That is the question.
This is an ever present concern with women; especially women going into medicine. We want to “have it all” but wonder if it’s even truly possible. We are provided this strict timeline and get upset when we cannot adhere to it.
When is the right time? Am I getting too old? Will I have to quit my job? How will I be able to take time off? Will it take me longer to finish? What will my co-workers think of me?
Most important to realize is that it is YOUR choice. What is right for someone may not be right for someone else. If someone wants 5 kids great. If someone wants no kids great.
For us, we tried conceiving initially while in medical school and never got pregnant. I suffered from very big fibroids and had one that was as big as 15 cm! I literally had to buy bigger clothes because I looked 6 months pregnant. I talked to my doctor about my chances of getting pregnant and was informed it would basically be impossible because the largest fibroid was taking up my entire endometrial cavity. I was devastated and didn’t know what to do because the fibroids kept growing.
I talked with my dean and family and ultimately decided to have surgery during a lighter rotation so I wouldn’t get too far behind. In late 2013 during my third year in medical school I had a robotic myomectomy. My surgery took a long time and my recovery was awful. But for the first time in a long time I was fibroid free except for tiny ones that were left. My physician instructed us to wait 6 months to a year and then to try to conceive and this time we should be successful.
Well guess what? He was right and I will forever be thankful.
I started residency July of 2015 and found out we were pregnant in August of 2015. We were shocked. More than shocked. I regretted all the wine I had the night before. I had not been on contraception our entire marriage and thought I would truly need reproductive assistance of some sort to get pregnant.
I remember crying and thanking God that He had finally heard me. I was VERY scared and VERY nervous. I still remember how scared I was to tell my program director. Here I am a brand new baby intern and I’m pregnant. Like what? I was 11 weeks when I finally told him. His response: Congratulations and we will get through this. And get through it we did.
The pregnancy itself was fine other than some preterm labor scares but it was ROUGH balancing 80-90 hour work weeks and 24 hour shifts with the pregnancy. I still remember having to get IV fluids on night shift because I was always running around and always contracting. I was scared about preeclampsia, preterm labor and all the other high risk conditions I manage every day as an OB GYN.
I ultimately got delivered a few weeks early because I had very low fluid and worked up until and including my delivery day at 36 weeks. Secondary to the myomectomy and breech presentation I required a C section.
Seeing my baby boy was amazing and I remember how happy I was when they placed him on my chest. He was 17.5 inches long and 5lbs even of baby goodness.
I took 7 weeks off with him and it did not feel like enough. I also had some postpartum depression after I got home that was pretty apparent when I went back to work.
I got better and things started to improve after a few personal life changes. I told my husband we were done with kids and I could never do this again. Then, during third year like crazy people we threw around the idea of another baby. I kissed my Mirena goodbye and we tried again. Luckily, this time didn’t take nearly as long and here we are 29 weeks pregnant with baby number 2!
I will admit this pregnancy has been rough. Like really rough with multiple hospitalizations. Balancing the hours, the standing during surgery or extended patient encounters, the nausea, back pain, pelvic pain and extreme exhaustion has proven to be tiresome.
I worry about anything and everything happening because I need to graduate on time. I have a job lined up. We are building a house. There is so much at stake. I worry about delivering early. I worry about preeclampsia. I worry about breaking my water early. I just… worry.
People always ask me would I recommend having babies in residency. I don’t think I would recommend having TWO babies during training to anyone because it’s nuts. Like truly nuts. We, however decided to do it and I am so happy we did. This wasn’t anyone’s decision to make but ours.
I knew that my director and co residents may not be thrilled because when a resident is out the work does not decrease. The workload stays the same and people have to cover for you. People have to take call while you’re gone. For me, we tried to mitigate this by stacking my call before and after my leave so no one got an unfair workload.
I plan on taking 4-5 weeks this time. According to ACGME I cannot technically take more than 6 weeks my fourth year and you are not allowed more than 20 weeks off (including vacation) for the entire four years. I wish my leave could be longer but I knew having another baby in residency meant that my maternity leave would be shorter this time.
I’m turning 33 next month. I did not want to wait too long to have a family knowing the sometimes more difficult path that entails. I also did not want to have a child my first year out as a brand new attending out in the real world. I wanted to focus on putting my all into getting acclimated into the new role of physician practicing on my own. This path is not for everyone. I have great support. My husband has a flexible job and my mother plans on coming to help out for a year like she did with our son. Making the decision on when to have kids is hard. Balancing being a mother and a physician is hard (and a whole different blog post lol).
What you do is right for YOU. This was right for us. I don’t regret any decision made during residency as it pertains to having children. My son is my headache but also the absolute love of my life. I am grateful for him. I am grateful for our baby girl on the way.
I can’t wait to meet her in just a few short months.
Do what works for YOU and don’t allow anyone to speed up or slow down your timeline.
Remember, it’s YOUR choice.