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Lives of Doctor Wives: August 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014

It's all about perspective

Contributed by Angela Hummel

I sit here on a Saturday morning alone with cancelled breakfast plans...again. This has been a difficult week, made even worse by the lack of support from my husband. It's not that he doesn't want to be by my side, it's that he can't be by my side. Demanding schedules and demanding patients win yet again.

Last week I had miscarriage number three, alone, in our bathroom while I'll let my husband sleep through my nightmare. I had to let him sleep, his surgery schedule was overbooked for the next day and I couldn't rationalize waking him so he could sit on the cold bathroom floor and wait. It was only 2 in the morning and I had no idea how long I'd be dealing with this. As much as I wanted to be selfish and have him by my side, I didn't want to take the chance of putting someone else's life at risk or putting my husbands career in jeopardy.  I had done this before, I could do it again. And honestly, I was glad that at least he was home.

Two and a half hours later, I am no longer able to go from the bed to the bathroom. As I'm sitting there waiting for the most recent contraction to pass, I beg God to please make this end and decide it's time to wake my sleeping husband. At that moment, God answered my prayer and I knew it was time to "page the doctor".

I'm not sure if God chose to pair me with an OB/GYN because I was going to have multiple miscarriages but I feel blessed to have my own personal, loving, tender expert during the hardest times of my life.  We have been blessed and pregnancy number three resulted in an active, beautiful, strong-willed little girl. My husband didn't want to play doctor during my labor but instead wanted to take a step back and be at my side. A decision that pleased me. However, labor didn't go as planned and as the senior resident at the time he step in and helped make decisions that resulted in a quick vaginal birth instead of a c-section. And honestly I believed that after that delivery, miscarriages were a thing of the past.

The rest of the day was hard, to go through an ultrasound alone, without even having that tiny heartbeat inside me to give me comfort. Even though I knew many of the staff personally, I wanted my husband by my side. The next afternoon I was fortunate enough that he was able to take the afternoon off and accompany me while I had lab work done, picked up prescriptions and headed to labor and delivery for a rhogam injection.   He was there as we stood at the nurses station checking in and the nurse asked "When is your due date?" And I just stared at her for a brief moment without being able to answer. Everyone in the nurses station turned to look at us and as I said "It was January 13, 2015".

"What do you mean?" She said with a confused look that I still don't understand to this day. I mean, come on, she's a L&D nurse, right?

My husband took the reigns and said "She had a miscarriage and she needs the rhogam injection". I may have sobbed right then and there if he hadn't been the rock by my side.

A few days later, 6:30 am, I wake up in an empty bed with stomach pain and gurgling bowels and I quickly realized that I have just a matter of seconds to move. A half hour later, my busy bundle of joy is ready to conquer the day while I lay helpless on the living room floor. Since I've had her this has been the hardest day of my life. A temperature of 101, a headache that is splitting my head in two, a trip to the bathroom every thirty minutes, emotions on high and a teething tot is enough to make me want to crawl in a hole.

And again it's a surgery day. He's already warned me that we probably wouldn't see him today. I manage to make it through the day laying miserably on the floor, staring at the TV, doing my best to care for my child and counting down until bedtime.

At 7:15 I crawl into bed, text my husband "I can't make you dinner tonight, I'm sorry. Get something on your way home. Love you" hoping to get a response and hoping he'd be coming to hold me, nurse me back to health, or just simply to be sitting in the house either watching TV or studying. Somewhere around 11 o'clock he crawls into bed, exhausted and hungry.

The next morning, I peel open my eyes, do a quick mental assessment of how I'm feeling and realize that I don't need to run to the bathroom. I turn over to see that my husband is already gone for the day but quickly realize that it's Friday! Half day in the office for him!  I need to spend time with him, I'm ready to talk about our miscarriage and discuss how I'm feeling to get some of this weigh off my chest. So many emotions rolling through me like a devastating thunderstorm that doesn't have enough pressure behind it to move it along. This is the first time we've decided to go on birth control after a miscarriage. Maybe we won't have another child but I'm not sure if that thought is adding to the storm or helping it pass.  I need to get out. Into a different environment. Away from the floor I laid on yesterday. I am hopeful that we can go to lunch, go for a walk or run some errands.

The day in the life of a doctor's wife never goes as planned...at 3 o'clock he sends a text.

