June 23, 2021

Life of being a doctor mum by Dr.Tripti Sharan

Mums and Stories catches up with known gynaecologist in New Delhi, mum and someone who has recently donned the role of being an author too. According to her she is a writer in her moments of introspection. As she strives to empower women by promoting health and awareness, her biggest challenge has been getting past the stereotypes and overcoming the misogyny prevalent in the society.

In her recent book, ‘Chronicles of a Gynaecologist’ published by Bloomsbury India that is based on real life experiences; she tries to decipher the conundrum of a women’s life at every step. She also has an anthology of poems, ‘The Dewdrops…a Journey begins. She is also an active blogger and pens poems and stories too.

Recalling her childhood memories she shares, “I had a slightly nomadic childhood. I was born in Patna, but my dad was an archeologist, working in the Archeological survey of India. That meant a transferable job and his dreams took us all over India.

I still carry the rich and versatile experience of our diverse country and its amazing culture. We often took those LTC tours and ended staying up at not hotels but at historical monuments which housed the official guest houses. Though we cribbed about not staying at expensive hotels later I could see the awe in the eyes of my friends and I learnt to flaunt my overnight stay in the Purana Qila, Safdarjang Tomb, Nizammuddin tomb of Delhi, St George Fort in Chennai, Taj Mahal Complex , Agra to name a few.

I was good in studies and was indulged a lot by my parents and teachers. I can boast of good literary genes and almost everyone in my family is good at writing and reading.

My first introduction to the likes of Shakespear, Charles Dickens, Wordsworth, Tagore , Premchand Mahadevi varma and other literary gems;- these learnings were not through school textbooks, but over animated discussions at home.

In those warm summer holidays when the electricity would also play truant, and people would huddle together to play cards, I could be seen leafing through the newspaper and noting down the daily quotes, or writing in my cousin’s diaries. Something I cherished was playing with doll houses.

One could also find me perched over the lower branches of the guava tree, singing our national anthem amongst all the songs they taught us at school. Those were the days, when holidays were spent with cousins, school meant studying till school time and then playing in the parks, all kinds of games till it was either dark or our parents angry voices called us back. The only regret I have is that I never was very sporty, a price I paid later in life.

I always wanted to be an IIT engineer, and later join the civil services. But for that I had planned to take a drop after 12th class and prepare for it. In the meantime I appeared in lot many other engineering colleges (including DCE , RECs and BITS Pilani) and medical colleges too and got selected in all. That was a tough time, deciding! I had to make a choice. I presumed that medicine would be easy and I naively thought of going for the civil services after MBBS. But medicine was an engrossing field and before I knew I was lost for about 10 years. There was no thought of moving out once I was inside.

It kept me tied up but the sensitive side of a writer developed in those years as I experienced pain, suffering and grief. It taught me compassion and became an outlet in my tense moments. I was always fascinated by surgery but ‘general surgery’ was much of a male domain back then so I took to obstetrics & gynaecology. The beauty of my branch is that it doesn’t deal with pathology but only an altered physiology. It is the only place in the hospital where one can celebrates. There is no better high than saving life and no moment more beautiful than life opening its baby eyes.”

Dr. Tripti talks of being a mum and how it is a dilemma to put the doctor’s role to the background. “When I am a mum, it’s a compulsion to forget that I am a doctor. Being a mother is a full time profession. But yes my knowledge as a doctor comes to my aid. When you become a new mum there are lots of taboos and restrictions, and advice from almost every corner. I knew which ones to disregard. I respected the scientific advices and ignored the irrational ones. I always teach the expecting mothers to do the same. I encourage them to have plenty of water, a good protein diet, and exercise well. I myself never gave top feeds to my kids till the right age and even though I had started working when my son was five months and that too a hectic working pattern with long hours.

We never toilet trained our kids, despite lot of parental pressure. However, most of our immunization cards were filled at the right time. And yes, being doctors we were most equipped to deal with the jitters our kids gave us medically, especially with my husband being a paediatrician. But with a sick baby in my arms, I behaved like a typical mum. Doctors are supposed to be the worst patients. You become a good paediatrician only after you have a baby. As a gynaec too, I could fully comprehend their problems once I was pregnant myself.

