Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Guest Post: When They Say It's Gonna Be Hard, They Really Meant It.

I write this post as I have just concluded 2 hours at a coffee shop studying with a classmate, drove home the 40 minute drive listening to an audio CD of board review, got home at 7:30pm to try to work out to an aerobics DVD for 40 minutes (not before scarfing down a slice of strawberry cheesecake.. FAIL), then scramble to put together 2 powerpoint presentations on postpartum hemorrhage and placental abruption and anesthetic managements thereof. And oh yes, showered as well. And I'm already past my bedtime. (and I managed to skip dinner in all of this)

And this was done without my husband at home nor my 9 month old baby boy. Imagine what my day after work would have been like if either of them were home.

When hubby and I were discussing when would be the right time to have a child, I vehemently told him that other residents in our program had babies during our 2nd year of residency when we were primarily on consult months (i.e. easy rotations). I kept telling him we should do it, I really wanted a baby during residency b/c I didn't want residency to be the sole reason why we would decide not to have a baby. I failed to note that most of the other residents didn't have attendings as husbands, or if their husbands were physicians or residents, their schedule was more reliable than an emergency medicine attending's schedule which varied day to day, shift to shift (and hence make daycare virtually not an option).

Everyone said it was gonna be hard, but I knew in my heart I wanted this baby and I was going to make it work. When our little C baby arrived, I was towards the end of my 2nd year of residency (and hence, the end of the easy consult months).. welcome to the world of 3rd year of anesthesia (and subspecialty rotations)... back to back cardio-thoracic anesthesia rotations... throw in a month of pediatric anesthesia, and oh yes, mix it up with some vascular anesthesia, add a lil ICU... all the while with a crying pooping fussy little baby boy... AND breastfeeding/breastpumping every chance I could get. All the meanwhile with a hubby who was working nights 7pm to 7am every couple of days.

Yeah I knew it was going to be hard, but this was a whole 'nother area of stress I wasn't accustomed to.

Luckily my parents have helped out immensely, but they are 45 minutes north from where we live. Parents in law are 25 minutes away as well, and mother in law stays with us when hubby works a span of a few days/nights. And when she can't stay with us, we haul C baby to my parents and he spends the nights there. A nanny would have been a great option, but since hubby works sometimes 3 days and then gets off for 5 days and then another few days and off for a few days, the varying schedule just was too difficult.

So now I'm sitting in an empty house with nobody here but our C dog passed out on the couch next to me as I type this. And even without anyone home, I still find that I just don't have enough time to do everything that I need to do. But I welcome sleep now... even though I won't be able to snuggle up next to my C baby, at least I have my iPhone with my 52356 pictures/videos to look at before I go to sleep. And 5AM I start this process all over again.

It was a hellova hard journey and it still is hard, but it was worth every minute. Especially when I hold my baby in my arms and he holds me back and happily sucks on my cheek when I get home.

(That doesn't mean I don't cry every single time I have to leave him for a few days. I still do. Even though I know he will be fine... I'm his mommy first and always)

I'm a 3rd year anesthesiology resident in the South, married to an emergency medicine physician. We have a 9 month old baby boy, C baby and a 3 year old Maltese doggie, C dog.


  1. Sometimes I am so encouraged by reading this blog, and other times it makes me want to throw in the towel. I'm not sure which one this one is, honestly.

    I am a non-traditional medical student, meaning I was a history major who came late to the party. My husband and I will graduate next spring, and I will be 32, coming up on 33, as we start residency. I've tried to talk myself into something, anything other than OB/GYN, but it is such a passion that the idea of not doing it is as depressing as the prospect of residency in the first place. My husband is going into emergency medicine.

    If we wait until after residency to have children, not only will my ovaries burst with despair, but I will be at least 35 before our first child is born. We want at least three, preferably one at a time, and neither of us is keen on me being over 40 and pregnant. To further complicate things, we have a military commitment after residency.

    After saying, "Don't go into OB/GYN", followed by, "Don't have kids in residency," the advice from the OB/GYN residents has been (reluctantly) "well, at least wait until second or third year." So currently we're planning on trying for a second year baby, but when I read posts like this it gets to me. I wonder what I am setting us up for, what kind of stress I am adding to our residencies. And I feel guilty (stupidly) for not being younger (since that's something I can control, obviously).

    I hear a lot about how lots of women do this and that it'll be okay and we'll just make it work, but I can't help but feeling overwhelmed by the prospect. It feels like such a damned if we do, damned if we don't situation. I think in the end we'll do just what everyone says -- make it work -- and it probably will all be fine in the end, but in the meantime, I worry. Am I crazy? Are we doomed? Will our kids hate us? Should I go into a "lifestyle specialty" instead? What kind of crack was I smoking when I thought this whole medical school thing was a good idea?

