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No perfect time for parenthood

I am a core trainee and I am 28 weeks pregnant. I am aware most people’s reaction to this is one of surprise that I would have a baby this early in my career, and I am sure many of you reading this are assuming that it must have been an accident.

However, I am 27 years old and financially stable, my parents aren’t getting any younger, my extended family is full of young children, I have my health, and my husband and I want to be parents. This was planned, and I believe the time is right.

I spent a lot of time thinking about when to have babies, and explored the route my career should or could take. I could wait until after the primary fellowship exam, or maybe the final one? I could wait until I had a registrar or consultant post, or perhaps it would be easier to wait until I retired. After hours of deliberation, I concluded that, career-wise, there was no perfect time.

After spending weeks making poor excuses to escape for secret retching sessions, I came clean and informed work of my pregnancy. The secretaries were delighted and regaled me with their pregnancy experiences, the operating department practitioners were keen to do my share of manual handling, and recovery staff couldn’t get me a chair quick enough.

Consultants’ reactions, however, surprised me. Most asked ‘was it planned?’, thus compelling me to explain awkwardly that this was not a result of ineffective contraception but an active choice to procreate.

I was told I had created ‘an almost impossible situation’, and that I would ‘never achieve consultancy’. On one occasion, I was informed that it was pointless teaching me as I would ‘forget it all on maternity leave’. Another simply said ‘oh dear’, and we continued the list in near silence.

Don’t get me wrong. I am obviously reporting the more extreme reactions. Some consultants have been great. About half have even congratulated me. They have shared advice about prams, nappy bins, nurseries and returning to work. I have seen numerous pictures of their children and heard more entertaining childbirth stories than I care to recall, and they were nothing but lovely when I fainted — assuring me it was a side-effect of my ‘sexually transmitted parasite’.

However, the supportive reactions are the minority. I am, therefore, left wondering how doctors communicate sensitively with patients, look at their medical issues in the context of their lives, respect their decisions, wouldn’t dream of telling them their opinions are wrong, but are unable to take the same holistic and non-judgemental approach with colleagues.

Despite everything, I still believe this is the right time for motherhood for me, and I plan to remain a committed doctor and to tackle this ‘almost impossible situation’ and one day become a consultant.

The author is a core trainee

Posted in:  Work and life Education and training

Tags:  junior doctors consultants careers maternity leave

Comments

  • GP trainee

    16 January 2013

    I had my first adorable daughter when i was doing my F2. I was 28yrs old then because i had trained abroad and had to complete housemanship before migrating to restart the whole wheel of PLAB exams, GMC registration then foundation years.

    My clinical supervisor during my GP rotation asked me whether the pregnancy was planned or not and why i had not waited till later. I felt that was insensitive on his part. Anyway, i responded it was definitely planned and was very welcome.
    Ironically, my previous supervisor who was a hardcore no-nonsense Cardiologist was the one who greeted the news with enthusiasm, gave me a warm hug to congratulate me and recounted his days of when his wife was pregnant.

    I agree, colleagues are not always as supportive as we would expect but i have told myself that in life you cannot have everyone celebrate with you even when you have good news.

    I have no regrets for my actions then and I am going strong. Just had my second baby three months ago and on mat leave. Will go and finish off my ST3 training when i resume.

  • Medical Women's Federation

    17 January 2013

    Congratulations!

    This is a debate we continue to discuss, as yet we have no clear answers!

    Get in touch if there is anything we can help you out with.

    MWF

    www.medicalwomensfederation.org.uk/

  • Core Trainee 2

    18 January 2013

    Weird reactions from consultants - just weird.

  • Also core trainee 2

    21 January 2013

    Thank you for sharing your story. I've always thought I would want to wait for senior Reg years but you have certainly opened my mind to the possibility of dirty nappies coming my was sooner than that!