With parents being busy and away most of the time, kids become smart and relatives over indulgent. And working parent always carry a guilt complex. Still I am fortunate that my kids are not spoilt though I wish I could have done much more for them especially taken better care for myself during pregnancy. Being a resident doctor is very intense and prolonged duties leave very little time for food and rest. It all impacted on pregnancy and I, like many of other medicos ended up having high risk pregnancy and eventually small babies.

As parents, we may not have been completely successful but we did try to instill good food habits, teach our kids healthy lifestyle, and stress upon hygiene, and try to keep away from food fads, taboos and superstitions. I have always encouraged them to think logically and keep their power of reasoning intact.

But let me admit that end of the day we are nothing like a doctor parent or a doctor’s kids, we are just any other parent and kids.

We live in an era of changing behavioral pattern and I would like to share certain startling facts. Young people aged 15-24 years develop half of all new sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 1 in 4 sexually active adolescent females has an STI. This epidemic is one result of our sexually saturated culture and the myth perpetuated by academe, medicine, psychology, and our government that fuels the idea of latex, contraception, vaccines and big pharma companies can make all sexual behavior risk free.

Multiple sex partners, early initiation of sexual activity, poor knowledge of contraception, hesitation in using barrier method by male partners has resulted in the epidemic.

HIV is the tip of icebergs . STI is a rising concern , the problem more serious than pregnancy with long term consequences like infertility.

Cervical cancer, the most common cancer globally in woman is because of HPV, a virus that is transmitted sexually and is not exactly protected by a condom. One-quarter of adolescents and young adults in high-risk age groups for STIs do not have health care coverage. Only 11 percent of teenagers surveyed reported getting most of their information regarding STIs from their parents or other family members.

In addition to biological factors, women and female adolescents may also find it more difficult than men to implement protective behaviors, partly because of the power imbalance between men and women. The call of the day is to encourage use of contraception (barrier ), instil responsible behaviour health education & confiding in elders.

Since the age of initiation of sexual activity has gone down, we need to talk to our kids much early. Schools and parents need to be together in this. Sex education, contraception is the need of the hour. Sadly a readily available internet, a poorly informed peer group is the only recourse  to majority of these adolescents.

Menstruation is again one subject that should be dealt in open with both our boys and girls. There are a lot of taboos and myths surrounding it and the girls should be taught to break it and learn to take it as a normal physiology. ‘Ritual impurity’ has to be buried in history as just another ‘wrong word’. Menstrual hygiene and availability of sanitary napkins are areas we need to work upon.”

Talking on her book Dr. Tripti shares with Mums and Stories, “The stories have been inspired by real life incidents. I have indulged my imagination to turn it into a soul stirring fiction. The stories explores issues ranging from something as important and largely preventable as medical complications of pregnancies, touching upon the rampant superstitions and myths surrounding them, to the influence of quacks and preachers on a woman’s psyche.

The stories try to decipher the conundrum of women’s lives at every step and alongside give a much broader perspective of the factors that interplay in the professional career of a dedicated doctor. We live in the era of changing morality and social values. Every story raises a curtain and promises to be a revelation.

A hospital is a place where you can see people without veils and they show you their truest emotions. Though I have written a lot about woman who have suffered , shared their stories, there are men who have touched me too and inspired me. Like this man, with three children at home, risked his life and donated more than 75 % of his liver to his wife without deliberating much over it , who was in liver failure. His gesture reaffirms that there are men who can sacrifice. Unfortunately he lost his wife a month later.

Another woman who had come to our hospital in a refractory condition, on a ventilator. She turned out to be about 7 months pregnant with no obvious reason to be in this state. A ceasarean had to be done to save her. With no attendants, only an unwilling boyfriend as her companion, consent was given by doctors and medical administration. Surgery was done at a very low oxygen pressure of around 40 %, and unexpectedly,  we took out a crying baby.

