December 2, 2016

No one tells you to put your veterinary career on hold to have kids, right?

After all, we’re supposed to forge ahead and get through veterinary school, go on to our internship and residency, or go build ourselves up in private practice (or academia), right? We’re supposed to buy that small business to help pay off our loans, while balancing work-life balance despite our workaholic personalities, correct? We’re suppose to Lean In and be great, hardworking professionals while balancing it all, right?

Well, no one tells you this, so VETgirl is going to.

Stop what you’re doing and consider having kids now.

What?! Nobody says that out loud. Well, let me fill you in on the trials and tribulations of being a female. Obviously, this is based on my own struggle with infertility, stress, losses, and getting old quickly.

After veterinary school, I went straight into my internship at Angell. That was definitely one of the hardest years of my life, as I worked 100+ hours a week (I don’t recommend getting pregnant during an internship!). After that, I did my emergency critical care residency at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. I will still pretty young during this time – in my late 20’s. I then joined the faculty at University of Minnesota in a clinical teaching position. I loved this job, as it gave me the opportunity to work with veterinary students, teach interns and residents, and work with a top-notch staff of veterinary specialists. Before I knew it, I was in my early 30’s living in a new state (Minnesota, that I now call home).

Now, I should step back and say that I believe life is all about timing. Most things are out of our hands when it comes to timing or circumstances, right? Whether you call it “fate,” “the universe,” “God’s will,” etc. we can’t plan our life as much as our control-freak veterinary selves want to. Sure, I was supposed to get married in my early 30s and have a kid by then, but being that I was still single or dating (in a committed relationship but not married), it was hard to plan on family planning. Our workaholic personalities think that if we work harder, we can make it happen, right? After all, we’re scientists and will just work hard to family plan later.

Well, not so with fertility…

Fast forward a few years later, where I finally met the man of my dreams. We got married by 40 (Woohoo!). Hey, I’m a late bloomer, so everything takes me slightly longer in life. But, we instantly started trying to have kids. Several pregnancies and losses later, we decided to try IVF. After all, we see all these old mid-40 year old career women with kids from IVF, right, so it can’t be too hard – just expensive right? WRONG. Little did I know, as a scientist, that the statistics for a live birth from IVF rapidly diminishes to almost 0-2.5% once you hit 42 years of age. That’s with IVF! How can these numbers be so low?! But what about all those older women with twins from IVF? Well, hate to break it to you, but nobody tells you that they are from egg donors. That’s right – other (younger) women’s eggs. Which is great! And totally fine, if you and your partner want to go that route. But we elected not to. So, after 3 years of trying, we finally came to peace with our parent-less destiny.

Our "kid" Milo

Our “kid, “Milo, best dog ever…

What did I learn through this journey?

First, the chronic effect of stress on your body is overwhelming.
While we were trying to have kids, I tried everything to alleviate my life of stress. I tried meditating. I tried yoga. I triaged all my business trips away. I implemented great self-care techniques (like a monthly massage or facial). I kept in great shape and ate well (I even quit caffeine!). But it didn’t matter. Of course, I was going through a lot of stress during those three years of trying… both personal and professional trials that really challenged the capacity of what one can handle. This was overwhelming, and I definitely contributed that stress towards our battle with infertility and losses. Despite trying not to “stress out,” the chronic toll of stress on your body is hard to account for. We don’t realize how stress really does affect our body.

Second, I should have frozen my eggs.
Years ago, in my young 30’s, my cousin recommended that I freeze my eggs. That’s crazy talk, I thought. I‘m on the plan for marriage and family planning by my mid-30s (Wait, I’m still single). I was too cheap to even think of this option, as I’d basically have to go through all the expensive IVF hormones, drug therapy, egg retrival, sedation costs, freezer storage costs for the eggs, etc. Well, before you know it, time flew by and attempts at IVF proved my cousin right. Your egg count dramatically plummets in your mid-30s and is almost decimated by the time you hit 40. And 40 is closer than you think. Interestingly, large companies like Facebook and Apple are actually paying for their employees to freeze their eggs, as they want the best, workaholic you now! While I’m not sure I agree with the ethics of this, the drive for a woman’s career path often prioritizes her realization that she’s getting old.

Third, stop, drop and roll.
We’re all taught this saying in elementary school – what to do in case of a fire, right? Well, I’m going to advocate it for you as you get too far along in your veterinary career. There’s never a good time to take a break, get off birth control, get pregnancy and start a family right? While I don’t advocate for it during your internship and residency (We all collectively hated our internmate who got pregnant during the hardest year of our life, making us pick up all her overnight shifts from her maternity leave), I’m going to advocate that you do it SOONER than later… before you have to go through the devastating, painful experience of the battle of infertility or losses. Keep in mind that it takes the average couple – regardless of age – 18 months before they become pregnant. So, my advice? Get off birth control at least 18 months before you even think about trying.

If you’re still single, chill out. Well, kind of. You also have to stop, drop and roll. What do I mean by that? Finding a soulmate is like applying to get into vet school… it’s a job, man. Take the time to invest in this. I’ll admit it, I met mine on, and couldn’t be happier. But I had to strategically write a great, tight ad, triage losers away, and interrogate people like the FBI. But it worked for me.

