Monday, September 8, 2008

This looks like more fun than it is

I remember in the last few weeks of my pregnancy, it took every ounce of my strength to drag myself to work every morning, between being sleep deprived and having pain in every joint that was capable of feeling pain. I hung in there because my maternity leave was finite and I wanted to spend every moment of it with my baby. So that meant coming in to work until the bitter end.

But it turned out I wasn't the most miserable person around. In fact, it never even occurred to me that there might be people out there who were actually jealous of me and my thirty-pound belly.

I discovered the truth one evening, while I was sitting in the office I shared with my swingin' single male co-resident. We were complaining about our workload and suddenly he blurted out:

"I wish I were pregnant."

I had never been so shocked. Immediately, a range of angry replies ran through my head: What part of pregnancy would you like? Would you like to carry 30 extra pounds around with you everywhere you go? Would you like to have to wake up 10 times a night to pee? Or would you just like to go through a painful labor possible ending in a major abdominal surgery? What part of being pregnant appeals to you the most??

I didn't say any of that though. My reply was, "You don't really mean that."

He quickly said, "You're right, I don't."

Of course, what he really meant was that he wanted to have a six week maternity leave. Except what he really meant was that he wanted six weeks in Bermuda.

To many people who have never cared for a newborn before, maternity leave seems like just that: a vacation. And those who cover for you when you're gone get resentful that they have to work harder so that you get a six week vacation, while all they get is a measly 3-4 weeks.

Comments like the above fed into the extreme guilt I had surrounding my maternity leave. When I came back to work, I was afraid to even talk to anyone for months because I assumed all the other residents hated me for getting a "paid vacation".

And even though it's been over a year since I returned from leave, I still haven't completely left those feelings behind.


  1. I am currently pregnant w/ twins. These will be #'s 3&4. My first 2 children I had at my old job where several other mothers worked as well. There everyone was very accomodating and helpful. I worked full-time up until the day I delivered in order to have a full maternity leave at home w/ my child. Now, I've changed jobs to a place where I'm the only mother. It's interesting to note the differences. I now work part-time and am salaried, and my medical director expects me to cover any emergencies on my days off with my patients (my previous job, we regularly covered the part-timers without a 2nd thought). He has actually refused to help my nurse w/ critically abnormal labs on my days off, telling her to call me at home. Now that I have mentioned that I may be on extended leave secondary to my OB expecting to put me on bedrest at 32wks (you know, because of advanced maternal age AND twins), I am getting a huge amount of push-back. Although the clinic regularly employs locums physicians, my medical director has all but told me that I am to find my cover for this time as he doesn't plan on covering my patients.

    Truthfully, I'm already looking for job #3.

  2. This is not unique to the medical profession. I was in sales for both of my babies (two different companies). First one, I was out 2 weeks before due date, she was two weeks late, then 8 weeks for c-section. I returned, my co-worker who was covering my area of our joint account pulled me aside and chewed me out for being out so long and how it wasn't fair that I would be getting commisions for work I didn't do. We were a team, on a team quota, sharing team commmisions. What closed while I was gone was partly due to what I had done BEFORE I left. Didn't matter, I was resented. I cried and then got over it. Next kid, I was at a VERY small company, and the owner/CEO and VP's had never had kids. It too was a c-section and by his own policies, I got 8 weeks off. However, there were snide remarks the whole time I was gone and when I returned about me being on "vacation". I was brazen, and said: sure you go through a major operation AND care for a new born child and tell me it's a vacation. They laid me off 6 months after I returned, apparently my being out was bad timing because they had launched a new product and I wasn't there to help, therefore my performance was lacking.....

  3. "If it was easy then everyone would do it. But the hard makes it great." That's why it's so rewarding. You've found a career that's fulfilling and a hoe life that is fulfilling. Just think how empty those other lives must be.