The woman had all our sympathy and she recovered almost from being the dead. Yet when she opened her eyes, she turned away from her baby.  So sometimes hospital teaches you different facets of human nature.

The interesting thing is that most patients and their husbands are very particular now. They are wary that anything way-ward and I would write a story on them. And it is at times funny too when I see the protagonists of my story walk in my clinic and I am at my wits end not to spill out the beans

Life of a doctor is not easy. With a long duration of study, remuneration comes very late. Add to it the pressures of living under constant public glare and withstand unrealistic public expectations. Obstetrics & Gynaecology is a very demanding branch. The emergencies are very genuine and essentially involves two lives. The duty hours are long and strenuous. There is no scope of error and a little lapse can turn a moment of celebration into tragedy. Though we deal with an altered physiology and not pathology, yet most of the complications cannot be predicted or to a large extent prevented.

We are a country of high maternal and infant mortality rates. Most of the government hospitals do not have the best of resources and it’s the resident doctor who carries the burden and fallout of the declining resources. It needs highest levels of grit and determination to cope up with this amount of inhuman pressure.”

“I would finally like to share a few lines from the book ‘The Transformation’ which talks about post-partum depression. In our country child birth is a much celebrated event.  It is always hard to accept mental illness especially following moments of jubilation. Not surprising that it gets brushed off and ignored until it takes gigantic proportions. The constant visits by relatives, the customary celebrations further prevents one from coming to terns with this pathology. Most women would accept some kind of post partum blues but do not acknowledge it. And few understand that it might be totally unrelated to some discordance in the family. It just happens to some predisposed women and till date we have not been able to completely decipher it.

An excerpt…

The Transformation

“…He had come alone, without Devrina. I could make out that he was disturbed. His wife was not behaving like a typical mother. He was doing his best to help her, but she got irritated easily. He attributed it to lack of sleep, and willingly got up in the night to take care of the baby. At times, he was forced to give the baby top-up feeds, too, and yet she behaved oddly. Whenever the baby got up and started crying, she would complain; at times,mouthing expletives too. He had never heard these words from her, and was shocked. He tried to talk to her but she was strangely withdrawn. In spite of his assurances and ready support, it continued. A few days back, after its feeding session, the little baby continued to be cranky and refused to sleep. Arjun had just closed his eyes. Suddenly his eyes flew open when he saw an agitated Devrina scolding the baby and throwing him on the bed in frustration. Luckily he was there. The startled expression on the baby’s face, as it flopped helplessly on the bed, haunted him for days. Devrina was equally tearful and was consumed by guilt, when confronted. She didn’t appear to be in control of her actions. She clung to him and begged him not to leave her alone with the baby.

 To make matters worse, she started suffering from a strange obsession. One day, while giving the baby a bath, a strange thought entered her mind: if the baby was left in the tub, would she drown?

It scared her, yet there was a strange fascination that kept her thinking about it. The next day she was gripped by another distressing thought: if she closed her hands around the baby’s neck, would she strangulate? Would she actually die?

 It was frightening, but the thought clung to her mind. She tried to shrug it off, but it refused to go. She even attempted to close her hands around its neck, and, as the baby choked, she withdrew her

hands, horrified. She was ashamed, and scared to be near the baby. Damning thoughts now engulfed her and were taking away her peace of mind. She had laboured for this baby, so why was she now

so full of such fatal thoughts? It filled her with dread, but she was helpless against the obsession that compelled her to think like this. She was getting reduced to a bundle of nerves. Like a fish caught in

the net, she floundered, begging release. Arjun’s dream of a happy family lay shattered. At night,

he was forced to sleep in-between them. Devrina insisted that he stayed around always, so that she wouldn’t end up harming their baby. His world stood devastated and he was at a loss to comprehend her strange obsessions. He loved his wife, but their daughter needed unconditional love from her mother, too. Her fears had created an impossible gulf that he failed to bridge, despite all his efforts…”

 We thanks Dr. Tripti for sharing her journey with us and we wish the very best for her in life.


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