We know what you’re thinking. A baby? In medical school? With both of you as medical students?? That doesn’t sound very responsible. Well, we can’t disagree that it sounds a little irresponsible (especially compared to waiting until we’re both 35 year old doctors), but we can promise two things: 1) This baby was intentional (despite what your friends may be saying ;D) and 2) We have given the decision LOTS of thought, which we will give you a taste of in this blog post.
If you have no interest in reading about why we chose to have a baby, then I’d say just wait for our next post. But for those of you who are thinking, “Why would you possibly want to have a baby as an M1 at OSU?” – Read on.
Battle of Extremes
Our life has been one of extremes. Sleep our entire day away skipping class and watching movies, or go out and spend the entire day running club meetings and school events. Eat bacon on every food item (from fried eggs to tilapia sandwiches), or become vegetarians overnight. Live by ourselves in a dorm, or within 2 years, live 10 miles from campus in a single-family home with 4 animals. Just like all of the other decisions in our life, deciding whether to have a child was a battle of two extremes.
The two sides of the battle – either we: never have children and live as a “free” couple for the rest of our lives, or have a child RIGHT NOW and dedicate ourselves to balancing family life with our careers. Well, you can clearly see which side ended up winning out, but it wasn’t something that happened over night (like some of our other decisions).
The reasons to not have a child are both tangible and logical:
- Increased financial freedom
- Improved spousal stability and happiness
- Ability to focus on one’s career and personal impact
- Sustainability of not adding another overly consumptive American to this earth
On the other hand, the benefits of having a child are a little more abstract and emotional:
- Someone to carry on your legacy
- The chance to see the offspring of someone you love
- The opportunity to be utterly responsible for a human being’s life
- The happiness of seeing your child grow and succeed
While the arguments for both sides are drastically different, they have the commonality of being filled with “what if’s” and uncertainty. For example, maybe our child becomes a millionaire sustainability junky who offsets her/his environmental impact and allows us more financial freedom later in life. Or perhaps our child is born with limited brain function or some debilitating disease that forces us into the role of intensive caretaker for the entirety of their life, before the child precedes us by passing away at the age 40. Having a child is a gamble, which can lead down an infinite number of paths based on the qualities of your child and the experiences of your life.
For the past couple years, Wende and I found ourselves committed to the idea of living “Child Free,” or at least very skeptical of our desire to have a child. We are both highly concerned with environmental sustainability, our careers, and the health of our relationship. We felt that being childfree was the way for us to live out our values to the fullest. We had already taken so many steps to integrate our values (from public transiting to school for sustainability, to attending the same medical school for our relationship) – why should the decision to have a child or not be any different?
Despite this commitment to our values, the reality was that Austin and I had little first-hand experience to base our decision off of. Neither of us have been babysitters, and neither of us have younger siblings that were far from us in age. When we thought of some mythical baby, the only thing in our minds was a blurry outline of a semi-child like creature. We had no idea what being around and caring for a small child would be like, until these past 8 months turned into a bit of a baby-o-rama:
- First, our chemistry professor, friend, and officiant of our wedding had a child named Emily who we got acquainted with.
- Then Wende went to the wedding of one of her best friends, where she got to spend time with a little boy named Eli.
- A month later, we headed to a wedding of another good friend, where we spent much of our day occupying her 2-year-old daughter, Amelia.
- When we arrived in India, we became next-door neighbors with a 1-year-old girl named Aneri who is just a bundle of fun.
- Austin also saw his first childbirths in Gram Seva’s labor room, where he got to be the first finger the newborn baby ever held while it was in the warmer.
Compared to the rest of our lives, this year it’s practically been raining babies! With a sudden influx of baby cultural influence, we found ourselves more and more on the fence. One week we would be completely opposed to children, and then the next week we would be infatuated with idea of a little one running around our house. Back and forth, back and forth.
