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babies or med school?


Guest MACbetty

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Guest MACbetty

Happy Valentines to everyone,

 

A couple days ago, I read this thread about older applicants. I was inspired and encouraged by their stories—thanks to everyone for sharing your dreams with the rest of us. (I wanted to post this question in that thread but I can’t find it at the moment--sorry).

 

Anyway, I’m 33 and this is my first time applying to med school, although I’ve been thinking about it for about a decade. I’m married with no children (yet) and my husband is supporting me 100% percent in my decision to go back to school and pursue my life long dream of becoming a doctor.

 

I’m concerned, however, that my attending med school may jeopardize our future family. We both want to have kids, but not for another year or so (if I didn’t go to med school). On the other hand, if I go to med school then we will be pushing pregnancy and kids by at least 3 years (neither of us thinks it’s a good idea to have kids during med school). So that means that by the time we could start a family I will be 37 or older, doing a residency somewhere and my biological clock will be nearly dead!

 

My husband is not overly concerned and feels that it is more important for me to pursue my dream for now, and that we’ll have a family later. I'm thinking that if I don't get in this year, I will not reapply, but have kids instead. So, I was wondering:

 

1)Is there anyone else out there that is in the same position and has the same concerns as me? If so, how are you dealing with it? and 2) Has anyone been asked about this dilemma (between school or kids) during a med school interview, and if so what was your reply, and the reaction of the interviewer? and 3) Does anyone know if interviewers/med schools are overly concerned about women in their early thirties making a sacrifice to postpone a family while they pursue a medical career?

 

Much appreciated

MacBetty

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Hi MACbetty,

 

I am in a similar situation, although not feeling to urge as, um, urgently. There seems to be a growing trend of having children later in life (see Madonna or just about any Hollywood mom except Reese Witherspoon). Personally, I think by contemplating it to the degree that you have, you will make the "right" decision--the one that is most appropriate for you at this point in your life. It is great to hear that your husband supports you 100%. Mine does, too. The thought of waiting until after med school, then after residency, then. . .well, it's not too appealing. Then again, the counter situation isn't too attractive either: babies clamouring for attention while mom studies. It's been done. It will be done again. But I am also wondering what is the "right" decision for me.

 

Sorry for the rant. In short, you are not alone. And it makes me feel SO good to know that I am not alone either.

 

BJ

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Hi MACbetty,

 

Although I am a bit younger (29) I have the same concerns. I must say however, that 37 is not too old to have babies. My aunt recently had a baby (she's 40). My thesis research involved pregnant women and at least half of them were in their mid-late thirties. Many women take maternity leave during their residencies these days. In fact, my thesis supervisor (an OB/GYN in a teaching centre) told me that I should go to med school and have 2 babies during my residency. That being said, I totally sympathize with you. I want babies just as much as I want med school and it is getting more and more difficult to wait (for both).

 

Gabrielle

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Guest macdaddyeh

There is, by the way, a thread about this somewhere out there from only a few weeks ago! You might enjoy reading that but I can't find it right now...

 

I am a twenty-something father. In fact I married VERY young and have never regretted getting married so young.

 

My daughter was born at the end of the academic year in my third year (during exams!!!!). My wife was exhausted (while pregnant) and took time off that year rather than going back (and she never has gone back).

 

We have loved being parents, but for me as a father, the way we manage our time with our daughter is different. My wife never likes to leave her and enjoys being a full time mom despite pursuing an education/career before; in fact she is fanatically opposed to women who say that they can handle both school and work or work and motherhood. She (not me, so as not to appear sexist) strongly disagrees with that philosophy.

 

I would say, as a male, that with your husband's support you can indeed balance motherhood and school but my question is, Do you really want to? It has been very difficult, but nonetheless manageable, for me as a father to balance school and work, but I could not even imagine the rigours of breastfeeding, post-partum, full time studies, crying baby, etc. all at the same time. As my wife always says, only women can carry babies, only women can give birth, only women can breastfeed; in other words, a woman's work is never done.....

