Life as Dr. Mom: The Good, the Bad, the Hard, & the Fun

I had all intentions of closing out my February is Female series with my sister’s story, but let’s just say life happened (including both of my kids getting the flu). Even though I didn’t get her story into my February series, I think it’s perfect timing to include it in March. Marci’s March! March also happens to be my sister’s birthday month and the month that hosts International Women’s Day. So, in hindsight it is perfect that I feature her right now.

I could write a novel about my sister but I don’t want to take away from her story. So I will try to keep my intro short…

My decision to start a blog was largely impacted by my sister and me wanting to share her story. My sister has always been a mentor and role model for me in all facets of life. I aspire to be a better mom, a better wife, a better employee, a better daughter, and a better sibling because of the example she has laid out in front of me as my older sister. Her and I are very similar with the exception that she is a great planner and I am a professional procrastinator. She is my best friend and the only reason I ever considered having a third child so that Charlotte could have a sister. It’s not going to happen folks – but that’s how much of an impact Marci has on my life. Love ya sis!

Marci’s Story:

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I grew up in Omaha, one of four kids in a busy family.  My childhood was filled with swimming and more swimming, summers playing in the pool in our backyard, trips to Colorado, Florida, and the Cayman Islands, and Husker football.  I knew from the time that I was very little that I wanted to be a doctor.  My dad was my idol: I followed him around the office occasionally Saturday mornings, making pretend paper charts with his nurses, developing charts and listening to him chat up his patients. Occasionally he would try to talk me out of going to medical school, but ultimately we both knew I would have it no other way.

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Micki and I on the shores of Lake Tahoe, living the good life

Skipping forward over a LOT of the fun stuff (college should be and was a wonderful experience, medical school very educational but stressful at times), and suddenly I was married to another doctor, living in Hawaii doing an Ob/Gyn residency.  And…not very happy.  I loved the people, the place, my husband, and my patients.  But I wanted something different-that much was very clear after a year of residency.  On the phone with my dad one day trying to sort through this change of heart, I said, “I guess I will just be okay with things even though I don’t love OB.  I’ll go to work and earn some money and I’ll be okay.”  And he said “You didn’t go into this to just be okay.  You have worked too hard to just be okay.”  I knew right then and there I was going to make a change- I can even tell you where I was driving when he told me that.  Because he was right.   I made the decision to change to Anesthesia and it remains one of the best decisions I have made in my life.  We moved back to Nebraska, pregnant with our first, and started new residencies again.

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Hawaii was pretty awesome minus the career crisis

Anesthesia was everything I was looking for: more fast-paced, lots of small procedures, good patient interaction, and a plethora of information to learn. We had our first daughter, and 2 years later had our second.  Both during residency, a time period that is mentally and at times physically exhausting.  Residency is humbling and hard.  Every day is a test in your knowledge, patience, and skill level.  Fellowship was even harder.  We moved to Wisconsin with 2 little girls for a one year pediatric fellowship- also another great decision, though it remains one of the tougher years of my life.  Cold and lonely, we survived that year with the help of a great nanny and wonderful mentors.  Somehow, despite all of my worries about uprooting the family again, my husband ended up in a job that would define the rest of his career.  And then we moved back to Nebraska to start the rest of our lives.  Life was great: 2 great kids with a third on the way.  Two promising jobs.  We felt like, after years of always trying to reach the next milestone, that we were finally beginning.  And then life threw us a big fat curveball.

 

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The girl who changed us forever

The day after moving back to Nebraska, we received a call that our pregnancy screening test came up positive for a possible genetic condition.  Two weeks later we had confirmation during our ultrasound: our next child would have Down syndrome.

I felt like my dream life was over.  I had such preconceived notions about Down syndrome, brought on by no one in particular because I had never known anyone with Down syndrome, but the notions were there and they weren’t great.  The two weeks after we received Sophie’s diagnosis were the darkest 2 weeks of my life.  I felt alone and sad, hurting for our family, not knowing what my future would like, wondering if our baby would survive the open heart surgery she would need.  And now I want to go back and slap old me in the face.  It was a waste of time and energy to be nothing but joyful.  Because Sophie came along 6 months later and we have all been madly in love with her ever since.  This probably deserves a whole different post, or book, of its own, but suffice it to say- she has taught me more than anyone else about life.

However, my budding career that held so much promise took a backseat.  For a long time.  I didn’t know how to be a working mom with a child with special needs- I still somewhat don’t, but I have figured a few things out.  I don’t need to be home all of the time to help Sophie thrive.  Surviving parenting with our now 4 kids, navigating the world of IEPs and therapies and doctors appointments takes a team.  And the greatest part of growing up where we are and in the modern world we live in, is that there are tribes of people working for us in various ways to make this all work.  Sophie has no less than 10 therapists and teachers this year who help us out.  We are not alone- we are so far from it.  The people we have met through Sophie and the experiences we have had have been nothing short of amazing.

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Part of our tribe at Sophie’s first buddy walk

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Micki (aka Mimi) with Sophie at her first Buddy Walk

But life is far from easy street.  Being a working mom is HARD.  It takes all of my energy and I find as I get older I have to be even more careful about working out and eating well just to have enough stamina to survive life with this crazy family.  Our girls are now 2,4,6, and 8 and we both work outside the home.  We think we kind of have things figured out now, but some weeks are really stressful and there are some days we wonder what we are doing. Every day it is the best feeling coming home to see the girls but some days I can’t wait to go to work where people will listen to me and I can escape the chaos.  Just like Sophie has a team, we are making this work with our own team.  We have a nanny, my mom, a house cleaner and a lawn service.  We also have the support of many friends, neighbors, and co-workers and a community of people through the girls’ schools, sports, activities and church.

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A fairly accurate portrayal of our family

I think my takeaways from my life thus far are these:

  1. Bloom where you are planted: Nebraska is where our roots are, the field of medicine is the gift we have been given to work with. Some days we want to move to the coast. Some days we want one of us to stay home to reduce the stress.  But we always come back to working on being happy with the life we have been given: the good, the bad, the hard, the fun.
  2. Embrace the curveballs: Don’t assume you know anything about what your life will look like.  Being disappointed because your dream isn’t panning out like you thought it would wastes everyone’s time, most importantly yours.
  3. Find your tribe: this should include friends at work and friends not at work. Other moms you can depend on.  A family member willing to help.  A trustworthy babysitter or daycare.  People to clean your house and mow your lawn so you can play with your kids.
  4. Quality over quantity. Being present with my girls is everything.  There is no point in coming home early from work to spend it on my computer or phone getting something done.  Anymore we find leaving home and going somewhere is the best way to engage everyone. We love to travel together as a family, as tough as it is.  It is always worth the adventure.
  5. Don’t settle in your career. Life is too short to “just be okay”.  Life should be more than okay- even if it means changing your career and taking a leap of faith, don’t be afraid.  Just go.

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Our family – adventuring together

I struggled to come up with any Q&A questions for my sister – I feel like she covered everything in her story! If you have any questions for her feel free to reach out to me, she would love to answer them.

Thank you Marci!

 

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