Dealing with the demands of medical school and parenthood simultaneously is by no means easy. But if you are considering going down this road, you can take comfort in the fact that many physician-parents have already been through this process of having a baby in medical school. Here is what one MomMD member has to say about her experience with raising four children during medical school. Names have been removed to protect identity.
Why did you decide to have children before and/or during medical school?
I have four children – three were born prior to medical school, and one was born during medical school. We always knew we wanted to have four children, and the biggest factor in deciding to have a child during medical school was spacing between children. There is truly no "good" time to have children in medical school/residency/practice, so we placed less emphasis on that piece in the decision-making process.
Would you consider your medical school program "family friendly"? What kind of support do you receive from your program, colleagues, etc?
My school is very family-friendly. We have several students with children in each class, and actually have consistently had a baby born every one-to-three months for the past two-to-three years. There is flexibility in our curriculum to extend our first two years into three or the clinical years into three total years in order to provide more balance in students' lives.
My youngest daughter has a rare genetic mutation that led to Pierre-Robin sequence, and at birth was unable to eat without an NG tube or breathe without lying on her belly. We were not aware there would be any issues, so this was a very difficult time for us. She had to have surgery to break her jaw and slowly extend it forward when she was 11 days old, she spent her first month of life in the hospital. She has had up to 15 doctors involved in her care and has ongoing needs. My school has been phenomenal; administration is supportive, classmates helped us move and brought us dinner several times, and people genuinely care about her progress.
On a school level, there is an organization specifically aimed at families and nontraditional students that sets up meals for families with newborns or who have challenges ahead of them (illness, death in family, etc). Additionally, our rotations generally include a certain number of hours outside of the city in which the university is located; parents are able to request to stay "home" for all rotations.
What are the greatest challenges you face as a mother in medicine?
Balance. On a recent sub-internship, I was gone 100+ hours per week. My current rotation allows for 50-60 hours/week, so I am thrilled to spend more time with my husband and children. We focus on quality versus quantity: dancing in the living room to music, weekly family movie night, walks through local parks while deciphering cloud shapes and listening to birds, and swimming at the local pool are favorites of ours. But it is also about the simple things: reading books, quizzing them on spelling lists, preparing for milestones such as First Communion.
Follow the link to read Part 2 of Having and Raising Children During Medical School.
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