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Lives of Doctor Wives: February 2014

Friday, February 28, 2014

Who has it worse?

A few weeks ago I was chatting with a friend who is also a wife of a resident.  We were at an event where children were not allowed.  We began discussing who had our kids.  I told her my two girls were with a very kind friend.  She started telling me how her husband had theirs, but he had gotten home late today, late meaning 6:00 instead of 5:00.  She started saying to me, “I don’t know how you do it….”  Instantly my mind started silently running,  “5 o’clock? Late is 5 o’clock?  I am lucky if my husband gets home by 7 or 8.  We never get to eat dinner as a family on weekdays”….and so on.

As I have been reflecting about this, I hate that my initial reaction was to compare and judge.  It is too easy to feel bad for ourselves along this medical journey.  It is too easy to think we have it worse.  Ours is the hardest life.  Anything you have to do, I have to do too but with no shoes and in zero degree weather!

My husband and I have been married for 7 years.  In 2007 we moved to St Louis to start medical school.  We were young and naive; however, medical school wasn’t too hard for us.  We had no kids.  I started nursing school and worked part time so we were both too busy to miss each other.  When we had free time we could go to the gym for hours or watch complete TV series together.   All of our medical school friends had a different story.  They all had at least one child.  Their budgets were tighter.  Their time was spread more thin.  They had more responsibilities.  They must have it worse.  Then match day came. My husband decided to go into Urology so we were part of the early match.  I had just come home from a night shift and was 6 months pregnant.  We couldn’t wait to see where we were going to spend the next 5 years.  I turned the video camera on to capture this awesome moment and my husband clicked open the email.  Then our hearts dropped.  Tears came all too easily.  He hadn’t matched.  My extremely intelligent, talented husband with great board scores and plenty of interviews hadn’t matched.  At the time, it seemed we had it worse.

During our many years of school and residency, like most, we have been living on a tight budget.  We have not been given one penny of financial help.  On the other hand, we have friends who are given monthly allowances or other financial help from their parents.  Many are or have been on state assisted programs that pay/paid for health insurance and food.   However, one of these friends lost her mother to a very abrupt cancer during medical school.  Another of these friends struggled with depression and anxiety.  Who had it worse?

As for residency, we struggle with time quantity, not quality.  He works 12 14-16 hour days and then gets 2 days off.  I get lonely.  My girls go days without seeing their daddy.  BUT he loves us and he shows it.  He doesn’t waste a minute to start a tickle war with our two year old or cuddle with our baby.  Some have the opposite problem.  Their doctor is home much more often, but he doesn’t give them the quality that they deserve.  They might choose excessive exercise, sports, TV, or video games over them.  Who has it worse?

We live 14 hours away from all of our family.  We miss them like crazy because they are awesome,  incredible and supportive.  My girls get to see their grandparents about two times a year.  Others live right down the street from their family members, but have strained relationships with them.  Who has it worse?

My point? Even if you put your situation side by side with someone in the exact same point along this medical journey, it is impossible to compare.  There are just too many factors, too many differences. 
Perhaps instead of always thinking we have it worse, we should just try to be there for one another. 
After all, we have lots to be proud of.
We can be proud of our significant others for choosing such a noble profession.
Proud of ourselves for supporting them.
Proud of each other for helping to support one another when we need it the most.

Yes, instead of feeling lonely, and pessimistic, and down on ourselves, let’s be proud.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

To every season...

Today I LOVE being a Stay At Home Mom! Yes, I realized I said TODAY and that I also capitalized each letter of my title. That is what it is after all, a title. My sweet little boy has been such a huge blessing to our crazy lives. A son brings a different perspective to our estrogen heavy home, as well as a new friendship for Dr. H. Not better than the one with our daughters, but different. He is laid back and funny and always entertaining, just as a third child should be!

Our oldest was born prior to med school and was in Kindergarten for Intern year. She was independent and a quiet thinker, like many only children seem. She was our only for almost 5 years. She was quiet, easy in every stage and spoke very early. She was friend a lot of the time during medical school. She allowed me to work from home and although she suffered from some serious health issues, she was not a complainer. My family lived near us for med school and she went easily between all the homes. She was loving and kind and easily adaptable. Just what a working mom needs in a child she is often parenting solo. She was the perfect child for that season of our lives.

