Parenthood in medical school

MS4 Anna Jesus shares her experience becoming a mother during medical school. Also check out previous posts from this week written by MS4s, one on Penn Med’s student body, and one on exploring interests in primary care, both locally and globally.

The medical school registrar knew I was pregnant before we told family and friends. I was over-the-moon happy and hopeful…but I was also knee-deep in my internal medicine clerkship. I honestly didn’t know how my third-year clerkships would play out with a first-born wedged somewhere in the middle. Within ten minutes of nervously emailing the administration my news, I received a reply with the subject heading “Congratulations!!” The registrar then proceeded to amend my schedule so that I could tackle the most demanding rotations prior to having a dependent.

That summed up the attitude I experienced after disclosing my pregnancy. But my favorite reaction was from the head of my trauma surgery rotation, a heartfelt mixture of hardcore, goal-oriented wonder surgeon with a softer papabear-like figure who is always in your court:

Do not think for a second of keeping this secret. Make your pregnancy known to everyone in the Trauma Bay. Wear two layers of lead. There’s a blue line surrounding each bed that is 6 feet away. Double that distance when an x-ray is called. Don’t forget that we’re a team. We will protect you. I will protect you. Oh, and realize that your life is going to get SO much better. You thought you life was good now; well, it’s going to skyrocket come–when is your kid due? October?! That’s even better. Read Outliers. She’ll be top of her class. 

He was understating it. Our eldest is only two, so likely too soon to tell regarding her future academic performance. But I can honestly say that life is better than I could have envisioned. I’ve never smiled so much in my life.

Encouraged by our experience with number one, we elected to have a second child in med school. There are plenty of days when a shower doesn’t happen or when most of my calories are consumed off the floor, scraps discarded by a fickle toddler and uncoordinated infant. Unlike my personal hygiene, my medical school performance has not regressed. If anything, personal commitment and fulfillment have made my work and studies more efficient, in addition to more joyful.

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If there had to be a downside, what’s the worst part about parenthood in med school? It’s a tie.

1) Lactation rooms: Though every single person with whom I’ve worked has been supportive, a few affiliate hospitals have less than ideal pumping environments. The experience that takes the cake was having a psychiatric patient walk in on me half-dressed, hunched under rusted sink piping.

2) Med student-itis by proxy: Think med students are hypochondriacs? Mothers are over-protective? Imagine a med student mother who accidentally dropped her 10-month-old head first onto a cement floor, especially after having learned all about traumatic brain injuries… That’s a whole new kind of crazy.

But the best part? Loving both your personal and professional life, and believing that your kids will be better for having a mother who is happy and passionate with her career in medicine.

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Anna Jesus earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia in 2006, her M.A. in English in 2007, then completed her premedical coursework at Goucher College in 2008.  In medical school, Anna incorporated her writing background into the blog Anna In Med School.  With her husband, she enjoys CrossFit, play cafes, and the trial and (so many) error(s) of parenting.  She will be beginning a residency in pediatrics in Summer 2015.

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