One of the things I get asked about most related to being married to a medical school student is what it’s like having a baby during school, if it’s even a realistic possibility, etc. So I thought I’d go ahead and write a little about our experience with having our daughter during Duncan’s second month of med school.
I was 30 weeks pregnant when we moved from Missouri to Jonesboro, AR. Thankfully I knew of a couple of people living in Jonesboro, so I was able to get recommendations on OBGYNs. Figuring out insurance, on the other hand, was much more confusing. I spent hours on the phone with the hospitals and my insurance company figuring out which hospital and doctors took my insurance and what exactly would be covered (I knew literally nothing about insurance prior to this). It was also an adjustment switching to becoming a patient at a big clinic versus the small, one-doctor-clinic I’d become accustomed to my first 30 weeks of pregnancy.
The chaos of your significant other beginning medical school is an adjustment, especially if you’ve moved to a new town. The transition into parenthood is another major adjustment. But honestly, I feel like you can either choose to let the chaos pull you apart or grow you closer than ever. We had difficult transitions both together and individually; I couldn’t completely understand what he was going through with schooling, and he couldn’t totally understand what it’s like being 30+ weeks pregnant; however, we chose to still communicate and cling to God and each other. I have no doubt that’s only made our marriage better and stronger.
Two months after our big move, Lively was born! I went into labor on a Friday, we went to the hospital that night, and Lively was born at 8:01 the next morning (I hadn’t had any contractions or anything prior to that morning, so I had no idea what to expect and basically thought Lively was never going to come out). The timing really couldn’t have been better, and although it was sad, Duncan was able to return to school that Tuesday. Both of our moms came down for a week, one after the other, then my sister came down the third week. This made the adjustment a little easier, especially since Duncan still had to go to school for labs and classes.
Insurance for Lively was another thing that was a little difficult to figure out, as Duncan and I were still both on our parents’ insurance. Thankfully, Arkansas has an amazing Medicaid program for children called ARKids First. It has been such a blessing for us, and has allowed Lively to have excellent medical care for not only her arrival into this world, but also her regular checkups and all the normal “sickness” stuff that comes with having a young child. We are also on WIC, which provides some checks for groceries each month; every little bit helps when you’re on a budget, so we are really grateful for WIC, too.
I breastfed Lively until she was 14 months old. For the first few months, I pumped a couple bottles a day, so Duncan could give her an evening bottle and have that special time with her (this was something one of his faculty members recommended, as it’s what they did after they had a baby, and I really think it was good advice). He also intentionally spent time with us when he got home from school, as well as when taking breaks from studying. I can’t speak for all medical students, but Duncan is really good about still prioritizing Lively and I, and not making it seem like he’s too busy for us. As far as middle-of-the-night feedings, I did all of them since I was breastfeeding and really wanted Dunc to be able to get rest, so he could study effectively and not be falling asleep all day (and newborns sleep so much, that I was able to pretty well catch up on sleep when Lively napped).
Another aspect of having a baby with my spouse in med school that was difficult was feeling a little isolated. He had school to go to every day, but in the beginning it was hard for me to get out of the house too often (anyone who’s had a newborn can totally relate, I’m sure). We were still new to Jonesboro and didn’t have family who we could just hop in the car to go see. Thankfully, there are other med school wives who are in a similar position, so you have each other. I also found how beneficial social media can be, especially for connecting with other moms who are in a similar phase of life. As Lively has gotten older, it’s become easier to go to a weekly Biblestudy and have play dates.
Obviously, medical school is very expensive. Unless you go the military route or your parents or spouse are able to pay for your schooling, it is necessary to take out substantial loans. Even the maximum amount of loans per semester is still a pretty small amount for a family of three or more to live on. I knew I wanted to stay home with Lively, as that’s always been something I’ve wanted to do and we don’t have family here, so child care would have basically cancelled out anything I made had I worked outside the home. We tried to be as frugal as possible, but once the second year of school started, I got serious about finding a work-from-home job.
The fees of second year add up a lot more, especially with needing to pay for boards and board prep material (boards are the massive tests they have to take between second and third year, in order to move on to rotations); not to mention, paying for diapers and now food for our little toddler (I kind of took for granted how cost-efficient breastfeeding was). I was so incredibly happy when I got a job with VIPKid (I can talk more about this in another post, but here is the link to their website), teaching English to children in China. I’m able to work before Lively wakes up and after she goes to sleep, so we never are having to pay for child care, and I don’t feel like I’ve had to give up my time with her. If you’d like to know more about my new job, don’t hesitate to e-mail or message me!
Honestly, if most people waited for the “perfect time” financially and circumstantially to have a baby, very few people would ever have children. Life is expensive and crazy, and medical school is no different; however, in my opinion having a baby during medical school is totally doable if it’s something both you and your spouse are on board with! Yes, it can be exhausting and stressful at times, but more than anything, it is amazing having and raising a little human, it gives you perspective/forces you to prioritize, and grows your relationship with your spouse (and those first couple years you have Christmas breaks, spring breaks, and a summer break, which are just the best!).
When having a baby in medical school, my biggest advice would be to give yourself and your spouse grace, communicate about everything (tell him what you and the baby did while he was at school, and ask him how school was/what he did), and be in community with other moms (whether that’s online, in a Biblestudy, with a playdate group, etc.). Also, make time to do the things you love together. We love to travel and see new places, so we try to travel on Duncan’s school breaks and on the weekends when we can; this way we can still make new memories together, aside from just our lives as related to med school.
Becoming a parent and the journey of parenthood is amazing, no matter where you are in life. You are not alone, and you can do this! Here are some of my favorite snapshots since Duncan started school and Lively’s been born:
32 weeks pregnant at Duncan’s white coat ceremony.
The day Lively was born!
Bringing our girl home for the first time.
Spending time with Lively after a day at school.
She loves her daddy.
His last day of first year!
Santa Barbara, CA summer trip
She loves pretending to use the stethoscope to listen to our hearts.
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Always and forever,