I was reading a moving blog post by a South African doctor (Other Things Amanzi), and in light of the fact that my maternity leave has just started, I suddenly became very emotional.
For now I’m on leave. One of these days the baby will be born and then I’ll be looking after her for a few months. I’ve been looking forward so much to having time for myself, for family, for our home and church… my priorities as a christian have needed to change for a long time. I’ve felt for so long that working in medicine has screwed up all my priorities – I’ve been too tired, too drained, to spend much emotional energy on anything other than myself and maybe my husband. I’ve started feeling isolated and selfish in that I haven’t been making the time or effort to really connect with people in our church or the extended family and focus on them and their issues. I haven’t sorted out the issue of balance between working as a doctor and also being a christian wife, family member and friend, keeping our home organised, having hobbies. This year was a bit better in that I wasn’t doing overtime, but there were so many other things going on with my mom’s illness and then the very bad morning sickness, so that I’ve only recently started to feel like that time of refreshment has come, as if priorities are slowly starting to come right again. Recognising this shift in priorities has been very instrumental in our decision for me to not yet look for work for next year. There are vague ideas about helping out here and there for NPO’s, or doing a few locum shifts now and then, but nothing solid or concrete. And I do believe that it is the right decision.
Yet I have this nagging guilt that I’m going to be wasting my skills and knowledge as a doctor if I don’t go back to work. Proper work with calls and everything. There is such a big need in this country for doctors, and I feel as if I’m wasting an opportunity. I don’t know what God’s plan is with my life. I do know that my husband’s dreams and goals for Africa are integral, I just don’t know exactly how I fit into them, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do in the meantime. I don’t know how I’m going to balance being a mother and a doctor.
I’ve realised that 9 years of being in medicine have changed me, moulded me into someone different to who I was before. Medicine does that to you – it seeps into every pore of your being, into the way you look at people and their actions and the world, into the way you think and the way you plan, the way you react to things around you and major changes and painful life events. I’ve studied and felt overwhelmed with the sheer volume, I’ve looked after others at times when I was also sick, I’ve stayed up all night on feet that were numbed to further pain, making decisions with a mind that was exhausted. I’ve had to work in conditions where nothing was as it should be and it felt as if i had to do everything by myself from scratch because of horrible public health care infrastructure. I’ve stretched the limits of what I thought I could handle when it comes to human suffering and death and dehumanisation and ethics. How could I have put myself through all of that, and then just walk away without being changed in some fundamental unseen way? Somehow it must have fit into God’s plan, His greater scheme of things. Was it medicine moulding me, or was it God?
The question that keeps coming back to me, is what now? What do I do now that I’m free from government obligations, free from a fixed work schedule? Am I going to become more selfish and isolated during this time at home, or less? Am I going to keep the faith that this is the right thing for now? I just pray that God will keep leading me every step of the way, and that He will help me to stay attuned to Him.