More importantly, come to peace with what you want. If you’re okay with the chance of not having kids, then delay family planning. But if you really want to have kids, and it’s a high priority in your life, take the time to prioritize it.

Life just happens
Ultimately, life just happens. After trying for 3 years, we couldn’t deal with the emotional turmoil, stress, financial drain, and stress. We finally came to peace with being parentless and decided to enjoy our life together in our 40s.

And then it happened…

We were fortunate. I’m going to chalk it up to God’s crazy timing, but 6 months later, after giving up, we got pregnant at the old age of 43. And this one stuck…

So, our Thanksgiving-baby is our reminder to be thankful in life. Ever grateful. Feeling blessed and thankful. Welcome to the world, VETboy!


VETboy has arrived!

I was honored to have the gift of my birthing captured by a local Minneapolis photographer, Meredith Westin. Her beautiful, artistic eye captured our special day in such a professional, loving way. (You can also find her work on Facebook and Instagram). For you local Minneapolis-St. Paul people interested in having your birth captured, ping Meredith for a 20% discount by just mentioning this VETgirl blog – she’ll hook you up! You can check it out here: Birth Story: Justine and Jason.


Seeing the kid while getting my C-section


The doctors held the kid up to the clear drape to let me see him.

Most importantly, if I had to do it all over again, I would have taken the advice above. Have the crucial conversation with your partner now, and figure out what your priorities are. Because you know what? No one in the veterinary world – not your vet school professors, mentors, resident mates, colleagues, academicians, boss, practice owner, or industry mentors – are going to tell you to stop what you’re doing to take the time to have a kid now. But you need to as you approach your 30s.

Because you know what? You can still be an awesome veterinarian, continue your career path, buy a veterinary clinic, be a specialist, and take over the world, one dog-day at a time… while being a parent.

So, any advice on how to balance work-life balance? Motherhood with being a veterinary clinic owner or small business owner? Comment below!

Signature JLEE





P.S. Another contributing factor that helped us get pregnant? Spending lots of money after we decided to “give up.” After all, we figured we were DINKS! (Double-Income-No-Kids). We bought a new house! A boat! I got Invisalign! We bought first class tickets to Fiji! We spent it all, and then it happened…

  1. Congratulations Justine- he is handsome! Our little one has not made an appearance yet- but any day now I hope.

    As a fellow infertility survivor, I agree with your point on thinking about the priority of a family and discussing it sooner rather than later.

    I’ll be checking back for parent-life-balance advice!

    • Hey Michelle! So good to hear from you – so glad you are sharing in this journey also and glad your little guy is on the way soon! Say YES to the epidural, BTW.

  2. Follw the same “kids come first” mentality even aftey they arrive. Majority of people in the industry don’t and won’t have kids and won’t be as accepting of sick days, daycare-less days and being unable to pick up shifts or stay late. You need to set the precedent immediately that your kids always come first and do not apoplogize. Some people will understand, some won’t but your kids should always come first. You also end up fighting your own drive to naturally want to stayvlate or do more, when you know you shouldnt.

  3. Bayleigh and Karen say “Get a cleaning lady and then sit back and ENJOY your time with your new arrival….and we sure hope that VETboy gets a real name soon:-)!!!
    Congrats to you and your hubby and to brother Milo. Delightful story–thanks for sharing.

  4. Well written and very well said! As a 45-yr old, solo practice owner who would have very much liked to have had a family, I am also realistic about my chances of naturally conceiving (despite being in a long term relationship and my partner does want children). I wish I’d had the foresight (and funds) to have frozen my eggs 15 yrs ago, but I didn’t. Do I find my life empty because of it? No. But I wish someone had said it was ok to stop, look around, and recognize, that for all our knowledge, Mother Nature knows best in this case. To my younger colleagues, give it some thought. We will still need you, there will still be jobs to have, clinics to purchase and the veterinary field isn’t going to leave you behind! If having a family is even remotely on your radar, give it some thought to starting early. If it’s not, that’s great, too, so be happy with whatever path you choose. Congratulations, VetGirl, on your new arrival!

  5. Mazel tov Justine! I hope you’re considering coming to our 20th reunion in June – we’d love to see your little man. Traveling with a 7 month old is a piece of cake
    Best wishes and health and much happiness –


  6. Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m so happy for you!
    It really helps me to hear you, an amazing veterinarian and woman, who I have looked up to since the early days of my veterinary schooling, encourage us to do this. The decision has been a struggle for me too, feeling like maybe there will be a better time next year or next year. I truly appreciate your post and guidance! And if we are so blessed to have a baby, I’ll try to share some tips with you! 😉

  7. thanks for that beautifully written story. Congratulations to you both on your wonderful baby boy. Hopefully we’ll meet in down the road sometime.

  8. Congratulations Justine … You have come a long way since Angell
    Thanks for always being interesting
    Anne Minihan

  9. Thank you for this article and congratulations on your baby boy. I have only recently realized that this is important for me in my life. I’m hoping I didn’t realize it too late.