We moved to Nashville when our middle child was 5 months old. Our "plan", and I use the term very loosely, was to stay home for intern year and then go back to work during his CA-1 year. I worked as a consultant during that very tumultuous intern year. Then the economy tanked and my clients could no longer afford me. Jobs were less than plentiful, and pay was very low in my field. We would require a full time nanny due to the travel involved in any job worth having. The math did not add up, so I began my new career as full time Stay At Home Mom. It was not MY plan, but it is what happened.

Our middle child, a daughter, was a very easy baby and she was just what I needed for that season. She was calm and sweet and independent when I was sad and alone in a new city. She was friendly with new people and  made play dates with strangers very easy. She loved to be outside and that was my escape on a very small budget in a new town. We walked and ran miles in our neighborhood and in the parks system of Nashville.  She napped easily anywhere which made carting her older sister to school and activities, much easier. She just loved to be with me-whatever we were doing together made her very happy. When she began mother's day out, she was always sweet to the other children and a kid teachers wanted to have in their classrooms. Exactly what I needed during residency, parenting 2 kids alone much of the time. When I first began staying at home, I felt the need to justify my reasons, or my job. It was an internal struggle when people asked what I did, especially at work functions. Can't an MBA stay home with their children if necessary? Our middle daughter and her peaceful spirit always calmed those nerves for me. It was just something about her. Looking into her eyes I knew this WAS my place and the ONLY place I should be at that time. She was just what I needed for that season.

Our third child, a son, was born during my husband's interim attending year. When he was 5 months old, Dr.H began his fellowship. Our son is funny and a born entertainer. He is charming but challenging and very inquisitive. He requires my constant eye and my constant heart. He adores his sisters and craves their attention and time. His first year was a very stressful time in our home. Dr. H's fellowship was equally demanding as intern year. I had lost my dad the year before and my mom had several health issues as well. Our bright light was our son. He kept the whole family inspired and moving forward. We all followed his every milestone and the our girls were as eager and first time parents to see what he could do that day! He was what we all needed for that season.

I don't know if the child shapes the season or if the season shapes the child. But I do know that each of our children have enhanced the seasons of our medical journey. Those seasons have shaped them as well giving them traits and qualities they use more and more with each phase of their growth.
Our oldest will be 13 in 2 weeks. She is strong, creative, insightful and wise beyond her years. Our middle one is kind and intuitive with a peaceful spirit. She touches people with her heart in the most unexpected ways. Our youngest will be 3 in one week. He continues to keep us on our toes. He loves hard and plays hard and keeps us all excited for the next thing he will accomplish.
In the early days I felt awkward explaining my job, so much of my identity was wrapped up in my title. Prior to Dr. H's career, I was a VP for an online advertising firm based in Southeast Asia.  Early on, that seemed a little more impressive than a Stay At Home Mom. Today I proudly share my TITLE to anyone who asks. This one fits me well-and so does this season. While I was creating a home and a family, I was also helping create a physician, and a damn good one at that.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love Letters

Love Letters 

by: Laura Saunders


It's 10:00 PM. Shadows converge from the corners of the house and my heart. The baby is asleep, and I'm alone again. Sitting on our sofa, tired from the day, I don't even feel like reading (which, for those who know me, means something). I know that David will be home eventually, even though it is now 3 hours past the end of his shift. It must be a busy night. He'll come in and heat up the plate of dinner I made for him, sit on the couch, ask me about my day, and fall asleep. My husband works so hard for us, and I am blessed to have him and also to be able to stay home with Ethan. However, sometimes I miss him. I miss us--the us that used to hold hands and laugh as we meandered along a path, the us that turned on slow songs and danced, the us that sent each other love letters when we were apart.

Sometimes a girl needs a love letter.

