Thursday, November 8, 2012

MiM Mail: Taking a year off from medical school for baby

Hi ladies!

I'm a long time reader/ asker and I've got another question for you guys. I'm an M3 with a 2 1/2 year old and am about 5 weeks pregnant with baby number 2.EDD around early July. I had six months off with my first baby and really would have enjoyed having more time. I'm a crunchy kind of mama (attachment parenting, breastfeeding, etc) and I know how I feel when my baby is new and tiny, and I'm certain I'll want lots of time with this baby too.

So, I'm considering taking a year off when the baby gets here, between 3rd and 4th year. I'm not certain I'll ask for it, or even if I'll get it, but I'm wanting to know what I'm getting into if I go down that path. I'm not sure what I want to do, but right now Emergency Medicine and Internal Medicine are my top two, and we live in the south and I have no Ivy League or academia dreams, so no seriously competitive residencies. Preclinical grades are average, Step 1 was above average, but not shockingly awesome. I don't have any research done yet, and honestly, think that the year would provide some time to boost that aspect of my resume (in addition to making connections in EM, since we don't have much exposure there as M3's). I also think I'll be a much, much better intern with a 2 year old than a 1 year old (and I know, because I have been there!) At my school, M4's essentially have 5 months off, but I'd like more time.

So, has anyone done this? Anyone have thoughts on it?

22 comments:

  1. A woman in my class had baby #1 at the beginning of 4th year, did a research year, and then matched into derm. It can be done, just make sure you do something research-y or volunteer-y so that it doesn't look like you took the year "off."

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  2. I agree with above. Good thing you put the quotes in "off" OMDG. A research or volunteer job would be a nice break from taking care of a newborn! As much fun as it is, the 24/7 of it overwhelmed me.

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  3. I say go for it. It's good timing. Also, the time off during 4th year is typically meant for interviewing (at least somewhat), so you'd need to take at least one month to do that which would be in Nov, Dec, or Jan. I know we had some people in our class take a year off and I don't think it really impacted their career too much. The timing is actually really good for you with being due in July. That will be a nice clean break between the years. I would maybe wait until the end of your first trimester to make any official changes, just in case, too.

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  4. Another vote for going for it - and I wouldn't worry about the "off" year. It's totally legitimate to take a year with your baby, and there are several women from my med school who have done just that.

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  5. Congratulations! I'm in a similar position (M3, due at the end of May) and have been toying with the same decision. My main hesitation in taking extra time (I was planning to do an MPH) is having too many years between my first and second children. I'm thinking about pediatrics and, realistically, I'm not sure it will make sense for me to have another child until I'm in my senior year of residency (3 years from when I deliver my first child). I'm wondering what other people's thoughts are on a) having a 1-year-old as an intern and b) having children/being pregnant during residency. Am I over-thinking these long-term plans? Should I just take the extra time now while the option is open?

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  6. I took 6 months off between 3rd and 4th years, and I did it to travel internationally w/ my husband. It's all about the way you make your proposal to the powers that be. Play up the research aspect of your plan and how it will make you a more competitive applicant for residency. Crush step 2, come up with a good explanation for your time off to say on your interviews, and you'll be fine. One other thing to consider - not that it matters - is that for credentialing you will be asked again to explain your time off as well. So remember it's all in how you explain it.

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    1. Whoops, I mean I took it off between 2nd and 3rd. And I did a short research project too (which was part of my proposal to the deans).

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  7. It can be done. If you are ready to have a baby, I say go for it. Don't let training get in the way of life. I started an internship in ob/gyn with a 3 month old. Challenging, yes, but I am so thankful that he is in my life. It is key to have 24/7 childcare, though. I was lucky to have family around. I actually switched to internal med and so am doing intern year #2 with an almost 2 year old. It is a challenge to balance a child and training but the rewards make it worth it. My son keeps me grounded. I think you need a nanny, a very supportive husband, or family around, though, to make it work as an intern. Good luck! Babies are the best! =)

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  8. I was in exactly the same situation and chose to take a year to do research. I am currently halfway through my research year and my son is six months, and I couldn't be happier with my decision.