  10. Congratulations and thank you for saying this. With 30 years in the profession, I have seen far too many colleagues that wanted children, realize too late that their opportunity had passed. The worst was at a very large institution where 4 of my coworkers turned 40 all within the same year and had personal crises regarding being single and/or childless.. Fifteen years later they are still in the same situation. In my own personal life, I married a vet school classmate and we put off having kids for 15 years while we pursued residencies and our dream jobs. We barely dodged the bullet but with a little help ended up with twins followed by two more, all within 4 years. As a middle-aged male vet, I feel pretty uncomfortable having this talk with veterinarians that I mentor. It is really important. Thanks for saying it.

  11. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this. I’m nearly 37, and cried through this entire read. So happy for your happy ending, and it gives me a little more hope. I’ve been debating for the past year if I should stop working overnights, if it’s too big a toll on my body to do that and ask for it to conceive a child… maybe I should stop wondering and act on it, worry about the smaller paycheck later! Thanks again.

    • Most of my friends had kids around the same time as myself (early 30’s) so it was never an issue…I think while in vet school I knew I wanted to be a mom and work part time. As a student I worked/volunteered at a lot of clinics and saw that owners often had strained relationships with their kids and I knew I would never want to be in that position. So for me that second issue is far more of a concern. So I am blessed I get to work part time and raise my kids hands-on. I would never trade what I have with anyone. Thank you for talking about this issue…families come first!

  12. Absolutely! Remember that it is YOUR life and YOUR career. Don’t let anyone tell you what your career should look like. I choose to work 4 days a week. I take Friday to Sunday day off. I take a lunch break many days. I work really hard while I’m there. I’ve been a vet for 3 years and have a huge debt. I’m 37 and my little boy is 18 months old. I love my family and my career. I won’t be rich but I will live how I want.

  13. This is so important. My husband and I were fortunate to have an “oops” pregnancy in my early 30s just out of vet school. Although it was terrifying at first, it was such a blessing because it got the family ball rolling and we otherwise would have probably fit the above scenario perfectly – always talking about starting a family but not actually committing to it. As another commenter noted, the daily challenge is balancing family life and work life. I work hard daily to make family a priority and am not always successful.

    Congrats on the wee one. I have 2 boys – they are a riot.

  14. Congrats! So happy for you! I was class 03 at Penn and remember working with you there. As mom of 4 (two bio and two adopted) and owner of not 1 but 2 clinics, I agree whole heartedly with your advice. There is never a good time to do anything. You just need to do it and make it work. I actually find practice ownership gives me much more flexibility to set my schedule, bring kids to works as needed, and include them in the family business. With 4 little ones growing up underfoot at the clinic life can be hectic, but I love sharing my profession with them and having them with me quite often. We have a play room at both clinics with toys / games/ and pets. It’s not perfect, but nothing is! I wouldn’t trade my energetic brood for anything, but also find my business extremely rewarding and gain satisfaction from my clinics & professional life. Best wishes!

  15. Congratulations! I actually did it the other way around. I had 3 beautiful children in my early 20’s and started my undergrad at 32. I will be graduating veterinary school at 40. I know I may not be able to pay off my school loans by the time I die, but at least I was able to be a mom and a vet. Cherish the moments for they are too fleeting. It’s ok if the house isn’t perfectly clean because they will always mess it up but they won’t always be small. Hug, laugh and love often.

  16. Congratulations to you!!! So happy for you! I was debating on having kids. Being a vet is so demanding and stressful, I think people really need to know that it is ok to have kids and a career at the same time. And you are so right about people not telling you to stop and do it. You have to do it for you. Part of me felt guilty that that I would give up part of my dedication, like if my son was sick and I couldn’t come in.
    I had my son after I turned 38, and had I known how awesome it is, I so would have done it sooner any maybe had another. I also have a different way of looking at things snd things that mattered to me before, really don’t anymore.
    Thanks for sharing!!!!

  17. Thank you for sharing this. I don’t personally know where I fall on the kid spectrum, but I know a lot of my friends have faced struggles and the more we talk about it the more we remove the stigma! Congratulations! and another BIG Thank you!

  18. As a fellow veterinary specialist, who repeatedly delayed personal commitments and decisions for reasons of career advancement, this could be my story, with just a couple of very minor differences. The most important difference being that we are still waiting for our miracle after nearly 2 years of ART. Congratulations on your baby boy – enjoy every amazing moment.

  19. Thank you so much for sharing such an intimate journey. My precious one-and-only was born when I was 40 after 7 years of intermittent efforts, 2 failed IVF tries, and a bout of moderate ovarian hyperstimulation. My dear SIL (a PA) advised that the couples who don’t succeed are those who stopped trying. You proved her wrong on that!! I am glad, though, that her words gave us the courage to continue. My main regreet is not finding my second IVF doc sooner. He would have been aggressive sooner and I might have a sib for my girl.
    I did quit my job to focus on treament and then started some relief work, at my own pace, while we worked on it. This did help my stress level and, likely, our eventual success.
    Congratulations! And welcome, VetBoy!!

  20. My understanding was that it was not possibly to freeze eggs with much degree of success 15 years ago. Embryos yes, eggs no. However, that is not the case now. This would make it extremely difficult to do if you are single or you and your partner aren’t ready. -!: sadly the financial
    Decision may be made for many young vets anyway as student fees are so high. I think the discussion of fertility is important, but this would not have made a difference to me. I wasn’t ready to make those decisions at that time. And I was living on a PhD scholarship.

