No couple ever expects to visit a fertility doctor. However, 10 to 15 percent of couples suffer from infertility. This means that approximately 1 out of every 8 people you know are struggling to conceive and seeking help to grow their family. I can only imagine how hard it must be for a patient struggling with infertility to walk into clinic and see that their infertility doctor is also pregnant. To my sweet patients, I’ve been pregnant twice in the past 3 years.
Physicians often delay childbearing because of the rigors of medical education. I get asked often when is the “easiest” or “best” time to have a child in medical training. The truth is, there is never a perfect time. You just have to go for it and figure out how to make it work. For many female physicians, this is during and after subspecialty training.
A question I get asked often is has being a mom changed me as a physician: yes. 100 percent yes. I know that my field is special and unique, and I have always loved helping couples achieve their dreams of starting a family. But going through it all myself — the uncertainty and fear with infertility, the craziness of pregnancy, and the pure joy (and exhaustion) of being a mom — makes me view this process completely different.
My kids have brought so much love and endless happiness to my life, more than I honestly knew possible. And I want this so much — so, so, so much — for each of my patients. I want each patient struggling with infertility to be able to see the lines on positive pregnancy test, get to tell their partner and jump up and down with excitement, experience the first kicks, see that little peanut waving on ultrasound, pick put the perfect baby name, experience the emotional roller coaster of birth, hold that sweet, sweet baby in your arms, and watch them turn into their own little person (which happens way too fast). I know how precious it all is. And it makes me want to work so hard, and do everything I can, to help every woman experience this.
My patients have been amazing and so supportive. The compassion, kindness, and grace exhibited by other women trying to conceive toward me has been incredible. Thank you for asking how I was feeling, wanting to see pictures of the kids, and telling me I looked great (especially when I really didn’t). Thank you for sympathizing when I had to leave my very young babies in the care of others so I could come back to work to help you. I love my job, and I love my kids, and balance is a constant struggle (as any working mom knows).
And to all those young women early in their medical journey and concerned about when to have a family, or afraid of choosing a specialty that may be difficult on your lifestyle or family desires, listen to me. Pick a field you love that will inspire you to be a wonderful, compassionate and caring physician. The balance between work and kids will always exist, but will certainty not be worth it if you do not love what you do. Pick a field where you enjoy the physiology behind the science and the patient population, and just go for it.
Have kids when you are ready, and you will figure it out as you go. There will always be sacrifices to make in medicine, but you can make it work. There are fewer compromises as your progress through training and into your career, but the sacrifices are real. Surround yourself with supportive people who love you. Shower them with your love and lean heavily upon them. You can 100 percent do it all, you just can’t do it alone. Find your tribe.
Natalie M. Crawford is a reproductive endocrinology and infertility physician. She can be reached on Instagram @nataliecrawfordmd.
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