What 2am has taught me

Our holiday break started with some character-building, to put it gently.

Full disclosure: I began typing this post as a play-by-play of our exhausting weekend, but as I was writing I kept hearing John’s voice in my head singing “The Grinch.” (He has been singing that song quite a bit to Ben lately and it’s hilarious.) I realized that I was totally being the whiny, obnoxious grinch.

You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch.
You have termites in your smile,
You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile,
Mr Grinch.
Given the choice between the two of you,
I’d take the seasick crocodile.

So I challenged myself to find the silver lining.  And it immediately became clear!  Those 2am moments over the course of those 3 rough nights actually allowed me to do a lot of reflecting on medicine.  Yay, medicine!

Here is what I learned while riding the struggle bus…

Thurs. Dec 19, 2am:

The night where I decide “Maybe not” on Emergency Medicine:

As John and I inspect a thick piece of his thumb skin that has recently been sliced off by a mandolin, my stomach makes a queasy turn. Although I am fascinated with the sheer gore of the injury, here are the things running through my head that soon become topics of discussion as we wait for the bleeding to stop: 1. What if it never stops bleeding? 2. What if it gets infected and develops gangrene? 3. Am I a neurotic hypochondriac, or is this reaction totally rational? 4. Shouldn’t cool-as-a-cucumber-in-a-crisis John be the one going to medical school? 5. Shouldn’t we go to a ER just in case? 6. What if we have to be up all night putting pressure on it and fall asleep at the wheel while driving to Chicago? 7. Will I pass out in my surgery rotations in med school? 8. Do I really want to consider emergency medicine if this is how I deal?

photo (19)

Sorry for those who don’t like the sight of blood. Just scroll down quickly!

Fri. Dec 20, 2am:

The night where I decide “Maybe” on Pediatrics:

For a semi-narcoleptic drowsy driver like me, a road trip that starts at 5pm and ends at 4am feels like torture. And now that precious cargo is always on board, I am hyper-vigilant about my wakefulness when driving and will pull over at the slightest tinge of heavy eyes. So there I am driving at 2am all hopped up on a ridiculous amount of caffeine and staring into the black night while John and Ben sleep. And I realize that it is a truly rare gift of time to be forced to do nothing but think, so why not tackle something that has been on my mind a lot lately:  What do I want to DO in medicine?

Do I need to decide before med school? Definitely not. Will I change my mind? Quite possibly. But here is why I WANT to decide:  Family.  I will be engaging in a constant cost-benefit analysis of how I spend my time in the next 4+ years so that I can juggle wife-mom-student simultaneously. And I know that having a focus will make the balancing act less stressful and my time more purposeful.

I didn’t expect an answer on the drive, nor do I feel certain about it, but it started to come to me gradually as the white lines became permanently etched into the back of my retinas.  I’ll save the HOW or WHY for a future post, but here is the WHAT :

Pediatrics.    Specifically, Adolescent Health.


Teddy and Cameron look on as Daniel tries to make Benjamin happy. What great cousins!

Sat. Dec 21, 2am:

The night where I discover that it is always possible to dig deeper:

Benjamin’s worst night ever. We were running Ben on fumes at our family holiday Christmas party, so he got to bed late. John was feeling pretty miserable from a cold and I had a stomachache. Ben himself was on the brink of a cold, from his first few days at daycare. We joined him around 11pm, just as he was waking up unhappily. Then we spent the next 6 hours trying to get him to get back to sleep. We bounced, we sang, we rocked, we tried cry it out, we tried co-sleeping, I nursed until my nursing parts were raw. Eventually at 4:45am I tried the wake up and play option. And finally something worked.

So what did I learn about medicine here? Well, nothing specific. Only that I can do pretty much anything after being up with a screaming infant all night while dealing with a stomachache and physical and mental exhaustion from several consecutive nights of no sleep. I am guessing that med school will bring me to the same point of stretching beyond what seems possible on many an occasion. I am ready like a yogi.


He even makes crying look kind of cute, right?

Also, MERRY Christmas Eve! 

To the thousands in Michigan without power this Christmas: I hope you are finding the silver lining, even if you don’t have the comfort of your cozy home on this holiday. I hope you are making joyful memories, even if your normal traditions cannot be carried out this year. And I hope you are learning the depths of your capacity to love and laugh, even if you have to do so while riding the struggle bus.


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