Hello there and welcome to Mama Bear NYC! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Sarah Unseth and I am a new mama of 9 month old twins Toby & Theo, wife to my husband Chris (aka Papa Moose / the love of my life!), daughter to the best parents on the planet and a doctor of sorts (I’ll explain later). We live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and I probably should not neglect to mention that we have a beautiful cat named Franklin lest he see this post and decide to bite me in my sleep for not emphasizing his greatness.
To explain why I am starting this blog, I have to tell you an abbreviated version of a rather long story - bits and pieces will no doubt be fleshed out over the coming months and years. You see, my parents raised me to believe that I could grow up to do anything I wanted to regardless of the fact that I was a girl - the trouble was that I had a very tricky time deciding what exactly I wanted to do. In college I vacillated between doctor, CIA agent (no, I’m not kidding, and they did not respond to my application), English professor, travel writer… you name it. I considered anything and everything under the sun, and ended up making the noncommittal choice of majoring in English literature and applying to journalism school.
Right before I was about to claim my spot at J-school, I did a 180 and decided to be pre-med once more. I took post-bacc classes in Chicago, trudging my way through organic chemistry, physics & biology, took the MCAT, applied to 21 medical schools and got into NYU School of Medicine off the waitlist by a miracle of God. My husband and I were THRILLED because he had just received a great financial aid package to start at NYU’s law school. Off we went, from Chicago to NYC, to be grad students in the second most expensive city in the country!
Medical school was hard - really hard. And I don’t mean intellectually, although it was certainly challenging. What was hard about it for me was meeting so many patients with terminal illnesses (the primary one being born a human), hovering for seemingly interminable amounts of time on the brink of death, medicine able to offer them disappointingly little in terms of meaningful quality of life.
Medical school, however, was nothing compared to the emotional toll of starting residency to become an ER doctor last summer having given birth to premature twins three months prior. I will never forget my first shift in the hospital as a newly minted physician - it was an overnight in the pediatric ER. I heard a baby crying from the next room and instantly I felt like a knife was stabbing me in the heart - why wasn’t I home helping my husband answer the cries of my own tiny babies instead of going to evaluate this child who almost certainly had a cold based on the triage note?
As my boys’ personalities blossomed over the coming months, my grief at leaving them day after day for 12 hour shifts 4-5 times a week grew and grew. We struggled with needing childcare during evenings and weekends to accommodate my irregular schedule and my husband’s intense job. My original folly was in thinking that because my children wouldn’t remember these years, it was ok to be gone from them so much. Once I became a mother, I realized that this time with them as infants was immeasurably precious, undeniably important and I could never get it back.
The stress of residency and constant switching from days to nights was preventing me from being the kind of wife, mother and friend that I so desperately wanted to be and I made what felt like the most impossible but also most inevitable decision of my life - to take a break from residency with the possibility of resigning. What was waiting for me on the other end of this draining quest to become a trained physician was JOY - impossibly wonderful, overflowing joy!
There were so many things I didn’t usually have energy to do while in medical training that I had forgotten about little parts of my soul lying dormant. Now, I have time to be a good friend, to strive to be an excellent wife and mother, to go grocery shopping, to read books, to write, to go to Central Park, to bake and cook, to faithfully attend a church, to visit family, to cultivate my relationship with God, to paint my nails and blow dry my hair… the list is both mundane and profound (and seemingly endless). Oh, and I never have to say goodbye to my babies anymore, unless I REALLY need a break :)
I originally felt called by God to go to medical school. This begs the question - am I missing my calling? Am I making an irreversible mistake? I rest easy in the truth that it is for freedom that Christ has set me free, that there is grace upon grace for my failures, that if God wants me to return to residency one day, He will make my path straight. There will always be physicians doing the noble work of the Lord in hospitals and clinics, but I am the only person in the world uniquely qualified to be my children’s mother. I’m not sure that I have ever been happier, and it is out of this joy that I resigned from residency yesterday. (A residency that I should note was my first choice - I cried tears of joy on match day while 31 weeks pregnant with my boys!)
I don’t know what the future has in store for me career-wise, and I’m finding that strangely liberating right now. What I DO know is that while I am busy loving and being loved, I have a lot of untapped creative and mental energy that I plan on pouring into this blog. This blog will be where I share bits and pieces of our lives while raising twins in this crazy and awesome city as well as parenting advice based on my own experiences and medical background. Stay tuned!
Running after joy (and my little pre-crawlers!) - Mama Bear NYC