"Do you mind if I go with Craig for a drink?" Thankfully he texted instead of calling because I truly would have blown my top on him. But I quickly think, "He's had a tough week too. He lost this baby just like I did. And he rarely spends time with friends outside of work."

"Go ahead, then we will go out to dinner tonight." I respond. "Are you sure?" He asks. "Yes, the baby is napping and I'm doing some work."

I want to be so very selfish right now. I want to tell him "Are you kidding me!?!" But he always passes up the chance to spend an hour or two with friends to be home with us, he turns down invitations to stay home and study and he has been through as much as I have this week. Plus, I can give up two more hours of his time to have him for the rest weekend.

"Meet me at Chipolte at 6" he texts me "It needs to be quick, fill you in when I get there". This isn't sounding good. A big sigh escapes me and I get things ready to go. Surprise, surprise he needs to go. back. in. on. a. friday. night. for. a. surgery.  At this point I am so desperate to get out of the house, talk to an adult, feel normalcy and escape the last week. Desperate isn't even the right word. I usually make a few trips to the gym, get groceries, run errands and attend a play group during the week but I've been restricted from exercise for the week, leaking clots, and then too sick to even leave the house.

A patient with placenta accerta is going to need an emergent hysterectomy tonight because of uncontrolled bleeding as soon as she gets out of interventional radiology. Her life is more important than having my husband at the dinner table with us. He finishes half his burrito when the page comes through. "Don't forget we have to take your car to the shop in the morning and then we have that fundraiser breakfast" I remind him as he bends to kiss the little one and then me. "Got it. Can't wait to spend some time with you" he says.

The next morning after dropping his car off we are finally all together to do something as a family. I am blabbing about a new project I've started, really making small talk and sharing some positive insight into the last few days. "I got paged, that girl we did surgery on last night isn't doing well, so I to skip breakfast. Her heart rate is really high and she may have a pulmonary embolism." I could not believe I was hearing this again! Not again, not now! I need my husband and I've been pushing it off and pushing it off. I was so excited to actually have time with him today that I was up at 6:30, showered, dress in a cute skirt and summery top.

"That is it. I am sorry but I need to tell you this." I say through welling up tears.  "I hate your job this week. I know your patients need you but I need you. This has been one of the hardest weeks of my life and I have shared you with everyone else. You have been gone all day and most nights you have been in bed hours after me. We have no family here and I've been dealing with everything by myself." 

"I'm sorry, this has been tough week. This patient is really sick and I need to go in." He says as he reaches over to caress my knee. "I am sorry to do this to you again."

So here we stand watching him pull away in the only vehicle we have, stuck once again at the house without him. The fact that he does what he does to help others and save lives is very important to me and during these hard times I have to remind myself much more frequently that this life isn't just about me. Keeping my perspective positive and not allowing selfish thoughts to take over does keep me from becoming bitter. These things that have happened could easily make me hateful and full of self-pity but living in a dark place is so unappealing to me that I focus only on the positive.

I know my husband's heart. It always shows through. He's always there when he needs to be. Maybe not when I want him to be but when it matters most God works things out to make sure I'm not alone.


Monday, August 25, 2014

One Week Down, a Lifetime to Go

It seems I have graduated. I am no longer the wife of a pre-med, but the wife of a med student. Though it might have been the shortest step in this whole process, it somehow feels the most significant. After all, what's the point of all that pre-med torture if it doesn't eventually lead to the actual med part?

Today I went back and read the very first 'Pre-Med Perspective' post that I ever contributed for LDW. In that post, A New Beginning, I told you about three lessons I had already learned throughout the pre-med process. Imagine my shock and awe when I realized that those three things still apply today. (I had hoped to be a little wiser a year later, but alas...) Being that I find myself at yet another beginning, the refresher was much needed. Exactly one week into MS1 and I am already reminding myself to:
  • Be flexible 
  • Don't lose your identity
  • Let go of anxiety 
All easier said than done, of course, but still so relevant today. These tips may become even more relevant as time progresses and pressure mounts. In one week, I surmised that flexibility is imperative as I try to adjust to this new normal...a life that doesn't feel very 'normal' at all. All of a sudden, I also have more time than ever to work on my own identity. What else am I going to do while DrH studies? I mean, other than serve as the breadwinner/housekeeper/laundromat/chef. Ha! And lastly, looking back on our pre-med journey, I realized that everything turned out exactly the way we wanted it too...what was I so worried about?

