I had to fill out an application recently for hospital privileges. It’s been a while since I had to apply for a job and though I revised my resume before I sent it into my current office, it’s quite another thing to actually fill out an application. Why? Because there’s an interesting section that asks you to explain any time gaps in education or career. All three of mine relate to motherhood.
My first gap was an unintentional gap. I had my first daughter (Mini Me) when I was still a resident. I was at the end of my residency and she was only three months old when I started a neonatology fellowship. I NEVER saw her. I worked 100 plus hours/week and slept 4 hours a night because I was either nursing or pumping or answering pages. I came to the conclusion that neonatology wasn’t working for my family, and because I loved general peds just as much (and was already done with residency), I decided to quit fellowship.
It was one of the best decisions I made, even though I felt like I was letting down my program and the NICU doctors who supported me. I became a stay-at-home mom and I would have stayed that way if it weren’t for two people. One is someone who I did fellowship with who encouraged me to go back to work. The other person is someone I consider my mentor through residency and beyond—she told me that I needed to go back to work or I would forget everything I worked so hard for. So I came back to work, part time, and I’ve been part time every since. And even though I worked part time for the last ten years or so, I considered myself a stay-at-home mom because I had so much time with my kids.
My second ‘gap’ in working came at the tail end of my pregnancy with Macy. I was determined to make it to full term, and I did. Though I had to take off work when I was around 32 weeks pregnant because I was enormous at that point. Due to Macy’s medical issues, I was carrying a LOT of extra amniotic fluid so I basically looked like I was carrying triplets and my body was feeling it. (In fact, they ended up measuring at least 7 1/2 LITERS of amniotic fluid when I finally gave birth to her five weeks later—that’s three and a half soda bottles around my belly if you need a visual. And I’m only 4’10”.) In all, I ended up taking 4-5 months off total because I didn’t realize how hard it would be to come back to work in the middle of all my profound grief. In fact, somehow I mistakenly thought that because I was grieving for her ahead of time, because I was ‘prepared’ for her to die, it would be okay. I was wrong. It was hard, and I needed to grieve our loss. And when I returned, it was also hard, but I had a lot of support.
My last ‘gap’ in working was my shortest gap—only two months off. I had Little Lion (my rainbow baby) and I bounced right back in health and work because I knew it was only part time. And Little Lion brought so much joy back into our hearts that it was easy to go back to work. Though I admit I still resent the people who thought I should be ‘okay’ after having LL because having a new baby meant that I should be ‘over’ losing my last one. Life doesn’t work that way. Love doesn’t work that way.
Long story short, all of my time gaps in my career have involved motherhood in one way or another. And the feminist in me somewhat resents the fact that I had to write about it in a work application. Why does it matter? It shouldn’t. Maybe it doesn’t. But I kind of feel like the forms should say to write about any time gaps that don’t involve parenthood. Because that’s life.
In some ways I feel like I’m just now finding my footing again as a pediatrician. I’m not full time because I work the equivalent of three full days, but it’s four days out of a week and it’s the most I’ve worked since I quit my NICU fellowship. It’s definitely another chapter in my life because now that I have a set schedule and I’m at one clinic, I have better continuity with my patients. I’m getting to know a community and I love it. Previously I have been working for the past ten years at a community clinic related to a children’s hospital. And I loved that community of patients as well—mostly either low-income and underserved families or patients with complicated medical histories. But it was so hard to find consistency when I didn’t have the most consistent schedule. So this fall has been a new adventure for me in my writing and in my doctoring.
Do I feel behind in my ‘career’? Yes and no. I’ve never considered being a doctor a ‘career’ even though I have had my ups and downs and, yes, I do get paid to be a doctor. However, I love being a doctor and I am grateful for that privilege. So, yes, this is a new adventure and I’m finding my footing, but I have no regrets that I was fortunate enough to have the extra time and flexibility to spend those younger years with my two girls.
Why do I have no regrets? Because if I have created this person (See pic of Mini Me below with rose), this little girl with so much heart and compassion, then I’ve done something right. What’s more: I’ve created three of them.