I'm evaluating having my third child at the end of 4th year. Originally, I thought this might be a good time, because there is some built in time after my last rotation where I could potentially be able to fit maternity leave (probably about 2 months). That being said, I really don't like to put my kids in daycare before 3 or 4 months, so my question is whether it might be possible to start intern year late. That is, I would essentially be asking if I could take a few weeks of maternity leave up front before launching into intern year. I know there have been multiple entries on this subject, and I'm not trying to beat a dead horse, but I was hoping someone might have some insight specifically on this distinct situation of taking maternity leave before you really even start residency. I'm sure some of you are wondering why I'm trying to push this agenda, but I'm a non-traditional student and will be 35 when I start my residency. I prefer not to wait until after I complete my residency to have my third baby and doing it during residency (i.e. year 2 or 3) seems even less ideal as I will likely have even less time for maternity leave (I'm assuming I probably wouldn't get more than 6 weeks). So far, I've had both my other two children during my med school journey and have not had to put either in daycare until 4 months, and I would like to be able to do the same for my third (and probably last) child. Thoughts?
If you have read other posts on the topic, then you probably know that internship is not a good time to take maternity leave (because of people's resentment about having to cover your shifts when they are already working very hard and are very stressed), and that it is also hard to start internship with a young baby (because both demand huge amounts of time and energy and cause sleep deprivation). It seems to me that taking time off right at the beginning of internship will cause additional problems because your absence is people's first impression of you, and when you return their second impression will be that you are not as competent as those who started on time (because you missed out on those weeks/months of experience plus you missed the intense didactic teaching at the beginning of internship). I think you can eventually catch up with your learning and experience, and you can eventually form a new reputation with your colleagues, but it might be uncomfortable until that happens. I have seen two women take time off right at the beginning of something major -- residency (not internship) for one and an attending job for the other -- and both were not treated well and ended up quitting. (I don't know anyone who took time off right at the beginning of internship.) Both happened many years ago, so maybe attitudes have changed, at least at some places.
Maybe there are alternatives. Could you have a nanny or au pair or family member (husband? grandparent?) provide care at home until you feel that the baby is old enough for daycare? Could you arrange to attend all lectures while on maternity leave? If you are worried about fertility if you wait (I assume that is why you brought up your age), could IVF be an option? It is very expensive, but freezing embryos would make it more feasible to have a baby after residency is finished. Surrogacy is even more expensive but gives you even more flexibility. Or you could just bite the bullet and put the new baby in daycare sooner than his/her siblings.
There are no easy answers, but hopefully you will find a solution that is right for your family and that will also set you up for success in your career. Good luck!