  • Anaesthetic Trainee

    21 January 2013

    I found out I was pregnant three days into my Core Anaesthetic training programme. My pregnancy was planned but still came as somewhat of a surprise when physiology worked the way it is supposed to. I told my department almost straight away- hard to cover up when it is your local hospital and you end up admitted with hyperemesis. People do have mixed reactions, not just your medical colleagues and that is just part of life. Listen to their opinions then feel free to ignore them. Anaesthesia is a family friendly speciality and less than full time training is well established. I am about to finish my Core Training after 3.5 years. I will make consultant, just not for another 8 years or so. Keep your cool and just keep going- nearly time to put your feet up anyway.

  • Sara Hamilton, final year of reg training

    22 January 2013

    I cannot believe I am reading your story in the 21st century. For the record I embarked on IVF aged 27 and in my house officer year (I'd qualified late having undertaken an MBPhD)! I finally succeeded in getting pregnant aged 29 and now an SHO half way through membership. I have to say, perhaps training I paediatrics, I had nothing but support. However, I remember my own anxiety that I would 'never get membership, never get a training post, never become a consultant'. It was hard as all the role models were women who'd got pregnant after membership at the very least. I took a years maternity leave, did (and passed) my second membership exam on maternity leave. I did pay someone to look after my son for 2 hours and go revise in a cafe! I returned to work part time (60%) and started revising for my final membership exam- so I got membership when my son was one and took him to my graduation. 7 years later I'm 7 months away from CCT. It takes longer than working full time or without children, but I have enjoyed my career because I've balanced it with the total pleasure and delight of also being a mother. Don't get me wrong- its been hard, challenging, filled with moments of doubt. They key is not worrying about taking longer and ignoring the norm. Good luck and enjoy being pregnant! Congratulations- you won't regret it, your judgement was spot on- there is no perfect time!
    Sara

  • Saadia Shakil ST6 psychiatry

    22 January 2013

    I was heavily pregnant with SPD (on crutches ) after my second pregancy ,a tumultous one at that,and remember sitting at the edge of my seat and not managing to balance right,and filling the st1 psychiatry application form.
    I got a call for the interviews a few week later,I managed to walk with physiotherapy and God's Grace,and got a run through st position in Psyhciatry.
    With two young kids,and family responsibilities,I managed to pass the MrcPsych (4 parts- in exactly a total of 13months,studying up late every night for a few hrs after putting kids to bed.May sound like blowing my trumpet,but the idea is that if I could do it,so can you.The delight of having children,the miracle of watching them grow and having a job you love doing- what more can you ask for from Life?
    Through my career,I have had the privilege of meeting some wonderful people,like minded,with similar interests which I could not have if I had sat at home.
    I have no regrets now,a few months away from CCT ia,and having worked fulltime.If your mind's stimulated ,you'll be charged enough to be a 'good enough' mother.There will be some difficult days where you'll wonder if you did the right thing with the guilt infused by some apple pie mums around you ,but if you shake it off and just keep going,you WILL get there.
    Don't put your career or family ,either on hold,they will both make your life much more fulfilling.Do both ,as life is too short.
    The trick is to not stop living and learn the art of balancing both,you'll be one happy woman doing two rewarding jobs!

  • Saadia shakil St6 psychiatry

    22 January 2013

    I was heavily pregnant with SPD (on crutches ) after my second pregancy ,a tumultous one at that,and remember sitting at the edge of my seat and not managing to balance right,and filling the st1 psychiatry application form.
    I got a call for the interviews a few weeks later,I managed to walk with physiotherapy and God's Grace,and got a run through st position in Psyhciatry.
    With two young kids,and family responsibilities,I managed to pass the MrcPsych (4 parts- in exactly a total of 13months,studying up late every night for a few hrs after putting kids to bed.May sound like blowing my trumpet,but the idea is that if I could do it,so can you.The delight of having children,the miracle of watching them grow and having a job you love doing- what more can you ask for from Life?
    Through my career,I have had the privilege of meeting some wonderful people,like minded,with similar interests which I could not have if I had sat at home.
    I have no regrets now,a few months away from CCT ia,and having worked fulltime.If your mind's stimulated ,you'll be charged enough to be a 'good enough' mother.There will be some difficult days where you'll wonder if you did the right thing with the guilt infused by some apple pie mums around you ,but if you shake it off and just keep going,you WILL get there.
    Don't put your career or family ,either on hold,they will both make your life much more fulfilling.Do both ,as life is too short.
    The trick is to not stop living and learn the art of balancing both,you'll be one happy woman doing two rewarding jobs!