 

Thing long and hard about your priorities before you make your decision. My bottomline recommendation is to wait:rolleyes

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Guest kellyl20

My parents had my little brother when they were 37 and I think sometimes my 11 year old brother is too much for them. He is so energetic at times; and it is a bit strange to view them as older parents, but they are. Usually can not really have your cake and eat it too. Just think of what your priorities are and go from there.

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Guest Orangelifesaver

for me it's more like do you want to spend 10 years in med school and become a neurosurgeon or become a gp and be "young enough" to have kids......... by young enough i'm not exactly refering to my biological clock (although this does come to mind) but also the fact that i don't want to be a forty year old raising young kids - i just don't think i'd have the energy for it.

 

we all know that it's really tough being a parent and a career women but people do it and i think that this is what keeps me from going 8o !

 

i was watching oprah a while back and a paediatrician (female) was sharing how guilty she feels when her own child is sick and she's in her clinic helping other sick children.....:rolleyes

 

ols...........

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Guest Kirsteen

Hi there,

 

When I interviewed at UBC last year one of my interviewers shot the "how do you feel about having a family" question point blank. It took me somewhat off guard as I wasn't expecting that the question would be asked (I thought it may have been among the "off limits" types of questions) but thankfully I had thought about the issue a good bit prior to responding. Therefore, it's a good idea to tackle this one in your own mind prior to any interview should the question arise for you.

 

As to having kids later in life, like some of you, I'm in the a similar boat: only two cats at the moment, but would love to add some kids later on to terrorize the wee buggers back! One issue that doesn't seem to be mentioned in all of the above to balance the concept of Madonna-ment, (i.e., the ease of having multiple kids later in life), that probably should be factored into the scenario is fertility. It's not unusual for fertility to be a problem among couples, nevermind those in their late 30's: from the last batch of numbers that I read recently, ~25% of all couples experience fertility woes and less than 40% of those cases are due to female-based fertility issues (less than 40% are due to male-based and the remaining fraction are of unknown etiology). On a more positive note though, it's also not hugely unusual for a couple to make it through demanding educational programs with new families in tow (I had quite a few MBA classmates in this boat who were overjoyed to share their graduations with their wee ones).

 

In short, I guess it takes a good bit of planning, an assessment of the reality ahead, and some extra agility and flexibility of schedule when it comes to balancing a vibrant career and family. Lots of folks do it and there are masses of resources and support networks if you are fortunate enough to be handling both.

 

Cheers,

Kirsteen

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Guest MDWannabe

I guess all this talk makes me an older Dad at 42 and my wife one of those too-old-to-have-young-children-at-40 people. I'm certainly one of the older Dads in the class, but I don't feel by any stretch that I'm too old to do it (do I sound defensive??).

 

You all know yourselves better than anyone else. Some are 'too old' to have kids at 25 (maybe such people are already low energy individuals). Some of us start considerably later and are energized by the parenting process. If you are one of the latter group, having children in med school is do-able. There are parents in my class with kids ranging from age 0-18. You would always like to have more time with your children, but you also want to make sure that you live a life that will leave you fulfilled. That fulfillment may be achieved by being a stay at home parent, but if you have a driving need to follow the medical path, you must do it or you will never forgive yourself! Life is full of challenges, sacrifices and balances, but you can do anything if you have a flexible manner and a supportive spouse.

 

I do encourage anyone who wants to be a parent in medical school to speak to as many people as they can who are in a similar position, to make sure they are going in with open eyes regarding the inherent challenges. There are plenty of people to speak to.

 

Best of luck to all you prospective parents!

 

PS Kirsteen: I am personally shocked that anyone would have asked you this question in a med school interview. I can't imagine that question would ever have been posed to a man, and in any case, it should have been completely irrelevant to the process. I suppose you do have to be ready for such questions (as well as the inevitable 'if you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be' type questions). I just think it's unfortunate that some people can't come up with anything relevant to talk about in a 30 minute interview...