Now, please don't worry for us. We are still deeply committed to each other, and, while life changes and challenges, we find more and more to admire and love. I'm just putting out there something I think every woman feels at some time or another: a feeling of being wilted or uncaptivating; loneliness. AND it's not really the guy's fault.

Ladies, God knows.

Let me tell you about my love for cardinals. Bear with me.

During college, I traveled with Ballet Ensemble to perform out of town. We stayed at various different host families' homes, and a few girls and I were lodged in someone's guest house. It was rather amazing, actually. This family lived on an old southern plantation with lush, aromatic gardens, and the house we were in used to be the overseer's house. There were lovely, burnished, antique wooden pieces of furniture and magnolia trees. We had one morning to rest while we were there.

I remember sitting out on the porch feeling drained and alone even as sunlight bathed my hair in warm radiance and a light breeze cooled my cheeks. There had been many challenges, discouragements, and sadness during this season, and I needed refreshment. So, I stole out of the house that morning to have a moment with God.

I had been reading Captivating by Eldredge, and the author spoke of how God had gifted both her husband and her with experiences that refreshed and romanced their hearts. They had asked for a small sign of love and been blown over by the abundance of God's answer.

So, feeling slightly silly (because I knew God loved me; He saved me), I asked for a sign too that He knew my heart and was there, loving me.

Looking out across the yard, I spied a bright red cardinal alighting on the ground. Soon, there was another... and another... and another... They were like a field of roses just for me--too many to count. A truly gorgeous moment.

So I love cardinals. Each time I see one I know that it is a love letter from my True Love, sent to remind me that I am never alone and always wanted.

From Captivating:

"Every song you love, every memory you cherish, every moment that has moved you to holy tears has been given to you from the One who has been pursuing you from your first breath in order to win your heart. God's version of flowers and chocolates and candlelight dinners comes in the form of sunsets and falling stars, moonlight on lakes and cricket symphonies; warm wind, swaying trees, lush gardens, and fierce devotion."

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Friday, February 7, 2014

DO, AOA, AAOA: Osteopathy in a Nutshell

DO, AOA, AAOA:  Osteopathy in a Nutshell
by Tiffany Sweeney

The year was 2004.  My husband was applying to medical schools and I began to become more educated on the life that we were about to embark on.  The very first lesson was the difference between allopathic and osteopathic medicine.  Many of those in the general population are not aware of the difference between the two.  In fact, as we have progressed through our journey in osteopathic medicine, I have also come to discover that there is also a large handful within the field of medicine that is not completely familiar with the differences.

When most people think of a doctor, they associate him/her with M.D. and the well-known American Medical Association (AMA).  However, the physician treating you may instead be a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy) and represented by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).  According to a report distributed in May 2010, 7% of physicians in the United States were practicing osteopathic physicians.  In more recent numbers, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine indicates that more than 20 percent of medical students today are training to become Doctors of Osteopathy.  Osteopathic physicians have the same exact practice rights as their allopathic counterparts and can be found in every single specialty of medicine.   The question then is what makes DOs different from MDs.

Let’s refer to the American Osteopathic Association website to answer this question . . . 

DOs receive extra training in the musculoskeletal system – your body’s interconnected system of nerves, muscles and bones that makes up two-thirds of your body mass.  This training provides osteopathic physicians with a better understanding of how an illness or injury in one part of your body can affect other parts.

Osteopathic medical students do have additional training in what is called OMT or Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment.  Referring back to the American Osteopathic Association for definitions . . .

Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) is incorporated into the training and practice of osteopathic physicians.  With OMT, osteopathic physicians use their hands to diagnose illness and injury and to encourage your body’s natural tendency toward good health.  By combining all other available medical options with OMT, DOs offer their patients the most comprehensive care available in medicine today.

DOs also tend to focus on primary care as well as preventative care.  Despite the differences, here are a few tidbits when discussing allopathic and osteopathic care . . .