  4. I meant to say HOME life. Not hoe life. I don't think you're a hoe Fizzy. Hee hee!

  5. There are actually people who are jealous of your thirty-pound belly and all the other things that go with being pregnant. I am. I know that a lot of it ranges from discomfort to pain. I know that taking the time off of work, paid or otherwise, is hard. I know that coworkers can be hard to deal with about it. I really don't care though. At the end of it you got to be a mom, and I'd trade anything for the experience.

  6. My residency director had four kids and a doctor wife and treated pregnancy and the maternity leave as a non issue.

    But my co-residents, on the other hand ... The only one I got grief from was one of the two other women. Theis resident made public cracks, hardly remarks, about my upcoming vacation. I was so stunned I had no reply.

    She also refused to cover the 1, that's right 1, patient I asked her to cover during my leave.

    The men were very accommodating, especially the IMG men who felt strongly that a woman should be home with their infants.

  7. Greetings!

    2 years ago, fresh out of residency, I wanted the "whole" experience. I got a full-time job as an FP with OB in a small-ish town at a non-profit migrant health clinic. It's been a fantastic experience. But it's hard work and we're all a little OCD about our own patient care. Until the recent advent of hospitalists, we were all still rounding on our own patients, even on our days off and weekends.

    Now, I find myself about to be a mommy for the first time. I've had a healthy pregnancy, but I've been tired an nauseous the whole time. I finally broke down and asked my administrator to cut back my hours to half-time for the next 2 weeks until the baby's born. I got what I wanted (I'm using vacation time so I still get my full FMLA after baby comes) but it felt like pulling teeth.

    Afterwards I bumped into my nurse practitioner and broke down in tears right there in the hallway. I'm not even sure I could put words to the emotions I was feeling . . . defeat, guilt, anger, maybe even a little relief.

    Whether truthful or not, she told me all the other practitioners understood and supported me. And she told me about this blog, and that I'm not alone. Thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences.

  8. I am on the verge of 39 weeks pregnant in my final year of medical school. I have had a number of my classmates remark on my "vacation" or "time off" when the baby comes; they're young, I forgive them. But the reality is that I have to make up the hospital rotations at the end of the year, during the time most of my classmates plan to sit on a beach and recharge before residency starts. I am just hoping to have enough time to move if my placement requires it.

  9. These stresses that new moms go through are not limited to Medicine but I thing we are even more anxious because of our sense of responsibility to our patients and colleagues. This lack of respect and accomodation for motherhood is an endemic problem in the USA. Other western countries grant maternity leave to both fathers and mothers. France supports new moms for a year with nursing visits and job protection. Yes, we all wonder how they do it...but they do. As professional women we need to keep shining the light on the inequities we face and DON'T FEEL GUILTY for recovering from childbirth and spending precious time with our newborns. We are still pioneers in the workplace with the dual responsibility of being a mom and a doctor. It is not heresy to put family first and those precious baby moments are gone way too soon. (I feel a little tear welling up right now)

  10. Yes, why are other nations so much better about this? When I was pregnant, I was so jealous of the Canadians I knew.

  11. After my first materninty leave three years ago, one colleague who had her child years before FMLA, called me at home to suugest that I thank those who had covered my patients. As calmly as possible, I explained to her that our boss should be thanking her as it was the boss who had decided against spending the money to find coverage and that I was entitled to that time and therefore would be thanking no one.

  12. Good for you. Wish they could be home with a newborn the first 6 weeks. It's like being a first year resident except with no nights (or days) off. Except that new babies mostly smell better than patients

  13. People are jealous of you getting 6 weeks off?? I'm a dr in the UK - and boy do we complain about stuff but maybe we shouldn't - I get 6-7 weeks holiday every year. I took 5 months maternity leave after my 1st child and nearly 5 months after my 2nd (I was entitled to 6 months but couldn't afford to take that long). If anyone had moaned at me for having that long off they'd have had the book thrown at them. (And now employees are entitled to a year off if they can afford it).


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