I learned I was pregnant while I was working in the surgical intensive care unit (ICU). Obviously I was exhausted but figured it was from the demanding schedule. There was overnight call duty every 3rd-4th night. I was stressed, sick, and not eating much. Definitely not the most ideal conditions to gestate a little human.
The news was jolting-while something I wanted desperately, I couldn't imagine worse timing for starting a family.
What got me thinking about this was an article I found floating around Facebook recently, written a few years ago by an anesthesiologist, Dr Karen Sibert. It is titled, "Give yourself a break-Don't have a baby during residency."
The link is HERE
While Dr Sibert did not have a child during residency, she did have one before and after. She witnessed other residents go through this process and noted the difficulties as an onlooker. Her article has been controversial because of its judgmental tone towards women residents. It really hit a sensitive spot for me (and others) because we each have the right to decide when having babies is best for our own families. Having one in residency is extremely difficult as you will see in my personal experience. BUT it was my choice.
But Dr Siebert touches on some ways that having a baby during residency affects the mom's professional career. Having a new baby is tiring and distracting from your career. You are 'looked down on' by others and certainly by the others that have to cover you while you are gone. Your board scores are likely lower. Your chance of getting a top job is jeopardized because you have 'other priorities.'
There are more personal ways that the baby process affected me. I basically had to pretend I wasn't pregnant in order to get through those following 8 months. I got really good at pretending I was ok.
It was very hard to ignore a pregnancy. There was no time to be tired or rest. No time to eat or take a bathroom break. No time to take care of my worsening back pain. No time to sit down during a long procedure or while leading a code or caring for many sick patients. I had to pretend I was fine because if I didn't, it would make a lot more work for the others around me. And those others were not going to jump in and help easily. Admittedly, they had a lot on their plate too. There was always plenty of work to do in the ER.
Can you believe I only had ONE attending tell me, during the entire 8 months, to take a lunch break and rest? Once I even had a combative patient kick me in the abdomen when I was 6 months along, and no one took any notice. I felt invisible and just kept trucking along. I had to make it to Dec 1st, where I could shift gears and do an 'easy' elective rotation which involved a lot of sitting. No codes, no trauma, no night shifts. I was very worried that I wouldn't make it since shift workers are known to have higher rates of miscarriage and preterm delivery. (Nice summary of shift work effects: LINK)
Somehow I made it to Dec 1st. I cried a lot with relief (and hormones), put my stethoscope away, and started putting the nursery together. But in a BIG twist, I was forced into working an extra shift in the ER during the first week of my elective. Mentally, I was completely devastated even though it was just one more shift. So I pulled my stethoscope back out and worked an awful shift on Dec 3rd. I think I was visibly steaming the entire time.
Later that evening, during a classic midwestern snowstorm, I was in bed eating cookie dough ice cream. (Hey, I deserved it!!) And then they started.....those darn contractions. It was the real deal! I texted my husband to come home (because he was working overnight in the hospital) and we rushed to the hospital. I still remember the bumpy, slick, frigid ride in the snow like it was yesterday.
I am so thankful that my daughter was born healthy and happy. And technically, just made it past the premature period. She is an amazing kid and about to celebrate her 6th birthday. I think the timing of her arrival was extremely difficult but having her in my life was, and is, such a joy. Her presence in our family changed my job opportunities, like Dr Siebert gets at in her article.
More on that later! What was your pregnancy experience? Did you feel like you had to hide your 'disability' because of your job, professional or not?