My best friend from medical school, Lys, delivered her second child, a son, 2 1/2 weeks ago. Her daughter Ainsley is 3 1/2 years old. I was ecstatic to plan a trip to Jonesboro this past weekend to meet him. Since I didn't have the kids, I was able to focus on her family, which was a luxury.
I spent the week picking out gifts for them all - a soft camel jacket with satin lining and a reindeer hood for Beckett, a stuffed Santa with a rainbow cap and candy glitter buttons for Ainsley, a long hammered gold necklace with variably sized chained hoops for Lys, and barley wine for Chris. I didn't even know it was called barley wine, but spent some time researching to try to find a good one - I remembered that he was well stocked. He gave me a lesson in hops on Saturday night - most of which went right over my head, but as I tasted some of his favorites, I began to glean a small understanding.
Lys looked amazing for having just delivered two weeks ago - her pre-baby jeans were hanging off of her. I laughed and warned her how skinny I got while nursing Jack. She smiled and said, "I couldn't have picked a better time to be nursing and on maternity leave - I am really going to enjoy the holidays this year." It made me remember the massive quantities I could eat while nursing - so many more calories being burned while the body is producing milk. Her husband took charge of the kids for a couple of hours Saturday night so we could enjoy Indian dinner solo, then drinks and dessert at a local restaurant/bar. I laughed watching her pack back enormous amounts of chicken vindaloo and enough naan to feed an army. Today after breakfast we ate lunch at a buffet and she had two giant plates of food - broiled shrimp, deviled eggs, veggies, fried chicken, then a large three egg omelet filled with tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese. Her hunger was rivaled only by her thirst - reminding me of sitting on the couch nursing my own kids and having that constant "I need water NOW!" feeling as if I was in the middle of the Sahara desert.
The kids were adorable. The spring in Ainsley's golden curls competed with her gymnastic legs - she is growing out of her toddler clumsiness and tumbled deftly around the house all weekend. And oh, that baby smell that Beckett exuded filled the house, but was best savored as he snuggled on my shoulder, his head resting right where I could breathe it in like a drug. I read an article in the NYTimes recently about combating bully behavior in early elementary school by having a mother and new baby visit weekly throughout the year so the children could witness and participate in the miracle of the first year of development. There is something about being around babies that brings out the good in all of us, no matter what our age. Chemicals, hormones, emotions, whatever you want to call it - it works.
While Lys and I were at dinner we discussed professional challenges. I had one of the worst days at work on Thursday that I have had in my career, so my planned trip out of town was not only a fun visit, but a much needed refuge. Working in medicine carries enormous weight and responsibility - and although we constantly thrive to do our best, mistakes happen. Even when the mistakes bear no harm to our patients we bang our heads and wonder, in our 20/20 hindsight, how in the hell they could have happened. It shakes your confidence and wrenches your guts and keeps you awake at night when it happens to you. I look around at how different people cope with 15, 20 years of experience - see all the emotional quirks that develop- and wonder how much longer I can keep all of this up and still be sane. Lys is an ophthalmologist, not a pathologist, but she could certainly empathize. When there is a complication surrounding something bearing your name and responsibility, whether or not it was your fault, your head spins into such an amazingly awful place that it threatens your sense of self. Even when you can count hundreds, even thousands of successes, it is the near misses that stand out in your head like a giant flare. I guess, in a way, it is what keeps us all in check, and makes us better at what we do.
As I drove the 2 hour drive home today, anxiously anticipating seeing my own kids and tucking them safely into bed, I listened to some new country and blues that Chris burned for me last night. I felt amazingly refreshed after the weekend in their new baby home. Looked forward to knocking out another couple of hours of SAMs, which I have done, before the new work week starts. There is very little in life that can compete with being nurtured by close friends. I am so lucky.