I Can Talk About ‘Mom Things’ and Still Be a Kick-ass Surgeon.
Updated: May 25, 2019
In a male dominated field of medicine, I often find myself wondering if I’m constantly being evaluated and graded, on being good enough, just because I’m a mom. One area where this comes into play is small talk in the OR. In my experience, this has always been about cool life experiences that men have - cars, travel, etc. Don’t get me wrong, women have and talk about these experiences too but as a mom, sometimes, I just want to talk about my crazy morning - how I had food in my hair, got puked on, how nursing is difficult, about my baby’s new milestone, etc. I often wonder if discussing these topics, eats into my credibility of being a surgeon. I often catch myself, picking safer, more vanilla topics. But lately, I’ve been indulging in topics I want to discuss. I recently even talked about my birthing experience because, why not? I am a mom and a good surgical resident. In fact all the amazing qualities that make me a good mom, helps me be an even better doctor.
I have always felt empowered as a woman. My sex has never made me feel disadvantaged. For a girl born and raised in Nigeria, this is not the norm. My amazing parents managed to shield me from the harsh realities many women and girls have to face. I was brought up to never let things that I couldn’t change (my sex, race, height, color, or whatever) keep me from being whatever, or whoever I want to be. I’ve always felt incredibly lucky to be a woman. We are amazing. As a young girl, I always thought ‘why would I want to be a man? They couldn’t be moms!’
Now as an adult in her residency training, things are a bit different. I have never judged myself so strongly, of anything, as I have judged myself, for becoming a mother at such a crucial time of my training. How dare I voluntarily devote my body and time to something else other than this grueling process of becoming a surgeon? I often felt undeserving, like I was eating my cake and having it too. (I assure you, being a mom in residency is 100% not like eating cake).
Was the way I felt, a product of the culture of medicine? Probably. Was it from years of listening to what other people had to say about pregnant residents? Was it because prior to getting pregnant, I personally, had only ever met 1 or 2 pregnant surgical residents? I’m sure you are getting the picture here.
At every stage of my motherhood, I’ve had concerns about how others, especially my attendings, would perceive me. I felt like I had to hide my pregnancy for over 4 months. ‘I was only a second year resident, this was not the right time’, I said to myself. I didn’t want how my colleagues saw me to change. Would they think that because I had to pump breast-milk in between cases, I somehow wasn’t taking it seriously? I was losing sleep from nursing my child at nighttime and also from being on call - but instead of loving and encouraging myself, I admonished -‘well, Anwuli, you brought this upon yourself’, I thought.
Being a mother is such an amazing responsibility. It is a gift of ourselves to the human race and society. Every mother should be encouraged, especially in the working place. No turning our noses up when she needs to leave for maternity leave, no preferentially hiring a male because he won’t have to do the same. Women should be celebrated, she is doing every job a man can do in the work place. She is doing it just as well, maybe even better. She also bears the added responsibilities in society that men don’t have. I don’t know about you, but I can only think of one thing a man can do that a woman can’t. Lol
I’m proud of who I am and yes, I can talk about ‘mom stuff’ and still be a kick-ass surgeon.