Can I be a doctor and a mother? How motherhood has affected me as a physician
Updated: Dec 29, 2020
Motherhood has made me a better doctor.
Growing up, I was not one of those girls who always wanted to be a mother. I never thought about it. I could not relate to my friends who were married right out of college and had a baby by the time they were 23. I was laser-focused on the task at hand.
Doctors are smart. There is no question about it. But our many years of grueling education and training often leaves us emotionally stunted. I was an obstetrics and gynecology resident physician in a large and busy hospital. Residency was all-consuming. Those days were grueling. Consistently working 90-100 hour weeks for 4 years. My co-residents' standpoint on parenthood: Don’t ask, don’t tell. Those who had children, and very few did, did it quietly. At least, the “good” ones did it quietly. They took minimal time off, they did all their calls, they didn’t talk about their kids, and they didn’t complain. Your reputation will stick with your for 4 years, I was told. Keeping my co-residents focused was especially important to me as Chief Resident. Trying to keep a program of 40 different personalities afloat was no small feat.
After residency was over, I could breathe. So, I guess it was time to build our family.
I became pregnant. And I had a beautiful baby girl.
That was the moment that I became an exponentially better doctor and human. That’s when I started feeling the deepest forms of empathy for my patients and colleagues. When I started holding their hands and hugging them and crying with them. I had it in me. Tears of sadness and tears of joy. It was when I felt that I could completely put myself in my patient’s shoes when she tries to verbalize her thoughts, and I look her in the eyes and tell her that I see her and I hear her. I was there. I am there. Your pain is my pain. Your happiness is my happiness.
To be a good obstetrician and gynecologist, you don’t have to be a mother. You don’t even have to have ovaries. Pregnancy does not make you an expert in obstetrics, it is the years of training that does. But for me, motherhood was what transformed me from a good doctor to a great one.
There are no books that could have taught me what motherhood has taught me. Every day, motherhood teaches me empathy and love, and when it is not a positive experience, which is a lot, it teaches me patience and to handle my emotions.
We often speak to the miracle of birth. I have been a part of this miracle hundreds of times. But the true miracle is watching this little human change you from the inside out.
To all mothers, step-mothers, mothers who’s baby never took a breath, you are the true heroes. To my patients, past, present and future, I will continue to hold your hand through this. To my daughters, you are the light of my life and the apples of my eyes, thank you for making me want to be better.
To young aspiring doctors who always ask me, “can you be a mother and a doctor?”
My answer is yes, you absolutely can be an amazing mother and an amazing doctor at the same time. They are not only NOT mutually exclusive. In fact, they have a symbiotic relationship. They make each other better.
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