  21. Justine you just made me cry… Ive done internship, ECC residency (we know some of the same people!) and i found my soulmate a few years ago at age 36… and now having the same battle at you. We all tried so hard to not get pregnant for so long because we didnt want to be the one that madde out intern or resident mates worj more that all of a sudden it seems we are in our late 30’s and everyones telling us we should have tried 10 years ago. Im so happy for you, you give me home! Congrats on your little man.

  22. Congratulations, classmate. I know exactly what you mean about being childless due to a career choice. I was not sure if I wanted to have children or not. I chose my career first, mostly due to the numerous medical conditions that I have had over the years. My kids are my animals for right now. Who knows? Maybe in the future, if I find the right man, I’ll adopt but for now, I care for my fur kids.

  23. Nearly 13 years ago I had my son and quit my full-time associate veterinary position to stay home with him for the first year. Most people in the veterinary community thought I was crazy, but my family and church community were supportive. I went back to work part-time after that and it has been the right balance for me. I congratulate you on your happiness now and it does indeed confirm that God has his own timing for each of us!

  24. Congratulations!! Thank you for sharing your story!! I struggled with infertility and losses before finally giving birth to my son at the age of 40. I wish I wouldn’t have waited.

  25. Hi Justine, I doubt you remember me but I did a very similar path to you with doing an internship and then an ECC residency and then jumping right into clinical work. . I didn’t meet my husband until I was 37 and I started trying to get pregnant right away. The stress of being an ECC doc combined with the long hours, never getting to eat properly as well as chronic sleep deprivation take their toll on us. I did multiple rounds of IVF with no success, and then when I was just about ready to give up the last round worked and I had my miracle baby at age 40. My big decision however was that I stopped working as a veterinarian. I had worked in ER clinic’s for 13 years , and I work so hard to get this baby I didn’t want to miss any of her life. It was the toughest decision I ever made to no longer work as a veterinarian. We work so hard in our internships and residencies and and passing boards to just not do the job anymore. And I’m looking at all the school loan debt not even paid off yet. I can say, without any hesitation or doubt, that it was the best decision I ever made to be with my little one and I’m never looking back. Congratulations, this is going to be the best thing that ever happened to you as well.

  26. This is great advice and needed to be said. Biology is something no one can negotiate so we just have to work with what we’re given. Great post!

  27. Wow! Congratulations! God is amazing and never puts you through something you can’t get through. I believe that He knew with your position in the veterinary field that your story could help so many people and give them inspiration. Thank you for sharing! My 2 pieces of advice for work-life balance is you need to work at a hospital that has the same values and goals in life as you (or hire associates that complement your philosophy of life), and you have to learn let go of certain things. It’s hard to not feel like you are being the top dog at everything around your workplace. Family comes first and sometimes that means saying no to that last minute client on the phone wanting to come in, or getting that part-time job your family needs but maybe your veterinary career doesn’t want because it might not allow you to advance as much. I know from experience (father of 3 and married to an overnight ER vet!) that we always place our family unit above all else. I left a very demanding, leadership role position that gave me all sorts of toys, drugs, and resources to use at the hospital for a PT position at a much smaller clinic, leaving behind all the bells and whistles, so that I could have my time back. That’s the most valuable thing we have and your kids won’t forget if you miss their ballet performance, soccer game, school play, etc. because you are stuck at the clinic working for people that don’t care that you NEED to leave by 5:00pm that day, or don’t care that your kid is sick vomiting with a fever and needs to be picked up from daycare. Even if you own a place, always leaving early because of your family creates strife (whether you are aware or not) unless you have staff that believe in family too. Thank you so much for this Dr. Lee!

  28. Again, so many congratulations to you and Jason! I’m so incredibly happy for you. I read your story with tears in my eyes. This could have easily been me … at 37, I have secondary infertility and have almost no eggs left. If I hadn’t become pregnant at 32 and 33, and had waited just a few years later, it wouldn’t have happened for me. I applaud you for your candor and your willingness to talk about this issue. As women, we receive conflicting messages all the time – that children don’t define us, and we don’t need children to feel complete. We should focus on our careers, etc. etc … but what you wrote NEEDS to be said. You can want to get pregnant when you’re 40 with all of your might, and do everything right, but the fact is that it’s much, much harder, no matter how badly you want it. This needs to be taken into consideration too.

    A friend of mine who is 36 just froze her eggs. She is single and is still waiting on Mr. Right. She asked her parents if she could have the money they would have spent on her wedding to help her financially with this process – I thought this was a brilliant idea!

    • Thanks so much Michelle – it’s crazy that we aren’t “taught” this and I just wanted to share my journey to help those in our field who hadn’t even thought of this… in retrospect, I would have frozen eggs earlier, but am going to chalk up this crazy miracle to God’s crazy timing! 🙂 Feeling so blessed!

