Gabrielle Cumberbatch has been on a whirlwind of a journey to becoming a medical doctor.
A journey that many probably would have abandoned.
Today at 25 years old, she’s a medical doctor, a fiancée and a soon to be mummy.
But when did this journey begin? Way back when she was a young girl having dreams of becoming a paediatrician.
“From young, I always thought I would have wanted to be a teacher because I always liked children. Then, maybe about 12 years old, I just remember having this feeling like I wanted to become a paediatrician. Then when my little cousin Jesse was born, he had to stay over in the hospital for a few days. I was still in primary school then, and that really made me want to become a paediatrician. What really cemented it for me was when my little brother Ethan was born. he also had to stay over in the hospital and that’s when I knew for sure that’s what I wanted to do,” Gabrielle said.
On entering the gates at Queen’s College, she went full steam ahead with her plans to become a doctor.
She studied science while at school in order to get her closer to her dream.
After receiving a Barbados Exhibition, she left Barbados for university with some resistance from her mother.
“I chose to go to the University of West Indies, Mona, for med school there. My mum did not want me to go to Jamaica, but I wanted to go. I wanted to go have a real university experience,” she said.
But Gabrielle quickly realised that it was not what she was expecting. She said she struggled her first two years at university and often thought of returning home.
“When I got there, it was completely different to what I thought it was going to be. It was extremely hard. The workload is really heavy. You aren’t being spoon-fed like you are in high school. You’re completely on your own now and you’re getting so many different lectures all day. I guess me being away from home and having such a close family at home was what made it extra hard.
“My first year I really struggled. I probably flew home twice every semester. In second year, I took three or four flights to go see my boyfriend (now fiancé) Wayde in North Carolina. It was that hard.
I just could not manage being away from family. I don’t think I put myself out there to form enough friendships to really say I had a family in Jamaica,” she explained.
But third year and onwards got a little better, Gabrielle said.
“Third year, when I was in smaller groups in school for the school year, it was then I started to make bonds in Jamaica. From then on, I guess it got a little easier. Also in third year, you can’t leave as often. But from third year onwards was better, Gabrielle said because I had now made friends and so on.
In fifth year, approaching her final and most important exams, Gabrielle eventually broke. But it was also then that she decided to give it one last shot.
“Fifth year was very rough. That’s when you’re doing all your big exams and I would have gone through a really rough emotional period and I had to take a semester off to just calm myself. I went away again to Wayde. After that semester off I really realised that this is what I want to do and I needed to get it done. I went back for the final semester of med school and it was done. My journey wasn’t all smooth and all smiles but I’m glad I got it completed,” she said.
Gabrielle’s plan at that stage was to return to Barbados to work.
But things didn’t work out that way. She ended up staying in Jamaica to work.
“When I completed school I applied to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and hospitals in Jamaica. Obviously, Barbados only has [one] hospital so when I applied I didn’t get a spot. The hospital that I would have trained at in Jamaica they called me and told me there was a position there for me,” she said
“Eventually I realised that Jamaica really wasn’t that bad. It’s a different experience when you’re working and have the pressure of finishing school. You get to see the country in a different light,” she added.
In 2018, for her 24th birthday, Gabrielle got engaged to her long-time boyfriend Wayde. And unexpected but nice surprise, she said.
“I had a birthday party at my dad’s house. Although we would have been talking about it, I was not expecting it at that time. Of course I said yes. I love Wayde,” she said, blushing.
Later that year when she returned home for her graduation, her celebrations produced another sweet surprise.
“I would assume I got pregnant when I came home for graduation in October. I did the graduation here in Barbados and I wanted to graduate in Jamaica too. I would have found out in early November,” she said.
Gabrielle said she was scared when she first found out she was pregnant but said she quickly warmed to the idea.
“At first I remember being scared because I was by myself. I was in Jamaica by myself. Even though I’m an adult I still had that period where I was scared to tell my parents I was pregnant.”
“After a bit I was excited for the new experience but I was a bit concerned how I was going to juggle work, being here by myself and a baby as well,” she said, adding that her fiancé was over the moon about the baby.
Her parents, on the other hand, had mixed reactions.
“When I eventually got around to telling my mum, which was about six weeks after I found out, she was all in. My grandmother was also very supportive. My dad gave me a lecture. not that he wasn’t excited, but he wanted to be sure that I would be able to handle this and so on. It was harder for him to register that his only girl child was not going to be a baby anymore and was about to become a mum,” she explained.
During the interview at her home, Gabrielle reflected on how far she has come since first leaving Barbados to study. She said looking at her life now, she wouldn’t have imagined it would turn out this way but said she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I always knew I would have become a doctor. Working overseas wasn’t my plan. I always thought I would have been married first before I had a child and I definitely did not see myself doing a relationship where I would have done the pregnancy by myself, but everything will work out,” she added.
Gabrielle said she was counting the days until she welcomes baby Luka.
She will return to Jamaica at the end of August with the baby. She acknowledged that while it will be a tough journey, she was ready.
“When baby is born I will be going back up to Jamaica to continue working. Luka, I will be taking him with me. My mum will be coming up with me initially to help me out. Wayde will also be coming. It’s going to be a long journey but we will be ready.”
As for the wedding and family plans, Gabrielle said they were just going with the flow for now, but she was confident that everything would fall into place.
“We were planning the wedding for 2020 but now with the baby I don’t know. But we will see how it goes when baby comes. I think I want to come back home; I don’t think I want to move up to North Carolina. I think I would be able to persuade him to come back to Barbados to live,” she said with a chuckle.