There was a moment three nights ago when I was plunging the kids bathroom toilet with all kinds of odors swirling around and splashes of unpleasantries splattering on my arms. I was still in my work scrubs. I had three little kids with wet, dripping, just-bathed hair half-dressed in pajamas, mesmerized by the grossness of what was unfolding, occasionally yelping at the top of their lungs when their feet got a drop of the “YUUUUCK!!!!!” “Get back”, I mustered to meekly say to them. That was the moment three nights ago that I just felt ready to collapse. It was the moment of the day. “You can’t do this. You need to go to sleep.” Is what my brain and body ached and pleaded. But I was the one for the job, and by the one–I mean, the only one. So I unclogged the toilet, helped dry my kids’ hair, and got them ready and in bed. I was ready for bed myself, but Laundry.
There was a moment four nights ago when a patient was unresponsive and I wasn’t sure she was going to make it. Another patient was on the brink of going into liver failure and was refusing life-saving medications. Another patient had an infection spreading up his above the knee amputation and was at risk for losing more of his leg. Along with all other patients in the department that had been impatiently and patiently waiting for hours. It was the moment of the day. I was the one for the job. So I worked with my team to stabilize my patient, I talked to my other patient about the importance of continuing her medications, I started my third patient on antibiotics, and I kept moving as fast as possible.
There was a moment two nights ago when I had gotten home from work–I was so relieved to finally have my husband back in town after his week of travel and ready to finally have a day off. It was the last night my parents were in town, and all I wanted to do was enjoy a night of nothing but just being together with everyone I loved most in my life. And then I got the message that I was needed the next day on my day off to cover a morning shift. My husband saw the sleepless stress brimming in my eyes, and quickly said he would take care of the kids and take my parents to the airport. There was a pit in my stomach as we moved through the rest of our night. I wasn’t ready to say good-bye to my parents just yet. And then there was the moment. Except this time, I just couldn’t anymore. There we were, brushing the kids teeth and putting on pajamas–“I got this”, I cheerleaded myself. But then the tears started in my gut and like unstoppable soldiers marching steadily to battle, they rose in my chest, into my throat, and poured out. My husband held me, and I just couldn’t stop. My 6-year-olds slowed their teeth brushing strokes, and my 3-year-old instinctively walked between my legs and hugged me, “It’s okay, mommy.” I heard her say. I’m not sure she has seen me cry before.
There was a moment last night. I had been on call and had therefore scheduled a baby-sitter to help with the kids in case I got called in. I had yet to be called in and my husband had come home early for a dentist appointment. We decided to have a night to ourselves; I packed our work bags and our work-out bags and planned for a productive night of getting work done while just spending some uninterrupted time together. My husband picked me up and as we drove away, he asked me if instead, I wanted to go somewhere and watch the post-season Cubs baseball game, already in progress. Yes. This was for sure the more attractive option. So we drove to a local sports bar, ordered fried and cheesy appetizers and cheered, cheered for the Cubbies. No one else at the bar appeared to be a Cubs fan. So it was just the two of us, hooting, and hollering, yelling and high-fiving as the Cubs went on to win against the Nationals. It was a close game which made the victory that much sweeter. This was the moment. The moment when despite the rush, the pull, the overwhelming, we pushed it all aside for just a night cheering for our favorite team. We got home just in time to tuck the kids into bed. It was the highs of a perfectly ordinary night–the Reset that I needed.
There are moments that we barrel through because we are tough and we are strong and we can do it all. There are moments when it all topples and no deep breathing can make it less overwhelming. There are moments when we remember that beneath it all, there is so much for which we are thankful. We are trying our best to do it all, but it is not easy and we just may be balancing between doing it all, hitting our breaking point, and finding the joy sprinkled through all of it.
Anytime anyone comments on how they think I have it all together, it makes me want to take a nap. It is with every last fiber of muscle, every last brain cell, every last particle of stamina in my body that I try to pull and hold together this life of career and family and home. And I know I do not stand alone. That all you capable, multi-tasking parents out there are on my team.
The next time you are standing in your kids’ bathroom, whispering sweet nothings to plead your kids’ clogged toilet to flush, know that we stand together in willing for that sudden gush and swirl of the water in that toilet bowl so you can put that chapter behind you. Know that in that moment of nothing great, there will be moments of sheer happiness that will follow, and Reset us, until that toilet clogs again.