There were a few instances on my medicine clerkship when it was tough keeping the pregnancy secret. Trying to show up to rounds without smelling like vomit or, as was the case with one very special patient, having to internally repeat to myself while performing a diabetic foot examination: “I will not puke on a patient today. I will not puke on a patient today.”–not some of my finest student moments but, in retrospect, pretty comical. (I can’t imagine what this hopelessly foul-smelling diabetic patient must have thought of his student-doctor, visibly turning green in front of him.) For the most part, however, I doubt anyone suspected I was in the family way.
Surgery was different. It was made clear that discretion was not an option.
On day two, I showed up early to OR 8 to prepared for the first surgery. The 50-something-year-old male scrub nurse was there and I introduced myself. We talked about the other staff that would be present, the protocols, and other specifics of the procedure. Then:
Him: It’s unusual for this OR, but we have to use x-ray with fluoroscopy. I have to ask, there’s no chance you could be pregnant, right?
Him (visibly taken aback): What?! Well, how pregnant do you think you are?
Me: I think I’m like 11 weeks pregnant.
Him: Uh…yeah, you can’t be here.
At this point, he ushered me out of the room and pulled me in and out of the neighboring ORs, each time announcing to the room, “Hey, got any interesting cases? Using x-ray? Anna here is with child, we can’t have her in 8.” God, I felt so poorly that my classmate had to switch ORs with me. She had read up and prepared for all her cases ahead of time and offered me all her notes of the procedures I was now scrubbing into to which I had previously known nothing about. A class act.
I was really worried that the director of the Surgical Trauma rotation, which I started on Monday, would make me switch out due to x-ray exposure. He’s one of my doctoring preceptors, so I approached him about it last week. His response was an adorable mixture of hardcore goal-oriented wonder surgeon and soft, cuddly papa-bear:
Do not think for a second of keeping this secret! Make your pregnancy known to everyone in the Trauma Bay. Wear two layers of lead while in the bay. There’s a blue line surrounding each bed that is 6 feet away. Double that distance when an x-ray is called. Don’t forget that we’re a team. We will protect you. I will protect you. Oh, and realize that your life is going to get SO much better. You thought you life was good now; well, it’s going to skyrocket come–when is your kid due? October?! That’s even better. S/He’ll be one of the oldest in the grade. Read Outliers. You’ll see, that’s a really good thing.