  • Obg- Trust Grade Doctor

    22 January 2013

    Phew, I feel so relieved after reading all the comments. I arrived in this country at the age of 29, after having completed my training in OBGyn abroad. It was a boring job, clearing PLAB and getting GMC registration and then landing up with a trust grade job as an SHO! Working here has been challenging and being a trust grade after having a post grad degree is just not easy. And then I had to decide on a perfect time to get pregnant. I faced a similiar situation of disapproving colleagues at work. I was almost ready to quit work and this country. However I trodded on...
    Today I am blessed with a beautiful daughter who is 4 months old. Now I have to get back to the same grind, and start working at some NHS Trust. Finding a Training number in OBGyn seems very difficult , and a trust grade post is not desirable.
    I just hope that some where down the lane I will get a direction in my career and will be able to enjoy my motherhood as well...

  • Obg- Trust Grade Doctor

    22 January 2013

    Phew, I feel so relieved after reading all the comments. I arrived in this country at the age of 29, after having completed my training in OBGyn abroad. It was a boring job, clearing PLAB and getting GMC registration and then landing up with a trust grade job as an SHO! Working here has been challenging and being a trust grade after having a post grad degree is just not easy. And then I had to decide on a perfect time to get pregnant. I faced a similiar situation of disapproving colleagues at work. I was almost ready to quit work and this country. However I trodded on...
    Today I am blessed with a beautiful daughter who is 4 months old. Now I have to get back to the same grind, and start working at some NHS Trust. Finding a Training number in OBGyn seems very difficult , and a trust grade post is not desirable.
    I just hope that some where down the lane I will get a direction in my career and will be able to enjoy my motherhood as well...

  • Gastro SpR

    22 January 2013

    I agree with you, colleagues (especially senior ones) aren't always supportive. They worry about the inconvenience you cause with your mat leave etc. not are they understanding of needs and adjustments needed for while you're pregnant. But at least employment law is on your side, and the bosses recognise that and exercise appropriate restraint.

    You stick to your decision girl, and prove them wrong! You are right not to put your life on hold.

    34wk pregnant mum of 3yr old with severe SPD signed off work since 3 months.

  • Medical Reg

    22 January 2013


    Very interesting!

    I admire your decision to go for it now. I also agree that here is no right time.

    Ibecame pregnant halfway through my ST1 post. By the time I started mat leave I still had the final part of the MRCP outstanding. I returned to work as a flexible trainee in my ST2 post and completed my exams. I then applied for Registrar training and was successful. I'm now on mat leave again having had my second (my first is now 4 yrs old).

    Without a doubt, becoming a mother has been the most worthwhile thing I've ever done and I don't regret it in the slightest. It hasn't been easy trying to balance things and I find I really do need to be flexible! There is also the psychological hurdle of accepting just how long it will take to complete training, but I'm coming to terms with that.

    Overall I must say that I have mostly had positive reactions to my pregnancies and, I've had hyperemesis both times requiring months off work and my consultants have always been supportive. I really believe attitudes need to change, what with over half our medical graduates being women now!

    Any way, congratulations and enjoy all of it! They really do grow up so fast and before you know it you're back at work again.

  • Trying to be Working Mum

    23 January 2013

    I cannot tell how assuring it is to read all these comments.
    I am a mother of twin girls and gave up work during pregnancy. As now I try to go back even after having a job confirmation, I was discouraged by saying that they cannot carry the burden of my problems. This was so if I had any issues with childcare, days off sick from nursery etc.