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Guest Biochem10

Hey MDWannabe,

 

Kirsteen is not alone in being asked that question. I have been asked the family question numerous times by some of my references (all males) who may have doubted my ability to put off having a family for 7 years (I'm applying to MD/PhD). One of my references went so far to say, "You'll have to find the right kind of man to stay home with your kids, if you plan on having any." In my interview at McGill I wasn't asked about my family plans, however, I did get a question phrased like this: "7 years, that's a long haul! What do you think about that?" I supposed he wanted to hear that I would be making school a priority (which is obviously true), however, when I decide I want to have kids, it will be no one's business, but my own!

 

PS Kirsteen, I've also got a cat and she's enough work for now! ;)

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Guest MDWannabe

Hi Biochem10:

 

It's one thing when a reference (who I would hope is on your side and is just talking to you informally, I'd assume) asks you that question. It is quite another when your interviewer asks you that question. For the former person, it might be a matter of curiousity. For the latter, I think it's completely inappropriate and should not be asked (unless at the very extreme the door is opened by you to ask the question). There is a difference!

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Guest UWOMED2005

Hmm. . . such issues have actually weighed quite heavily on many of my classmates minds. Mine as well. The 2004 class has its first baby coming sometime in the spring - HE planned his clerkship rotations around the event so as to have some downtime when the baby arrived. Supposedly it's been said the "ideal" time in the UWO schedule is for male students delivery in February (there's some downtime at the end of 4th year,) and conception for female students in December (so as not to be obviously pregnant during CaRMS interviews. . . shouldn't be a disadvantage but it might.) But of course life doesn't always work that way. Fortunately, there are maternity leave programs, and noone would say boo if someone took a year off to have a child during the program. Residency programs are also getting a lot better with maternity leave and the like. . .

 

As for the age thing, I'm surprised noone has brought up the issue of increased incidence of Down's syndrome, Spina Bifida, anencephaly and the like rising with the age of the mother. That too me is way more important than any worries about not having enough energy to outrun a three year old. In fact, ever since we had a lecture on this topic last year, it seems to me some of our class has been in a panic to procreate ASAP - I even heard someone go as far as to say something to the effect of "I'd better have kids before I'm 35 because if not my kids going to have a malformation" (wow do I hope that person doesn't go into Obs/Gyn or Medical Genetics.)

 

Personally, I think these risks are often overstated. The risk of neural tube defects (ie Spina Bifida, Anencephaly) and chromosomal disorders (ie Trisomy 13, Trisomy 18 and Trisomy 21 - Down's Syndrome) is elevated in mothers over 35, but the vast majority of women over 35 having children have perfectly normal babies. I would never advise a woman over 35 (or even over 40) that they shouldn't have a child - I'd advise of them of the risks but do anything I can in my power to help them conceive. On the other hand, if a women was in her early thirties and was asking me whether they should have a kid now or in a few years, I'd probably suggest they conceive as soon as their relationship and life issues allowed them. . . but if it there just isn't going to be a right time until later. . . well, it really isn't a problem.

 

But those of you attending med schools next fall WILL be touching on some of these issues and their ethical implications, particularly at Ontario Schools. Just wait until the topic of Maternal Serum Screening comes up. . . :eek

 

Now as to Macbetty's original question - it depends on a lot! In particular, a lot depends on how supportive your husband would be, how soon you want kids, what your husband's career is, what sacrifices you're willing to make to balance medicine and children, and the like. But if I were you and were accepted this year to Mac, I'd accept that acceptance and start at Mac. . . and conceive as soon as possible (and as soon as you're ready!) I'd then take the year off, (you wouldn't at this point have enough debts that the interest would be crippling) and return to Mac when the Child is a year old. My understanding of Mac's curriculum (and gucio93 or carolyn correct me if I'm wrong) is that Mac's 1st and 2nd year curriculum is as good as it gets for having young kids - there's a lot of independent learning time that can be done at home. Clerkship would be a challenge, but by then the child would be at least a few years old. And it sounds like there's a few others out there that have managed it, so it definitely sounds possible! And it's not like the timing would get any better until after you'd completed residency and paid off the debts. But it's totally up to you.

 

Oh, but I'm still a few years from making decisions about this and do have a guy's perpective - so take my advice with a grain of salt!

