Parenthood Juggle: Picking Up Where the Other One Leaves Off

Midwife Assisting Home BirthSo, I was always going to go to medical school.  After spending a large amount of money on the application process, I was wait-listed at two medical schools and never received a call.  At the same time I went through the application process, my fiance was applying for graduate school.  He was going to be a science professor, do primary research, and I was going to be a pediatrician.  We were married a week after graduating from a private California university, and had had an on-going conversation about what professional life for both of us would look like—with children.

Since I didn’t get into medical school, I put my biology degree to good use working as a cardiology tech while he started graduate school in a snowy east-coast state.  I was disappointed but felt I could revisit the medical school question in a couple of years.  Since I was working in hospital, taking call for interventional cardiology and working 60 hour work weeks, I started to “understand” what medical school and residency would have looked like.

Three years after we married, I became pregnant with our first child.  We were ecstatic, but I soon started to wonder what full time work would look like.  I realized that I felt like I could not mother and breastfeed the way I wanted to working MY full-time job.  I spoke with my supervisor and said I would either find another part-time job in the university or I needed to be able to work 20 to 25 hours per week, and I could take call on weekends.  Because I was a good employee and had investiture, I maintained my full-time benefits, working 20 to 30 hours per week.  My husband took care of our baby one full day per week and she went to a babysitter for one full day per week, and then he covered the “call hours” I worked each week.  It worked well for the better part of a year.  As his studies became more lab-oriented and less academic, it became clear that he needed to spend more time on campus, and an opening with our care provider became available for one more day per week.  When she was one, I worked three days per week.  Since breastfeeding was very important to me, I was able to breastfeed her and pump on the days I was at work. 

Shortly after she turned one, I became pregnant again.  We were happy about this!  But as I approached my eighth month, I found it harder and harder to work and take care of a toddler.  When I sat down and “priced it out,” the cost of childcare for two was going to eat up all my wages.  So we took a really good look at our “lifestyle” and realized that we should go down to “graduate student stipend only.”  I mourned the loss of my job for three years, and it took those three years to learn to love being the at home parent.

After seeing the lifestyle of doctors in hospital, I no longer wanted to be a doctor.  I did want to do something to do with health care, and considered several options—nursing, speech pathology, physician’s assistant, and finally midwifery.  Once my husband finished with graduate school (and we added another kid), he was burned out on academics, and found a job working for a company that serves the taxpayers in a larger suburban region of the country.  After buying a home, and having two more children, both birthed at home with a midwife, I found the right role for me.

I began as a student midwife in 2010.  This role will continue until mid-2014.  I am also starting to teach childbirth classes.  We have five children now, actively engaged in the community and church activities, music lessons, etc.  While not always seamless, we have arrangements that allow me to cover my prenatal appointment days and one or more days in a row when I am attending a birth.  We have some weeks where we are too busy and barely see each other, and we spend a lot of time discussing the schedule and who needs to be where.  We also actively support each other when we are there.  I cook better than he does, and try to do so when I’m home.  He balances the checkbook better than I do, so I try to turn in receipts and be on-schedule for those responsibilities.  He is as likely to go grocery shopping as I am, and can take all our kids to all their activities as well as I can.  We use an online calendar system to make sure we are on the same page. Sometimes I work 12 or 14 or 24 hour days, and sometimes he does.  We trade off responsibilities.

It does help at this point that we have two daughters old enough to babysit, but we try to minimize that during the school week.  We make this work for us, and appreciate that it is a balancing act.  Since we did it this way, I was able to breastfeed and mother my very little children.

The most important thing I have learned is that my husband doesn’t always want to go to work.  He LOVES his job.  He gets really fulfilled.  But more than one day per week, he’d rather stay home and read Percy Jackson with his kids, talk about science, and listen to them debate which flavor of ice cream is best.  And sometimes I DON’T want to go to a birth, no matter how much I love doing it, like when we were setting up for Settlers of Catan on New Year’s and I had to leave.  It was a beautiful birth.  But it was not with my kids.

-Submitted by Stargazer

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