I was pregnant with my first during my 3rd year of pediatric residency. Was running to codes and such near term, did my last two weeks of Emergency medicine when 9 months pregnant (thought this would send me into premature labor, no luck, 12 hour shifts and went past my due date). I was off for 6 weeks (extended my residency 6 weeks), then went back to call every 4th night.
I was exhausted, I was pumping during the day when I could (and night when on call) then taking care of my daughter at night, cleaning bottles and pumping supplies, getting bottles ready for the next day.
Luckily my mother visited for 4 weeks, and we had a great neighbor who watched her when I was on call and my husband was out of town.
Difficult to do, definitely. It was easier after residency when I worked as an attending.
Thanks everyone for your replies! I really enjoy hearing about your experiences. I have two follow-up questions.
Which have you found or would you expect to be more manageable from the mother's perspective:
1. Having the 4th year baby, where pregnancy/nursing/adjustment is probably easier than during residency, or having a first child during residency, when at least the suffering of internship is over. Waiting until after residency just isn't an option for me - I'll be older than I would like to be with my first child and I'm ready NOW (except financially, of course).
2. Which senario would you expect to be easier on the child?
There is no one who can answer your question, and it is a very personal decision. I also didn't want to wait until after residency, and had my baby March of 4th year. I took a year off (am currently applying for residency) and I am LOVING being home with my son. I can't imagine having gone back after 6 weeks, or 12 weeks, or whatever. That being said, it is hard to imagine going back AT ALL now because I'm so into the routine of being home, and enjoying it so much, yet I don't want to forget about my career either, so I'm still going for it but with a bit of trepidation. I think for the child, he or she won't remember it anyway-- it will be much harder on you to leave them than it will be for them, I think-- but I must say I have an incredible bond with my son and wouldn't trade the time for anything. Being able to be around when they are so young is much easier in a practical sense too (breastfeeding without having to pump at work, getting them to sleep through the night before going back, etc), especially for a first-time mom. This is my humble opinion, but it's really a personal decision. I don't suggest putting off something you really want in life (having kids) for any career.
Beth, I agree with the previous poster(s) that this is a personal decision. Having done it both ways (had a baby in fourth year, and had twins in residency.) I have a few thoughts you might want to consider.
With my daughter I was pregnant during busy rotations in third year, and with my twins, I was pregnant during busy rotations as a resident. So, the pregnancy part is likely to be tough no matter when you do it. (Though you have less responsibilities as a med student.)
I (like several here, it seems) opted to take a fifth year in med school to spend more time with my family after my daughter was born. This worked out well, as she was born in the middle of fourth year. I was able to take the rest of my rotations very leisurely, and spend a lot of time at home.
Of course, then I had to start intern year when my daughter was 18 months old. I don't think my poor baby knew what happened. Suddenly there was just... no. Mom. Zero zip nada.. I was gone all the time, leaving before she woke up and getting home when she was asleep. It really sucked. Even now, she is more attached to Daddy than me. Sigh..
With my twins, I got pregnant in my third year of Family Medicine residency. My program was very supportive (you need to weigh your choice of specialty here--family med is generally easier to be pregnant in than, say.. surgery.) But I still ended up having to make up call and do extra clinics to fulfill my requirements for graduation. I had to go back to work full time when my twins were only 5 weeks old (and only 2 weeks out of the NICU!!) This was quite hard.
BUT--then residency ended. And I now have a great job that allows me to be home with my family. So, in the long run, I think this has been a bit easier on the twins than on my daughter. She had extra time with me at first, but then had to suffer through intern year.. My twins lost out on some quality time early on, but now have a pretty normal family life.
So there are good and bad things both ways, and many options to consider. Ultimately, though.. all my kids (I have four all together) have done fine through med school and residency. You can make it work either way. (Uhh.. or both!)
And when they carve my stone, all they need to write on it is, "Once lived a man who got all he ever wanted..." --Ty Herndon