Life lessons aside, my favorite moment of our new beginning thus far occurred during the White Coat Ceremony. As my husband and his classmates proudly donned their crisp white coats and recited the Hippocratic Oath aloud, tears welled up in my eyes. Not only because I am so, SO proud of DrH but also because of the gravity of the words. It was a poignant realization that the end goal here is not to graduate with honors or get a residency in a desired specialty or location, but that this endeavor is about dedicating a lifetime to serving others through medicine. No matter how many lessons we must learn to get through this, it goes so much deeper than the next four years. A lifetime...that is what we are building.

And what a fun life it's going to be.

visit my personal blog at thehappyredhead.com


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Survival Stories: Don't Yell at the Flowers

I'm overdue in posting something here, which really hurts me more than anyone since writing is so therapeutic to me.  Chalk it up to a stressful home purchase, moving, and trying to get settled in before school starts on August 13, but I haven't sat down to write in months.

A conversation I had with my children over the summer has stuck in my mind, though, and I think it's applicable to nearly everyone, in every stage of life.  Our son is nine; he is a bright, funny, friendly kid, but he inherited impatience from both my husband and myself.  Not surprisingly, it is his only sibling, our four-year old daughter, who tests his patience the most.  One day, he was particularly exasperated with her, and he moaned to me, "Mommy, why can't she just grow?  Why does it take so long?  When will she change?"

Many replies ran through my head, but as I was picking the right one, I saw a pot outside by my parents' pool.  In it were some zinnia seeds my daughter and my dad had planted a few weeks before.  The stems were getting higher, the buds getting more ready to bloom, but they weren't quite ready.  I pointed this out to our son, L, and asked him if the flowers would bloom sooner if we went outside and yelled at them, the way he felt like yelling at his sister.  He laughed, and agreed that yelling at flowers to grow would only make us look foolish.  I told him that he should try thinking of his (fierce, strong, vocal, determined) sister as a flower.  She is growing, but in her own time.

I think L understood what I was trying to teach him, though patience with Little A continues to be a big growing point.  Since then, though, I've realized how often I've tried to yell at the flowers, so to speak.  From little things to big, I somehow have this notion that my timetable is the best, the only way to go.  No matter what your spiritual leanings, I think we can all agree that none of is in charge here.  Things happen that we can't control, people do things that let us down, change happens slowly or not at all...if we are the yelling-at-flowers type, we will get torn up inside.  It's a tiring and unhealthy way to live.

As I've walked beside my husband through medical school, a five-year residency, and now four years of private practice, there are so many things that I thought I wanted to change--how long it was taking, how hard it was, personal struggles, financial difficulties, uncertainty about big decisions--but when I look back, I can see that if those things, people, and situations had changed the way I thought they should have, then perhaps my husband and I (and our kids) wouldn't have grown and changed the way we were supposed to, either!

It's hard for L to have patience with his sister.  But I know he loves her, and I know that the patience he does show is growing, and it is developing deep kindness, endurance, humility, and a prayerful heart in this young boy.  Likewise, being married to a person pursuing a medical career is very hard, harder in some seasons than others.  But I know we love each other, I know his career is more of a calling than a choice, and I know that we are growing in amazing ways--as long as we stay quiet and stop trying to yell at the flowers!

I am a stay-at-home mom to a 9-year old/5th grade son and a nearly 5-year old/pre-K daughter.  My husband practices general ENT in the Sarasota, FL area.  We have been married for 13 years.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

The Grand Adventure

The Grand Adventure

Last year, I was completely, totally stunned when my then-OMS III husband talked about making away rotations a family affair, instead of a Daddy-leaves-for-two-months-while-Mama-holds-down-the-fort thing.

Certainly away rotations of varying kinds, especially sub-Is are not unheard of in the medical community. (For those who are unfamiliar, sub-Is are audition rotations at hospitals/with residency programs a student is interested in Matching with. They are great for giving the applicant a real taste -- for better or for worse -- of what a program is like (and vice versa), how they mesh with the residents and faculty, and can even be the source of helpful letters of recommendation.) Most of the time, though, it seems to mean splitting up the family for a period of time.

Since I was staying home with our daughter, and since my husband is a family man first and foremost, he wanted us to come with him. It took some convincing, but I agreed to go for two months, no more. I thought that was enough time to sacrifice being without my safety net at home. He set up rotations in St. Louis in July and Denver in August. We started working on travel plans and finding housing.

