I am about to enter one of the most exciting times of my medical school training—my fourth year. This upcoming year is a time filled with Step 2 board studying, elective rotations and, of course, the application process for the 2014 Match. This time is both exciting and scary because I will be working in specialties that I may never do again while at the same time selecting and preparing for a specialty that I will hopefully do for the rest of my life. But as I enter this year, my excitement is aimed not only towards the new experiences I will have as a student, but also towards the new adventures I will encounter as a first-time mom.
When I was applying to medical school, I remember reading about a physician who became pregnant during her first year of residency training. I was horrified by her account of how difficult it was for her and how she even had to drink her own breast milk to sustain her energy through the long, grueling hours of an unrestricted work schedule. With that image burned into my brain, my husband and I agreed that medical school would probably be the best time to try and start expanding our family.
As a nontraditional student, I felt my biological clock ticking down, and I knew that I wanted to have my first child before I was 30—even before I learned all of risks related to advanced maternal age! I didn’t know what kind of experience I would have, but I set out with “my plan,” trying to keep an open mind. After starting school, I soon realized why very few women get pregnant during training: the hours are long, the course work is demanding, and the pressure to perform well on exams is high. We shifted our plan several times, but ultimately we decided to take our chances and hoped for the best.
It was late September and I was midway through my second rotation of the third year when I found out that I was pregnant. Ironically, I was on my OB/GYN rotation so I was keenly aware of all of the things that could go wrong. I was informed just enough to scare myself that something bad could happen and not confident enough in my knowledge base to know how unlikely all of that bad stuff was. Needless to say, it probably wasn’t the best way to start out.
An uneventful month later, without too much morning sickness or interruptions to my daily life, I was on pediatrics, evaluating a new admission for possible parvovirus. I started to don myself with gown and gloves as usual until the nurse said, “No pregnant health care workers.” I was so surprised that I failed to make some polite excuse before blurting out, “Well, I can’t go in then.” My team was shocked, and I was thoroughly embarrassed.
After a short Christmas break, I started my surgery rotation, which I had been dreading. Luckily for me, what I had expected was definitely worse than what I actually experienced. I completed the majority of my rotation at a children’s hospital where the surgeries on average were only a few hours. My ideas of having to stand on my feet all day were usually met with typical (scheduled) cases of appendicitis, cholangitis and hernia repairs. After a few more rotations, I finished my third year just as planned with a big belly and hardly any battle scars or scary stories of overbearing attendings or too many sleepless nights.
A New Perspective
Shortly after I finished my scheduled rotations, I gave birth to my daughter. The delivery was as good as I could have hoped, and most importantly, she was healthy and beautiful. I knew that my life would never be the same, but I knew it was going to be better than I could have ever imagined.
As I enter my fourth year of training and prepare for the next exciting part of my journey towards becoming a doctor, I can’t help but wonder what I will learn from the most. With all of the amazing stories I am about to be a part of and all of the wonderful miracles I will undoubtedly witness, nothing will compare to the adventures and moments I will get to come home to.