By Becky Abbey
I am now three weeks into what is likely the most difficult rotation of residency thus far. The rotation is called “newborn baby care 24/7”, also know as the “being a brand new mom rotation.” So far, this rotation has had the cutest patients, OK actually just one patient, of any rotation. It is true that I might be a little biased, as the patient is my own little baby boy. This rotation requires my utmost concentration and has left me more sleep deprived than any overnight shift on OB. However, the late night smiles and baby snuggles make up for that.
My husband and I decided that we wanted to go ahead and have a baby while I was still in residency, despite the obvious challenges of this venture. Our decision was based largely on timing, as I am hoping to have one (or maybe even two?) babies before reaching advanced maternal age (AMA!), which occurs at the ripe ol’ age of 35. I am also lucky to have a residency and a program director that are very family-friendly, and they worked hard to create a second year schedule for me that would allow for a generous maternity leave while still fitting in all of my required rotations. I also have a very supportive family, with parents who are willing and excited to help provide a few months of childcare after I go back to work.
Taking maternity leave has been wonderful, but also challenging in many ways. For one, this is the longest stretch of time I have been at home without school or work since I was a teenager. At first I was nervous that I would not be able to fill my time or would get bored. That is definitely not the case! Newborn babies provide an endless source of work…and fun. Between numerous diaper changes, nursing, soothing the baby, and trying to take care of my own personal needs and errands, the day always passes quickly. Moreover, I frequently take the opportunity to nap whenever my little one is asleep. However, I do miss the camaraderie and mental stimulation of my day-to-day work as a resident physician.
I recently read an article online listing all of the reasons not to have a baby in residency. While the article may have had some merit, I think there are just as many reasons to go ahead and HAVE a baby during residency! Here are some of those reasons:
- Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not getting any younger and medical training is a long process! There is also no one “ideal time” to have a baby during your training.
- During residency you have significant back-up coverage from other residents for your maternity leave, which many attending physicians may not have access to.
- You are already accustomed to sleepless nights and hard work.
- It helps you to gain maturity and perspective, which many of us need during residency.
- Gives you a good reason to leave work on time every day, and motivation to be more efficient with your notes and studying.
- In some fields, being an attending is harder than being a resident and taking time off from your career, especially for a new young attending, could be very challenging
- Most importantly, having a baby is a very personal decision that should be determined by each couple based on their individual situation and needs, and sometimes the timing just makes better sense during residency.
So this is how the adventure begins of being a resident and a mom. As I write this post I am already amazed at how much my little one has grown and changed during these few short weeks, and I am incredibly thankful that he is in my life, whether or not the timing is ideal! It will be interesting to see how my life and priorities change over the next year. But overall, I think that being a mom will make me a better, more well-rounded resident.
Becky Abbey, MD is a second year Family Medicine Resident in the Department of Family & Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine.