? Am I a wimp for, say, feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of teaching creative writing to high school kids once or twice a week, working on my own writing, planning a wedding, keeping up with the rigorous travel schedule Dr. Fiancé prefers, tending to a house and yard larger than any I’ve ever lived in, growing a baby, and trying to remain gastronointestinally intact?

Dr. Fiancé is worried he won’t be able to have the adventures he’s always dreamed of if I don’t push myself harder. I’m worried my child might grow up with a dead father and a mother in prison for homicide.

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