Maternity leave as a practice owner during lockdown

Inderpreet Dhiman before lockdown

Inderpreet Battu gives her experience of having a child just before lockdown and trying to keep a dental practice running at the same time.

As the months had passed and the seasons progressed, I myself had become a pro at waddling. The type of waddling you would associate with penguins. The type of waddling you would associate with pregnant women.

Yes, I was pregnant and at the start of this year I was coming to the end of that journey. Gradually as my baby bump started hitting the head rest of the dental chair, I knew it was time to go on maternity leave.

Owning a private practice in Essex with my husband Parminder, it was sad saying goodbye to dentistry, the team and the patients. However, I was very excited and grateful for this new stage of my life.

Leap day baby

Saturday 29 February 2020, a good day to give birth? I think so. Organising a birthday every four years? Interesting.

Jokes aside, we sometimes don’t have control over certain situations such as a due date.

As a first-time mother I didn’t know what to expect. You hear all these stories from lots of different sources. The good, the bad and the fainting husband. Luckily my husband did not.

Whenever I got a few seconds of calm between contractions, I couldn’t help but make comparisons with dentistry. I know it sounds farfetched but hear me out!

Antenatal classes included hypnobirthing sessions. Hypnobirthing equips individuals with tools to alleviate anxiety during birth, which in turn may result in a more pleasant experience. In dentistry, hypnosis can give patients the confidence to overcome dental fear or phobia.

During active labour, gas and air can take the edge off the contractions. In dentistry, we use this form of sedation whilst treating nervous patients. Moreover, some cases may warrant the use of general anaesthesia in both fields of work.

All staff members, midwives and doctors built rapport and listened to my queries. We too should make our patients feel valued and always uphold the same ethos of empathy.

Coronavirus pandemic

A couple of weeks into postnatal life and motherhood was becoming more of a reality. Nappies and baby grows for the little one and joggers styled with a messy bun for me. Technically this was my vibe even before pregnancy.

Although I had not been out of the house, I could still sense the atmosphere of uncertainty with regards to COVID-19. Family and friends postponed visits to see our newborn as it was too risky. The news updates were a constant reminder of the horrifying virus. During these unprecedented times the government announced a national lockdown.

Although we closed our practice, we were so lucky to have had the first moments together with our baby. Not to mention the support I received during the night feeds.

It was difficult for our profession. We wanted to help our patients but there was no official guidance on when we could reopen.

With regards to PPE, we did not know what to purchase or use. Over time, dentists created many WhatsApp groups for instant updates of any changes. One group advised Sikh dentists about enhanced PPE whilst wearing a turban and having a beard. I thought this was very helpful for those who have this identity.

Throughout dentistry and the nation as a whole, there was a real sense of community and an appreciation for the key workers, including the NHS frontline staff. This took into account the dentists who worked throughout lockdown. Clapping for the NHS on a Thursday at 8pm was one of the ways we showed our admiration.

Once the government gave us the go ahead to return to work, protocols helped us navigate through this new way of dentistry. Never did I imagine that sporting a face mask and gloves whilst shopping for groceries would become the norm!

Future

I am trying to make the most of my maternity leave with my baby whilst continually developing my professional skills. Like my colleagues, I’m sure we have all done a webinar or two during lockdown, which have been very informative.

Soon I will be back to work and all things dental related. I will look back on this whirlwind of a time where we had the chance to take a step back and reflect. Where we had the opportunity to gain perspective. And where we re-established what was important to us, cherishing the time that we have.

Currently, I’m typing away whilst my baby is sleeping on me! I am both a mother and a dentist. I clean milk bottles and I restore teeth.

My Instagram feed is composed of both before and after smile transformations with a sprinkle of weaning recipes.

The goal is to demonstrate women can do both. We can work on our dreams and be mums simultaneously. Not only do we require drive and ambition, but we also need support from those around us. We should make time for gratitude.

I was in a very unique position to have brought my baby into this world whilst owning a practice during this global pandemic. Who knows what the future holds? Will dentistry continue to evolve? Will virtual dentistry be here to stay? And will teething pan out how many describe it?

One thing is for certain – time really does fly by. My baby is now five months old!

When people ask: ‘What was giving birth like? Was it the same as the eureka moment post extraction of a tooth for the first time at dental school?’ My answer: ‘Giving birth was an experience I cannot put into words!’


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