Dr. Mom: Annabelle Garcia, M.D
Motherhood. One might argue that no other word in the English language embodies so much meaning, complexity, and emotion.
It is a subject Dr. Annabelle Garcia and I, as her publicist, patient, and friend, talk a lot about. In fact, we swap stories about our daughters on the regular in an effort to not only share but learn from one-another’s journeys.
It is what we moms often do.
It is why we arrange play dates and happy-hours.
During this month of May as we honor the mothers and mother-figures among us, I thought it might be interesting to sit down with Dr. Garcia and talk about her experience as both a dermatologist and mom.
Like a lot of little girls, Dr. Annabelle Garcia played house and loved her baby dolls while growing up. But her experience playing mom was a lot more real than most. As the oldest of four being raised by a single mom, Annabelle Garcia ruled the roost in many ways, early in her life.
Erin: As a little girl did you always dream about becoming a mom?
Dr. Garcia: I did, but in a lot of ways, I was like a mom from a very young age. I cared for three younger siblings so I took on a lot of responsibilities that were mom-like. I’m eight years older than my younger sister so it was not unusual for me to put my sister to bed, make her lunch, and keep an eye out for her.
As such, Dr. Garcia got a good taste for what it’s like to be in charge of several children - boys and girls.
Erin: In your young mind, what did a family look like to you? How many kids did you want?
Dr. Garcia: Oh I wanted three kids- all girls. (laughs)
Erin (who has twin boys herself) : Really?! No boys?
Dr. Garcia: I think I was afraid of being a boy mom. I was into dance and cheerleading. Although I had a lot of male friends growing up, I saw myself as a mom of girls. I always imagined dressing little girls in coordinating or matching outfits. All the important things, obviously. (laughs)
Erin: You are both a mom and board-certified dermatologist. These two paths intersected very early on for you, didn’t they?
Dr. Garcia: Yes, I had Mia in the middle of my dermatology residency in Dallas. I was 29 at the time.
Erin: How was that?
Dr. Garcia: It was crazy. Want to hear something funny? Right before I got pregnant with Mia I had just finished a very challenging pediatric residency. Tough cases. Lots of very sick children. I remember thinking after taking care of many of the sickest kids in the city how hard could it (having a baby and being a new mom) possibly be? Boy was I wrong.
Erin: How so?
Dr. Garcia: I realized quickly that when you’re a mom there is no break. It is a 24-hour-long job in which one is responsible for this tiny living human being. It was very scary, initially.
Erin: That moment Mia was born - can you remember what you thought the first time you set eyes on your tiny living human being?
Dr. Garcia: I thought to myself this is the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. It was love at first sight. It is hard to put into words.
Dr. Garcia and her husband Rene seemed to adapt to being new parents and the joy and chaos that can accompany it, quickly. Dr. Garcia remembers feeling like she was in survival mode. Not only did she have a baby, she was finishing her residency and studying for board exams. Rene took daddy duty a lot so that Dr. Garcia could spend several hours at a local Panera Bread to study.
Not much more than a year into their routine as new parents, Dr. Garcia and Rene learned they were expecting baby number two.
Dr. Garcia: I got pregnant with Ella when Mia was 15 months old and just one month before I was scheduled to move to San Antonio to start private practice with a dermatologist. I remember feeling uneasy about sharing my news with the physician whose practice I was also soon to acquire. As women we know we can do it all but sometimes it is difficult to convince others of our strength, ability to balance work and parenting, and ability to multitask. Thankfully I was welcomed and able to juggle being a mom, expecting mom, and dermatologist!
Erin: How was going from one to two children?
Dr. Garcia: Insane.
Erin: How did you balance your time, energy, and priorities as both mom and physician?
Dr. Garcia: I hired a live-in nanny from the get-go. I had to. I’m not sure how I would have done it otherwise. That worked for us and it has been a huge help as a busy, working family.
Today, Dr. Garcia’s girls are preteens. It is a pit-stop along the road of motherhood that will usually include a bump or two for most.
Erin: Does approaching the teenage years frighten you? Because speaking as a mom with three teens I am here to say it should (laughs)
Dr. Garcia: I don’t know! I guess it does a little because I am already getting a taste of those teen years with hormones and friend groups and some drama here and there. We do have occasional tears but who doesn’t. Truly, the good has far outweighed the bad so far! I am slowly learning to let go a little. I don’t think we can control every single decision and aspect of our kids’ lives especially when they are navigating their teenage world and so many newfound freedoms. We can trust. We can pray. We can try to set our kids up for success and provide a strong foundation under them but we have to go with the flow sometimes and know that it will work out in one way or another.
Erin: What does motherhood mean to you?
Dr. Garcia: That’s such a deep question. And one that’s not easy to answer in a sentence or words. However, what comes to mind first when I think of the word motherhood is unconditional love and support. The love we feel as mothers is the kind of love that takes your breath away. And it is a journey. At its end I want to have raised kind, responsible, caring human beings.
Erin: Family is important to you.
Dr. Garcia: It’s everything to me. I get so much fulfillment watching Mia and Ella do what they love. My girls are very different and I love that. It is an incredible experience to watch them develop their personalities and passions.
When Dr. Garcia and Rene are not working they can usually be found hanging out with their girls. They love to vacation together. At home, Dr. Garcia shared with me that she looks most forward to simply talking with her girls, usually while around the pool or in the kitchen. They are two locations of comfort the Garcias created as nesting spots for their growing children.