Monday, December 3, 2012

MiM Mail: 2 countries, 2 doctors, 1 baby girl

Hello fellow doctors,
I stumbled across your blog while searching for resources for single moms who also happen to be resident physicians. Currently, my girlfriend (Dr. B) and I are in a somewhat unique condition and I was wondering if anyone out there had any similar experiences and any advice for us.

Our situation is as follows: my girlfriend and I both graduated from an offshore medical school this past June. Neither of us are from the US and I actually attended medical school on scholarship from my country's government. In return, I am supposed to give them 4 years of service following graduation and as such, I did not bother to apply for the match in my 4th year since I planned to go home and fulfill my obligation. My girlfriend, who is from a different country and who has no such obligation to return to her homeland, obtained a residency position in a small Ob/Gyn program (only 3 interns/year) in New Jersey where she is currently halfway through her intern year. 

During our 4th year of medical school, we became pregnant unexpectedly and despite the challenges we both faced in the future we decided to keep the baby and this past August, only 40 days into her internship, Dr. B gave birth to our beautiful daughter Princess Peach. Unsure of what she was entitled to in terms of maternity leave for residents and how it would affect her ability to finish her residency on time, Dr. B took 2 weeks vacation following the birth of Peach which served as her maternity leave. Before she began her residency, I had decided to defer the start of my service in my home country to January 2013 in order to be free to care for Peach while mom continued to work, with the thought that I would take Peach with me back to my country since I would have family to help support me in taking care of her since Dr. B does not have that kind of support here in NJ. Her hospital doesn't offer childcare either so that is not an available option.

As such, since August I've been Dr. Daddio, stay-at-home father, which has been an absolute blast to be honest. I had no idea I had the capacity to love someone as much as I love my daughter and I cherish all the time we have together, even more so when her mom actually has a little free time to spend with us. However, as we near the end of the year, my time here is drawing to an end and Dr. B is freaking out at the thought of Peach and I leaving her here alone. She is already guilt-ridden about the very little time she gets to spend with Peach and she is dreading the day when Peach is no longer here for her to hold and kiss and love when she gets home from the hospital. As a result she is reconsidering letting Peach go home with me, however neither of us can see any feasible alternative. At this time, we cannot afford to pay for the kind of flexible care that Peach would need which would also accommodate Dr. B's crazy work schedule.  Our apartment, which we share with Dr. B's full-time student brother, is not big enough to accommodate a live-in nanny either. The situation in my home country is less than ideal as well since I would also have to be working crazy hours as an intern, and I am unsure of who among my family and friends can realistically take care of Peach while I work, but at least I would have options there that Dr. B doesn't have here in NJ. One option is to let Dr. B's mother and grandmother take care of Peach in their home country but neither of us wants our daughter to grow up without either of her parents.

So here's the conundrum: I have to leave the country for 3 reasons (a. to fulfill my contractual obligations with my government; b. my visa only allows me to stay up to 6 months at a time; and c. my brother's wedding on January 1st), so there's no chance for me to stay here beyond the end of the year. Currently, Peach and I are booked to leave at the end of December but I know at any time Dr. B can change her mind and say that she won't let Peach go with me. If Peach leaves with me as planned, Dr. B won't see her again until the end of March when she takes her next vacation. As far as I can see there is no ideal situation for the foreseeable future as we both have commitments to work in 2 different countries for at least the next 4 years and although we are committed to each other and to our daughter, it will take at least that long for us to be a nuclear family unit again after I leave. This prospect is daunting to say the least! Neither of us want to be away from the other or from Peach, but our situation necessitates the separation. I'd like to explore the option of Peach splitting her time between the US with her mom and my country but that would have to be after we have saved enough money to afford to pay a carer regularly.

Does anyone out there have any experience in such a situation where both parents are doctors and one has to live and work far away from the other? Are there any options for childcare that I am missing? What advice can you guys offer us as we prepare to face this extreme parenting and relationship challenge?

Thank you for your blog and any and all comments are appreciated.

Dr. Daddio


  1. Unless one of you is willing to take off a year to raise Peach, I see the mother-grandmother option as an excellent one for all around. Peach will develop a wonderful relationship with two wonderful women who I assume would adore having her around. You and your wife will be able to concentrate on your work, spend vacations with Peach (I'd go separately so that she has as much mom'dad time as possible. (Not to mention skype)

    My daughter spend Tuesdays with her grandmother in the first years of her life and it was a gift we will always treasure.

    I assume this arrangement would not last forever, just a year correct?

    Sometimes, it takes a village.

    Peggy Polaneczky

  2. A lot of this depends on Dr. B's visa status, as childcare options in the US depend a bit on that. Does she have a green card? Is she a US citizen?

    If she is a citizen, she could arrange for her mother to get a green card to come to the US to help her with Peach. Green cards obtained this way are actually the fastest ones to get, and conceivably she might be able to get one for her mom in the next 6 months. Alternatively, could Dr. B's mom come to help out on a tourist visa that she renewed every 3 months?

    Not an ideal, or permanent solution, but perhaps it could tide you over until you save up $ to hire help.

    1. Oh also, Dr. B's student brother could sponsor grandma for a green card if he is a citizen and she is not. There is no reason she has to be the sponsor.