  29. Congratulations! Fantastic post – and all best wishes for your life as a Veterinarian & a Mom!
    You can do it 🙂
    (My husband and I combined Veterinary careers,Practice owners & having a family.
    Not always easy is an understatement – but we are proud of our achievements and proud of our own daughter who is now a Veterinarian too 🙂

  30. Congrats! He’s adorable!

    Advice from my Dad that I’m so grateful I took: ‘there will never be a right time to have kids. You will always think that you need to just get this done or do that before you are ready. If you want kids, do it. The rest will fall in place.’ Granted I was married and had my degree and a home at this point! But my husband went back for his masters while still working full time. He had a year of school left when our first was born. During that year, my mom made the 2 hour drive to help out. A lot! Neither of us got much sleep. But he was right. We figured it out.

    So I would completely second Justine’s beautifully written advice! And my dad’s! You’ve got all the time in the world to
    build your career, buy your practice, get your house how you want it, etc. You don’t have all the time in the world to get pregnant. If you want them, don’t put it off.

  31. I got married halfway through vet school, and worked full time for 2 years before having children. I was blessed to change jobs while 5 months pregnant (who does that?) and work for the most compassionate man who is also a great vet and practice owner! He let me set my own terms after maternity leave, and I worked 2-3 days/week, sometimes half days. His own first child was born 3 months after mine. The job situation that I was in at the beginning of my pregnancy involved long shifts and no real flexibility. Good jobs and good bosses are out there! I have worked part time and as a relief vet in the 13 years since my oldest was born. This gives me the opportunity to keep my skills current, and justify all those license fees and orthodontist bills! …. on my days off, I homeschool my 4 kids. I would feel sad to send them off to daycare/school/wherever right now – this time passes so quickly!
    Congratulations, VetGirl! 🙂

  32. Congratulations Justine! I did wait until my 30’s to have my son, but fortunately, did not go through the trials you did. I bought my solo practice when he was 4, and although I probably actually work more hours, I have found the flexibility is great. I am able to schedule out significant events at school, etc so that I can attend. If he is sick or there is a snow day, he gets to hang out at the office with me. The lack of a long commute has also helped a great deal ( I live only 4.5 miles from the clinic). Now that he is in 6 th grade, I look forward to him helping out more at the office and (hopefully) learning to have a good work ethic. One key tip for the next few years- make sure you make some time for yourself and your hubbie at least once a week ( be it a long walk, or a date night). It will help you be a better and happier mother! I hope we get to see your little one next year at Reunion!

    • Awesome advice Kelly! Thank you! 🙂 Hope to see you at the Cornell reunion? I think I’m going to try to make it!

  33. You spoke right to me, everything you’ve said is SPOT ON!!!

    I graduated vet school, pushing 30, and thought I knew what I wanted…fast forward a few years later, I still have debt (thought I’d pay it first), still have NO CLUE what I want to do with my career, and then when I DID decide to have children, it didn’t happen. 2 years of trying…fertility specialists, testing, and NO ANSWERS! It sucked! I was told I should have “started earlier”.

    We always think we have more time…..we think we’re invincible, but we’re not.

    Fast forward a bit, and I am currently 6 months pregnant, by nothing short of God’s perfect timing (no medical intervention, it just took FOREVER). I wish I wouldn’t have waited.

  34. Thank you for writing about your experience! I see how we go into our careers with these expectations and goals, and for some reason, the very normal life experience of having children becomes so difficult, and even considering it means we have some sort of weakness or something. I did the opposite of what you’re *supposed* to do… I took 7 years off from practice to be pregnant and raise kids. I’d like to say I was brave and meant to do it, but it just felt right, just as when I returned to work it felt right too. I share this to say, I admire my colleagues who are so dedicated to their careers, but don’t worry… work will always be there.

  35. Thank you so much for posting about this! I have had a hard time explaining to my colleagues why my partner and I decides to start our family now while I’m still in school. I had my son during first year after three years of trying and multiple losses. People look at me and think I’m crazy for having a kid now, but what they don’t see is the heartbreaking journey that we went through to have our son. I took a year off of school ehich was difficult because I had to pay back student loans and couldn’t work due to complications. I don’t regret a minute of it, not dealing with hormone fueled super smell abilities while in anatomy lab, and not the days when I have to miss class as a second year because my son has a cold. It’s really awesome to hear a well-respected professional essentially say what I’ve been feeling in my heart, that it’s not a bad thing to be thinking about kids right now. (Well maybe not while IN school if you can help it, but some of us don’t have much of a choice when you deal with infertility at a young age).

  36. Many congratulations on the birth of VetBoy! What a lovely addition to your family and what a fantastic surprise! 🙂
    I’m in the waited too late and experiencing “idiopathic infertility” group. We (I) lament not trying earlier, but have come to grips that it is what it is at this point. We decided not to pursue IVF as I didn’t think that I could handle the emotional toll if it was unsuccessful. My husband and I decided to grow our family through adoption and we actually finalized the adoption of our son this past June. He is 2 years and old and is just perfect! I know, all parents say that, but I thank my lucky stars for him everyday!!
    What I found that worked for me as far as family-work balance is working a “part-time” schedule (3x weekly) at a practice as an associate. My bosses are mothers and understand what it means to raise a family while practicing and have been great at accommodating my schedule.

  37. This is awesome and a must share! Congratulations to you and your husband! Although I am not a vet (but in the vet profession) I can relate to most of the above. Life is too short and family is really what it is all about. Thanks for being so candid and sharing such wise words to women who need to hear it. Congratulations once again!

