I remember the look on her face, the pain, the fear she wouldn't be able to breast feed after the surgery.
The teenage mother with no car who walked her baby's stroller to the office for every checkup. How she would never become the inadequate mother that her mother or sister were. Knowing she meant it.
The cries of new babies. How deliciously unfair it felt to be able to sit in the nursery and rock them while their mothers didn't even know. The realization that they might not all be perfect.
My hand on her chest, holding the retractor. Making it through the first sight of blood, the pus and infection, but starting to pass out when I thought about her breathing beneath my hands.
The morning I first became a doctor. Being in the room with them when she came in the day before, "dizzy," in the middle of a stroke. Watching silently, taking it all in, then going to get her son from the waiting room. That next morning in the hospital. Not even in med school yet, no clue what to say. She thanked me for taking such good care of her the day before, for being such a good doctor, and being there when she needed it. The amazement of this woman, so much older and wiser than me, looking up to me as her caretaker.
The rush, the intoxication of the first time in an OR. Playing the passive student, but internal monologue racing, telling the surgeon why she had lost her bearings on the camera. Confidence I forgot was mine, confidence that used to define who I was. Flashing back to correcting the teacher who was incorrectly teaching the other students how to read. Knowing I could have, would have been able to do the operation better. The thrill of rediscovering what it felt like to be me.
The fear of the first cut. The fear I wouldn't be able to handle it, that I would pass out or be sick. And once it started, never wanting it to end.
The Amish baby boy's steadfast, determined grip on my finger during his circumcision. His strong resilient personality showing itself only two weeks after birth.
When the pain stopped and osteopathy started.
The girl who said nothing. The teenager, impregnated by her uncle, hoping to deliver before the beginning of her freshman year of high school. The anger that she wasn't ever allowed to make the choice, regardless of what it would have been.
How he saw tonight. He saw right through me, grabbed the thought, and realized he was right. The split second look across the table, when everyone else disappeared, and seeing that he knew. Looking in through a window, seeing decisions I didn't know I had made. His excited smile of realization, I had already began to fall for it. Feeling that fraction of a second, shared only between us, being etched into my life.
Constant, nagging thoughts that I will never be good enough. Always trying to suppress it. The inequality of test scores and real life interactions. Knowing that not only am I equal to them, I am better. The hope that someday someone else will also see that.