As we reflected more on our suitability for parenthood, we felt ourselves being pulled more strongly to the idea of having a child. We both feel like emotional, caring, and nurturing people in general and having a child seemed to align with those characteristics. We had adopted four animals during college, and we had been the safe-haven for a young boy in our neighborhood (who we even drove to school a couple times when he missed the bus). We perceived ourselves as natural care-givers who may enjoy, thrive and grow while raising a child.
For Austin, the experience of having a child was another key motivator. Austin has a small obsession with having new experiences – going to new restaurants, trying new foods, going to new places. After reading a book called “Moonwalking With Einstein,” he learned that having new experiences forms stronger memories and in a sense makes your memory (and life) feel longer. Having a baby is the ultimate new experience. There’s flying on a plane, and then there’s flying with a baby. There’s having dinner at IHOP, and then there’s having dinner at IHOP with a baby. There’s riding a bike…. You get the gist. Austin felt like having a baby would recreate every previous experience anew.
Wende had a different set of concerns – her mentality was, it’s either now or never. While she knew Austin wanted to be equal partners in raising a child if we had one, she also knew that American culture is currently set up so that women are left with much of the responsibility of caring for a child. This starts from the moment the baby comes home and the mom is guaranteed 6 weeks of maternity leave but the other partner isn’t guaranteed any. Even if Austin was given an equal amount of paternity leave, Wende is still the one who goes through pregnancy. At work, people would continue treating Austin the same as before we got pregnant, while Wende would become “that pregnant lady” who visibly swells and is simultaneously placed into the “mom” box in everyone’s head. If we waited until we were comfortably engrained in steady careers (around the age of 35), Wende would theoretically experience a large shift in lifestyle and treatment from her peers. On the other hand, the earlier we have the child, the earlier people think of us as co-parents, and the less it impacts disparity between our careers in the future.
What we’ve come to realize from these past 8 months, is not only do we have a nurturing instinct, we also genuinely enjoy parenting and being around small children (which we were a little afraid of before). An abstract burden of a child was transformed into something lovable and enjoyable. We had been pushing ourselves to become childless adults, who weren’t tied down to a child that would prevent us from travelling whenever and wherever we wanted… but the reality is that we already aren’t those people. We abandoned our 4 animals with family members before we left home, we feel terrible for it, and we have spent a significant amount of time talking about how much we miss Aussie, Wally, Danny, and Tiger. We aren’t meant to be nomads who spend each year in a different place, we are meant to have a home base, which we fill with fluffy animals and at least one child.
Ok, so you want to have a baby, I get it, but why during medical school? Well, medical school may sound like a bad time to have a kid at first, but you have to look at our other options. The next 15 years of our life will consist of 3 main stages: medical school, residency, and practicing physician.
As a medical student, many of our lectures are going to be recorded and we will be able to select our electives and student clubs – we may be busy, but our schedules will be fairly flexible (at least for the first 2 years). As a resident, we will be required to work 80 hours a week (maximum), in all the shifts that no one else wants to work, with little-to-no control over our schedules. As a physician, it’s hard to tell what our lifestyle will be like (since we don’t know our specialties yet), but since we’re planning on working at a University Hospital, it probably won’t be a flexible work environment either.
So, if your priority is spending as much time with the baby as you can, it makes medical school look pretty good out of those options. Plus, this doesn’t even take into account all the benefits of the gap-year we are currently enjoying. By getting pregnant now: 1) Wende gets to be pregnant when we’re more relaxed than we may ever be again, 2) We both get 6 weeks of dedicated time with the baby before classes even start, 3) We don’t have to dramatically adapt our lifestyle in the middle of a semester, 4) We don’t have to worry about our peers judging a pregnant Wende alone, instead they’ll judge a weird co-parenting couple with a newborn.
Sure, this still sounds like it’s going to be a super challenging experience, but as every parent always says – “There’s no good time to have a baby.”
Other Random Pros to Immediate Babydom:
- We get to experience the Indian medical system from the perspective of the patient.**
- Our kid’s out of the house (possibly) in our early 40’s.
