Monday, November 7, 2011


I knew something was wrong. I knew I was a little more wound up than I should be, but I figured it was normal and that I should just keep powering through - no complaining, no asking for help, just keep moving forward. Meanwhile my thoughts were CONSUMED with thinking about how we were going to manage as a family in 7 months when I leave the lab. We still only have one car, we have no family here to help, my husband’s work has gotten more demanding and I am doing so much stuff now for my daughter - how could we manage if I did less. I thought and worried about this constantly. I even had dreams about it (when I got to actually got enough sleep to have dreams!). This in addition to my constant running thoughts of what to cook for dinner, laundry, when the next feeding is if we’re out, if I packed enough snacks, if the yogurt caused the diaper rash, etc. Then, this weekend, at a medical student mentoring function the wife of one of my attendings pulled me aside as we were headed out, and after about 5 minutes of talking to me she took my diaper bag from my hands, handed it to my husband, and asked him to take my daughter home.

“White or red?” Red.

Sit down, drink, breathe. These were her commandments to me. She saw something in me - a crazy, hormonal, new mom look. Apparently I literally was no longer fully inhaling and exhaling. She saw in me what she remembered in herself just a few years ago. “Don’t quit your program” she told me. I had been seriously considering this over the past week. Even looking at jobs online.

Then came the questions. When had I slept more than 4 hours in a row? - no idea. When had I taken an hour to do something for myself? - couldn’t remember. Do I let my husband help me enough? - nope. Things have to change. Together we sat down and made a plan. Figuring out exactly what help I will need and finding ways to get it. She gave me resources, insight and direction.

I spent a few hours at her house and watched a light and silly movie while eating oreos and ice cream. No one was allowed to bother me.

She is a surgical subspecialist and her husband is a surgeon. She knows what I am facing. She put into words so many of my frustrations and fears. The next morning on my Sunday walk with my daughter I felt like I could finally breathe.


  1. Wow. What a fabulous thing for someone to have done. I'm glad she was able to recognize what you were going through and to have been able to offer help. Here's hoping other people are able to step up to the plate and help you out going forward.

    I don't personally know what it's like to be a mom in medicine, but I do know what it's like to be a single woman in residency trying to run a (albeit small) household while balancing studying and call. For me, the biggest thing that has made my life better has been having a housekeeper. It is absolutely wonderful to know that the chaos in my house will be taken care of once a week and that I don't have to worry about cleaning toilets in my limited spare time. It is a bit pricey, but roughly the same cost as a couple of nights of takeout, and it is worth far more to my sanity and well-being than takeout food.

    Another thing that has been helping me cope lately has been meal planning. Once a week, I sit down for half an hour and map out what I'm going to be cooking for the week and write a grocery list. It's a pain in the butt to do at the time, but it's been wonderful to have the stress of thinking about what to eat removed from my weeknight routine. And if I'm too tired/unmotivated/lazy to cook on a given night, I can always defer the schedule a night or two until I find the energy to cook.

    Wishing you the best.

  2. Please post on how it works out vis a vis getting your husband to do more. My baby's not born yet, but I had a recent experience that gave me pause to think about what he will be like as a parent. We took the dog to the vet together this weekend, and on the drive home I asked him about something the vet had said. His response? "Well, YOU were there so I figured I didn't have to pay attention since you were going to take care of everything."


    I have decided that the only solution during residency is to drop everything in his lap and be completely unavailable for questions, and trust that he will do a good job. Otherwise, he will just look to me to do everything and to solve every crisis that comes up. It's probably not ideal, but I'm not sure what the alternative is.

    BTW -- I'm sure you're doing a great job with everything. Hang in there and don't quit! I'm told it really does get better.

  3. What a great mentor and rescue! Hang in there.

  4. I love this. Good for her, and good for you.

  5. Even though you do not have family "there" do not be afraid to reach out to them. I worked with attendings who sent their babies to live with grnaparents for 6 months after "maternity leave" ended. Even a month will help you gain a grip on your new schedule. I do hate it how some grandparents feel no affinity/responsibility toward grandkids (my own retired parent among these). That is why there is so much mental breakdown in this society. Many elders are grumpy cause noone there to help them, but did't they refuse to help their kids/grandkids 5,10,15 years earlier? And young parents are overwhelmed with childcare and job responsibilities while old generation wishes to enjoy "golden years". I seriously have had people come to my clinic with chief complaint "golden years are not what they should be" Think of all possible resources.