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Guest Kirsteen

Hi there,

 

Thinking out loud: perhaps, with respect to gray-area, "off limits" type questions, they could be used to see how an interviewee handles being asked such a question, given that the interviewee knows it's one of those types of "off limits" questions. Thus, perhaps the interviewer is not as much interested in hearing the absolute answer to the question; rather, they're watching for how you approach a response?

 

Cheers,

Kirsteen

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Guest MDWannabe

Kirsteen,

 

That's a very generous look at it, but I think there are better ways of testing the interviewee's mettle without stepping over the line. Any interviewer who took that tack, I would say, is just making an excuse and showing a lack of creativity.

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Guest Biochem10

It's funny because after my references had asked me that question I almost expected it in my interview. I think it's fair game considering the time & effort required to complete an MD (or MD/PhD in particular). I think that the admissions committee wants to be sure you've considered the amount of time & investment required and have made the program a priority. That doesn't mean you can't have kids during the program (although I would never mention that possibility in an interview!). Correct me Kirsteen if I'm wrong, but you were interviewing for MD/PhD right? That adds another 4 years to the 4-year MD program, so I can see why this might concern an admissions committee in regards to women candidates. My biggest concern is with respect to my life after school...it seems like my referee was trying to say that as a woman I will have a difficult time balancing my family life and being a clincian-scientist. My response: i'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

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Guest Kirsteen

Hi there Biochem10,

 

Yes, you're right in that I was interviewing for the MD/PhD program; however this interviewer was interviewing me for the MD sector of the program only. He had no idea until the interview's end that I was in contention for the MD/PhD program when I shared that piece of info with him. (He was a little surprised.) There were a few other interesting points to the interview that could help to support an argument toward some sort of bias but overall, I enjoyed it and faired quite well in my evaluation.

 

As to balancing life as a clinician-scientist, I've come across quite a few interesting opinions of those in the field: scientists, clininicians and also, those few folk who successfully marry the two. It seems that it's not a concern (balancing time) that is limited to being a female clinician-scientist; there seems to be a prevalent, general concern that clinician-scientists are jacks of all trades yet masters of none. Have you encountered this at all?

 

Cheers,

Kirsteen

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Guest Biochem10

Kirsteen, you are right about the perception of clinician-scientists being jacks of all trades, yet masters of none. I have also encountered this opinion from scientists and physicians I've met. I guess we're just trying to do it all and obviously certain things will suffer as a consequence. I hope that should I be accepted into the program I will be able to "fit in" in both the scientific & medical community--might be a challenge, but I'm up for that!

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The jack-of-all-trades comment is interesting - I hadn't heard it before. I don't find it denigrating, at all, though. I think it probably captures fairly accurately something that I hope is true. That is, I am not applying to an MD/PhD program because I think it will help my career as a PhD scientist. Similarly, I am not applying to an MD/PhD program because I think it will help my career as an MD doctor. I am applying to the combined program because I want to be an MD/PhD which I see as something almost entirely different - I want to be a link between the applications that MD's are interested in and the research that PhD's are interested in. I don't want to be an expert in either area, and being a jack-of-all-trades in this sense will suit me just fine.

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Guest Kirsteen

Hi there peachy,

 

I understand what you're saying, but I might be careful in the way you voice or word it, especially during interviews. Some may argue (and my ears have heard this argument) that a clinician scientist needs to be no less than an expert in both areas in order to thrive as an individual MD/PhD-er, and in order for the MD/PhD species to survive and that, given the time and energy required to fuel that level of excellence, this is virtually impossible. Some feel that this is additionally impossible given the level of talent in the individual clinician and scientist pools. On the contrary, others feel that MD/PhDs are in unique positions that garner unique strengths that are afforded to neither the clinician nor the scientist. In any case, be careful when stepping through this potential minefield of arguments, and good luck to you when you do it!

