I bet the title of this post gotcha. No baby yet. Still gestating… Just reflecting on babies, Match Day, and why my husband and I don’t mind being in the minority in the medical community for starting a family while he was still in medical school and continuing to grow our family while his never-ending residency training continues.
Way back in 2005, I had a fussy 4-month-old in my arms as we awaited to hear my husband’s name called out on the infamous Match Day all medical students endure to find out where they “matched” for their intern year and residency. (Match Day fell on March 19th for all U.S. medical students this year.)
After months of interviewing, we’d finally know where we’d be spending the next few years of our lives. As new parents, we were praying we’d be closer to grandparents.
Our prayers were answered.
Dave sealed both of his first choices. We’d soon be facing a transitional year with a lighter workload about 2 1/2 hours from my parents. After that we’d be moving to a big city just an hour from my parents and about 45 minutes from my husband’s family. We were ecstatic.
Herein lies the irony. Just months before when I was a walking whale swollen with our first child, we’d been thinking about going to some place “cool and exotic.” Maybe Boston. Or Denver. Or even somewhere lush and beautiful out in California.
Ah, but you’ve heard the adage before: Having a baby changes everything and boy, does it ever.
Dave interviewed at his current place of residency just five days after the birth of our first child. When he returned home, he said he liked the program a lot and then he asked, “Why are we ranking [so-and-so-place-that-was-super-far-from-our-families] first?”
“I have no idea,” I admitted.
Suddenly, the slopes of Colorado, the perfect weather of California, and the history of Massachusetts didn’t seem nearly as important as having family nearby to share in our baby’s life.
Dave is almost finished with his third year of radiology residency now (woo-hoo! Only one more year plus a fellowship to go!). I’m almost finished with my third pregnancy. There are some people who think we’re crazy to keep popping out these babies during residency when the hours are long and the money is short. I’ve also had more than a handful of other medical wife friends (as well as other friends who are in the thick of their careers and/or are supporting a husband in his own professional endeavors) ask me when the right time to have a baby is.
My answer? Whether you’re married to a resident or not, there is no right (or perfect) time. To me, the only right time is when you find yourself blessed with the gift of a child – whether a baby was a part of your “plan” or not.
Our first wasn’t planned or unplanned. We were ready for a baby, but we decided to not try too hard since we were somewhat dependent on my salary. I kept on with my natural family planning charting, but I tried to not get too obsessed with conceiving. At one point, I remember worrying that something was wrong since I was young and not pregnant. Shortly after I began to worry about my fertility, I discovered I was pregnant and would give birth at the start of my husband’s final year of medical school.
Even though we faced our share of challenges having a baby while Dave was still in school and having to travel a lot for residency interviews, the timing could not have worked out better.
In fact, my husband and I don’t regret for one moment having our first child during medical school and our subsequent kiddos during residency. Sure, money’s tight, but babies don’t need Pottery Barn nurseries, and toddlers don’t require pricey Gymboree Play & Music memberships to bond with their parents. What kids need, above all, is love, and you can dole that out at any time if you’re ready and willing to open your heart to new life.
Honestly, I get a little sad when I hear so many residents and/or their spouses talk about how they’re going to wait until their husband is finally finished with residency to start a family. I can’t judge them or blame them for wanting more financial security or more stability (i.e., less erratic hours, etc.) in their lives before bringing kids into the equation, but they don’t even know what they’re postponing – the sweet smell of a new baby, the giggles of a toddler, the regular wrestling matches in the living room between Daddy and the preschooler…
We may not get to go to as many movies as we once did (there’s always Netflix). We may not have a lot of disposable income (who does these days?). Our kids don’t have fancy nurseries (who am I kidding? Our first either slept in our bed or in a crib wedged in a tiny room that was also home to bookshelves and our computer). We may be living in a city that has a lower “coolness” factor than, let’s say, Denver, but we have a family. We have kids who think Daddy rules, not because he’s a budding doctor, but because he generously distributes hug and tickles.
Having a baby does change everything: Your residency plans, your need for grandparents to have on deck when you need a date night or are facing another bout of bed rest during pregnancy, your sleep patterns, your budget. Some of the changes require more than an ounce of sacrifice, but what your kids take (like sleep) they give back tenfold. They’re a constant reminder of why my husband and doctors work to defend life. They’re our future here now. We didn’t want to wait for them until the time was right according to society. We didn’t want to put our life on hold just because it might be a little tougher to start a family during Dave’s medical training. We recognized that kids don’t make you poorer – they make your life far richer than you could ever imagine.
Every single day of my husband’s long road to becoming a doctor our kids are living proof that life is good, and it’s only going to get better.