Pregnant on the wards – part 1: the practical.

I hadn’t thought about writing this so thankyou for the suggestion Shedidwhatnext.  First of all, and absolutely first of all, if you’re a pregnant medical registrar, or about-to-be medical registrar, congratulations!!  This is a good thing!  Babies are wonderful!

But that wasn’t your first thought, was it?  In spite of this happy news, your first thought was oh shit.  Oh shit, what have I done?   Now you’re wondering if you’ve thrown a nuclear weapon under your career, you’re wondering if your DPT is going to disown you, if you’re going to be that pregnant medical registrar who everyone whines about slacking off at work ‘just because they’re pregnant’ and mutter about ‘special treatment’.

I repeat, congratulations!  It’s still a good thing in spite of those scary thoughts.

Everything I am going to tell you is with the benefit of hindsight.  Take my advice or don’t take it (because advice is cheap), but know that I learned everything the hard way, and this is what I wish I had of done and known.  Here it is in list form because I struggle to think in any other way these days.

  1.  Being pregnant is a special state of existence.  I’m not being self-entitled, I’m not being earth-mothery, I am being practical.  Pregnancy is a unique, physiological condition that people cannot understand unless they have been there or unless they’ve had loved ones go through it.  The hormonal fluctuations, the fluid shifts are insane.  The fatigue is insane.  The sleep deprivation intense.  The mental fog from all those biochemical changes and the stress you’re under.  And then all sorts of other things can happen that we wont talk about because it may not.  The point is that you DESERVE special treatment because of it.  Those people who mutter words like ‘unfair’ and ‘special treatment’ are ignorant.  They might sound very certain, as ignorant people tend to do, but they’re not.  They’re not in your world so they don’t count.
  2. YOUR pregnancy is unique and there is no such thing as a perfect one.  It. does. not. exist.  So when you develop SPD, or the nausea doesn’t go away, or you get intercostal nerve pain and the muscles rip off your ribs because your kids head is off the chart thanks to Dad’s noggin (not bitter or anything;) ), don’t beat yourself up.  It’s okay, it will be over in a few months.
  3. Tell your DPT.  Especially if the exams are coming up.  Even if it’s before 12 weeks.  I made the mistake of not saying anything.  I was doing relief, I was on nights, I was sneaking Maxalon, I was finishing my round and going to my car and sleeping whenever I could.  I didn’t know you could write a letter to the college and they would give you special dispensation for a seat near the bathroom during the exam.  I wish I had of done this.  I will explain in my next post.  This is a personal decision and I understand if you don’t want to do it, because telling someone means untelling them so I leave it up to you, but I wish I had of.
  4. Join the AMA in your state.  Right now.  Especially if you’re at a hospital with a less-than-supportive medical workforce.  They are amazing.  Most doctors don’t know their rights.  Most are led to believe that speaking up about unfair working conditions will harm their career which is one of the last greatest myths in the job.  It wont hurt your career but it WILL hurt the career of the person trying to pull it off.  There are people in the AMA who have the power to make or break careers, and they’re there to protect your rights.  I have a few very good examples of the AMA stepping in with legal advice and representation and not only ridding the unfair request made on the pregnant/new parent, but actually improving the workplace for the better.  It’s expensive but it’s tax deductible.  I wish I had of.  I wish I hadn’t of worked those 7 nights in a row with 2 days off and then back to the day job at 32 weeks pregnant because the terrible SPD and migraines with vision loss wasn’t worth it.
  5. If you’re struggling, talk to your obstetrician about your work conditions.  They are very helpful and will write you a letter in support.  Mine offered to call my DPT and demand I not work in the conditions I was asked to.  Again, I wish I’d said yes.
  6. You need people on your team.  See points 4 and 5.  The AMA, your obstetrician, your family, and supportive colleagues.  The hospital is FULL of people who have kids who’ve been treated badly and will look out for you.
  7. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised.  Most people don’t think you’re lazy and getting special treatment.  Most people love a pregnant lady and want to help in any way they can.  Let them help.  Shoulders to cry on, cups of tea, interns who will go the extra mile for you, they’re all there.
  8. You don’t get to not drink water all day and not go to the bathroom all day anymore.  Yes we all do it when we’re not pregnant, but the placenta needs blood flow and so does your brain.  Please buy a giant water bottle and drink a lot of water.  Don’t faint at work.  Don’t deprive the placenta.  The placenta needs you.
  9. CALL IN SICK. CALL IN SICK.  CALL IN SICK.  CALL IN SICK.  Do I need to repeat myself?  You WILL thank me.  This job is not worth you or your babies health or life.  If you can’t do it you can’t do it so CALL IN SICK.  You have my permission.  Blame me.  This is what sick leave is FOR.
  10. There will come a point when you DO feel like that lazy registrar.  When you can hardly walk anymore, when you haven’t slept, when your back hurts.  If you need to go on maternity leave early, just go.  Better to leave a good impression than a bad one to people who just don’t bloody get it.  It’s not the end of the world if you don’t cover yourself in glory at work in the final trimester, most people are pretty understanding, and…
  11. When you come back to work for a visit while you’re on mat leave, with a tiny little baby (and make sure that you do), all of those people who made you cups of tea or let you cry on their shoulder, or who did a bit of extra work to give you a break and maybe even grumbled about it, will feel like they had a hand in that babies creation, and that will make them feel good, and suddenly all the mutterings about ‘special treatment’ will be replaced with a little bit of guilt.  The people who didn’t treat you right, who see the new mother with the little, entirely dependent on you human, will also treat the next new mother with a little more grace next time too.  Or a lot more grace if the hospital’s management has hauled them into a meeting after the AMA got involved and made them look like a despot 😉

