Monday, August 02, 2010

And then there were ... four, again.

I have a long post rattling around in my head about all the crap that has been happening to me lately, just as I have a post rattling around in there about families and the beauty, universality and frailty of the human being. I'd love to one day actually sit down and write them, but my available time to myself is vanishingly small. So it's going to be quick, and not very well written, but I still want to be able to get it out: this blog is as much for me recording my life as it is for other people to read, if they wish.

Well, that's a sufficiently clunky intro.

Basically my most recent work assessment was well below par for my training purposes, and well below my own usual ratings. The person who wrote it accused me of lacking commitment to my training, including because I won't come in on my days off to complete training that (in my opinion) ought to be available to me in-hours, and is available in-hours to other trainees who work full-time.

I was gob-smacked. But instead of standing up for myself and giving a well-reasoned, professional response with reference to the organisation's purported 'family-friendly' work practices and the college's guidelines, I burst into tears. In the middle of an operating theatre. Because I am chronically sleep deprived. And to be honest, because, in part, my supervisor is right. Unlike other trainees, work is not my number one priority. Shock. Horror.

For all its posturing, we do not live in a post-feminist world. I truly believe that much of the backlash against (oh be still my beating heart) Prime Minister Julia Gillard (even if her fruit bowl is empty) is because her supposed "backstabbing" of former PM KRudd was "bitchy" rather than 'manly and decisive'. And I believe that we may have a conservative, sexist PM who may well rescind the legislation permitting RU486 (despite public opinion being overwhelmingly supportive of accessible termination of pregnancy) simply because this country is not ready for a female PM. Goddamit. (It's not the first time I've seriously considered moving to NZ because I hate what this country's become).

And so it is with medicine. The bottom line is that we now have employment policies that make it illegal on paper to discriminate against women because of their gender, but have yet to come up with policy solutions that deal with the reality that the role in parenting is different for men and women, purely because of the differences in the makeup of our biology. Oh, and the fact that if we want to reproduce, that puts a huge hole in the time when we are supposed to be surging ahead in our careers. (Like me. Like right now.) because we don't have endless fertility unlike our male colleagues and partners.

Rulings in the courts acknowledge that women should be given flexibility in their work places until their children are at school age. However, the practical application of this in the workplace is years behind. YEARS. Maybe decades.

I'm angry that in 2010, I have to make the decision whether or not we have a third child is based not on- "could we cope? Could we afford it?" but "can I afford the time off" when this is not a decision my male colleagues have to make. I would be willing to bet that the proportion of male registrars finishing their anaesthetic training who are married with children is reasonably similar to an age- and education- matched cohort, but for women? I can only think of one previous female registrar who has finished this job after having kids. One. One. In a department that prided itself on how equal the trainee intake was. I know there are a number of recent trainees who have delayed having children only to find themselves infertile. And possibly bitter.

Much as I'd like to kick against the pricks and finish my training whilst being a good mother, I'm just going to have to... (deep breath)... be a bitch for the next 12 months. What will I miss? It's only 12 months after all? Oh, only Patrick's last year before school, and Ollie's most cerebrally formative year...

Before we married, MrT and I decided on "more than one, less than four" children. But I've always wanted three. (And, yes, being honest, I would dearly love that child to be a girl. To train to become mummy's little feminist, and to make funky skirts for. But I wouldn't, really wouldn't not love three boys. Brothers! A little band of brothers!!). But this looks increasingly unlikely. I'll be 39 at the end of this year, and we're not getting any younger. Ollie still doesn't sleep well, and neither does Patrick. And this year I've had my own health problems- an irregular heart beat (actually probably due to chronic sleep deprivation. No, really. Seriously.) and a retinal haemorrhage (sounds worse than it is. "just one of those things" according to my opthalmologist (who is my age with a girl Patrick's age. Who works part time. Hmmm... no, I'd go MAD looking at eyes all day: all that death breath to contend with). So, it's probably not going to happen anyway.

But these are the reasons I should not have another child. NOT because it is inconvenient to my training. I shouldn't even have to factor my job into my decision making. Because a man wouldn't.


(stamp! my little feet!! stamp stamp stamp!!)

I have almost come to terms with that conclusion. And I can almost see a future with it.

Well, actually, I should say I had. Because last week... Oh God.

Over the last two weeks, we were on holiday. I had packed some "feminine hygiene products" because I was expecting AF. But when I looked in my diary, I discovered I had actually expected AF the week before our holiday.

Wtf? I'm never late. Never.

Oh. My. God. Nausea- check. Appalling tiredness- check. Peeing all the time (actually took antibiotics because I thought I had cystitis)- check. Feeling like my brain was made of cotton wool- check. Milk supply dwindling (yes, I'm still feeding Ollie)- check.

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD. This cannot be happening.

But then: cramps. Pain. Spotting. Holy mother of God. That other thing. It's happening. Again.

G7P2. I'd even begun thinking of names. The holy improbability, and then the holy despair. And sadness. What did I do wrong? Was it the air travel? The one Pina Colada? The stress of the workplace thing? The looming possibility of growing up in a country overlorded by the Mad Monk?

Of course I know it was none of those things. But when I look at my sleeping Oliver, my dear, sweet baby who only a few short weeks ago I told my supervisor was the worst mistake I ever made (in terms of my training), the baby who shouldn't be, and I miss the third who may have fucked up my career entiely, but made me whole.


Blogger nerines said...

It's incredible isn't! I've heard someone comment that Julia Guillard's make-up wasn't right while watching the debate between Guillard and Abbott. Seriously?? matters??Heavens, I don't think Abbott was even wearing any, slacker!! :)
I hear you on everything!! I'm sorry things have been so crappy!
I made something for you ages ago (but decided I didn't like it) But I have this new thing and I really want you to have one, but where do I send it?
I love your blog. Your honesty and intelligence:)

2/8/10 16:28  
Blogger jen said...

Aww shucks!! I'll send you an email

2/8/10 18:37  
Blogger E. from Pot o' Gold said...

Sorry, Jen. That's hard all around. I was wondering if you were doing okay because I hadn't seen you around FB in a while (how 2010 is that?). Anyway, yes, it sucks to be a female in this world sometimes, but then there is the fact that we can have children, and men can't. It's such an amazing miracle. I hope you can come to a decision soon about baby #3, or it just falls in your lap. Whichever comes first, I wish you luck.

2/8/10 23:42  

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