Then, he was offered a spot in October at his first choice (on paper) program in Wichita, coming off a wait list. We accepted without hesitation.

In the end, we were on the road three out of four months at the beginning of his 4th year. We called it our Grand Adventure. This is how we did it:
  • We traveled "light," by stuffing our large sedan to the brim with a suitcase each, plus one for the baby, an umbrella stroller, a pack-n-play, and as many baby supplies, toys and books as we could slip into the empty spaces. Okay, maybe not so light.
  • We shared a car. Depending on the rotation, hospital, and hours, one or two days a week, I would drop him off at the hospital and pick him up when he was done. Those days gave me a chance to explore the city, run errands, and feel a bit of freedom (and sanity). The other days, the baby and I stayed home, took walks, explored our neighborhoods, and did chores.
  • We found short-term rentals on Craigslist by posting in the housing wanted section. While neither (we stayed at a friend's home in one city) was an ideal situation, both worked out. We have some great memories from them! We also trolled the rental section, and had a couple of leads come out of there. Especially in the summer, people are interested in sub-leasing while they will be away. In every situation, we had more space than we would have had in an extended-stay hotel for a lower price. 
  • We were able to keep our place at home, thanks to a large tax return, but we'd have found a way to make things work without it.
  • We got restaurant and entertainment recommendations from the residents where my husband was rotating. Some were real hits. Some were misses. But it was a fun way to feel more in touch with the city. We made a point of enjoying the sights of a city, going to the zoo or a museum or on a day trip on days off. We also played at local parks, walked local neighborhoods, and tried to be part of the local community, even if for a short time.
  • Because we are Catholic, a highlight of our trip was trying local parishes, visiting the Cathedrals, and getting a feel for the Church community of the area. I would imagine that this would be adaptable for people of a variety of faith backgrounds.
In addition to helping my husband land at a residency program we're truly excited about, we grew so much as a family through traveling together. I also gained a ton of confidence in my adaptability. Going into the Match, I was confident that we would be okay -- thrive even -- wherever we ended up.
Most importantly, we were able to love and support each other in the best way we knew how -- by being together.

Bio: Ashley Armstrong is a stay-at-home mom to a 22 month old girl and a 7 week old boy. As of June 6, she will be the wife of an actual doctor. She blogs about it all at www.coffeehappens.blogspot.com .

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Residency Roundup: Skipping the 10-Year Reunion

It may shock you to learn that this theater geek, this Buffy Summers fangirl, was not counted among the cool kids in high school.  

Ten years ago, I didn't so much walk at graduation as I did run, ready to lock the door on the previous four years and throw away the key. When I got the invitation to my ten-year reunion, though, I surprised myself - I kind of wanted to go.  

I thought it would be fun to show up with anecdotes about my clever and delightful children, and let everyone see that I still fit in my circa-2004 American Eagle flares. And I would cap it off by saying that I'm so sorry I couldn't bring my husband to meet everyone, but he's off saving people's lives because, you know, he's a doctor.  

It's a nice story, right?  A Pinterest-perfect snapshot of my life. I'd definitely omit that my youngest may be sleeping like an angel right now, but even though he's fifteen months old he's only slept through the night twice. And that my three-year-old son is, as I write, protesting my cruelty at requiring him to go to bed by calling me a "mean girl who isn't very nice."

The high school jeans?  Yeah, they only fit because I had food poisoning.  (Don't tell.)
And the doctor, who's off, you know, saving people's lives, couldn't be there because residents aren't allowed to take time off during the summer trauma season, and anyway, he hasn't had a real vacation since February.  

Ultimately, resident salaries are tight and cross-country flights for three aren't in the budget, so there wasn't a real chance for me to go. So what's the point of dreaming up these perfect tidbits to share with the rest of my class?  Kind of embarrassing to admit, ladies, but I guess that a small part of me wanted to show that not only do I fit in somewhere now, but I fit in even better than they do. 
Obviously, I am nothing if not petty.

I didn't always fit in at my high school. But in the intervening decade, I've learned an important lesson: life's not about fitting.  It's about committing - committing yourself to the life you chose.  I chose to marry a premed.  We chose to start our family in medical school, and to expand it during intern year. When he chose a long, hard residency, I chose to encourage him instead of begging him to pick anything--anything--else. When we matched far from family and friends, we chose to look on the bright side and make it an adventure. Every day my sweet and hardworking husband wakes up at some awful pre-dawn hour and chooses to go in and round and operate all day sometimes night and then day again and not complain (usually) about how tired he is. 

