A christian girl's autobiography

Working out my everyday issues through the washing of the word

5:05 am

Ok so I know I haven’t posted in ages. Please ignore that for now. I just had to write this 🙂

4:35 am – Woken by squirmy thrashing hungry baby. Get up to breastfeed in chair near cot.
5:01 am – Baby has finished nursing and has fallen asleep. I put baby back in cot and swaddle. Baby wakes up and starts thrashing about again.

** at this point I make the monumental decision to Just Leave Her Be. See what she does. Hope for the best. I stand back and watch her.

5:02 am – She’s still thrashing about. Her arms are out of the swaddle now. She’s hitting herself in the face. I’m losing my resolve, decide to pick her up and put her back onto the magic boob.
5:03 am – At the last second I change direction and sit down on the chair again. I need to distract myself from this experiment. I’ll give it 5 more minutes then I’ll pick her up. I pray silently that God will teach her to self settle. I start playing Mahjong on my phone.
5:04 am – Hubby is woken up by all the thrashing about. He looks for me and sees me sitting on the chair with my phone. He asks why I haven’t picked her up. I tell him I’m Leaving Her Be to see if she will settle on her own. He says ok and goes back to sleep.
5:05 am – I notice that all is suddenly quiet. I stare in awe at the darkness that is her cot. She gives a big sleep sigh. She has fallen asleep! It took exactly 4 minutes. I’m astounded, grateful, in a mild state of shock. I say a big disbelieving prayer of thanks and get into bed.

6:00 am – I’m still awake. Finding it absurdly funny that my non-sleeping baby is sleeping better than I am this morning.


Packing the hospital bag

Packing my hospital bag for labour is like packing your schoolbag for the first day of school. You get this list from the hospital with all the stuff you have to buy and put in your bag. Half of it you’re not really sure how you’re going to use it. Some of it I’m not even sure what it is. But when the time comes to go to hospital, when this little baby is ready to make her appearance and acquaintance with the world, I will find out. Someone will come and tell me, “This is what you do with this thing right here”, like at school when the teacher would say, “This is what you’re going to do with this…”

Some thoughts on medicine

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.

Crunch time

The last time I wrote, it was right after my mom passed away. A lot has happened since then. I’m pregnant, going on 6 months now! Just thought I should tell whoever is interested.

The end of a chapter

My mom died yesterday morning in her sleep.
It’s a very strange feeling – I’ve never had someone this close to me die. Especially not someone we’ve been looking after for so long while they were sick. It’s worse because I keep being reminded of her, every time I go to the bathroom I’m reminded to open the sliding door softly because I don’t want to wake her, and I keep thinking I should go check in on her to make sure she’s still fine. Lately she’s been too weak to reach the bell so it’s better to check. We ate around the dining room table last night for the first time in so long – we’d always sit in the bedroom with her and have a type of family time at suppertime. Every day when I came home from work I would go in and check on her, and often if I was at home I would sit there with her whether she was awake or sleeping, because she didn’t like being left alone, even sleeping. Every morning I would look in on her before going to work, and except for this past week or so, she would be awake and I’d give her her pain meds, clean and change her pants for her, and then I’d sit there and eat my breakfast and we talked. Now I’m not going to have that again.

She has been weak lately, she struggled to turn in bed on her own, and she couldn’t swallow anymore without choking a little bit. We’ve been struggling to make out what she says, because her voice is so weak and she can’t form the words properly, and then she says the wrong words for things as well at times. Since she got too weak to drink with a straw, we’ve been giving her her Ensure with little shot glasses or a syringe. For the past 2 days she couldn’t even drink her ensure at all, so we all knew it was coming soon. We were afraid to give her any pills because she might choke on them. On Wednesday I was sad and emotional because she was just sleeping all the time and not drinking and I couldn’t understand her when she talked and she cried out in pain everytime she was touched – and it already felt like she was gone. The person left was just a small fragment of her.

The night before she died, my aunt had just arrived from England to see her, and she was very shocked to see her so thin and wasted and weak in bed. When I said goodnight that night I actually said (out loud) good bye as well, and I had this feeling, I told my husband when I got into bed, like it was the last time I was saying goodnight to my mom. And she said goodbye right back at me. Goodbye. Not goodnight. And then yesterday morning when I went in to turn her in bed, she was gone. She’d still been coughing a little bit (like she always did lately) on the baby monitor at 4am. So it was recent. She was warm under the blankets and she looked like she was sleeping. Except her eyes were cloudy and she wasn’t breathing. There were so many times I’ve looked in on her these last few weeks and been relieved to see she was still breathing while she slept – her breathing has been so soft lately (She stopped snoring about 2 weeks back). And then yesterday morning she wasn’t anymore. She was gone. It was peaceful, and she wasn’t confused the night before, she even smiled once or twice. And all the pain she’s been in, especially these last few weeks, is now gone. God answered our prayers.

And I know she’s with God, because she started talking about him recently like she wanted Him in her life. She’s been running from Him all her life but now she wanted Him. She let us talk about Him, and pray for her, and she even asked that we read her something from the Bible sometimes. My husband talked to her about salvation and grace and forgiveness of sins so many times, and she listened. She told me that she wanted to be accepted by God. My sister opened her Bible yesterday morning and read this:

2Co 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2Co 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
2Co 1:4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2Co 1:5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
2Co 1:6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
2Co 1:7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
2Co 1:8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.
2Co 1:9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

God raises the dead. And she is now comforted beyond anything that we could give her.

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