I never thought this moment would arrive, but as of tomorrow, I will have been back at work for one full month after the birth of my daughter. When I dropped her off at daycare the first day, I didn’t think I could survive it. Now, I’m a savvy daycare mom, chatting it up with her teachers and settling into a routine. One great thing is that she seems to love it, she smiles at her teachers and is universally known as the “happy baby with the curly hair.” I survived and managed not to quit my job.
I’m taking a hiatus from surgical residency right now and in a basic science lab. I hate basic science. I’ve always known this. However, when I found myself pregnant and bleeding and nearly passing out in ORs last year, I decided I desperately needed to make a change and I weaseled my way into a lab, telling myself I might love it and find my life’s work. That was a lie. I hate the lab. Even more, I know that I would rather do a completely different type of research in my career and wish I was putting things in place to make that happen now, especially since my surgical career seems to be at odds with my new mommy desires.
My thoughts about this first month as a working mom:
#1 - People say stupid things
As a resident most moms get six weeks, and six weeks ONLY of maternity leave, which includes all of your vacation for the year. I fought for eight weeks and I was extremely proud of being able to take this extra time for my daughter. However, my return to work was met with some stupid, hurtful comments such as being asked how I could leave my daughter when she was so little and how they could never do the same. But, I stand by my pride. I fought for 2 (actually 2.5) more weeks with my precious daughter. This is my life and our story and in this story that was a success.
#2 - Women in Medicine really do have to be super moms.
Shared parenting, at least for now, is a myth. I feed her (I’m breastfeeding). I change her 97% o the time. I wash her bottles and her clothes and get her ready for daycare in the morning. If I want to eat nutritious meals, I also cook. If I want to eat my nutritious meals on clean plates - I do the dishes. My husband tries, but I think only moms actually know how much moms do. I have NO idea how this will translate one I leave the lab, I’m guessing a nanny and a maid (something else we can’t afford).
#3 - From now on, I will always have a twinge of guilt and confusion about my career choice.
The first few weeks after my daughter was born, I was almost 100% sure that I was not going to complete my residency. As time passes, I feel more capable of finishing. I crave mentors and therefore read this site like a maniac. I could write a blog entry every day about how I grapple with this issue. While I was pregnant I wrote letters to my daughter that I plan to give to her someday. Over half of them are in some way about my trepidation over pursuing a career in surgery and being a good mom. My own mother was a stay at home mom and she poured her energy and love into all of her children so that we could be something great. Now, I feel as if being something great is at odds with being a great mom.
I had to fly out to a conference 6 weeks after my daughter was born. It was my first talk at a national conference. My parents, brother and sister drove down to see me. It went really well - a big step in my career. However, even though it felt good, my major concern was if I had pumped enough milk and all I wanted to do was get back home.
I don’t have any of the answers now. I’ve decided to find peace in taking it one day at a time.
"cutter" is a third year currently taking a 2 year hiatus in the lab and the mother of a beautiful 3 month old. She started reading this blog during intern year just as a source of encouragement from , not realizing that she would soon be a mother in medicine too.