May 14, 2016 is a day that I will never forget. My first year of dental school was behind me, and I was standing at the altar marrying my best friend. Since then, life has exceeded my expectations and filled me with wonderful memories. On September 25, 2016, my wife approached me with a worrisome look. I had seen her worried before, but this was different. I listened as she said three words that changed my life forever: “I am pregnant.”
As an expecting father and dental student, balancing life and school can be difficult. Although it is not as difficult as it would be if I were the one who’s pregnant. The hardest part for me is missing some of my wife’s appointments. While it is frustrating, it does not compare to the obstacles faced by pregnant students. To better understand the challenges of being pregnant, I interviewed two expecting student mothers from my dental school. Justina Boles (D1) is expecting her second child in September and Leigh Lloyd (D4) is expecting her first child in June.
Caleb: How has your day-to-day school experience changed since becoming pregnant?
Justina: I met with my gross anatomy and pain professors to make special arrangements to complete course requirements. While pregnant, I am unable to participate in cadaver lab or receive local anesthesia. Fortunately, classmates, professors and administrators have recognized that the baby’s health is priority.
Leigh: My day-to-day hadn’t changed too much, until recently. I experienced morning sickness for about three weeks last semester while studying for Boards. I have been fortunate not to have too many side effects thus far.
Caleb: What is the most difficult part of being pregnant while in school?
Justina: The most difficult part is making plans. You have no way of knowing if you are going to have a happy baby who sleeps through the night or a baby with terrible colic. It is easy to get nervous thinking about the new baby’s temperament. My main concern is having a healthy baby.
Leigh: The most difficult thing about being pregnant in dental school is adding another level of stress. You never know what could happen or when your doctor might order bed rest. I felt it was important to finish all of my requirements as soon as possible.
Caleb: What’s the one thing people ask you that you don’t like to hear?
Justina: “You are going to take a year off, right?” Of course, there’s nothing wrong with taking a year off. My situation is unique because my husband has one more year of medical school. If I was to take a year off and he was accepted to a residency, we could risk living apart for an extra year.
Leigh: “Are you going to send your daughter to daycare?” It will be hard to leave my baby, but I did not spend four years in dental school to stay home. I want to serve my community and fulfill my dream of being a dentist. Ultimately, I want to be a positive role model for her.
In the end, there is no way to fully prepare for having a child while in dental school. During the pregnancy, there are a lot of unknowns. Justina and Leigh are two testaments to this. Their stories illustrate some of the obstacles faced by pregnant students. Pregnancy during dental school poses unique challenges that must be considered.
Have you been pregnant while in dental school? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!
~Caleb Hardman, Mississippi ’19, chapter president, District 5 chief of staff