Friday, December 19, 2014

The Wife of a 4th Year Med Student

Back in February, I wrote a post about being the wife of a 3rd year med student. To my surprise, a lot of women with super busy husbands (whether in med school or not) totally identified with what I said. I was reminded of the age old adage: Strength in numbers, yall! In summary, being the wife of a 3rd year med student was the pits. We got through it - praise the Lord - but it certainly wasn't my favorite year of med school.

Fast forward to now. Michael is half-way done with his 4th and final year of med school and we are flying home tomorrow to Dallas for eight days of Christmas puzzles, movies, Blue Bell peppermint ice cream (be still my heart!) and lots of family and friend time. Today, I'm writing from a hotel room in Hershey, PA, the chocolate capital of America, while Michael is currently in the midst of an interview at Penn State. Today is his 14th of 20 residency program interviews.

Repeat: 20 interviews.


Now that Michael is over half way done, I'm feeling much better, but the whole process has been incredibly draining. I've played madam secretary to Michael this fall and helped to schedule interviews, book flights, rental cars, and hotel rooms, and have been his travel companion to eight places.



Wait. Hold the phone. Whyyyyyyy am I talking about myself?!?? Michael is the one who actually has to be on his A-game all day for 20 interviews. He's the one who is working to actually have a JOB next year, while I sit in coffee shops and drive around towns to see if we want to live there, and visit the local bakeries to see if the cookies are any good. (I got a sugar cookie last night here in Hershey that was sub-par. My fault though -- who orders a sugar cookie in the chocolate capital of America?? Rookie mistake.) I'd say my role of travel buddy/ taster of local treats/ real estate agent is far, far easier than sitting through day-long interviews where any number of random questions can get thrown at you. Such as:

If you could eat dinner with anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?

What would you do in this scenario: you have a flat tire...

Why do you want to go into this field of medicine?

Speaking of that, Michael is going into neurosurgery. I don't think I've actually written that here before. Back in the spring, Michael did his general surgery rotation and then had two surgical sub-specialty rotations, one of which was neurosurgery. Previously in the fall, he had done a neurology rotation and found it completely fascinating, so he wanted to see what the surgical side of it would be like. In a nutshell, for Michael, it was love at first sight when he scrubbed into his first neurosurgical case. He came home that day and said he wanted to be a neurosurgeon.

But then came months of going back and forth, much prayer, and much discussion between us about what it would mean to go into that field. Neurosurgery is a 7-year residency, and then Michael may still do a fellowship after that. Neurosurgery means a LOT of days and nights on call. Neurosurgery means a lot of missed weekends, lots of me feeling like a single mom, lots of missed Dad-time, lots of me doing everything around the house on my own, lots of going to church sans a husband, lots of frustration, lots of grace, lots of communication, and lots of sacrifice.

Michael and I talked and talked about this decision and weighed the pros and cons, the possibility of choosing a different specialty, and what the lifestyle would be like for us as we raise babies in a new location. Through our conversations and a ton of prayer, we are moving forward day by day in this decision and trusting that the Lord will carry us through the next several years. More than ever, I know we will need our friends and a good community and church to support us. And I'm hoping that our baby girl on the way will be a breeze of a baby so that moving in late May will be a cinch. (Wishful thinking... I know!) But we do feel at peace about neurosurgery, and I love that Michael LOVES what he will be doing with his life. Nothing is more sexy than a man passionate about his job. Heyy-oh! (Although I think a man passionate about his kids is going to be pretty hot, too.)

Back to being the wife of a 4th year med student. Ok, listen up. Here is the key to getting through this year (at least the fall of this year): FLEXIBILITY. There is no way around it. Life is just different this year. So very different. Michael was doing away rotations for two months this fall and was completely gone from DC. For a lot of students going into surgical subspecialties, they actually do three or more away rotations. This blows my mind -- I cannot imagine Michael being gone for another full month at another program. The day his final away rotation ended in Nashville, we drove to his first residency interview. This was on October 25th, and literally every week since then, Michael has traveled every 2-3 days to get to his interviews. It's INSANE. But it's the norm for this time of year, especially if you are going into a surgical subspecialty. By God's grace, I've had a flexible work schedule and was able to go with Michael on his two months away, and as mentioned above, have been able to accompany him on several of his interviews. In January, we are going on a tour of the Southeast and driving to five interviews in seven days. By all accounts, it is an exhausting process, but having a good attitude seriously helps A LOT. Also, being 7 1/2 months pregnant is making me a tad more fatigued than normal, but I'm grateful to get to keep Michael company on so many of these trips.

Funny story: the picture above is of Michael and I riding the tram at Newark airport. These are the trams reserved for disabled people or senior citizens. During this particular trip, we had to walk about a mile to get to our connecting gate, and the driver took one look at me and said "get in." Yes sir. No complaints from me!

Now, I know that I am in the minority in being a wife who can accompany her husband on these interviews and away rotations. I don't think most people have the work flexibility to do that, or they already have children to take care of, or for any number of reasons just can't go. And that is where flexibility comes even more into the picture. Your husband may be across the country for a month doing an away rotation. This might mean that you have to wake up early or go to bed later to talk to him for 10 minutes on the phone each day. This might mean that it's just going to be a really cruddy and hard month. This might mean that you feel alone and tired and frustrated. This definitely means that you are going to have to show amazing grace and patience toward your husband and toward the whole away rotation/interview process. And this definitely will mean that when he is finally back home, y'all will eat popcorn on the couch, and watch 10 episodes of Friday Night Lights, and be so excited to actually be going to church that you take a selfie with your church in the background.

Red brick steeple

No matter what, I think this season takes a huge amount of trust in the Lord. Trusting that he will give your man the stamina he needs to get through these interviews, trusting that you will be alright as you wait for him to come home from traveling, and trusting that the Lord is preparing a place for you both come Match Day when your man tears open the envelope that tells you where you will be living and working for the next 7+ years of your lives.

No big deal, right?!?

Our baby girl is due March 6th, exactly two weeks before Match Day on March 20th. We are anxiously waiting for these two events with a lot of joy and no small amount of trepidation. I know I have a "God who sees me" (Genesis 16:13) and holds me and Michael in his hands as we wait for so much to unfold, and I am so grateful that he has carried us through this far already. And I've no doubt that it will be the same for you if you are facing many future unknowns.

Ok, time to run -- gotta go find me some chocolate :)

A little glimpse into the future

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