Baby Talk with PA-C Stephanie Allien

Pregnancy Physician Assistant

Pregnancy is not always what we expect it to be. Some experiences are more pleasant than others. Read more about how this Physician Assistant balances a career, marriage, and a medically concerning pregnancy.

My name is Stephanie. I’m one of six children born and raised in Haiti. We moved to the United States when I was 14 years old. Both of my parents were doctors, so, naturally, I wanted to pursue a career in medicine. I completed a B.S in Biochemistry from Regis College, took the MCAT and was accepted into Ross University School of medicine. But I declined my acceptance.

I can remember my parents being absent during most of my childhood because of their demanding careers. My Dad was very absent, but my mom sacrificed more of her career in order to be home with her children. I didn’t want that future for myself or my family, so I decided against becoming a doctor. Coincidentally, I heard about the PA profession and decided to become a PA. I attended Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) and I’ve been practicing as a research and clinical PA-C for four years at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Neurology. I love my job mainly caring for patients with epilepsy in the outpatient setting. Married in August 2015, my husband and I are expecting our first child, a boy, in early September.

How did you and your husband find out that you were pregnant?

We had just returned home from celebrating my husband’s 30th birthday in Bermuda. I went to my Boot Camp fitness class later that evening as usual, but when I got there something weird was happening. I felt dizzy, nauseous and just couldn’t keep up; which was out of the ordinary for me. When I checked my calendar, I realized that I was about a week late. So, I headed to the store and bought a pregnancy test, along with a bunch of prenatal vitamins. I waited until the next morning to take the pregnancy test – which was positive. I ran to our bedroom, woke him up and shoved the stick in his face (LOL). When he saw the positive results, he started crying… and that’s how we found out that we were pregnant.

What was your Reaction?

I was a bit surprised, but my husband was ecstatic. He had been expecting this baby since the day we got married. But there’s an interesting story behind our pregnancy…

Last year, my husband kept bringing up the subject of having a baby, so we decided to fast and pray about it. In the midst of fasting and praying, a prophet came to our church. Out of the thousands of people in the audience, this guy walks straight up to my husband and whispers in his ear; “you’re going to have a son.” He stood there in tears, but I didn’t know what was happening at the time. Towards the end of the service, he called us up and said to me, “There is something in your belly that is preventing you from getting pregnant. God has heard your prayers and the answer is yes, it’s time to start a family.” Then he prayed over us and three months later we were pregnant.

How has life changed since becoming pregnant?

It’s changed a lot. This pregnancy has not been a smooth transition. We’ve had to find different methods to communicate, compromise and make decisions in regards to this human being growing inside of me. But love has allowed for us to work through all of our misunderstandings and disagreements. Between getting ready for the baby, spending quality time with each other and working full-time jobs, we have had to rearrange our lives a lot even though the baby isn’t here yet.

For the most part, it’s been an easy pregnancy but there are some medical concerns. I have uterine fibroids that are bigger than my baby at this point. There have been times when the pain is so uncontrollable that I can’t make it to work for days at a time. But our faith and trust are in God. We believe that before a great blessing, we will encounter great trials. We’re praying for a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and baby because we believe that our son will do many great things for God.

What’s your pregnancy experience been like?

The fatigue is real!

At the end of 8-12 hour shifts I would normally get things done around the house, but now I am beat! The mood swings are not a myth. One minute I’m happy, the next I’m mad and then I’m nice; my poor husband is like “where’s my wife?” Even if you work in the medical field,  you don’t don’t quite understand pregnancy until you are pregnant. In addition to my emotions being all over the place, my body is going haywire while I’m trying to juggle all these different hats as a wife, sister, daughter, PA-C and a soon to be mother. All of this takes an emotional toll on my body.

People aren’t real about what is really happening during pregnancy. Instead, they glorify and romanticize it. Don’t get me wrong, pregnancy is beautiful and supernatural! But women don’t talk much about the ugly side of pregnancy… the vaginal discharge; nipples soreness to the point that it hurts to put on a bra; decreased libido; dry skin; constipation; increased flatulence and the emotional toll on a woman.

My husband and I had to sit down and make some adjustments because my body had new limits. I am exhausted. He was used to me keeping up with most things around our home but that has changed. He has had to step up more in this partnership, which I’m blessed to say he has gone above and beyond.

How do you expect motherhood to impact your career?

I plan to return to work full-time after my 12 weeks of maternity leave. I have the flexibility and support of my colleagues and attending to switch to part-time if needed. Financially, I don’t like the idea of working part-time but the option is there if I need it. I took my current job because of the stability. As an ambulatory PA, my work doesn’t come home with me, I’m not on call and I don’t work weekends. Seeing how pregnancy has changed me and my priorities, I expect that motherhood will change those as well. I’ve been thinking about changing specialties, but that’s a difficult decision since I’m already established and have the respect of my peers. To switch jobs would mean that I no longer have the same privileges that I do now.

What preparations have you made?

We’ve had to get life insurance, start a savings account for our little one and write a will. I know most women think about the colors of the wall in the nursery while I plan for the worst. My husband is more of the optimist in our relationship and keeps asking me how am I thinking about those things. We are in the process of deciding on a trustworthy pediatrician, and where to buy a home. As far as the baby registry and the nursery goes, we’re in the process of all that as well.

Any limitations or challenges that you’ve encountered because of pregnancy?

My patients’ wait times have increased since I am constantly in the restroom. The pedal edema makes it painful to stand on my feet for long periods of time, and I’m already waddling since I’m of small stature. But, people keep telling me I look great so I’m grateful! Also,  memory loss during pregnancy is REAL even though it hasn’t been scientifically proven. If I don’t write everything down, it won’t happen. But I know God has been keeping me since I haven’t made any medical errors.

Do you have any concerns about how you will balance your career and parenting?

Yes, I want to eventually work as an international PA, but I am concerned about what effect that will have on my child. So for now, it is on the back burner of my career.

Advice to PA-C moms preparing for motherhood?

Don’t stress the little things. Trust that if it is time for you to start a family, you will have the tools necessary to carry, mother and provide for your child’s needs – which are a loving home, food, clothing and shelter… A lot of PA’s are planners, but know that you cannot control everything. Babies will come when they come and life will change. Make a plan with work ahead of time to set your expectations and theirs and it will make the transition easier. Balance is very important, so take care of yourself, listen to your body and know your limits. You can’t be so caught up in your career that you forget about yourself and family.

Advice to PA students?

Budget!

When you get your loan, create a budget and use only what you need then return the rest. Your debt amount will determine the course of your career. If you’re in a lot of debt, you won’t have the luxury of turning down or leaving a miserable job because paying off your student loans will become one of your priorities.

It took me 6 months to find a job. I waited about a month and a half before taking the PANCE because PA school had drained me. I’m happy I took the time off because provider burnout is real in medicine. I used that time to restructure, refocus and refresh; and I strongly recommend it, assuming you’re able to. One of my mentors prior to PA school told me it would be the longest and fastest years of my life. I never understood that until I was done with PA school, so learn as much as you can but don’t forget to connect because many of your instructors and classmates will not only become long-term friends but also colleagues to whom you’ll likely refer your patients.

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