  38. Thank you Justine for being so generous to tell such an intimate but vitally important story.
    Congrats on the new baby! All of us at MAH are thrilled for you.

  39. Thank you, Justine, for your wonderful, thoughtful article (which made me tear up.) I related to it on so many levels and couldn’t agree more. You are kind and brave for writing what needs to be said. I was 39 when I had my daughter. I worked at a high-end clinic in a major city for 10 years. I was in and out of relationships that I couldn’t dedicate enough time to. And, yes, I too did Dating was a job. I took it seriously. Yet I found myself single and childless on my 38th birthday. I had a serious heart to heart with my OBGYN who recommended I consider IVF. So naturally, after I made this decision and gave up on dating, I almost immediately met my partner. Six months later (surprise!) we were having a baby. (So a little sooner than planned but all wonderful nonetheless.) Long story short, I now work part time relief, live in the suburbs, get to raise my wonderful daughter, and am getting certified to teach yoga.Having a child changed my life for the better and made me focus on happiness. I am so very happy for you. I think you will find much joy in raising your son. After I had my daughter and leaving my FT job, one of my wonderful clients kept telling me over and over “it’s the most important thing you’ll ever do.” Five years later her words are still fresh in my head-and man was she right. Congratulations to you 🙂

  40. Congratulations!!! Enjoy this time with your son. My daughter will be 7 months old in a few days and I’m grateful for every moment, even though this is the hardest thing I have ever done. It’s hard not to think about her at work but also hard not to think about work at home. The adjustment back to work is difficult for the staff because now that I’m devoted to my daughter and not the job, I’m not willing to give up my personal time anymore. This is much better for me and my family. My husband appreciates my rededication to our lives. I hope you can figure out how to be vetgirl, mom and wife. Please post that advice once you’re there.

    • Thanks Mariea! I’m not sure I’ll have great advice, but I’ll see what crazy life lessons I learn from this and share as I can! 🙂

  41. Thank you so much for writing this. I was 28 when I started vet school and had already been married for several years. I was diagnosed with polycystic ovaries and told that I would likely need to undergo fertility treatments in order to have children. Fast-forward a few months, of stress reduction and weight loss and I got pregnant with my daughter (fun during anatomy lab) and then my husband and I tried again when she was 18 months old and had our son 6 months ago. I still have 6 months left in my program, but never regretted my decision to have children during vet school. I know that it is really hard for some in our profession to understand – I have had some vet school moms tell me that they’ve had practicing vets tell them that they shouldn’t become veterinarians if they aren’t fully focused on their career! With all the talk recently about mental health awareness in our profession, what I think that we need to realize is, in order to do the best for our patients, we need to do the best for ourselves. This includes having a work-life balance. While not for everyone, children are a wonderful escape from trials of the day – not to mention that we are raising another generation of animal lovers!

    Best of luck with your little one!

  42. I got married in 2012 at 37, and had my daughter 6 days before my 38th birthday! Now she’s 3, and I’m 41, and it’s been a heck of a ride! As awesome as being a vet has been, being a Mom is the Best Job Ever.

    Congrats and best wishes!


  43. I could not agree with you more Justine. If you really want kids, it has to be a priority, no matter what else is going on in your life! I married at 31, first child at 34 – right when my husband decided to go back to school to pursue an M.D. We have been on 1 income for 6 years. I am now pregnant with baby #3, about to turn 40 next year. Through 2 miscarriages and 3 pregnancies, I have continued to work full-time while he is in medical school. He starts residency next year. People ask me all the time “how do you do it” and I simply say, “well, I guess I don’t have a choice!” It is stressful, and looking back we should have started right after we were married. But, I am so glad we pushed through and didn’t wait until my husband was done with school either! Congratulations on your little man:) Remember: “Life’s what happens to you while your making other plans!”


  44. Congrats!! I was hyper focused on work and buying a practice and I was successful at it. I got married in my 30s, still completely focused on work, when 9-11 happened. Made me wonder what the heck I was waiting on, if everything can be taken away in a day. I had 3 kids in 4 years (with intervention) while buying the practice, the building, and constructing a brand new hospital. Stressful? Yes. Kids made me much more mellow; I do not see appointments full time, haven’t for years. Oh- work-life balance? It’s more like 90-10, 10-90. Sometimes family takes precedence, other times work, but for me it evens out. It’s not (for me) 50-50 all the time. Enjoy that baby!!!!!

  45. I was definitely on the driven career path, wanting to reach certain milestones before taking time for a family, but started to get a little burnt out. Somehow that translated to deciding it was now or never for kids. Two pregnancies and two boys later I am actually closer to my career dream of ownership and happier at both work and home!
    Loved the blog and congratulations!

