While on a walk around a lake on a beautiful day with my newborn baby in the stroller, my dog, my husband, and my parents, we ran into one of my parents’ acquaintances. She congratulated me on my recent residency match, asked me where I matched to, and took a look at my baby in the stroller and congratulated me on that too. She then proceeded to tell me that through my dad, she had been hearing about my journey to and through medical school and that she too has a daughter who is in her first year of medical school at the same school I was about to graduate from. I quickly thought back to how grueling and demoralizing, at times, my first year of medical school was and I hinted at that to this woman and wished her daughter luck. She then looked at me and said something like “well it looks like it can all be done---you look great and not at all stressed!” I could feel a lump form in my throat, but of course that did not show to her. I’m not portraying my life accurately I thought.
Many people look at all of these doctor moms and think: wow they can do it all. Even as a medical student, I am frequently told by people how impressed they are with me-- that I was able to go to medical school as a “non-traditional, older, career-changer” student and have a baby during my fourth year (“perfectly timed” such that I had my baby two weeks after ending my last fourth year rotation giving me four months to stay at home before starting residency). And I suppose it is a lot to be proud of. I wish I, too, looked at it that way more often. But there is a struggle beneath the surface. To get to this point in my life, I have become a detailed oriented perfectionist and I am often driven by fear and anxiety that things won’t work out exactly how I have planned them.
The skills and traits that got me to my “perfectly planned situation” of having a baby fourth year after my Step 2s were taken and months before residency began were not helping me in motherhood. In fact, these skills and traits seem to harmful in motherhood. Crafting detailed daily schedules of when to study, what to study, what assignments to complete on rotations, and research deadlines to meet have felt necessary to me. Life schedules, when to get married (a few months before Step 1), when to conceive a baby (a couple of months before Step 2 so I was past first trimester on test day), and have the baby (a couple weeks after end of rotations) seemed to be the only way I could work things out.
As a new mother, I so badly want to make stringent schedules, check things off, and see that my hard work each day pays off. But it just doesn’t work that way here. My 10 week old baby is a wonderful baby but schedules, yeah right. Some things just don’t get done some days. And hardest of all for me, even on a day where he takes well-timed and restful naps, and I am so proud of that, he still has trouble falling asleep at night-- and that is so hard for me--seeing that all the hard work I put into the day trying to get him to do all the “things he should be doing” didn’t even pay off in terms of a timely and successful bedtime.
I am trying to teach myself how to be more flexible and go with the flow, how to not be so hard on myself, how to realize that everything really truly will be okay and that everything need not be perfect. And I luckily have so much support to achieve those things. For one, my husband is incredibly helpful, encourages me, and is much calmer and relaxed than I. And even more importantly, my child gives me the greatest smile in the morning when I first see him and sing his favorite song, regardless of how many times he awoke during the night. That is so rewarding and reinforcing that everything will be okay. However on a daily basis, I must remind myself that everything need not go as planned, I am doing an incredible job being a mom to my baby boy, I am trying my best and that is all I can do. I still have a lot of growing to do, in fact I am still meticulously keeping track of all his feeds and naps today. But I will be a physician mom. I am scared but I can do it if I let go of total control, adapt and show gratitude for all that I have.
Future PM&R Resident
Mother of 1 baby boy