Doctor-moms compare notes on raising kids and saving lives

Doctors who are also mothers compare notes on raising kids and saving lives at the Mothers in Medicine Web site.

Like many successful projects, the Mothers in Medicine blog was born out of great frustration.

Katherine Chretien, FACP, the blog's founder, had just published an article in the April 15, 2008 Annals of Internal Medicine about how stressful it was to juggle clinical work with pumping breast milk for her infant. When the article got an overwhelming response from grateful readers, she recognized an unmet need.


“I looked online for a forum or a community where physician moms could talk about these sorts of issues, but I couldn't find anything,” Dr. Chretien said. “So I decided to start my own.”

Eighteen physicians from around the U.S. and Canada contribute to Mothers in Medicine. They range from neurologists to pediatricians to hospitalists to ob/gyns, all in different stages of their careers. Some, like Fat Doctor and Ob/Gyn Kenobi, have separate, well-established blogs of their own. Others write solely for the site.

“To find contributors, I asked around in the communities I'm personally a part of, and also sought out existing blogs written by women who were both doctors and mothers,” Dr. Chretien said.

While there are plenty of group blogs for mothers, being a doctor as well as a mom poses unique challenges, and not just from crazy call schedules.

“You have such an obligation to your patients,” said Fat Doctor, a hospitalist, in a phone interview. “It's not like I'm working at McDonald's and might serve someone a cold hamburger. I'm dealing with life and death, and it can be very emotional.”

Juggling the very different roles of mother and physician is a challenge in other ways, as well, Dr. Chretien said.

“I have these two identities that struggle constantly,” she said. “When my child had a bloody stool, the doctor in me said it wasn't a big deal, but the mother in me freaked out.”

Martina Scholtens, MD, a family physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, has run a successful blog called FreshMD for several months, but decided to contribute to Mothers in Medicine too, because it allows her to write about topics she might avoid otherwise.

“It's nice to write among a group of women who immediately understand the complexities of a (mother-physician's) situation, like how taking time off work can inconvenience so many people,” said Dr. Scholtens, a mother of three. “Most of my FreshMD audience is not in medicine, so when I try to explain some of my difficulties on that blog, it can come across as snobby, and requires a lot of explaining,” Dr. Scholtens said.

Yet Mothers in Medicine does appeal to people who don't work in medicine, said Dr. Chretien, who can see by the comments on blog posts that some readers work in other fields. Perhaps that's because the blog touches on emotions that every mother has, like “I'm a bad mom” guilt. For the Mothers in Medicine, the guilt takes the form of feeling bad for working a weekend when one “should” be spending it with her kids, or feeling guilty for “abandoning patients” to go on maternity leave.

Other experiences aren't so universal, but are entertaining fodder nonetheless, such as the act of giving birth in one's own workplace, surrounded by colleagues. Indeed, the topic of labor and delivery has borne great fruit (so to speak), with some doctors recounting their troubles adjusting to the role of patient, and others reporting they've tried a little too hard to be respectful of their fellow doctors at times.

The latter was the case with Dr. Scholtens, who, while in labor, got an ultrasound by a resident who seemed a bit clueless. She held her tongue for awhile, but could no longer remain silent when the resident proclaimed that she couldn't find the baby's head on the ultrasound.

“I knew exactly where the head was,” wrote Dr. Scholtens. “Crowning.”