About Stephanie Phillips

Stephanie is a pediatric dentist by trade, writer by desire; unfortunately only paid for one of these roles. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and son and constantly defies the proclamations of other parents who tell her that people with kids never get to watch TV. Read more of her musings at www.plansinpencil.com.

I Used to Be a Doctor

I used to be a doctor.

Courtesy Michael (https://www.flickr.com/photos/surroundsound5000/)

Courtesy Michael (https://www.flickr.com/photos/surroundsound5000/)

I still am, technically. (So says the check I cut to renew my license every two years.) And to be clear, I’m not a real doctor–just a dentist. So the title is vague at best already. But still–I used to be one.

I uttered this phrase to my husband recently after emerging from the bathroom with two small boys. The three of us had been holed up inside there for an eternity (10 minutes, maybe) while one climbed me like a jungle gym and the other watched videos on my phone while sitting on the potty, staunchly refusing to “go.”

These are my days, these days: days full of potty-training, snack-fetching, crumb-cleaning, butt-wiping, dinner-making, and hair-washing. My duties are largely janitorial during this season of parenting young children, and I can’t seem to get over the indignity of this. I have letters after my name. But still I wipe poop off every conceivable surface.

I used to be a doctor. In fact, a lot of things used to be true: Continue reading

The Growing Season: Doctor’s Orders

This is the latest installment of The Growing Season by Stephanie Phillips. For previous entries, click here.

A couple of weeks later, Jack and I head back to Dr. Forth’s office for one of our many ultrasounds. Though it’s a medical concern that has required such frequent visits, I can’t help but see it as a kind of special privilege, getting to peek in at our daughter so often. Every time her image pops up on the screen and I see how much she’s grown since the last visit, her existence becomes more a part of mine, more of a reality. I can’t help but think that I needed this, and its initial cause for alarm has given way to making it a gift.

I’m lying on the table with the sensor on my belly and her profile appears. She’s sucking her thumb, and I immediately laugh. “Look at her!” I tell Jack, and he smiles and takes my hand.

“She looks like you when you’re sleeping,” he jokes.

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It’s the SADdest Time of Year!

The other day I was group texting with a couple of friends when, before I realized it, I had typed something and pressed send. One of those “I was thinking it, but did I really say it?” moments. I looked down and saw what I had half-jokingly written: Remember when life was worth living?

The alarm bells went off in my head: the ones that sound every year about this time, when the days are short but somehow still so long, the temperatures are bitter cold, and the world devoid of any leftover Christmas decorations or cheer. Yes, friends, it’s that time again: time for this year’s round of SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER!

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The Growing Season: Mommy Friends

This is the latest installment of The Growing Season by Stephanie Phillips. For previous entries, click here.

The next few weeks pass uneventfully as the baby and my belly grow, a few OB and ultrasound appointments show mild but not alarming thinning of my cervix, and Mirabelle and I both plant seed and transplant flowers in the garden after the last frost. Because of the fact that we have plants at different stages of growth, we’ll be able to enjoy blooming around the garden for weeks at a time. I think about the seeds that are just beginning their journey, relying on the nutrients in the soil and their present darkness to begin new life; then I consider the plants that have been around for awhile longer, all leaves and branches now, that will depend on air and water and light to continue growing as they have moved from pot to ground. There are endless ways to grow and keep growing, yet all of them involve getting messy in the dirt.

Sarah and I have been in touch, and after Jack and I consulted our insurance company and she got an estimate for the damage I caused, we decided to pay for the repairs ourselves. Which means, of course, Jack paying for it himself, though you would never know it wasn’t a joint responsibility—he’s far more gracious than I imagine I would be in the situation, and the only suggestion he gives is that I avoid parking in tight spaces for awhile.

Sarah and I meet for lunch one day after she’s gotten the car fixed, and I’m ready to move on to conversations that don’t involve body work accomplished on my behalf. We’re at a nearby café that has outdoor seating, and the weather is perfect for it. She pulls Sam in his stroller up to the table to make it a party of three.

“The amount of legwork involved in just getting around with a new baby amazes me,” I marvel to her. How did you learn how to work all that gear? The car seat and stroller and all of it.”

She laughs. “Oh, trust me—four months ago I didn’t know the first thing about any of this stuff,” she assures me. “You get the hang of it pretty quickly. You learn the car seat management when you’re leaving the hospital, then you don’t go anywhere for several weeks, and then you’re so crazy to leave the house that learning stroller mechanics is almost a joy. You do it all a couple of times and you’re an expert.”

I shake my head. “There’s just so much to remember,” I lament. “And I can barely back out of a parking space.” Continue reading

The Growing Season: Chapter 23 (concluded)

This is the latest installment of The Growing Season. For the other installments please click here.

“Breathe, Merritt,” Mirabelle says, reading my mind. “Remember: one day at a time. You are more ready for this every day, beyond what you can imagine.”

I follow her advice, take a few deep breaths. The self-centeredness of my life so far comes into sharp focus, not as rebuke but as fact; the fact that for so long, I’ve only had to answer to myself, only been responsible to me. I made my own way in New York for years, fashioning my schedule like I wanted it, rolling in and out of my apartment at will, without even a roommate expecting me back. I must have covered almost every inch of that city with my wandering feet, living in a freedom that I didn’t fully realize until now, when love has curtailed that freedom by my own choosing. Regardless of the fact that I have no aspirations to be a Super Mom—that I’ve given up on that ego-building goal even while my child is still in utero—I am still embarking on a dramatic turn from life as I know it. A turn from marriage as I know it, and I haven’t even known that for very long. This rearrangement of priorities looms larger than ever before, a reality now instead of an idea.

“Wow,” I breathe. “It’s just all hitting me.”

“Yes, it tends to start doing that around now.”

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