Saturday, September 15, 2007

Mammary Breaks

I had to laugh when I read a a post by LaShawn Barber about a woman who wanted extra time during a medical licensing exam so that she could breast feed her daughter (Hat Tip: Maggie's Farm). She is now suing the board to get the extra time:

A new mother who wants extra breaks so she can pump milk during a nine-hour medical licensing exam has asked a US judge to settle her dispute with the board that administers the test.

Sophie Currier, 33, requested additional break time during the test, saying that if she does not nurse her four-month-old daughter, Lea, or pump breast milk every two to three hours, she risks medical complications.

The exam allows a total of just 45 minutes in breaks, and the National Board of Medical Examiners has refused to give Currier the extra time she says she needs.

"If we are variable in the time that's allotted to trainees, we alter the performance of the examination," board spokesperson Dr Ruth Hoppe said.

I laughed as I read this because when my daughter was less then three weeks old, I had to take my Psychology licensing exam in Nashville, two and a half hours from Knoxville. I had to leave a three week old for a day-and-a half with breast milk in a bottle for relatives to give her while I took a breast pump with me to get rid of the excess milk while on the trip.

I asked the board if I could take the next scheduled test six months later but they said, "no," and I would not be able to practice with the temporary license they had issued me in the interim. I had to go. It was a mess. I leaked milk all over my shirt and down onto the floor during the exam, but I was determined to finish and figured if they wanted me there just after giving birth, dripping milk was the least of my (and their) problems. But I did it, got no special treatment and ended up doing very well, despite my discomfort. By the time I got out of the exam, I got to the car and pumped milk as I drove two and a half hours back to Knoxville. There is still a truck driver out there somewhere who got a real thrill (or fright) that day. But hey, that's the breaks.

I never once thought of suing the board, but then, I actually believe in personal responsibility, unlike the woman mentioned in the article above who wants to have children but also wants everyone else to accomodate her in the work world.


Blogger Larry Sheldon said...

To the best of my knowledge I am still a hero in one woman's mind.

By way of background, my wife (not the woman mentioned above, and about whom more below) and I decided that since we were able, she would quit work and stay at home to raise our children (that being, she thought and thinks, her "calling" at the time). Among the things she did at a time when such was unpopular was nurse her babies.

So I was as familiar as a male can be with the issues (pun intended) of breast-feeding.

Back to the story--I was a "shift chief" in a computer center in a day when there were five or so souls on-duty to tend to the needs of _A_ computer.

One of the "console managers" (similar folks called "operators" elsewhere--the title _was_ justified) had a newborn and would suffer spontaneous "let downs" from time to time which would upset her.

But I would quietly tell her "I've got it, go take care of yourself".

Seem an easy thing to do, but at my retirement dinner, she mentioned that as an important memory.

Which made it important to me.

But the idea that a one-day exam should be stretched to three to "accommodate" all of those "disabilities" does truly disturb me.

It calls to mind a subject that came up with my wife's doctors at the time. (There were three of them, sounded like a law firm -- Miller, Moss, and Winch [].)

"Motherhood" and "pregnancy" are not diseases, not disabilities. (As an aside, they _are_ inconvenient and nuisances, Mr Husband-and-father, you'd best not forget that.)

So. My personal preference is that people treat childrearing as a full time assignment, but I recognize that for a variety of good and sufficient reasons, sometimes more than one full-time assignments must be undertaken.

11:50 AM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger Cham said...

If the exam is going to be a problem for Ms. Barber perhaps she should wait a few months before taking it. I am sure somewhere somehow someday. they give other medical licensing exams. It sounds like Mr. Barber thinks she is more special than everyone else.

12:26 PM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger Don Surber said...

I left my 3-wwek-old baby in Knoxville and headed for Nashville ... sounds like a country song.

12:32 PM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger Maxine Weiss said...

Motherhood is sacred.

Empty the prisons of all mothers. Mothers don't commit crimes; they're not capable. Ethel Rosenberg should have been spared; she was a mother--she was a mother, for goodness sake!

Completely blameless. Lyddie England is a mother, and all of her crimes magically washed away.

2:00 PM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Just to clarify, the mom in the story is listed as Sophie Currier. La Shawn Barber is a blogger and writer.

2:09 PM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

If remember correctly my feminist theology: motherhood is a choice. If so, then the results, and inconveniences therefrom, are a personal matter. This seems to be a case of a feminist trying to play both sides of the table: that is, demanding independence and special privileges at the same time. This is not unusual behavior from childish people.

