Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Four and a half months to go....

Pregnancy as an equine vet isn't your average pregnancy experience (if such a thing exists?). For a start you usually have to tell your employer immediately - no more xraying for this roadie. And the trouble is your boss is rarely the one booking your appointments, so you have to tell the secretaries too... And then you have to tell the other vets because they're the ones going out doing your xrays for you. And then you're desperately trying not to tell every client that needs an xray... So it's far from a private affair. There's no revelling in the secret that you and your partner eagerly await to tell the world when you go for your first scan. Instead there's the constant dread that the unspeakable may happen and you'll have to tell all the same people about what should be the most private of matters. But being the practical, level headed equine vet that you are, you tell yourself that what will be will be and you will deal with whatever happens, if and when it happens. 

I knew the select people well and trusted them not to tell everyone and their dog, however being a second pregnancy and post-Caesarian the old abdominal wall wasn't up to the job of hiding much after 8 weeks. I just hoped that my appetite for cake and biscuits was a ready cover story for those who weren't to know. But I wasn't prepared for the fatigue that set in during that first trimester... chasing after a toddler clearly takes it's toll on your surplus energy levels as I was whacked. I had to pull over one morning at 11 o'clock, mid-calls, and take a power nap - the eyelids were just refusing to stay open and I was covering some miles which was an accident waiting to happen. The coffee abstinence was disastrous and I have to confess I resorted to it on many occasions as the lesser of two evils when facing a potential road traffic accident as the alternative. I hope the foetus didn't mind... 

Then there's the constant need for carbs, or more specifically, sugar. I had been so careful through my first pregnancy to eat healthily and avoid caffeine and alcohol but this time I was unable to resist the odd bag of Haribo or can of Coke to keep me going through the long days out and about. As the bump grew at a rate of knots I became convinced I was inducing gestational diabetes and so was dreading my first urine test. Luckily all was ok and the scan confirmed there was just one bun in the oven. Big relief and it was business as usual the following day. 

Once I could tell everyone why I was avoiding xrays life became easier. The much loved client I was unable to be there for while the family pony underwent xrays confirming acute founder could finally know exactly why I missed the last goodbye to that much loved patient. I was genuinely upset and thanks to the pregnancy hormones I struggled to conceal my tears over the phone as a colleague relayed the xray findings. Being able to tell the clients why I was appearing so evasive in seeing through cases (that required xrays) was a huge weight off my shoulders. 

Then there was the client who won't have anyone else on their yard, apart from the only other pregnant vet at the practice... that conversation went down well. In the knowledge that both her favourite vets would be on maternity leave simultaneously she was beside herself but happy for me all at the same time. I promised to retain phone contact throughout my maternity leave, rightly or wrongly! 

At bang on 12 weeks the disabling fatigue disappeared and I was back firing on all cylinders. Clients and colleagues confessed that they knew something was up. I wasn't usually so bovine in my responses and reactions... they were glad to see the Spaniel-like enthusiasm return. On telling them I was pregnant and therefore would be on maternity leave next year they were all over the moon for me. I never for a minute thought they would not be but continuity is important to many clients and so it must trouble some when they have to break the news. This is one bonus to working in such a team-spirited practice. My clients are already comfortable seeing different team members. Yes, we all have favourites (vets and clients!) but they know they are getting a top class service whoever arrives at the yard and this dissipates any potential challenges which one could otherwise expect.

Up until 18 weeks, apart from requiring matchsticks for my eyelids, I was largely unaffected by the pregnancy but suddenly I started struggling to put my boots on. I managed to train my toddler to zip and buckle them up for me, which helped immensely. Then I had to train her to put my socks on, then it was trousers. As the bump increasingly obstructed bending at the middle, my lower back started to ache. I don't remember back pain during the first pregnancy so wasn't really prepared for it, but it's certainly a problem when you're trying to perform a flexion test on a big, bouncy Warmblood, or nerve blocking an agile Thoroughbred's hindleg. I started to worry about my bravado assumption that I would merrily work until my due date. Thankfully my bosses were more sensible than I was and suggested that "should I want to stop earlier than the day before the elective Caesarian" (as I was clearly alluding to at the start of the the conversation), I would be fully supported and could work through a hand-over period with the individual who would be my maternity cover. I was grateful for their approach and excellent handling of the conversation. I came away with a warm, blushing feeling as their words echoed in my ears of how they would love me to come back to work as soon as possible because they felt I was an important member of the team and would be missed by my clients, however they were absolutely aware that the time with one's newborn is golden and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which was not to be missed. I wanted to hug them all and burst into tears, I was so grateful for what they said and how they said it.

Not long after I received by a phone call from the person in charge of the rota - I was asked when I would like to come off the out of hours rota and said I didn't mind but my only concern would be rectalling colics once the bump was hard to hide round a door frame. No sooner was I being offered removal from the normal rota at 6 months but being offered to keep just two weeknights the following month when I would have full back up if required, should I wish to keep them. I offered to work some extra on call now while the bump was small, but was assured this wasn't necessary. I can't tell you how relieved I was by the immense feeling of support. I suddenly felt completely fine about working with my pregnancy. I knew they had mine and the baby's best interest at heart and that was invaluable. I didn't think I could love my job, practice and colleagues any more than I already did, but suddenly I was welling up at the thought of it with tears of joy! 

So here I am, facing the second half of pregnancy with a huge smile on my face that this can work and there is no need to worry. I know the equine profession has a bad rep for how it handles pregnancy, maternity leave and part-time work but I can honestly say my practice is heads and shoulders above those responsible for that reputation. I am positive that times are changing and equine vets will be able to have family alongside a successful career, we just need to think forward and find solutions to the challenges faced, not cower behind the rose-tinted past when there were fewer females and the problem didn't arise. I'll keep you posted on how the next four and a half months go... watch this space!

1 comment:

  1. Very well written. I too have had a very positive experience with the practice I work for (2 male partners might i add!) and i have given them the pregnancy news 3 times!!! There are other challenges though of running a family alongside a veterinary career which i have struggled with, hence i am not returning to work after baby number 3. I hope to in the future when the children are a bit bigger, just not now. Would i be returning to work in a different career? I am not sure but the out-of-hours commitments is the icing on the cake for me.