Having a baby during residency (guest post by Sarah)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sarah is a mom and pediatric neurologist who blogs over at disisd.com. She has been a great resource and example for me, and this post is fitting since this week I started orientation and left little Stephen Gabriel for the first time...

Thank you, Erika for inviting me to guest post on your blog. I hope you are enjoying your time with baby Stephen.


Erika asked me to write a post about my time coming back to work after having Daniel, my eldest. I was pregnantduring intern year and delivered Daniel my first month of second year of pediatric residency training.

Having children in residency was a choice that my husband and I made, though we knew that it is a tough road ahead with me being gone so much. To those not in the medical field or know of anybody who has gone through residency, let me paint you a scenario: imagine a person working 80 hour work weeks, at the hospital from 6:45a to 5:30p(sometimes 6:30p) everyday, with only 4 days off in a month, and also doing overnight call for 30 hours every fourth night…. Yes, that was me when I was an intern. And people thought we were crazy for deciding to have a baby when I was working A LOT.


 We were blessed to get pregnant right away… even during a month at Heme-onc wards (!) with nine overnight calls and only 4 days off that month. That’s proof that if you let the Holy Spirit open your heart and work within you, your hearts’ desire will be granted. 


I finished my last rotation as an intern at 36 weeks. We had a week off before starting 2nd year. While my co-interns were basking under the sun in the equator or southern hemisphere, I was left at home, gardening and nesting with nobody to take me places as they were afraid I would deliver outside of the country. 


I came back from maternity leave after 14 weeks of being home with Daniel. Nothing prepared me for the working mother’s guilt or the postpartum hormones. No mental preparation equipped me for what was ahead.


I knew that I would be coming back to an inpatient ward month. It was basically a repeat of above scenario. To make matters worse, I was scheduled to be on-call my first work day back. I should have listened to my chief resident’s advice to switch calls. But I was afraid to ask for a switch. I kept thinking “I am asking for special treatment just because I just had a baby. Plus, I told myself that it was a Friday and though I will be away from Daniel for 30 hours, at least I have Sunday to make up cuddling time.


Well…well…. Matters got even worse! It was the time of the H1N1 flu breakout. Visitor restrictions were implemented. That messed up my plan to see and nurse Daniel that evening.


I was a mess that first day back. I was miserable. I cried at the stairwell. I cried over the phone while talking to Derrick. I cried and cried. I tried to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We, residents (current and former) are good at that. I was glad I was the senior assist that night. It could have been worse if I was senior in house and in charge of the whole hospital. I was also thankful that I have a husband who helped me and dealt with postpartum hormones and stress of residency training with a smile on his face and a patient heart.


I apologize for making this such a downer post. But out of all those experiences, I learned a lot. I am a list-maker so let me give you bullet points. I understand that not all suggestions below work for all. These are just the things that helped me survive my months after coming back to work… and survive residency as a mom of three.


  Ask for a “lighter rotation” on your first month back.  Do not come back on a heavy ward month. Do not sign up for an ICU month, surgery block or busy hemeonc or liver transplant month.
  If you can plan it, ask to come back mid week. So that the weekend is near and cuddle time with baby is approaching!
  Ask if possible, not to be on call the first two weeks back.
  Use your vacation time and do not be afraid to extend residency training. What’s 1-2 months longer in the grand scheme of medical training?
  I scouted places for pumping. When I feel prepared, I am less anxious. I found call rooms to pump. I looked for lactation rooms. I checked with the clinic manager if I could use some rooms in clinic to pump at certain times.
  Do not be afraid to say: I will be gone for 15-20 minutes to pump. People will roll their eyes because why on earth are you leaving your post when there are 12 patients to be seen at the ER, right? Well, it was  mentally important for me and kept me sane that I was able to provide for my infant while I am at work. It was not enough just to bring a paycheck. The breastmilk liquid gold was a visual sign for me that I bring home for my baby.  So my mentality was: let me pump now = less anxious  and stressed = better doctor saving lives.
  Bring TONS of pictures. Save tons on your iphone. Record cooing noises and giggles and laughter.
  Take the stairs and listen to those recordings.
  During call nights, ask hubby to bring baby for a nursing session and maybe he will bring dinner too!

Pray, pray, pray.


Separation is tough… but it makes the reunion even much sweeter. I remember patient care changeover at 5p and I was already giddy….. I knew in half an hour or so, I will be cuddling with my little guy and kissing his beautiful face.

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