I fit in here. This crazy, doctor's-wife life works for me because I choose it every day, and if I could go back to 2006 when this whole path started, I would choose it again.

I imagine, had I learned these lessons in high school, I might not have felt the urge to lock that door so tightly.  And maybe I'd have bit the financial bullet and attended my ten-year reunion and laughed about how we were all so dorky and what was with frosted lip gloss and who was your prom date again, and aren't we so glad we're not 18 anymore. Go Apollos.  

I guess there's always our twentieth to choose maturity.  But, and let's just keep this between us here, on the off-chance that I get food poisoning again and still fit into my high school jeans, you can bet your class ring that I'm going to wear them.  


Friday, August 1, 2014

Happy Wife, Happy Life, right?

Happy Wife, Happy Life, right?
by: Katie Allender 

Rank list. Oh yes, the rank list.  When it came time to rank anesthesia programs, I tried my best to relinquish control and allow my husband to “decide” where he preferred to go, where would be the best training, and ultimately where would be the best fit for us, as a newly married couple willing to try something “new.”  Every program had its strengths and weaknesses but big factors for us outside of the obvious were the design of the program, cost of living in the immediate area, the ability for me to find a teaching job, and things to do in the area (we love the outdoors!). After a few slight modifications, our rank list was complete; we still had a few reservations about some of our rankings, but in the end we opted not to stress about it because what should happen, would happen.

Well fast forward to Match Day and we matched at the University of Michigan. We were excited (elated, even!) at the opportunity to move and start our life together, just the two of us (or three of us rather, including the newly rescued dog).  I quit my teaching job and three days later we were packed up and moving 1,200 miles across from Denver to Ann Arbor.  We were so immersed with the move that we had almost forgot about the one reservation circulating around our move to Michigan.  While researching programs, we had learned that teaching jobs were exceptionally difficult to come by in and around Ann Arbor.  Before even moving, my husband was especially anxious at the idea of me quitting my desirable job back home and potentially not being able to find something out here. I assured him time and time again that we would make it work.  Well here we were in a new city scouting out teaching jobs, and his worst fear about moving came to reality.  I couldn’t find a job.  It never was about the money but more about my happiness and contentment with our new “home”; my husband’s biggest fear was that I would become resentful towards him.  Sure there were jobs to be had, but taking a job an hour or two away was not something that seemed all too practical given our situation.  It was hard for me to justify taking a position where I would be gone twelve or more hours a day (including drive time) coupled with a first year resident working brutally long, exhausting hours.  For a while I remained optimistic that something (anything!) would come along, but nothing ever did. I honestly think this situation became harder on my husband that it was on me.  All along, though, I had a “Plan B” – I would nanny! And quite frankly I was completely content with that decision. It wasn’t too long before I found an amazingly great family to nanny for. I love what I do and there are qualities about being a nanny that resemble teaching.  Do I miss teaching? Absolutely! Teaching is part of my identity.  But I also know that I’ll be back in the classroom before I know it; this current phase of our journey is a small hiccup in the grand scheme of things.

So, rather than choosing to be resentful toward my husband for “making me move,” I have chosen to make the most out of our time here.  I cannot say that it has all been unicorns and rainbows, but for the most part, our move has been a very rewarding, extremely liberating, and great for our marriage.  As any spouse or significant other in our situation can attest, there are times where I have felt lonely and just wished for a normal lifestyle; but with the help of an invaluable group of girlfriends who I have met out here, frequent happy hours, craft nights, book study meetings, and training for a half marathon (something I have desired to do for years), there is less time to dwell on my loneliness.  I make time for my husband when I know he will be off, but sitting around and waiting for him to get home will not make this process any less lonesome, less stressful, or go by any quicker.  Going out and getting involved is the best piece of advice I can give anyone in a situation remotely similar to ours. Do something you have always wanted to do! Take a class, learn a new hobby, travel to new areas, or join a club.  Meet new people! Enjoy growing in your relationship with your spouse!  Instead of viewing residency as something we do for our spouse and his/her career, I can only suggest that you take this time for yourself, too; it’s not easy doing what we do, but what we can control is making sure that this part of the journey is a positive one, one that will only last a short while.

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