- Our child will remember growing up on a medical school budget and will be more appreciative of the financial freedom our family will experience later in life when we’ve paid off our mountain of loans.
- We’re able to develop work-life balance (and good budgeting) habits early on.
- Columbus is a short drive from family for next 4 years, but no guarantee where we’ll be for residency.
- Parenting will (hopefully) make us better people & physicians: better listeners, communicators, and teachers – not to mention more patient.
**We realize this first one isn’t really a reason to have a baby (though it would have been funny to say it was our main reason), but it is still an interesting benefit.
Foster Care & Adoption
You’re probably asking yourself, why not foster or adopt a child when there are so many who need a loving set of parents? Or if you aren’t asking that question – you should be (especially if you’re pro-life). While we are HUGE supporters of both foster care and adoption, there are a few things that prevented us from choosing that route at the present time:
- We Wouldn’t Qualify: It seems counterintuitive at times, but becoming a foster or adoptive parent is a lengthy and intensive process that can take years. A main consideration during the application is a family’s ability to provide a stable and supportive environment, which includes maintaining an adequate income to feed and clothe the child. Sadly, it’s safe to say that Austin and I, with our massive debt and nonexistent income, would not qualify as a stable household despite having a reliable cashflow of student loans. The lengthy process would also prevent us from fully utilizing the more flexible, first two years of medical school to bond with the child.
- No Parenting Skills: Older children are the largest group in need of adoptive or foster homes, but at this time we do not feel comfortable inviting a random 5 or even 10-year-old child into our home long-term. As mentioned before, we are parenting novices, and we want the crash course of raising a child from infancy before we consider adopting an older child who may have intensive needs. After 10 years spent caring for a kid, we will officially feel more like “qualified” parents.
- Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding, and the connection it offers with a child, has always been appealing to Wende. If we are going to go through the stress of raising a child, she wants to be able to experience the magic of breast feeding.
We are committed to idea of adoption and foster care, even if it may not be practical for us at the moment. We plan to start out with #BabyOslock, which will be our only child up until we finish residency. At that point, we will be starting our first jobs as physicians, which means we will both have a steady income and can plan to stay in the city for more than 4 years. At that point, we will qualify as a “stable household” (or I’ll be really grumpy) and will become foster/adoptive parents to a child in need. Obviously, this a pretty long-term plan, but it’s always fun to dream 🙂
We also realize that it’s easy to speak of one’s values, but it is much harder to act on them. I mean, given the fact that we only intended to have one animal during college, but ended accumulating more than 1 animal per year on average – we need to be pretty vigilant about preventing ourselves from perpetuating the pregnancy bug. For that reason, after Baby Oslock is born, Austin will get a vasectomy which will always serve as a reminder (or insurance) for our commitment to adopt/foster a child later in life. An awesome blog post that contributed to this decision.
So how does this affect our plans? Aren’t we supposed to be in India for a year?! Well, we have had to make a few adjustments to our schedule, but it’s just practice for being more flexible in coming years. 🙂 We will be flying back to the U.S. around the 1st of February, which will give us a few months to find a house in Columbus and get moved in before Baby Oslock is due around June 14th. Ideally, this should give us 6 weeks of good ol’ baby time before classes start at OSU around August 4th. One of the best parts of this new timeline is that we’ll be back for the Wash U 1-year reunion at Thurtene in April 😀 😀 😀 (at which point Wende will be 7 months pregnant!)
Before we part ways, I just want to emphasize that in this blog we are not trying to tell you what is right or wrong, instead we are just trying to explain what seemed like the best decision for us. We believe (and hope) our sacrifices of time, money, and energy will be worth the joy and new experiences #BabyOslock brings, but that does not mean everyone should (or wants to) have a child. Only time will tell whether the many things we believe and hypothesize about during this rant have any seeds of truth. On with the adventure!
Note: We’ve also updated our “About” page to reflect our new life accordingly, go check it out for some fun ;D
Baby Oslock’s First Photos 🙂
Our Original Children – Furry Babies 🙂