  46. Thanks for the great article! I agree with your message, and would only add that you should not let others opinions of what they think it is to be a mother and veterinarian determine your identity as a mother and veterinarian. I too struggled with loss and infertility. I was lucky enough to have found my future husband before veterinary school, though we didn’t get married until the summer between my first and second year of vet school. We decided to try to time our first baby for the end of 4th year so that I could have maternity leave in between school and my first job. Well that went about as well as expected. Instead of having a baby at the end of that year I had already suffered losses and would also have emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy in the middle of one of my senior year clinical rotations. A few months later we found we were expecting again just to experience the pain of having a stillborn daughter at 21 weeks gestation. This was within the first year of my first job out of vet school. I’m not sure how we made it through all that or why we really continued trying other than our deep desperation to be parents coupled with stubbornness. After another loss we were finally blessed with a pregnancy that went all the way to term. While healthy now, our second born daughter was 2 weeks early, but weighed only 3 pounds, and I had to be treated for pre-eclampsia. She spent nearly 2 weeks in the NICU . By the time we were actually parents, I wanted nothing more than to be with her as much as possible. I was fortunate enough to work for some wonderful colleagues at the time who supported me and my decisions and I ended up taking 6 months off work postpartum. I still find my priorities are shifted to put time with my family and kids first. I have had some push back from some colleagues and have had to listen to others opinion that I couldn’t be both a good vet and have the time I wanted with my kids, but I’ve also had support and I haven’t wavered on my beliefs and priorities, and overall I’m quite happy with where I am professionally and as a partent. And while I love being a veterinarian, at the end of this life I would rather my regrets about spending time with loved ones be fewer than not pushing myself every second of the day to be an ideal of a veterinatian that isnt realistic anyway.

  47. First of all, congratulations and wishing you all the best to you and your beautiful family! Thank you for your blog. I’m new to Vetgirl, and this was the first blog I read. It touched me. I’m in a similar situation – 37, trying for a second child, had multiple miscarriages, had cervical cancer removed and have to have another child soon because I need to have a hysterectomy. Hoping other women take your advice – family first! Thanks again!

  48. I’m so glad you suggested to everyone abt freezing their eggs. I chose to freeze mine before I met my husband and have a wonderful 2 year old because of that decision. It isn’t a guarantee but it is worth the investment when it does work out. I tell everyone if they haven’t met someone by 35 and you have some
    Money- to consider freezing your eggs. Best decision I’ve made!! So glad it worked out for you. Xoxo

  49. Congratulations! I’d also say, you don’t need a relationship to have a baby. I pursued a Sperm donor because I was single and didn’t want to get married but wanted a baby. I have a beautiful daughter and am so happy as a single mom!

    • That’s so awesome Kim! You are so brave and huge kudos to you! 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing!

  50. Thank you. I’m in my late 30’s. We (my fiancé and I) just moved to a new town. I’m about to get married and start a new job. I’m so stressed about what a pregnancy will do to a relationship with a brand new employer. But I don’t want to put off a family any longer. I’m struggling because I feel guilty for even playing with the idea of putting off my family for a brand new job.

    • Don’t delay. Your employers will come and go, but your window is narrow. Go for it. It’s none of anyone’s business…

  51. Great read. No one prepared you for making time for you and your family. I bought a hospital and found out that I was 6 weeks pregnant. No ones journey is easy or not complicated. But it’s an exciting ride. 4.5 years into it my little 4yo boy is awesome and so
    Is my business. Not sure id pick this path if I’d have to do it all over again but this is life! Enjoy the ride!!

  52. Hi Justine, just discovered your blog and its friggin awesome!! I totally agree with everything you mentioned in this post. After working in small/wildlife practice for nearly a decade, I got married at 32. I wasn’t wasting any time and we got pregnant after 8 mths.. The plan was always to return to work after 6 mths but the universe had other ideas! 3 boys and 4 yrs later, I have finally managed to return to work part-time (nervously) – this is my second week! Its a seriously long break, but totally worth it, and I would recommend it to anyone who asks. I love being a mummy, the boys think its amazing that i look after animals for work and my hubs is soo chuffed we are a partial dual-income family again!!
    Discovering your blog and website is just perfect for me returning to work in a busy practice, dashing off to spend time with the kids and trying to squeeze in revision as well.
    Thank you so much!!!

    Ps- all the best w vetboy! I have 3 crazy scotchinese musketeers, boys are a blast! Xxx

  53. Thank you for sharing! I’m glad to see this issue being talked about by prominent veterinarians. I’m also very happy to hear of your little miracle, after all you do to bless us with wonderful CE!

    I did want to ask, my understanding was that freezing eggs is much less reliable than freezing fertilized eggs or sperm. Has the technology changed, or is this still the case and obviously a single woman only has eggs to choose from?

  54. Congratulations! Thank you for sharing this beautiful story, as well as sharing a viewpoint that we don’t hear very often. I like your advice on dating – when I was the only single one at a practice, I often had to fill in for coworkers who had to leave early to pick up kids, etc. After a couple of years like that going by, I had to remind myself that even though I don’t have kids yet, I also need to make time for activities outside of work – such as dates and a social life, so that I can someday meet someone and have my own family, too. Again, great advice – thanks for the article!

  55. Justine, this piece is absolutely inspiring and came at just about the right time as I am finding encouragement to start my family despite being in grad school and wanting to still pursue residency in the future!