    And, OMDG ! Dropping everything on my husband's lap worked for my husbund! You are smart, you will figure it out.

  6. @Old MD girl - so far I can say the drop everything on his lap works, but don't expect things to happen like you actually want them to - which is okay, you're child will still be taken care of! Also, part of the plan we came up with is not only relying on my husband and then getting mad when he doesn't voluntarily do what I expect he should do without asking. By getting help and having a plan - more people who can watch my daughter in a pinch or when I'm on call, a cleaning service, someone to watch my daughter for an hour each weekend so I can work when needed, a dinner plan - then I take back the control.

    @Anon - thanks for that tip, my mom wants to help in ANY way possible and wishes that we were closer. I never even thought of having her stay with away family members!

    And finally, thanks to all those mentors out there! You are more valuable than you could ever imagine - you inspire me to make sure I reach out to those who will come after me!!!

  7. I found that lists and written communication helped a lot when we had the triplets!

    We made charts and everyone wrote down who did what (ate, pooped, took medicine, etc) and when. It got us through the first year of exhaustion.

    Good luck!

  8. Hi
    Hang in there...can your mother come and stay for a while (a few months, a year)? I know it sounds crazy but the children grow up fast and it gets easier. My mom drove to my house everyday (I had twins first then two more in 2 years) and saved my life (fed me food while I breastfed twins because I ran out of time to eat!). My my sisters rostered themselves to help. I ended up moving house so that I was 5 minutes from my mother and 3 minutes from my husband's parents. Its times like these that any help needs to be called in as after the initial stages of going back to work it gets easier. Not super easy but not insanity inducing either. Many times I felt like giving up training but now I have reached a place where I try to organise as much as I can and just keep going. To give up all that one has worked towards over a 20 year period is a big call. Also, I was never that close to my mom and in the beginning we would argue. One of the most important things I have learned from this is learn to ignore petty things and get on with the things that are important. My husband is a surgeon and tends to help in the mornings and evenings. I am working part-time at the moment and love spending time with my brood!

    This is what worked for me....I know others that had other solutions.

  9. Husbands will do more if you do not criticize them. You will need to look away when the baby's onesie is put on inside out, or snapped up incorrectly. Be happy if he folds laundry, and let it be when he doesn't fold it like you want it done. (Don't waste time worrying about WHY he won't do it properly ... let it go.) If you are going to criticize, make sure that it is REALLY important. It is hard for all men to feel like they can do what a mom can ... and especially hard when the mom is a super competent, super smart doctor. Don't make it harder.

    Have a sleep over somewhere you will not be woken up. Babysit for someone with an older child (an older child who will love to play with your baby) in exchange for the same at their house. Actually have a date - or sex - with your husband again. Find a "thing" that you like that you always do (even watching an inane TV show uninterrupted for an hour) as a "mini-vacation." Last - take comfort in knowing that this, too, shall pass.

    DrLMS - a pediatric cardiologist mother of 5

  10. Anon @ 954- are you a mother? Would you send your newborn away for several months? It's a bold move to suggest that idea to others. Some things are irreplaceable, and I'd hate to encourage a young mother to do something she could very well regret one day.
    Cutter- your friend sounds wonderful.

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  12. Hang in there! It does get easier and sometimes you will find a good cry in the bathroom will help. Looks like you have found a good mentor yourself so hang on to her. Don't be afraid to let your husband take the lead on some things, divide and conquer. I promise the kids will turn out okay and if your house is not magazine ready who cares.

    The greatest thing I had to conquer was everything always had to be tidy and perfect. Now the kids understand if they have clean underwear all is good! Plus, as they get older teach them how to help out, wash your own dishes and clothes. Yes, teenagers can do it and well at that. So hang in there and remember you only need one pair of underwear a day. :)

  13. hi i was wondering if you could do a post on one of your average workdays :)


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