As veterinary medicine has been overtaken by a majority of females, we have to answer the question – “But what about moms and babies?”
This is actually a crucial question to answer. It is a piece of the puzzle that needs to be addressed. Veterinary Medicine is facing a shortage of veterinarians in the workforce, even with the increased size of veterinary classes and the addition of new veterinary schools.
There are many reasons for this, but a big piece of that is that women have different priorities than men. In years past, veterinarians were men who worked 80 hours a week. They had a wife at home who raised the children, washed clothes, made dinner, and did the million other care tasks that a family requires.
Now with so many women working, they simply can not and SHOULD NOT work those crazy hours. Children need their mothers. Veterinary Moms are caregivers. They should never be expected to put the care of an animal over the care of their own child.
When I got pregnant with my first child, I was still working large animal mobile practice, but we had moved some of the work to our clinic. We had a horse stock and a few stalls so that our time could be managed more effectively with clients hauling horses in for treatment. Driving between farms is a huge time drain that should be avoided if possible.
I was young and naive, and probably did all sorts of things that would make people cringe. I pulled calves, palpated mares, took x-rays, and did many things OSHA would NOT approve. One afternoon I had a mare with a tumor on her tail that needed to be removed. It was HOT. My first child was born in mid-July. I had asked the horse owners to bring the horse into the clinic for the surgery. Our treatment area wasn’t air-conditioned, but it did have a clean area with a roof for shade and fans for air circulation.
We put the mare into the stocks and sedated her. Once I began the tail block and started to arrange my surgical tray, I realized that I could not possibly sit how I needed to do this surgery. My belly was WAY too big for me to face the mare. I couldn’t stand that long because my ankles would swell. I settled on a stool. I turned sideways so that my belly was facing to the left, and my arms were in a good enough place to reach my instruments and perform the necessary surgical procedure.
I was so focused that I never even considered how it looked to someone from “outside”. Dr. Knight walked in mid-procedure and burst out laughing. I looked up confused. He was so tickled that he couldn’t even tell me why he was laughing. He finally managed to describe to me just how comical my position was, sitting sideways behind a horse, big pregnant belly, surgical gloves and blood, sweat dripping down my face, focused on removing a tail.
Unfortunately, this all occurred pre-smart phones, so I have no photographic evidence. But it still brings a smile to my face to remember how proud he was. As I have said, he was an amazing mentor. He was a father to girls, so he never doubted my ability or my determination to do “a man’s work” even when I was 8 months pregnant.
I changed the perception of pregnancy for many of my clients. They fussed and worried over me, but I always told them “pregnancy is not a disease”. As long as I felt healthy and the dr said all was well, I carried on as “normally” as I could.
I still had no clue how drastically my life would change with the birth of my first child.
More about the newborn phase in vet med tomorrow.