    I find its harder if its a surgical job as hours can be very long. Any ways I am trying to give it my best shot and try to work out. Just wished they were a bit more supportive. They are the ones who need our help aswell.

  • Dr Sabtu

    26 January 2013

    congratulations on being pregnant.

    Do not worry about the negative comments. Obviously juggling work and motherhood is difficult but as you see from the responses, it can be done.

    All the best.



  • Gastro SpR

    28 January 2013

    Congratulations.

    There is no right time; I had my first child as an SHO 2 (equivakant to CT1), having completed the PACES examination. You can work and have children being organised is the key. I was fortunate to have supportive colleagues and peers.

    Best wishes,

  • Anaesthetic Core Trainee

    3 February 2013

    I was truly dismayed at the attitudes of some of your consultants. I'm currently on maternity leave. I was only 4 months into my core training when I discovered I was pregnant. I'm also a mature trainee where training time may be an issue in reaching consultant level. However, time was also of the essence to be a mother, so you would think that I would attract negative comments on all grounds. However, I have had nothing but supportive consultants, possibly with the exception of one female obstetric consultant with no children and that could be put down to m over-sensitivity. Now that the reality of motherhood has hit hard with little respite or childcare, finding time to study and sleep as well as going back to work will be an enormous challenge but one that I will have to approach with complete determination. I think at your age and time of training, you have chosen the best time to have a family and I wish you all the very best.

  • Anon

    3 February 2013

    I had my first child as an ST6 in General Surgery, I have to say the support during my pregnancy was much better form the consultants than from Medical Staffing. Returning to work wasn't too bad until my first on call - I felt it appropriate to inform the consultant that is was my first on call in a year and the response I got was "Great, that's all I bloody need"
    My son is 20 months and I am pregnant with my 2nd (yet to tell work) so will be interesting to see their response.

    In my mind is always the advice of a female general surgery consultant (with 3 children) - "have children when it's right for you and your husband, not when it fits in with your career - that will have to fit in with you"

    Good luck to all, do what you want to do and woe betide anyone upsetting a pregnant (/psychotic) lady!!

  • nicky brown

    20 March 2013

    As a consultant in psychiatry with 3 children I am I feel very lucky- I would always say having children is lovely and really far more important than career in the long run

  • Diana Rae

    24 March 2013

    Loved reading everyone's comments.
    I have 2 children who are now both at University having had them during my GP training.
    I did put my career on hold then and did locum GP work for years. Not the most exciting work but I remained in medicine and didn't have to retrain.
    Now I am a Specialty Doctor in Palliative medicine and feel all the work I did before has helped me be a more effective Dr as I can see medicine from both a GP and Hospital Dr perspective.I am loving my work and proud that you can have kids and end up with a fabulous job- you just have to flexible and willing to follow a "portfolio" style career rather than the "classical pathway" for Drs!!

  • Gp trainee on mat leave

    4 September 2013

    How interesting everyone's comments are. I think there is never a 'right time' to have a child in medicine, but there is always a 'right time' to have one in your life. When I told everyone at work I was pregnant I was in A+E and everyone was really supportive. Then I moved onto medicine and again everyone was great... the only trouble was that even though people seemed considerate you still had to do the same job, however challenging that could be when full of hormones and enormous!
    Some of my favourite reactions to pregnancy was from patients who always felt the urge to tell stories about their children or offer advice. I am on leave now and have a wonderful baby who takes up every second of my day and night... but is amazing! I have a different perspective on motherhood and children and I feel this will affect me when I restart work, but hopefully in a good way. The only thing is that I do feel a pressure to return to work early- to get into a good spot on the trainee rota... but my baby hormones are telling me no! Give it up and take as much time as possible!
    If people are negative towards pregnancy please ignore it- they are hopefully the minority. And congratulations to the mums above! Hope it is all going well.

  • qajmgopg

    3 February 2014

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  • qajmgopg

    3 February 2014

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