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figure8moms blog

PREGNANT IN A PANDEMIC: A WORKING MOM'S EXPERIENCE

by Kendra St. Hilaire (www.instagram.com/marebearmom/)
I knew I wanted to be a physician assistant long before I ever knew I wanted to be a mom. When I was in high school, I needed surgery on my foot. It ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me, because I met a physician assistant (PA) during my recovery. I had always been interested in science and medicine, but I just didn’t see myself as a nurse or a doctor. When I discovered the PA career, I knew it was the perfect compromise.

WHAT IS A PA?

What is a PA, you might ask? A PA is a health care provider licensed to diagnose, treat, order diagnostics, and prescribe medications. While most work cooperatively with a physician, PAs are trained and certified to work independently and see patients on their own. Depending on the state and practice setting (hospital, urgent care, outpatient office, etc.), some PAs function without a physician on site along with them.

Educational tracks vary for PAs, but I was trained in a 5 year entry level masters program. I went into my freshman year of college and took medical classes from the start, and my senior year of college overlapped with my first year of grad school. One of the coolest things about the PA profession is that we are able to practice in any field of medicine, and we also have the freedom to change fields during our career. In my 12 years of practice, I have experience in palliative care, emergency medicine, primary care, and I also served a year as a missionary in Haiti. I am currently practicing in a family practice office where I have worked since I got married in 2013.

HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR CAREER AND FAMILY LIFE?.

My husband is an inpatient nurse. He has the ability to work evenings and weekends, and so he has at least a couple of weekdays off each week. Over the past 6 years of being parents, we have fell into a rhythm of me working part time on Monday and Thursday, and he works some other combination of weekdays, evenings, and weekends. This allows one of us to always be at home with our girls. Sometimes we have exhausting stretches of two or more weeks where one of us is always working every other day, but it has been such a blessing to be able to raise our girls without needing to put them in daycare. We make the most of our days and mornings off together, and my husband is incredibly hands on in our home and with our girls. Our older daughter started kindergarten last year (2019), and we were thrilled to find a hybrid program (pre-pandemic) in which she goes to a traditional classroom setting two days a week (my work days), and then I homeschool her the other days. My younger daughter is home with us full time, and we do preschool at home with her on our homeschool days. This may seem like a lot – but honestly it’s allowed us the freedom to have flexibility on our days off from work and decreased the stress of “school nights” since we all have to be out the door early only twice a week.

HOW HAS THE PANDEMIC IMPACTED YOUR WORK?

We live and work just south of Boston, MA. Our area was one of the earliest and hardest hit after NY and NJ. Much of Massachusetts was shut down in March and April, and this included all non-essential outpatient offices like my own. My boss continued to provide telehealth services all along, but I was furloughed for a few weeks before also getting the opportunity to do some telehealth from home. During my time at home, I also fundraised and personally sewed almost 100 ear saver headbands with buttons to ship to nurses, doctors, PAs, and other front line providers all across the United States. By mid-May, our office opened back up with limited in-person services, and now we’re back to seeing most of our patients in person at a slightly reduced schedule to prevent overcrowding.

In June, we found out we were pregnant with our third child! While COVID rates were declining rapidly by then, it still added an extra layer of anxiety to going to work in a healthcare environment. Although my husband has directly taken care of COVID patients all along, I thankfully am supposed to only be seeing non-COVID patients. So for the most part, my office is pretty low risk in terms of exposure. However, there’s always a chance that I could be exposed, especially because I am in such close contact with my patients when I provide care.




HOW DO YOU PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY FROM COVID-19?

When I returned to work in May, I started wearing scrubs instead of my typical business casual attire. Scrubs are much easier to wash and sanitize than more delicate work clothes. Whenever I come home from work, I undress in the garage, throw my scrubs in a separate laundry pile, and go straight into the shower before delivering any hugs or cuddles.

I bought a couple of pairs of maternity scrub bottoms recently, but I never found a scrub top that I loved. Instead, I pair my scrub bottoms with easy-to-wash plain tops like Boob Design Classic Organic Long Sleeve Maternity & Nursing Top. It can be washed on warm, which makes it a great option for any moms needing to frequently launder and sanitize their clothing.




I’m also a huge advocate for mask wearing. Although the data can be conflicting and confusing, and the protection isn’t perfect, the right mask definitely cuts down the spread of COVID-19 as well as other contagious illnesses. I wear medical grade masks at work, but I love to wear more comfortable and stylish masks outside of the office and on my days off. Isabella Oliver makes a super soft organic cotton masks for Adults and Kids, so you can match your littles in style and comfort!




WHAT OTHER THINGS HELP YOU KEEP UP WITH WORK WHILE PREGNANT?

When I was pregnant with my first, I had THE WORST back pain especially at the end of a work day, and I honestly didn’t even know how I would make it through my third trimester at work. I invested in a support band and it was a total game changer! This time around, I’m trying out the ReCore Fitness Maternity FITsplint™- Ultimate Maternity Support. I have slowly but surely been experiencing back pain over the last couple of weeks, and the FITsplint has been helpful not only at work but whenever I’m out and about or exercising with my girls. I also loved the Belly Bandit Upsie Belly. in my prior pregnancies.




My other biggest complaint at the end of a long day at work is my sore and fatigued legs and feet. I just suffered through them in the past, but with this pregnancy I discovered compression socks, and I am so excited about them! Vim & Vigr makes THE CUTEST patterns - I love their new hearts pattern with inspiring words on the soles. These socks are my newest and favorite must-have product for my third pregnancy, and I totally want to buy another pair for every day of the week.





Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nothing worth having comes easy” – and pregnancy and parenthood is one of the best examples of this truth. While the aches and pains of pregnancy are unavoidable, I hope my story and these products will help lighten the load (literally and figuratively!) of the months ahead.

Kendra St. Hilaire/div>