I’ve had quite a year. Near the start of my PGY2 year my husband woke up to me having a grand mal seizure. It would be the first of 5 coupled with at least 4 small subarachnoid hemorrhages. An MRI revealed a tumor in my parietal lobe, thankfully benign (a cavernoma). My first craniotomy was a success and I returned to work only 4 weeks postoperarively. Unfortunately I developed a brain abscess. I had a second craniotomy and again returned to work only 4 weeks postoperarively... this time with a PICC line in place, administering myself infusions of meropenem on my breaks. Six weeks postoperarively, the day after my PICC line came out, I got pregnant. You can’t make this stuff up.
Despite the absolute insanity (you should have seen my husband’s face when I told him) this is the best “accident” to ever happen to us. I’m overjoyed to become a mom. I learned the past year that life is short and this baby is a dream come true. I’m currently 20 weeks.
Residency complicates things. Frankly I’m burned out already. I haven’t taken a vacation in 15 months (used the time for brain surgery recovery). My mental facilities are sharp but my physical stamina feels non-existent. Even though my residency in Anesthesiology isn’t as intense as others (think 70 hours a week) I’m exhausted. I can’t imagine doing this with a newborn. I don’t want to. I want to be home nursing my baby and soaking up every precious moment rather than setting my alarm clock for 5am and attempting to pump on my breaks. Maybe I could handle it if we only worked 40 hours a week but that’s not the world we live in. Frankly the expectation that anyone would be able to reasonably manage residency hours and new motherhood with a semblance of sanity seems absurd.
So I want to quit. I’m not saying I will quit, just that I want to. My husband makes good money and we aren’t dependent on me at all. The love of medicine is what’s holding me back. I do love what I do in Anesthesia, I love my coworkers. I love the bustle of surgeries and managing patients through serious operations. It seems equally absurd that I would give up what I’ve worked so hard for. I just can’t picture being a resident and a new mom simultaneously. With medical leave and maternity leave factored in I’m not projected to graduate until October 2020. The baby will be 22 months old by then and I’ll have missed first steps, first words... heck I’ll already be thinking about how I want to give them a sibling at that point. I love what I do in medicine, but my heart is at home.
I guess it comes down to cost and benefit... any advice?
Wow! You have been through a lot! I think I would be completely overwhelmed after dealing with a very complicated medical problem during residency, but it sounds like you have come through that intact and with a good perspective on everything.
I have not been in your situation -- probably nobody has -- but if you really love medicine, then it is important to find a way to make it work. So many of the things you will be juggling are temporary: residency, pregnancy, and children's early years. If you do quit the profession you love, then there will come a point in a few years when you really miss medicine and want to go back...but you can't because of all the hurdles to re-entry. The hurdles are worse if you quit when you are still in training. But if you find a way to keep moving forward in your training, even if you have to slow it down a bit or make other sacrifices, then you do not face those hurdles at all.
So what can you do? I don't know how your residency program is, but maybe there is a way for you to do some of the less intense rotations during the time that you are least able to do 70-hour weeks. Or maybe your program director will have some other ideas about how to slow things down, stretching out your residency if need be. And try to minimize anything else you are expected to do during this time: housework, cooking, social obligations, etc. You have chosen the two things that are most important to you -- medicine and your baby -- and everything else is not a priority. Especially when those two things use up all your waking hours. Ideally your husband could do more, but I am guessing that if he makes good money, he is also not very available for domestic tasks. But the flip side of that is that you can afford to hire people to do the things that can be delegated, like housework and some of the childcare. And if there are grandparents or other family members who want to help, let them! And if you find that things are not sustainable, despite all your efforts, you can always reassess and go from there.
Lots of people do manage to give birth and raise children during anesthesia residency. It can be done. I am not one of those people, so I can't tell you how they did it (I think pumping on breaks was involved), but the ones I know still seem sane.