    2. Neither of us are citizens or green card holders. Peach may be our anchor baby if we decide to stay here after residency, depending on employment options. Dr. B's brother has a student visa as well so sponsorship for a relative is not an option.

  3. What a heartbreaking situation! As a foreigner, I can certainly empathize with the situation you and your family is facing. I'm a US medical graduate, and had no obligations to return to my home country, although I did have to navigate the permanent residency route and have finally just gotten my green card (after studying and training in the US since age 17, and working in an under-served area for 5 years, which is the easiest way for a foreign doctor to get a green card). So I can certainly understand how difficult it is to stay in the US for a continuous period of time. We've also had child care issues in the past because our parents are all in different countries and the visa situation is not as straightforward as it sounds. You can't just renew a tourist visa every 3 months. The max stay is about 6 months out of a year.

    I don't have a whole lot of suggestions for you guys. I think you should take Peach to your home country and have Dr. B visit as often as she can, and you visit her as often as you can. And when you guys can be reunited, there will be a period of adjustment for everyone, but you guys can make it work.

    We have friends who are a 2 doctor household. They do have green cards, but the mom takes the kids to Hungary every year for about 4 months at a time while she fulfills her required hours in training to be able to get licensed in Hungary. Her husband continues to work as a fellow, and in fact he is working in a different city, so they actually have been living in different cities in the US for the past 1.5 years. They do get to visit more often than you and Dr. B will, but keep in mind it is a TEMPORARY state of affairs. It'll be very very hard, but you guys can get through this.

    The only other alternative I see is for Dr. B to quit residency and move to your home country, but that would be a tremendous waste of her position, and I know how challenging the match is for a foreign medical grad (my sister is one).

    As a clarification to those who are not aware, Peach is a US citizen if she was born in the US, but that will do nothing for her parents. Kids cannot sponsor their parents till they are 21 years of age. Believe me, we tried looking to see if we could make it happen since my kids are US citizens. So you and Dr. B are on your own to find employment opportunities that allow you to work and live in the US. One thing you must be aware of - if Dr. B is currently on a J-1 visa, there is a requirement for her to return to her home country to work I think for at least 2 years, so she will not be able to stay in the US continuously. I don't think too many folks have success with having that requirement waived. So at some point you guys will need an immigration attorney if you are looking to stay in the US and establish permanent residency.

    1. I am thinking that a combination of having grandma visit, and having Peach live with grandma abroad might be a decent compromise.

      If you're looking for other examples of people who have done this, there were some women in my husband's old lab who had kids that grew up in China with their grandparents. I think they saw them once a year if that. Again, not ideal, but it is done, and you are not a horrible parent for doing so.

    2. Thank you both for your replies. Kelly we are aware of the immigration issues and to be honest, while we are glad that Peach's citizenship will be one of her greatest assets and give her access to lots of opportunities that Dr. B and I never had, our long term goal is to settle back in either of our home countries.
      Kelly, all you've said we have discussed and we are generally in agreement that the best scenario (which is far from ideal)is for Peach to come home with me and go back and forth as much as possible. The trouble we're having is dealing with the emotional aspects. I sometimes struggle to find the right ways to assure Dr. B that Peach will be okay with me and that she won't forget her mom. My hope is that Peach grows up with a strong idea of who both her parents are and that she knows we both love her more than anything and all that we do is to ensure she has every opportunity to succeed in life. Once we have completed our respective training periods we can be together full time as a family. Getting through this time will be an even greater challenge than it already is and I appreciate everyone's advice on here.

  4. Its a tough situation! I think Peach living with Grandma abroad might be a really good option, and Old MD Girl is right you would not be horrible parents for doing so. My mother was an intern when I was 9 months old, and Dad was away. She sent me to live with my Grandparents in another country for a year and a half, and there is not a part of me that begrudges her. To be honest I don't remember much!

  5. You sound like a fabulous father. Your situation is heartbreaking and your letter was very well written. I can't really add to those above as far as advice, just wanted to let you know I will be thinking about y'all and hope that whatever you decide brings you peace. Peach is lucky to have such wonderful parents and children are very resilient - she will be fine I think. Your options involving family are great and temporary separation will be tougher on you and Dr. B than her, I imagine. Knowing and feeling love is the most important thing for her. Good luck, Dr. Daddio.

  6. Sorry I don't have any specific solutions, but as I read your story I just think, imagine if these were your parents. Imagine knowing that your parents loved you SO much that they were willing to move mountains and do whatever it took to make sure you were raised by loving family and to make sure you had the best opportunities in life. Imagine the love you would feel towards your parents in this scenario. It takes so much love to make the sacrifices you have described. Peach will know she is loved. She will admire the awesomeness of her parents and your commitment to her. You are both WONDERFUL parents. Whatever you decide will be the right decision.

  7. And Skype will be your new best friend. :)

  8. Just an update: Peach and I traveled to my home country last week and so far she's been happily adjusting to the heat and mosquitoes. Dr. B's mom has decided to give up her restaurant business in order to take care of Peach back in NJ. Dr. B and I think this is the best solution on offer thus far and we are extremely grateful for her sacrificing her livelihood for her granddaughter. She and Peach will return to NJ at the end of January.


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