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  9. I've taken a whole year off to have my first (She was born the July after my 1st year) and now during 4th year I'm prepped to do it again (I'm 9 months preggo with my second, due in early December). Honestly, the most difficult part for me has been watching my classmates and friends graduate and move on without me! I've LOVED my time off with my kid(s) - I too am an attachment-type-parent and I just know I would forever regret missing that first year of my child's life. I'm headed to peds, and honestly when I think about what programs may think about my choices, resume, etc... I'm not sure that I'd want to be at a program that didn't understand my need to take time for my family! So I say 100% go for it, you won't regret it, it'll be easier to be an intern with an older child rather than a younger one. But the biggest reason I say to do it is what one of my preceptors said to me while I was pregnant with my first - " we need to allow time for smart, high achieving, professional women to have children!! The more women who make choices like these, unapologetically and with pride, the less of an issue it will be for future 'Doctor Mamas'!"

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  10. I could have written this post 2 years ago! I took a year "off" with DD#2 between 3rd and 4th year (she was born in July, too!). I did some very part-time research and tutoring during that year, although technically I had to check the ERAS "took a leave of absence" box. Checking that box may hurt you at a minority of programs, but if you can prove that you are a hard worker and keep your grades up, I doubt it will be a problem. I ended up doing well in the match FWIW, and I even if I didn't, that year "off" was worth every minute.

    Feel free to email me if you want more details... mamascrubgmailcom

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    1. How was being pregnant during 3rd year? I have my daughter 3 months before MS1 started... so far, school has been great. We are thinking about the planning for the next one- but I was so tired my first pregnancy I cannot imagine being a successful student on rotations! Was it very difficult?

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    2. I made my M3 schedule "top-heavy", so my first trimester was OB/GYN and Surgery (following IM). It was nice to have some lighter rotations toward the end of pregnancy, but I was SUPER-exhausted in first trimester (but luckily, not super-sick). I think it's just so hard to know how you'll feel in pregnancy that it is difficult to plan, but in the end, you make it work. Sorry, I guess that's not all that helpful.

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  11. I took off time when our baby boy was born. I am now a First Year Pediatrics Resident and I am soo soo soo glad that I took off time to get to know him and to grow in being a mother. I learned soo much and my practice of medicine has changed tremendously. I too am from the "attachment parenting" side of the spectrum and love love love breastfeeding, baby wearing, and making wholesome foods for my family. Being a Resident is so much more busy than being a medical student, forget about making more than 1 or 2 fresh meals a week. I wrote a post a while ago about feeling like I am never around my son enough, if I make it home for the end of dinner and bathtime that is a major success. My husband is now the primary parent and I often feel guilty. I am so envious of countries where Physicians in training can work part-time because I would totally do it until my little one is older. Take all of the time that you need because you may not have a chance to do it later!
    - As far as ERAS, I clicked the "took time off" and ended up getting interviews at great family-friendly programs and none at super busy/ competitive programs.

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  12. I am a long time reader and now have a related question for you guys! I am also an MS3 and would like to have a baby during 4th year. If I could plan it perfectly I would schedule all my SubI's up fron and then take time off after applications are submitted and interviews done to have the baby and spend a fews months at home before starting internship (which would also have the benefit of an older infant when starting residency). The only problem is, that involves being visibly pregnant during interviews. What are your thoughts are showing during SubI's vs. interviews? I am also considering EM or primary care (Family or internal med).

    Thank you for any advice! I know I can't totally plan this, but I want to at least try to create the best scenario...

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    1. I delivered my daughter late July of 4th year of med school. I matched early (spring third year) with a combined family med/preventive med program and was very visibly pregnant for my interview. It was no problem at all...they couldn't bring it up on their own, but once I brought it up myself they were all relieved to get to ask me how I was feeling and so on...everyone was so excited for me, and it's one of the things that sold me on the program. So I don't think it's a barrier at all when interviewing at FP programs.
      I did my sub-I (peds...tons of the residents were either pregnant or pumping so I had lots of company) after she was born but think that it would've been fine to do a sub-I pregnant once I was out of the exhausted first trimester period.