·         MDs and DOs work side-by-side in caring for patients!
·         DOs can actually be accepted into allopathic internships and residencies, but MDs are NOT eligible for osteopathic programs due to the lack of training in OMT.
·         ALL medical students must pass comparable board exams . . . DOs take the COMLEX, MDs take the USMLE.  It is also not uncommon to see osteopathic students taking BOTH exams if they intend to apply to allopathic residency programs (though this is not always required).
·         ALL medical students complete 4 years of medical school and complete comparable training in all specialties.

For additional information on the field of osteopathy, what the AOA is doing for the field, and much, much more, I recommend that you visit the American Osteopathic Association website. 

As for the Lives of Doctor Wives readers, there is a partner organization that you may find a particular interest in:  Advocates for the American Osteopathic Association (AAOA).    This organization is for any and all individuals who support and promote the osteopathic profession, including spouses, partners, colleagues, and more.  They are here to educate, encourage, and assist both those in the osteopathic profession as well as those who are supporting them, from the early years of medical school all the way to retirement and beyond.  In fact, the AAOA has created two specialty groups that are particularly focused on the training years:  Student Advocate Association (SAA) and more recently, Intern & Resident Advocate Association (IRAA).  The larger organization is there to help support smaller chapters across the country, whether it may be to share resources, encourage members, or provide financial support for local chapters.  Each year, a new president is inducted into the organization, bringing new or continued focus on specific areas or tasks. 

If you have any questions about AOA or AAOA, please feel free to visit the links throughout the post or leave a comment below.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

A Fork in the Road

Have you ever felt the magic that happens in certain restaurants? Something about the combination of the food, the company, the conversation...every now and then, the stars align over a corner booth and you leave feeling full, physically and emotionally.

The hubby and I had one such dinner last weekend. In a busy restaurant, a plate of sushi between us, I found myself able to step back from our lives and observe us from afar, as if we were characters in a book. We discussed the setting, plot and theme of the story- the basic elements that led the two main characters to this particular juncture. But of course, no story is complete without a defining moment, some sort of event or decision that directs the characters down a different path. Over dinner that night, I realized that we are on the cusp. Cliche though it may be, if we were characters in a book, this would qualify as our 'fork in the road' moment.

A couple of years laden with science courses, all things MCAT, med school applications and interviews have brought us to this metaphorical fork in the road, so arriving here didn't take me by surprise. We have been intentional about preparing for what is to come. What has taken me by surprise, however, is the gravity of it. The weight of knowing that the news we will receive in the next weeks/months will change the course of our lives. And we can only pray that it's the news we want to hear. We have done everything we can. Now, we wait.

Waiting is hard. SO hard.

It's so much easier to focus on the climax of the story, right? Human nature almost demands it. We yearn for a defining moment. We find satisfaction in a rapidly moving plot line that seamlessly moves a character from point A to point B. We enjoy rooting for people. We get attached to our beloved characters and hope that they achieve what we see waiting for them just around the bend. Underdogs, unsung heroes, aha moments...we live for this stuff. Agreed? The problem is, life isn't always lived at the top. Most of the time, life consists of the day-to-day struggle. It's mundane, it's difficult, it's full of ordinary people striving towards extraordinary things.

From now on, I will place more value on the space between point A and point B. The time leading up to the fork in the road. The work we must do before we get to choose right or left. I have become so acutely aware of what that place feels like and I will never underestimate the power of it again. I believe that's where true character development occurs. In the in-between. In the hard stuff. The waiting. In that place of striving and working and hoping it will pay off. The place where the characters are stretched and molded into something better, stronger. The in-between full of extreme anxiety and a little bit of crazy. The in-between spent obsessively hashing out every possible scenario. The in-between with all its ups and downs, exhilaration and defeat- sometimes within the same day.

I guess you could say that I have found our own personal fork in the road moment to be both terrifying and thrilling all rolled into one. And I still remain incredibly happy about every choice we made that landed us here. That said, I cannot wait to move on. To finally turn right or left- knowing full well that we are prepared for either road ahead.

I refuse to let our defining moment define us. The journey to get here was too hard-fought to dismiss. It has changed us. And after the fork in the road...that's where we get to decide what to do with this new path. We get to write our own story. I have a feeling it will be brimming with defining moments.  

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