So congratulations again!  And no, your career isn’t over – but don’t make any decisions until the baby is born.  Go on maternity leave, try to have a job to return to, but things may change for you.  I was always going to be that person who got a full time nanny and returned to work full time because career, but once she was born, it was like a new, incandescent universe opened up in my life and tossed out everything I’d ever thought about it.  Colleagues who’ve been super-maternal with plans of part time and/or staying at home, have found themselves putting the kidalid in full time daycare/nanny and returning to work full time, quite happily, for their own sanity.

There is no right answer, there is only the one that works for you and your family.  This is your new mantra, because everyone is going to have an opinion.  Take what works for you and unashamedly ditch the rest.  And congratulations again!

Advertisements

2 comments

  1. Thanks so much for this post. It has inexplicably made me cry. Today I was meant to do a double shift of ward-cover (in addition to my already very busy service), and at the last minute sent out an SOS to the registrar group and some kind soul agreed to split the shift with me. I have felt so guilty/weak about that. I’m only 22/40 and surely I should toughen up and get on with it? But my god, this morning was so, so, so busy. I was only there for 8 hours of the shift; I just don’t know how I could possibly have gone on.
    For better or worse, my obstetrician told my husband and I at our first scan about her own experience, where her first child had IUGR – which she attributes to her work schedule. At 27/40 her consultant told her she had to go one leave and she had a complete break down as a result. She told me she didn’t want me working more than 60 hours/night shifts past 20 weeks – and (annoyingly) my husband has taken her advice very seriously. I’m still working more hours, but he’s compelled me to be more upfront with work.
    I really love the department where I am currently working and hate to feel that I’m not putting in 110%. I really want to do a good job. And causes me so much angst that I’m not the doctor I want to be. At the same time, I know my husband cares for me and wants me to be looking after myself, but… but… Uh!
    Anyway, thanks again. I think I need the reminder that these are exceptional circumstances. I’m not hopeless or weak, just growing another human inside of me.

    1. Big, BIG hugs. I get it. You don’t NEED to put in 110%. No one does. It’s another of the last great myths. All you need to do is care about what happens to your patients, and you do this by thinking ahead on their behalf – the 110% just happens through caring about them. I also like to answer the bosses questions for them, when they randomly wonder how long NOFs are getting Clexane for these days, or how much bowel needs to remain to prevent short gut and all the other random things. I usually write one of those down, look it up, and tell them the next day and try to do it every day. They LOVE it and it’s easy to do. But remember, you can’t care for your patients if you’re not good. I’ll write part 2 soon, there’s more coming. Are you a member of the medical mums FB group?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s