Welcoming Spring as a new mom

As we head into spring this year, I let out the biggest sigh of relief that we have passed the peak of RSV season. Somehow my 7 month old, who was a mere 2 months old when the bronchiolitis patients started trickling in, has come out the other side unscathed.
It has been year of new demands, learning to balance the needs of my very new, very dependent baby, with the challenges of being a fellow. Each time I disappear for 15 minutes to pump, I might miss an incoming sick patient, or delay a child’s disposition. When I stay late to finish charting, or supervise an intern suturing, I risk missing the bedtime ritual, or worse, arrive home to a very hungry, very grumpy baby.
My son arrived two months into fellowship, and within 2 weeks of my return from maternity leave, our ED had its first Ebola scare and my husband and I had to think about what to do about breastfeeding in the unlikely event I came across a case and had to be quarantined. In November, for the first time since my intern year, I picked up a viral URI from one of my tiny patients that lingered at least 3 weeks, and I had to worry about getting my face too close to my baby’s. By some miracle, and thanks to a strict adherence to an after work disinfecting routine, my son giggles on, with nothing more than occasional sniffles. He hasn’t even ever mounted a fever in response to a vaccine. And now, I must pause to knock on wood as hard as I possibly can.
At times, the jobs of being a new mother and being a new fellow are at odds, and I feel stretched thin balancing the needs of my little boy, and my need to protect him, with the needs other, sicker children at work. Nearly every day though, each of my two jobs makes me better at the other.
As an emergency medicine trained fellow, I am, for the first time, intimately familiar with bilirubin normograms and vaccine schedules. I can guesstimate appropriate acetaminophen doses from across the room. As a new mother, I can identify with the sleep deprived haze that might foster a near panicked visit to the ED to find out if it really is normal to cry that much, or if that odd facial expression was a seizure or just gas. In residency, when asked a question that clearly fell into the realm of parenting rather than medicine, I’d be quick to defer to the pediatrician. I finally feel I have legitimate advice to offer.
There is such a nice synergy right now, learning to take care of my own baby while I learn to take care of so many others’ as well. My two new jobs will continue to stretch me, often from opposite directions, but I am so glad I chose to start both. And in the end, I think just maybe, they will be worth all the sleep I’ve had to give up for them.

Dr. Anne Whitehead
The Altieri Pediatric Emergency Medicine Fellowship 
Inova Children’s Hospital 
Inova Fairfax Hospital Emergency Department
3300 Gallows Road, Falls Church, VA 22042

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