How Medicine Tricks You Into Thinking This Life is Normal

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“Life is not supposed to overwhelm you at all times. Life isn’t meant to be merely survived - it’s meant to be lived. Seasons or instances will inevitably feel out of control, but the moments when you feel like you’re drowning are supposed to be brief. They should not be the whole of your existence!”
-Rachel Hollis in “Girl, Wash Your Face

“Wait, what?”

“WHAT?”

I heard this on Audible while rushing home, late, again, to feed my seven-month-old son, who I knew would start crying hungry, I-miss-you-Mommy tears the second I walked in the door.

Bladder full, parched, smelling like breastmilk and sweat, I wondered, “Wait, am I not normal?”

The thought that it is not normal to be swimming upstream at all times had previously never crossed my mind. I was under the impression that that was how life was. The idea that sneaking in a chance to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom should maybe not be the day's luxuries is truly foreign. Frantically reviewing labs, typing notes, dictating, making phone calls, and eating lunch all at the same time while connected to a breast pump... dang the tube detached again is not what mother-doctorhood just is? People just pee when they have to go? Water does not have to be chugged?

The past three and a half years of my life (except for a glorious three months) have been devoted to creating and sustaining tiny humans (a.k.a., pregnant or exclusively breastfeeding), on top of working full-time as a fellow or a new attending. My husband is an intensivist nocturnist who works at least 90 hours a week.

We are so lucky and blessed.

We are so busy.

I feel so fortunate to have been able to bring my precious babies into the world. As much as I abhor the whirring of the breastpump, I’m grateful for what it enables. I love caring for my patients and the complex puzzles of medicine I get to solve daily.

With these responsibilities, we are constantly in survival mode. Figuring out what work-life balance means is really tough. The pathway until now was clear. College then med school then residency then fellowship - check, check, check, check.

But life after - parenting, marriage, actually being a doctor with no checklists to complete for guaranteed success?! We thought it would get easier after training but the definition of doing the “right” thing is now obscure. It is like the drive that led to success thus far now tries to destroy life around it.

Today, I have no solutions, just questions. What is your normal? What is your work-life balance?

Arti Thangudu, MD is an endocrinologist and a 2018–2019 Doximity Author. She specializes in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism and is a mom of two beautiful kiddos under three! She works for DGD Clinic in San Antonio. She has also contributed to Medscape, Doximity and KevinMD. Outside of work, Dr. Thangudu enjoys traveling, cooking, and spending time with her husband and two children.

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