I grew up in the old Bamberger Railroad Station warehouse in North Salt Lake, Utah. It’s a gem in the armpit of the small city: Gravel pits to the west, refineries to the south, an area we dubbed “Little Tijuana” to the east. To me, it was heaven.
My parents, two hippy artists, bought the warehouse in 1973 and renovated it to be a house and studio; they still live there. In that unique home, my parents gave me the permission to explore, to be creative, and to find out who I was. Above all else, my parents encouraged me to do what I love, to be passionate, and to not be afraid of being unconventional or unpopular. My sister and I painted; we sculpted; we cast ourselves in plaster of Paris. While my sister made tea sets and animals from clay, I made lungs and kidneys. There was simply no escaping the doctor in me. I became the lone scientist in a family of artists and found myself, really found myself, in obstetrics.
There is a lot of talk about burnout among obstetricians. I don’t know how I’ll feel when I’m 60, but I have a hard time imagining that I could ever get tired of doing what I do. It’s not without its ups and downs. I’ve seen life begin; I’ve seen it end; too often one right after the other. There are nights, days, when all I deliver is dead babies. It’s hard to talk about, and harder to hear about, so usually I don’t.
As difficult as it can be at times, there are parts of my job that are simply miraculous. I’ll never tire of urging, “Open your eyes, your daughter is being born, look at her.” I get to show families the first glimpse of the baby who has been such a mystery, and who will become the love of their lives. And I don’t take it for granted.
My own identity as a mother was indelible from the moment I knew I was pregnant. My husband became a father when he saw our daughter for the first time. I remember tears in his eyes when she was born. I heard him say, though his mouth was agape and not moving, “What-is-this-thing? This? This is who was inside you all along?” His fatherhood washed over him as rapidly as motherhood had grown into me slowly.
Having my own children has made my job more poignant, and has made me a better doctor, if only for the fact that I am more in awe of life than ever before. Medical students often ask me “How do I know what specialty to go into? Is obstetrics worth it? Is it enough money? What about malpractice insurance? What about sleepless nights and long hours?” My advice to them is simple and unchanging. This I believe: Do what you love; do it well; all the rest will fall into place.