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Loving your student through all of life’s transitions: Having a Baby

By: Jenn McBride

Medical school is hard as it is, so is having a baby. Put them together you get what can be the hardest and most rewarding adventure of your life. As you started this journey with your medical student, you have watched them learn to balance studying, research, watching lectures and any semblance of a social life. Introducing a baby into your life (or a second or third) into that mixture can seem daunting, but as Charles Morse says in The Edge; “what one man can do, another man can do too.” Many women and families introduce little ones during their years in medical school.

In no way am I an expert in relationships. I promise I’m not perfect, but hopefully some of these resonate with you, and help you out. Being married to a med student is HARD, I know it is. If you are wondering what that would be like, here are some of my favorite pieces of advice I received when I had a baby during my husband's first year, and how to stay in love during this rough transition.

Surviving the parenthood transition:

  1. Accept all the help. Like all of it. If someone offers help, meals, grocery runs or even to listen to the sleeping baby so you can sleep, be open (while you are comfortable). When they say it takes a village to raise a child, I believe it also takes a village to raise a mother, and that transition can be easier by leaning on those around you. Don't feel bad about asking for help or feel like you are an inconvenience to them, a mini-human just exited your body, you have done amazing things! Dinner or groceries is something you can definitely delegate.

  2. Your medical student's brain is taken up pretty much entirely of lectures and labs and board prep, vocalizing everything is 100% necessary. Becoming parents is a huge and beautiful transition, communication is the key to staying sane. If your student is anything like mine, be explicit in your expectations, desires and emotions because his brain is maxed out to capacity studying. If you want your student to study a little less tomorrow because you had a bad day today, tell them! If you want them to study at the library instead of at home because it's easier for you, or for them to watch the baby monitor so you can nap or shower during nap time, tell them! Communication with your student will make both of your lives much, much easier.

    1. Bonus points if you also talk about your expectations for when grandparents and family come to visit!

Loving them through the med school + parenthood transition:

  1. Appreciate them becoming a parent. We often focus solely on becoming mothers, but take a moment to watch them become fathers! Some of my fondest pictures I took were of my husband watching lectures holding our five-day-old baby. They will approach things differently, but they are also in the midst of a beautiful transformation that deserves to be documented. For the sake of your sanity, focus on the positives and appreciate how they take time and what sacrifices they are making, even when it feels like you are the one sacrificing everything so they can study all day everyday.

  2. DATE. However you can. To keep the spark. Date. Have fun. Even if it’s just getting DoorDash and Netflix after bedtime. Set time aside specific to you and spouse for alone time, especially to do something that brings you both joy and closer together.

  3. Send all the pictures to them. Remember all the little moments they will likely miss as they study. You will (likely) be with the baby for a majority of the time - especially if you will be a stay at home parent. While they sit behind a computer all day, you get to see all the smiles, giggles, spit up and poopy diapers. My husband's favorite thing when he is studying I send him lots of pictures and videos of the baby. To me the pictures/videos were of mundane activities and everyday occurrences, like bath time, lunch time or just being at the park, but to him he felt involved with his child when he had to be at school.

My favorite: DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOUR FAMILY. My favorite quote is along the lines that “popcorn kernels grow from the same ear, are heated in the same pot and the same temperature, and yet each kernel pops at a different time.” What works for your sister, mother, friend, cousin or in-laws might not work for your family. Your baby will be different than even their siblings or babies their exact same age. Parenthood, and marriage, is often trial-and-error about what works for your baby, and if it works for you and your baby is safe and fed, then you are doing parenthood perfectly.

Whenever and however you decide to have the baby, and what you and your student decides to do afterwards, know that you will have a village here to help you along your way. Many have done it before you and you can do it too! Your village loves you and supports you.

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