My Life As a Mother in Medical School

When I started my first year of medical school as a 32-year-old mother of a 15-month-old, I assumed I’d be a major outlier. After all, who would ever choose this path!? 

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I was shocked to find other PNWU students who would raise their hand if asked that very question.

I was equally surprised to find several Facebook pages with names like “Moms in Med Ed” and “Physician Mothers and Medical Students,” brimming with countless other women striving for the same dream I was chasing — women, like me, who had taken on the colossal challenge of balancing two worlds: being a mother and a medical student. 

Oddly enough, the roles of mother and medical student have a lot in common, and require many of the same things: selflessness, devotion, endless energy, more hours of hard work than anyone cares to count, a whole-hearted commitment to what many consider to be one of the most important things you’ll ever do in life… the list goes on.

Again: why would anyone choose to take on both of these momentous tasks at the same time? 

I’ve asked myself this question many times over the past several months, especially when I’ve found myself talking to my younger, childless colleagues. The answer, of course, varies for each of us. It usually has to do with sacrifices made, tortuous journeys and timing.

As I learn more about my fellow medical school mothers, I am amazed by the amazing feats they’ve accomplished, the moxie and the grit that these ladies display, and the drive they find within themselves each and every day. 

What keeps these women going?

That one is a tough question to answer. 

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The truth is, there are days when I am threadbare, angry and exhausted.

Many days, just getting to school feels like a break, because there I am responsible for only one thing. (This does not hold true on days when there is an anatomy exam. On those days, I would happily choose the mayhem of a toddler.) With that said, I know the frustration of being seemingly incapable of competing with those who are not the sole keeper of a tiny human.

But failing at being a mother is not an option; failing at medical school is not an option. Many days, those facts alone are the only things pushing me onward and upward. 

When I’m at my end, and feel like I can’t keep up this wild balancing act, I think about the mothers I’ve encountered — mothers who are fighting to be where I am in the next year or two — and I think about the cautious words of encouragement I’ve delivered to them. 

It will work, even if you have a little human or two along for the journey, because it must work.

If being a doctor is the only thing that you will be happy doing, then you must do it. 

Reges Hansen

Osteopathic Medical Student - 2nd Year (OMS II)
Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences

Reges Hansen