I’ve heard that the rigors of medicine prepare women for the arrival of a newborn, and to a certain extent that is true, but there is definitely more to it than that. Our great work ethic, patience, and calmness in the midst of a storm do give us a great base. Also, we tend to “freak out” less over any minor baby medical issues. Despite those similarities, taking care of an infant is quite an unique experience.
It’s been four months since the birth of my adorable baby girl (in my completely unbiased opinion), and I’ve stumbled upon some of my own truths that I felt like sharing.
# First few months are all consuming…kind of like Intern Year
Preparing for childbirth and care takes you only so far, just like prepping for intern year cannot get you ready for the real time situations of the wards.
I was exhausted both mentally and physically in ways I didn’t know I could be. I learned the hard way that keeping my goals simple was key. Feeding, consoling, bathing and carrying an infant is enough for the day. Squeeze in some personal hygiene and eating time and feel good about yourself.
# Infant care is the ultimate roller coaster ride
I recall at the end of my 12 hour day or night of work, my husband would ask how the it went, and in my head multiple thoughts would race, but it was too mentally taxing to convey everything to him, so I’d end up saying “ it was good…” This type of response is quite similar to my days during maternity leave.
There was a mixture of highs and lows and in between. Capturing the entire experience in one sentence seemed unnatural.
# Self-sufficiency is overrated
Though in our profession we are encouraged to ask for help every step of the way, what I’ve found more true with my few years post training, is that most of us strive to work out issues on our own. Asking for a consult every time a question pops up is not an enticing option unless absolutely necessary.
Well when it comes to infant care, support and help are key. The truth is you need your “own time” off from your infant to maintain a healthy relationship. Sure there is satisfaction in bathing, feeding, and nurturing your child all by yourself at times, but not all the time!
Take up your family and friends’ offers to help out. Learn to separate your attending/resident hat from your mother hat! Oh and single mothers, you completely deserve a lifelong standing ovation.
# Don’t feel guilty about not doctoring
As my baby has grown up over past month or so, I have found more free time during the day. At first I immediately thought (after catching up on sleep), that I should do some medicine related things, so my brain doesn’t decrepitate with time. So I filled the hours with intermittent medical reading and reviewing some stuff here and there. I even created my own blog regarding hospital medicine, but as time wore on during my maternity leave, I still found it hard to keep up with everything, and then the guilt trip started. So what I have concluded is to give up pseudo doctoring unless it truly invigorates me, like writing this article. Don’t worry, the skills will not disappear. I realized that after doing a few shifts here and there. You have the rest of your life to doctor away, no need to do fret over it now.
# Embrace your free time, it’s okay to be domestic!
If you’re blessed with more just six weeks off, you will find that your free time will actually increase (not dramatically but noticeably so). I found myself cleaning up the clutter in our apartment and going on an organizational binge. There were moments when I’d stop in the midst of my activities, and think “ oh god, what am I doing?? Did I study, train, work all those hours, and accrue all that debt to only be doing this right now…? “ And then, after bouncing these thoughts off my husband, I slowly snapped back to reality. And reality was pretty great if you are willing to accept it within the context.
For once in my life, I was not working or studying. My hours were completely dedicated to my child and to myself/family. I’d never had this type of time before, except maybe the two months between medical school and residency, except now I was more settled in my life, and that was comforting.
What did I use this time for? Well, to be honest, at first, I binged on TV. Then I started getting into social media especially all the medical related stuff. I’ve also been exploring my creative side again – doing DIY projects for décor, learning lullabies on my acoustic guitar to sing to my little girl, and learning to cook different dishes. It’s been quite refreshing.
Overall, it really has been an internship of sorts, and this “learning how to be a parent” is going to continue for the rest of my life just like perfecting the art of medicine never stops. I do hope that my experience will make me a more caring physician when I jump back into the field. I have much to learn, and I’m looking forward to it. To all the other mothers in medicine, I applaud you. I’d love your advice and comments!
@psanyaldey is a 34 year old internal medicine trained hospitalist. She is married and has a mini siberian husky along with her newborn girl.