The room I am sitting in is vibrating as the retrieval helicopter lands on the roof. It's 8:30pm and there's a new patient being delivered. The buzz in the corner when we heard the approach makes me think it's a medical patient, probably for ICU but I don't know the reg so I'm not sure. Could be a neonatal retrieval but I cross my fingers it's not.
The view from here in the common room is pretty spectacular. Something to cheer us up from what can be a depressing job. There are coffee cups littered everywhere, and slumped in corners various other on call personnel. Me from mental health, others surgical or medical. On take or on call. Emergency Dept trainees sneaking up for some TV and coffee on their too short breaks.
I've done everything on my list for tonight and my pager is sitting next to me, willing the belligerent part of me to turn off its squealing insistence so that no one can interrupt me from my hot cup of tea. I have been here 12 hours straight already. My last day of waking, dressing the girls, making their lunches, dropping them both off, wending through peak hour finding a park, running for the green pedestrian light and then unravelling the problems on the ward.
It has been a hard 5 weeks. 45 hours of waking each week spent looking after other people instead of my girls, or Bingley, or myself. Working hard to develop rapport with all, to gain the respect of peers and supervisors and most of all patients. Some who are so fearful of anyone in the medical profession that the fact that I have a lanyard around my neck means that they will never trust me.
Nightshift my favourite and most dreaded part of the week. The autonomy to work and wander around the darkened halls of this sprawling hospital, to do good, to help, to soothe and to deal with crises that inevitably arise out of office hours. The terrible nights when I haven't eaten and I feel the possum squirming and want to throw the whole thing in. Of patiently trying again and again to get blood from a patient and the heartbreak of pathology calling to say that the sample needs to be retaken once that ruby red vial has finally been sent off.
The interdisciplinary meetings and holding the floor as I discuss aspects of patient care with confidence and the knowledge that I have the respect of the team. Of having consultants refer to me with confidence. Of knowing that I am doing well and that I am appreciated. Of knowing that even though this particular rotation isn't my career path that medicine definitely is. That for all the pitfalls of this job, that it is me, and as much as I fight to tame it at times, that we are as well suited as frenzied lovers.
I received my assessment today for the last 5 weeks. 5 short weeks for me to show my capabilities and ability to work under pressure (and without supervision at times). To show initiative and to handle patient care. In general, recipients of 5 week rotations get solidly average reviews - after all, it's such a short time to get to know someone and to feel confident that they are competent let alone better than expected.
My feedback was exceptional.
The validation I feel, looking at this stupid piece of paper with a few tick boxes is incredible. I finished medical school with hyperemesis, huge weight loss, no sanity and a high distinction for clinical skills. 5 months later I am here, showing that I can do this, showing that being a woman doesn't stop you from being in this profession, showing that being a pregnant woman doesn't stop you from being in this profession, showing that being a mother doesn't stop you from being in this profession.
I am a wife, a mother, a pregnant woman and a doctor. I have shown that it is possible and not by the skin of my teeth, not by leaning on the sympathies of those that look at my unwieldy belly and feel pity. But to do this and to do it well. My girls are happy and healthy and loved. I know they are secure by the giggles at bedtime and their confidence, love and affection. The way that they sleep unselfconsciously across their beds with books strewn all around. The way that even in sleep as I kiss their foreheads on nights when I come home late something about my smell and my presence softens their already relaxed countenance.
I know my husband loves me, that when I show him my assessment that he will tell me "I told you so" before doing the slightly embarrassed expression he gets when he is proud of me and can't find the words to tell me. The way his body will feel curved around mine when we go to bed tonight and he whispers into my hair how proud he is of me when he thinks I've fallen asleep. Our son squirming incessantly against a picture of pure domestic bliss.
I do not regret one moment of this. Not one tired and tearful night coming home too late, nor early morning start. I have never been more certain that this is what I was made to do, that this career fits me like a glove.
On Monday I will be on leave. Leave to potter around the house and visit Ikea and rearrange the living room. To do the sewing and knitting that has piled up around my desk. To take the girls to activities only available in working hours and to prepare for the birth of my firstborn son. To sleep and read magazines and occasionally stay up to watch a movie without the guilty panic that I need to be up in a few hours. The idea thrills me to my toes and I am glad I have 5 weeks to prepare for the Possum, and to give all this time to the girls to prepare them too.
I look forward to the sleepless nights sitting up with a milk drunk baby drooling somnolently into my cleavage and tiny outfits and hats with earflaps that look terrible on anyone older than 5. I look forward to planning meals that don't need to be cooked in under an hour and trips to the park in the clear autumn afternoons. I look forward to visiting shopping centres empty but for other mothers pushing prams and treating toddlers to milkshakes and cupcakes. Of meeting up with friends and morning tea and working in our little garden.
But I look forward to coming back too. Of stomping all over the stereotypes and working somewhere I have passion. Of going into the bank to apply for our first house and knowing that my salary and my title and my education mean something tangible. Of knowing that my two year old already tells people with pride that Mummy is a doctor and she helps people to feel better. And it being true.
Of following the gleam.