    I appreciate you all posting, in any case. Even though it sometimes isn't comfortable, I'd rather know what I was getting into -- and that someone else was going through it, too. Thanks.

  2. Even though having kids in residency is tough, I like that last bit. Sometimes I think that moments with my kids are what helped get me through residency. There's something about having kids that puts everything else into proper perspective.

    For example:

    I got publicly ridiculed by an attending for having blood showing on my gross pictures I used in conference? Who cares!

    I missed that unknown in conference? Life goes on!

    I wasn't available at the moment one of my attendings needed me? They'll get over it!

    I had my kids to go home to. That was pretty wonderful. They made me more efficient. They balanced me. There's a positive note for you, anon above. I could also go the other direction, but I won't today.

  3. the post wasn't meant to be discouraging nor was it meant to be encouraging. rather, it's just the reality of (my) life. we made the choice to go into medicine and we made the choice to have children. i wouldn't change it for anything, although some days are worse than others and some days i wish i could just stay at home with my son. i think you just find a way to make it work. you just have to. and just know that it WILL be difficult, no doubt about it, especially if both of you are going to be residents. we have a couple in our program who are married and have a 7 month old baby; they have no family close by and obviously day care would not work with our call schedules, so they hired an au pair. like i said, you just have to find a way to make it work. it's wonderful being a mommy but it is hard to have to be away from him for work and since i'm still in training, i still have to find time to study AFTER work. life would be great if we could really use all 24 hours of a day.

    --- C mama

  4. I guess I'll be "Anonymous 3" here: This is addressed to Anonymous #2 who is getting discouraged about having a child versus having the specialty she has dreamed of:

    When I came out of school many years ago we were in a very tenuous financial situation in the country and in our personal lives as well, my husband hadn't finished school yet. We made the difficult decision that we couldn't afford children (at the time maternity leave was not available). Things improved later and we had a healthy baby when I was 38. Women are having healthy babies later in life, many in my generation did it because like many "fem libers" of our time we put career first (kind of had to the way work was structured) and children came only after career was established so I had lots of company among my female peers who were also late 30s and pregnant.

    Not that it is the only way to go, but many of us did it and I don't think that the child suffered, and I sure didn't because I could afford it (paid help)and had plenty of time to lavish on the child. And I wasn't too old to do anything he wanted to do - rock climbing, camping, sailing, etc.

    I guess where I'm going with this is don't let yourself be pressured into having a child at any particular time/age in your life because everybody else is doing it or telling you it is now or never. It isn't.

  5. C Mama~ Oh, it is. It is so, so hard, and it sucks, and you will get through it. Thank goodness you have family around and available to help. This too, shall pass, and residency (for the most part) *is* a really great time to have a child. Never will you have as many counterparts to cover for you, plus you have no fall-off in income for missed work. You will blink and residency will be over, and being an anesthesia attending? is WAY better than being an anesthesia resident! Hang in there.

    To Anon #1~ My fellow masochist! Do what you love and makes you happy. If it is Ob/Gyn, then, even if the lifestyle isn't ideal, you will find a way to be happy. You should know from your studies that your ovaries will not shrivel spontaneously at the age of 35! I wouldn't recommend trying for a pregnancy your intern year, but second or third year can be a really good time. You will probably catch flack from your fellow residents, but, as Gizabeth says above, so what? Back to back pregnancies can be tougher, and, after having one or two, you may think again about a third...but you do have time before 40. So to recap: No, you are not crazy (well maybe a little, but being ob crazy is mostly a good kind of crazy). No you are not doomed. I doubt that your children will hate you for having them in residency (but they will hate you when they are 13 and know everything you don't, and then you take their cell phone away). Don't choose a 'lifestyle specialty' if you know you will hate it, the rest of your life is a really long time to hate what you do. Once you finish OB/GYN residency, you can always drop OB and be GYN only or drop GYN and become a laborist. You will have options once training is over. It is only 4 years, you can do anything for 4 years. As for the crack? I can't tell you, but that stuff has been around for a long damn time, it got to me 9 years ago...still hooked. :)

  6. Thanks for this post... somehow it made me feel better to hear that other residents are finding it hard too!

    I'm a family med resident (started in internal, got out post-baby and very happy with the new career plans). I can't wait to finish and start working -- part time! I keep that positive thought to keep me sane during this last year and a half!

    I love working, love medicine, love hubby, and LOVE my dear, sweet, and very hilarious 13 month old son. Just so much love, so little time!