  56. Wow I could not agree more! Our profession and society tells women to have it all and just keep truckin’ along. When I finally figured I would have a baby (because it would be just that easy right) I was 35 and of “advanced maternal age”. After 2 years of infertility treatments I got pregnant and thankfully had another magical surprise son 2 years later – best gift ever from the universe! Now my boys are 5 and 7 and I just sold the multiple practices I own to work 2 days a week and focus on being Mom before I miss everything. I haven’t been happier in as long as I can remember. Trying to do it all simply doesn’t work – you fail everyday either at home or work and it is a terribly stressful burden. I am 43 and work will always be there but my sons will not grow up more slowly! And who ever said on their deathbed that they wish they had worked more??

  57. You know, just a couple of years ago I thought that I have plenty of time before I will create my own family with lovely kids. Till that moment I worked so hard! But I was in love with my life. But then one day everything has changed. I met my future husband. After our wedding I realized that I am 45-year-old and I still have no children! I was scared! So many doctors were like: you are late! Your body is too old, or something like that. That was so hurtful… But my husband had a different view. He made me a great gift – a kind of vacations around Europe. Our last point of destination was Kiev, Ukraine. I thought that it was quite an exciting adventure – an absolutely new county for us. But only in Kiev I`ve got to know that the main idea of this tour was a center for human reproduction. My husband read that it is one of the best in Eastern Europe and the prices there are quite affordable. For example, if I am not mistaken, our program cost us only 30k euros! After two years I could say that this tour was really special and successful for us. And I want to add that if you have a chance to get your kid earlier you definitely should try to do this.

  58. Hello, I know this is an older article now but just wanted to comment. I am based in the UK and will hopefully be starting vet school this September! It all sounds great but I will be almost 30 when I graduate. I’m just worried that maybe this is a little too old and that I won’t be leaving myself much time to settle down with a partner (currently single), buy a house and have kids etc. On the other hand if I choose not to go to vet school, I could reach 30 and still find myself being single with no kids anyway! I have also had other people tell me it is not wise to graduate and then go on maternity leave soon after as I will miss out on gaining clinical skills/knowledge that are important to build when first graduating. Guess I’m just looking for some reassurance Congratulations btw on your little boy 🙂

  59. Congrats Justin ! Thank you sharing such a wonderful story. I pray for you and your angel that god fulfill you life with happiness.

  60. I am just reading this now, and I want to say THANK YOU for being so open and frank about this topic! I went straight into private practice after I finished my degree, had the husband and ‘planned’ for popping 2 kids out in my early 30s. After 18 unsuccessful months and 1 miscarriage later (I was almost 32 by this point), I was sitting in my fertility doctor’s office listening to him tell me that my egg reserve was so low that I basically had the ovaries of a 50 year old woman. And that I did not have a realistic chance of having biological babies with my husband, unless we used an egg donor. Fml x 1000000000. I wan’t even a candidate for IVF bc my reserve was so low. But we decided to try IUI’s (bc what the hell else could we do? and financially/emotionally an egg donor was not an option).
    My son was conceived about 4 months later. He is now 4 years old and a healthy, loving pain in the ass (said with love). Our daughter was conceived about 2 years later out of the clear blue sky…or maybe aliens…I don’t know. I was back in that fertility office, in my 2nd round of IUI when my monitoring ultrasound showed *nothing*. $3K worth of meds/injections 14 days in had not produced a single damn follicle. So I cancelled that cycle. A few weeks later (after failing to get my period and convinced that I had finally reached menopause in my mid 30s) I got a call from the clinic saying I was pregnant. Wtf. My daughter just turned 2 and told me yesterday that both dinosaurs and birds have nests. Smartypants.
    I never thought that I would be affected by infertility. But I was. And it sucked, hard. Mother nature *does not care* how good, smart, talented, hard-working, driven or successful you are. So please take the time to have this conversation with yourself and your partner (if applicable).

    Congratulations to you and your husband Justine! I wish you all many, many years of health and happiness and the good kind of crazy that kids bring to your life. And please continue to write and speak the truth!!!:)

  61. I read this blog post for the first time today. I love it. I currently have a 1.5 year old. I am trying to figure out how to be a veterinarian and also show up for my family, and take care of myself. We need more successful women telling their stories. Thank you for sharing.

  62. This makes me so happy. I’ve felt so nervous and a bit judged as I’ve taken a year off of vet school to have a baby. My husband I found out I had a very low egg reserve and the dr said now or never. This article makes me feel like my choice is valid and I’m not less of a vet or less dedicated for having a baby during school.

  63. Thanks for sharing, Justine. You are ALWAYS an inspiration and I am so happy for you!
    I was one of those non-traditional aged vet students who went on to a rotating internship (at age 39)
    and am now in my second year of ER life, which I love , but in no way reduces my general stress.
    I just broke up with my younger, vet school boyfriend of 5 years who finally divulged that he was not
    On board for the whole marriage and kids thing and I find myself 41 and dating (woo hoo) and
    Trying to come to grips with the fact that a child may just not be in the cards. It is hard. Where does the time go???
    You give me hope though! If it’s meant to be…

    So happy for you and hope you keep the community updated on your little man❤️

  64. Oh Allison, I’m so sorry to hear that. If I were you, I’d consider going through egg-freezing asap. Make the consultation appointment, talk it over and see if that’s even an option. Making that first appointment doesn’t commit you to anything, right? Thinking good thoughts for you and keep me posted!

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