When the Doctor Becomes the Mom

Warricks for Ask the Pede 4

Pediatricians dole out plenty of parenting advice every day. But what happens when a doctor becomes a parent herself? Denise Warrick, MD, a pediatrician in our Division of General and Community Pediatrics, has been learning to take her own advice over the past several months since the birth of her first child. We recently asked her what life is like being both a doctor and a mom.

What have been the best moments?
When Madeline looks at me and smiles. Her smiles, coos and laughter make me forget all the other challenges of parenthood. It’s exciting for me to look at her and think about what her personality will be like and what she will be like when she grows up.

Have your baby’s sleeping habits affected yours?
Absolutely. I have always heard the old adage “sleep when the baby sleeps,” and while it is sound advice, is definitely easier said than done! Unfortunately, the arrival of a new baby doesn’t mean that household chores (dishes, laundry, etc.) go away.

So, while I can’t nap as much as she does, I am remembering that it’s important to rest when you can, eat well and stay active. I’m taking good care of myself, recognizing that it’s much easier to handle the stresses of new parenthood if I’m at least moderately rested. Also, I’ve learned that it’s much easier to accept help from others than to do it all on my own.

Does being a pediatrician give you particular insight into caring for a newborn?
During my pediatrics training, I learned all the textbook answers to parents’ questions. But, as you might guess, things rarely go by the book. For example, I would tell my patient’s parents to keep their children upright after feedings for 20-30 minutes to help with reflux. My daughter has reflux and it’s certainly difficult to follow my own advice at 4 a.m.

I have also gained more understanding and compassion for parents about the logistical challenges of getting through the day with an infant – things like taking a shower or going to the grocery store. My husband is also a pediatrician so we often talk about things and say “is this normal?” or “what do you think?” We’re anxious first-time parents, too!

When was your baby’s first visit to the doctor and were you nervous?
We went to our newborn baby visit when she was 3 days old. We were nervous, but it was reassuring to hear she was gaining enough weight with breastfeeding. It’s very different being the “parent” vs the “pediatrician.” As a pediatrician, it’s much easier to be objective. Yet, I now realize we as pediatricians often take for granted all the time and energy parents commit to their child’s overall health and well-being.

How did you coordinate schedules when you returned to work?
I returned to work full-time in August and our daughter started daycare. Every day is a challenge. I’m finally adjusting (kind of!) to the reality that the caregivers at day care will see my daughter more than I will and will witness some of her greatest milestones. I have to tell myself that my husband and I are modeling a good work ethic for our daughter and that one day she will be proud of her parents and their chosen careers. I grew up in a family of two working parents, and I have incredible respect for what my parents do and how they raised me and my brother. I am proud that Madeline will, hopefully, feel that about me and her dad some day.

Has motherhood changed your views on the things that are most important in life?
Motherhood has certainly changed my outlook on the world. My family comes first. I am no longer jam-packing our week with activities and social events. Instead, I’m content to spend most evenings cuddling on the couch or taking a walk around the neighborhood with my daughter and the dog. In terms of work, this means charting or catching up on emails late at night in favor of getting a few hours of quality time together before my baby falls asleep. They’re good changes for sure!

Editor’s note: Dr. Warrick’s husband, Stephen Warrick, MD, pictured above, also is a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s. Information included in this blog post was originally published in the Fall 2015 edition of Young & Healthy.

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