3 months. 3 months I saw patients with varying degrees of attention and quality. 3 months I walked those corridors, struggled through them, cried in them. I cried every. single. day. In cupboards, to my friends, and into my lunch. I left evening teaching early because my breasts were like rocks and leaking but I couldn’t stop breastfeeding because it’s all I felt like I had for her as a mother. I had nothing else to give her.
3 months I froze and practiced and froze and practiced and froze and froze until I didn’t anymore. The words started to come, not perfectly, but there they were. A semblage of structure, something approaching sense coming out of my mouth. I was struggling and behind right up until the last two days, two days before, it suddenly started to click. I have lived my life to varying degrees of raw and burnt out and never before have I been so raw and burnt out.
3 months I sat in teaching, feeling like an outsider, feeling like I shouldn’t be there. Mother’s don’t do this. My colleagues were already in study groups, they didn’t know me nor I them and I was alone. Mother’s on TV were doing washing and not letting their babies watch television and steaming sweet potatoes. Mother’s don’t do this. They don’t become mothers and sit both specialty training exams in the same year. I cried. I can’t repeat how much I cried.
And for 3 months my husband, not without his own challenges, got the baby up and fed the baby and changed the baby and played with the baby, rinse and repeat for 12 hours a day. That precious hour I got with her was a shadow. I could barely look at his drawn and haggard face, the guilt nearly killed me. 3 months of the most crushing guilt and escalating burnout.
I showed up on the day, exhausted, in something resembling a suit that I’d cobbled together to fit my new odd-shaped body. My hair has all fallen out from breastfeeding and stress and it was barely passable. My tights felt uncomfortable. I walked in there and did my thing. I forgot to do so many things. I said stupid stuff. I ran away in the lunch break and cried some more, somehow there were still tears left. I listened to the other candidates bang on at each other with nervous excitement. I sat on hard plastic chairs in a 1970s hospital lunch cafeteria and ate a bad sandwich. After lunch I did embarrassingly badly, I can hardly think about it.
Afterwards I went and sat in my hotel bar and bought myself a glass of champagne because everyone who’d sat it sent lots of messages to our group about how happy they felt that it was done. I drank that glass and cried some more. I didn’t feel happy. I felt broken and defeated. And stupid. Really really stupid. Only a stupid person would attempt this with a baby and no extra family support. For the next two weeks I was so sure I’d failed.
And there it was, like stardust.
In my inbox, there it was. For whatever reason, uncomfortable stockings, imperfect skills and hair and motherhood, I passed. In spite of it all, I passed.
No one I worked with could ever really understand the self-doubt I felt. From the outside I seem to have it more-or-less together except for the corridor-tears with my inner circle. So much has happened since I started this journey in 2013. More than I want to recount or even think about. I’m a different person than the one who started.
The further down the rabbit-hole I go the less I feel like I know. But I know that for what it’s worth, I did this. I really really did this. I got into medical school, survived it, and did the physician exams and passed them. Whatever happened long ago, who I might have been and the things that might have happened just don’t matter anymore, because I did this. And I can’t wait to get on with my life.