 

Cheers,

Kirsteen

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Guest me maniac

MACBetty,

 

First of all, I am apalled (?spell) at some of the responses on this forum. I'm sorry if I offend anyone by stating this, but the notion that you cannot have a career or educational plans and still have a successful family unit is archaeic. The other out-dated notion is that the mom has to stay at home with the baby. Why can't father's? My husband did. While it is true that only women can give birth, the same argument can be used to say that only men can father the baby. Only women can have the mother/child bond can be argued with only the man can have the father/child bond. So what? In the end, it doesn't matter who gave birth, but what does matter is how you and your spouse handle it. And since both of you (ideally) decided to enter parenthood, the baby is BOTH spouse's responsiblity. The ONLY question is: which way is best suited to your personality/lifestyle/dreams and more importantly, your spouse, b/c he/she will be carrying equal, if not more burden than you. You and your spouse are the only ones that can answer that question If you are offered a seat at a medical school, are you willing to turn it down to have a baby right now (instead of postponing it), conversely, if you start having a family now, are you OK with postponing your educational/career goals?. You can use other's people's experience as a guide of what options are available to you, but you and your spouse are the ones that have to live by the decisions you make. Additionally, I think it is quite relevant for adcoms to ask family-related questions. I mean, what if you got pregnant, unexpectedly, during third year? How would you handle it? No, I don't expect them to ask you if you terminate the pregnancy or anything like that, but how would you handle the added stress of family (and it WILL be stressful!). Adcoms would never expect you to not have a family, certainly not in this day and age, and I think they would be quite interested in knowing if you've thought about it, and how you would handle it (imagine if you said "I've never even thought about that". It would make it appear that you really have not thought about all the things that medical school would entail!) These days, women juggle family and career and education, your interviewers want to know how you handle life choices, not just ethical issues.

 

On a personal note, a physician friend of mine had her first baby last year at the young age of 43. She did not put it off because of career or educaton, but rather until she found the right guy (she didn't get married until 40). Yes, she had problems concieving, she also had 3 miscarriages, but because of modern technological advances such as amniocentesis, she now has a healthy baby girl, with more to follow if she gets her way. So it can be done, you just have to want it badly enough.

 

Just to keep things in perspective, there were a couple of women astronauts on the Challenger. They also had kids. I don't think those women let family stand in the way of a career (or vice versa).

 

just my $0.25.

 

me

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Guest Sarah371

I have to agree with me maniac.....the number of people who feel that someone cannot have a family and a career and be successful at both has always bothered me.

 

I am in medical school and will be thirty-five when I graduate....to begin with I never planned on having children before thirty-five. My parents were in their mid-thirties when they had their children and I think that it allowed them to do everything that they wanted to do before they had children. As far as planning for children, everyone I haved talked to has said that residency is a good time...but I think that if you wait for the perfect time then you will never have children.

 

A number of my classmates at Queen's have had children in medical school (both men and women) and we have all celebrated with them when their children arrived. Children are a personal choice made by the women having them or the women and their partners and nobody can say what is right for you.

 

I do take offence, however at people who have made their own choices and then believe that any choice that diverges from theirs is wrong.

 

As for questions during interviews.....lgeally they should not be asked...but I was asked during mine why my long term boyfriend at the time and I weren't married and why I hadn't had any children yet. I have chosen to believe that the WOMAN who asked me those questions was just trying to point out what I waid above...there never will be the peerfect time.

 

To those of you out there who are waiting to have kids....you are not alone......there are any number of us out there.....we will just be a generation of geriatric parents.

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Guest MACbetty

thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts.

 

I think my biggest concern about delaying babies is decreased fertility, which dramatically increases with age, plus the chances of congenital defects is also higher the older your ovaries get.

 

I've thought about this a great deal since i posted my question and i think that i've resolved to keep applying to med school and if my husband and I decide to have babies and i happen to be in school, then i'll take a year off and go from there--no sense worrying too much about something that hasn't happen yet. Having kids during residency is also a great choice--i have a friend who is doing just that. She says it's really the best time to have your kids.

 

In the end, i think it's important that when my kids are grown up and living their life, that i'm happy too.

 

now, just anxiously waiting for that interview invite......

 

macbetty

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