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  13. Redbear, I personally think October is the perfect time to have a baby in 4th year! Finish your sub-i's by Aug/Sept, then you can use your cushy interview months as maternity leave; plus you won't (really) show, although you'll still have baby weight. In addition, your baby will be more like 8 months when you start residency as opposed to 3-4. It's a world of difference, IMO.

    Just my 2c!

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  14. I'm also an M3 and considering having a baby in fourth year. I'm happy to read a blog post by someone hoping to spend time with their baby and breastfeed. I've been hoping not to take time off other than that built in to fourth year for Step 2 and residencies (like scrubmama is suggesting). I also am considering ob-gyn and worry about residency with a baby and working husband. I have heard from several that fourth year is a good time to have a baby though. And I know both students who have taken time off and extended their time to graduation and those who have not. So many things to consider...

    Erika
    stethoscopes, style, & grace

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  15. I'm a M4 with a 5 month old daughter and not applying this year to residency because I took time off. While biased, I definitely think it was the way to go! What I did was basically do six months now with my daughter (I'm also taking Step 2 next month), then I'll go full-time in the Spring and next Fall, but graduate next December. Obviously then I won't start residency for another six months or so. I really like this option because I had a good amount of time with her now but will also be able to have several months when she's 18+ months (and I'm sure that will be a blast!). I also did some research over the past few months to look "productive" (ha!). Anyway, just a different route to consider. Good luck, and congrats!

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  16. True dyed-in-the-wool Attachment Parenting is completely incompatible with working outside the home, let alone being a clinical medical student or an intern. If out of a philosophical conviction you do not accept the validity of leaving your child for any extended period of time with another caregiver, obviously you have to take the year out.

    If instead you practice AP-lite, where you maybe use a sling [but secretly think a Baby Bjorn is just as good], exclusively breastfeed for 6 months, perhaps invest in a juicer but are Ok with organic baby food from normal supermarkets, still vaccinate your kids because you believe in science, immunology and statistics, etc, but are otherwise comfortable with pumping and giving your baby breastmilk in a bottle, leaving him with his father/grandparents/a hired caregiver, then you don't need to take time off.

    July is so tough though-- in order to get your sub-is done and letters in on time to be reasonably competitive in the Match, you will either be 9 months pregnant (tough in EM, with the radiation and the physicality) or 2 months pp. The rest of 4th year is a breeze so you'd have plenty of time with the baby.

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  17. I'm a M3 and I just finished my first week back after having twins half way through 3rd year. My twins are almost 8 months old and hubs is now on full time parental leave. It feels great to be back and I'm so happy I took this much time off. Originally the plan was that I would take 3 months off, and hubs would go on paternity leave while I went back to school. It would have meant that I would lose some elective time but that I would still graduate with my class. Surprisingly, every single staff (who had kids) I worked with while pregnant encouraged me to take a full year off. They said that when I look back at this time years from now, I will never regret taking more time to spend with my babies, and I think they're right. And then we found out it was twins, and everything changed.

    I'm so glad it worked out this way. Maternity leave was easily the happiest period in my life, yet surprisingly It feels great to be back at school. Partially because I had so much time to bond with my babies. I breastfed (almost) exclusively until a few weeks before I went back an now I'm down to just BFing at night. I think I'll quit all together pretty soon but so glad that I was able to do it for 8 months. I know that I personally could not have continued pumping/breast feeding if I went back after just 3 months. The other thing is the babies are MUCH better sleepers now than they were at 3 months. I don't think I could have handled going back that early based on sleep deprivation alone.

    I was also away long enough to actually look forward to getting back to school, because by the time I was half way through clerkship I was pretty burnt out. It also gave me a lot of time to reflect on what I wanted to do, which has led me to consider derm instead of internal medicine.

    I didn't do anything academic while I was on Mat leave; but I do already have a PhD, and a chapter from my thesis is going to be turned into a review article and submitted in the next few months. So I'm going to sell it as though I worked on the article while on mat leave, even though the work was done months before I was even pregnant.

    Congrats on your pregnancy, and enjoy the heck out of your mat leave

    PS: Surprisingly, every single staff (who was themselves a parent, both male and female) I worked with while pregnant encouraged me to take a full year off. They said that when I look back at this time years from now, I will never regret taking more time to spend with my babies, and I think they're right.

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