2:35 PM, September 15, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As one who lived in northeast TN for many years and traveled extensively by car (for work), we may have met informally, after all. Once, while driving I-40 east toward Knoxville, and not too far east of Nashville at the time, I passed a brunette weaving down the interstate, struggling furiously with a breast pump and steering wheel at the same time.

I was impressed with both the view and multi-tasking capabilities observed. As one who does not particularly believe in coincedences, I am now wondering if it was, in fact, you.

As one who cannot chew gum and walk at the same time, I remain impressed.

What a small world.

2:52 PM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger Brian said...

That's nothing Helen. I studied for the bar exam with two young kids and never asked for special treatment. Do you know how tough it was for me to study when my wife took care of the children, did the cooking, cleaning, and took out the trash for those few months? I would feel awful for about 1, maybe 2 whole minutes a week about that. It was so unfair how I had to feel bad about doing nothing but studying for those two months.

4:13 PM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger mmaier2112 said...

So what if you think both liberal and conservatives (both misnomers, BTW) are retards?

4:24 PM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

The question I would ask is: "Does granting this woman extra time to nurse compromise medical licensing standards?"

Silly me.

4:51 PM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger Denise said...

Suing is ridiculous. But maybe (giving her the benefit of a doubt) she had a good reason for asking for the time. I developed double mastitis after my son was born. Extremely painful, and the only thing the doctor would tell me was to nurse-- they won't prescribe anything without a high fever. I wouldn't want to sit through a nine-hour test hurting like that if I knew that relief was one quick pump away.
That said--again, suing is RIDICULOUS.

5:17 PM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger Ed Darrell said...

Motherhood is a choice, but that doesn't mean mothers should be second-class citizens.

If we were to suggest that making a woman take an examination under threat of losing her license to make a living, to feed her child, and that the woman had to take the test under inhumane conditions including forced pain, humiliation and soiling due to spontaneously expressing milk, we'd probably be closer to the truth.

Just because one woman suffered unnecessarily and unjustly 20 years ago is no justification to do it today. We used to hang Baptists who practiced adult baptism, too. Sometimes we stop barbaric practices, and we're better for it.

5:23 PM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger kmg said...

Sorry for what may be a stupid question, but why not just go to the Ladies Room for 5 minutes and squirt it all out through squeezing?

That would be better than having it drip on the floor during an exam..

5:39 PM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


Are you kidding? The test was timed and I wasn't going to waste precious time running to the Women's room.

6:26 PM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger kmg said...


I suppose. I guess one had to be there (and be a woman, which I am not), to know what the best strategy was for the trade-off between time and the other downsides.

Did you need all the time allotted for the test, or did you end up finishing with time to spare?

6:43 PM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


As I recall, the EPPP (the written Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology) was four hours at that time. I finished with around 10 minutes to recheck my answers so I didn't have any time to spare. The next exam I could have taken if I had failed was six months away so I wasn't about to use my time running to a bathroom. My feeling was, they told me to be there, I was and I did the best I could under the circumstances.

7:00 PM, September 15, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She appears to be very poor at time management and planning if she didn't realize breast feeding a newborn and taking the medical boards at the same time was going to be a problem.

Afterall, she had nine months to think about it.

8:53 PM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger Ralph L said...

Buy a EE cup bra and fill it with sponges.

9:29 PM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger cathyf said...

She needs one of these Medela Hands-Free Pumping Kit and a big shirt.

11:14 PM, September 15, 2007  
Blogger tomcal said...

This woman is an idiot. Medical school, exams, residency, and the entire profession is one which might demand the doctor's attention at any time, and for long periods of time regardless of the personal inconvenience it might cause.

I hope she flunks out. Doctors who put personal convenience ahead of the responsibilites that come along with the privileges they have been granted should have their licenses pulled.

1:54 AM, September 16, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

I have no problem with REASONABLE accommodation, including for nursing mothers.

My problem is that accommodation is turning into privilege for some and duties for others.

When I was in college I NEEDED some accommodation: I couldn't get it as such was for females only. I cannot imagine a society in which mere-males are allowed access to any of the female only privileges, not with the way our society is going now.

4:54 AM, September 16, 2007  
Blogger paul a'barge said...

There is still a truck driver out there somewhere who got a real thrill (or fright) that day

I'm pretty sure I was that truck driver that day.

Nice rack.

10:20 AM, September 16, 2007  
Blogger Nom de Blog said...