  7. I wanted to write another comment for Anon #1 whose husband is applying for an EM residency and are thinking of having a baby during residency. The thing that my husband and our family has found to be most helpful is making a schedule out month by month. We started doing that last month. That way, we were able to figure out which days my mother in law needed to stay over with us, which days he or I had off, and which days we would need to lug C baby over to my parents' house for a few days. It helped us immensely b/c it enabled us to visualize on a calendar when we needed help. Depending on your schedule during residency, you may even be able to swing day care, especially if the institution at which you are training offers day care. If this is the case, the day care may even be open earlier and close later to be conducive to the residents and attendings who work there. Unfortunately, where we work currently, there isn't a child care option.

    My other word of advice is make sure you explore all of your options well in advance. We didn't really do that, and just kinda went along for the ride (of pregnancy) and then once we had C baby, we were like... omg who is going to be taking care of him when I have to go back to work in a few wks (and I only took 5 1/2 wks of maternity leave due to 3 weeks of bed rest... a whole 'nother blog to write about)

    Anyway, like I said, you will find a way to make it work one way or another. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it.

  8. for what its worth, i just wanted to add, that i take a little comfort in hearing that other people are finding it a struggle to be a mom in residency. I used to find JUST residency all consuming!
    I have no words of advice. I too, never knew that it would be this hard. Sometimes I wonder if I chose to do this , because deep down I like pain or something!

    my husband and I try to find humour when we can, and realize that our lives are just not like 'normal' people! when we manage to spend time with other parents, it is hard to relate to their anxieties about starting their child in daycare at the age of one year, or if they should start their kid on organic apples or bananas first. We were just happy a daycare took us off their waiting list! and we do our best with foods and all the rest.
    I agree with the above that you just find a way to make things work.. and yes, it wont be easy. In fact, I find it nothing short of painful at times. But it is worth it to me to have my child, and I am on this train for awhile longer.
    I had an older lady patient, who was having a tough time getting through her cancer treatments, and we discussed moving forward. "Quitters never win, and winners never quit.", she said. I smiled and said that I could not agree more!

  9. Nice post and this mail helped me alot in my college assignement. Gratefulness you seeking your information.

  10. Remember that some programs are more family-friendly than others. Really. And people make it through all kinds of trials. There was a general surgeon in residency while I was in medical school making it with a small child at home and pregnant with another. She was doing surgery at one of the toughest programs in the nation and making it. I wanted my kids to know their grandparents. We wanted 3 kids also. Still do. It is tough, but we are making it work for us. When we have our second child I plan to get a night nanny even if I have save for it throughout pregnancy. You just gotta be creative and willing to compromise.

  11. I loved reading all of these. Sometimes it will be as hard as hell. The thing is, being a working mom is as hard as hell no matter what you do, so you had better well LOVE what you do- which is why I am glad that you all chose the things you chose. Hang in there, KC- being an anesthesia attending IS way better than being a resident. I'm so glad I didn't throw in the towel, although there were times that I thought about it... it will all be worth it.

    When I told the principle of our elementary school that I'd finished residency, she said, "How incredible that your kids got to see you go through that." I was so stunned that she said that. This was not the "they'll be OK," or "kids are resilient," or any sort of poorly veiled "your poor family" encouragement. It was her opinion that my kids were lucky to have an example of what a woman with a brain and a heart can accomplish- something that each of your kids will have, too. I was so grateful to her for framing it to me in this way, and I offer it here for all of you.

  12. Easily I acquiesce in but I dream the post should prepare more info then it has.

  13. This blog completely rocks. I'm pregnant and in Neurology Residency- it is wonderful to hear such strong voices and "been there, done that" advice for women physicians/residents... whenever I get nervous or anxous about the time and lack of sleep and amount of work in all realms of life that is undoubtedly ahead of me.. I think to myself what advice I would give my own daughter/son if they were in the same predicament- I would tell them "you can do whatever you set your mind to" and thats exactly what we will all do... making it through medical school, being on call, helping patients through life's ups and downs has all prepared us to "handle anything that comes our way." :-) Have Faith in your abilities, your strength, and in how proud your child will be to know that you really did "do it all."

  14. "It was a hellova hard journey and it still is hard, but it was worth every minute. Especially when I hold my baby in my arms and he holds me back and happily sucks on my cheek when I get home."

    Oh, the joy of motherhood. Having a baby is indeed hard especially if both of the parents are working, and yet it is also fulfilling and rewarding, eh. Thanks for the post. Reminds me of the joy of having a cute baby in the house is one of the glimpse of real joy while living.


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