I would like to know if they make accommodations for other disabilities that would require extra time or specific breaks, such as diabetes (having to time your meals and shots), learning disabilities, etc. If the answer is "yes" then I think she has a case, since they would have then established that the timedness of the test was not an essential part of it. I'd also be interested to know if they would have allowed her to take the test curtained off from the others with a breast pump attached. If they would have, then I'd say that's what she should have done.

All those out there who are saying "women shouldn't get special accommodations to have it all," I agree with you in principle, but I also think that in general it's a good idea to be accommodating whenever we can do so without compromising principles. We do, after all, want at least some doctors who have had the experience of having children, don't we? We want people who've made mistakes in their lives to be able to make good, right?

I just can't believe how indignant some people in the comments are being about women controlling their fertility. It's not like we ever have 100% control over everything in our lives, let alone fertility, but somehow women are expected to have 100% control of that, even if we're married and doing our wifely duty. My personal experience was that despite having all the best plans and using contraceptives, I gave birth in the middle of my final semester of grad school anyway. It happens, people! You can't protest that women should have 100% control of their fertility and then turn around and complain that your wife's not putting out.

2:08 PM, September 16, 2007  
Blogger Rob C said...


It looks like this woman has managed to get by pretty well through the whole schooling effort and probably should have realized what she was getting into before this:
Currier has completed a joint MD-PhD programme at Harvard University while having two babies in the past two years. Her goal is a residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and a career in medical research.
(Emphasis added)

It would seem that they're already working with her for other issues and that she's not the first nursing Mom to take the exam either:
Currier, who also has a 22-month-old son, Theo, has already received special accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act for dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

She has been granted permission to take the test over two days instead of one, but is seeking an additional 60-minute break on each day.

Hoppe said other nursing mothers who have taken the exam have found the 45 minutes of permitted break time sufficient.

8:28 AM, September 17, 2007  
Blogger Bruce Hayden said...

What must be remembered here is that people are always trying to get an edge in passing this sort of test, and claiming disability is one of the favorites.

My favorite in law I believe happened in CA, where someone had a heart attack during the semiannual bar exam, and other examinees jumped in to do CPR until help arrived. They then requested additional time to complete the exam as a result - and were denied.

Of course, you could argue that aspiring lawyers should be put to a more stringent standard in testing because their job is to deal with rules, whereas shrinks should be given more latitude and understanding because their profession is supposed to be more compassionate.

10:14 AM, September 17, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We do, after all, want at least some doctors who have had the experience of having children, don't we?"

No, we want ALL doctors to meet the minimum standards that we as a society have agreed upon. I don't care if my doctor knows what a heart attack feels like, as long as he knows what to do if I have one. How would having a baby change a doctor's treatment of a pregnant woman? My wife's OB/GYN was a tremendously awesome man and an incredible surgeon, and I'm pretty sure he never had a baby.

If other people with the same medical conditions as this person have taken and passed this exam, why should she be given additional consideration?

12:00 PM, September 17, 2007  
Blogger Serket said...

barryc: Just to clarify, the mom in the story is listed as Sophie Currier. La Shawn Barber is a blogger and writer.

Why did you think there was some confusion on the names?

5:06 PM, September 17, 2007  
Blogger davod said...

"...has already received special accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act for dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder."

She has been granted permission to take the test over two days instead of one, but is seeking an additional 60-minute break on each day.

It seems to me that the board has already dilluted its testing requirements by letting her have two days to do the exam.

I know nothing about Dyslexia and Hyper activity disorder so this may be out of place, however, I know she want to work in research but does anyone want this woman working on them while she is a resident. How the heck is she going to cope with the stress of residency. If the answer is medication then why was she given extra time to complete the exams.

8:32 AM, September 18, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

paul a'barge..

Naa..... that was probably me. I was feeling all "silence of the lambs" and such one week, and headed up and down the interstate with a pump on each breast, listening to an AC-DC tape. The weather was fine!

Too much seriousness going on here these days. Let's get the humor rolling along again, I'm missing it!

8:40 PM, September 18, 2007  
Blogger Mercurior said...

do you really want a doctor with dyslexia, examples Hydralazine, or Hydroxyzine and Lamisil, Lamictal and Topamax, Toprol.

4:30 AM, September 20, 2007  
Blogger Wholesome Blogger said...

This woman is a "plant" or some kind of attention seeker.
This is not the first time she's been in the news with her "disabilities". She has an agenda.

9:20 PM, September 21, 2007  
Blogger Wholesome Blogger said...

Sorry, link not working.Try

9:22 PM, September 21, 2007  
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