Some light at the end of the tunnel

The DO match seemed so long ago. But it wasn’t that long ago. It was on February 7th. We waited for good news and got none so Stephen scrambled/called around and was offered a few Family Medicine positions which we didn’t accept. Ultimately, he thought his chances of getting into an anesthesia program would be better if he waited for the MD match in March.  So we dropped our worries for the present time and waited.

The MD match was March 17th. You either match or you don’t. We knew Stephen wouldn’t match since he didn’t apply or rank any of the programs, but he wanted to participate in the post-match scramble aka SOAP (Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program) to get a position. Not exactly an easy process since everything is done through an application process and NO phone calls are allowed to any of the programs. It’s just a week of waiting and desperation.

Match status’ are posted at 11am CST. If you don’t match, at 12pm, you get to apply for 35 positions which are currently open (a list is provided). Between then and the first offer period on Wednesday, you are sitting at the edge of your seat hoping and praying that a program is interested in you and calls you to interview you. Nothing. We read threads on other students in the same position and you can read the disappointment, anger and desperation in everyone’s words. The first offers come on Wednesday at 11am. Nothing. At 1:30pm, the list of open positions is updated and applicants are able to apply to 10 additional programs. The second round of offers come 2pm. Nothing. The sinking feeling that he may not get something sets in, but of course, there is also clinging hope that great things might happen the last day of the SOAP. Three rounds of offers happy Thursday: at 8am, 11am, and 2pm. NOTHING, NOTHING, and NOTHING. as soon as we know at 2 that no offers were extended, Stephen makes a list of programs that he wants to contact. We are not allowed to make any calls until the SOAP process is over at 4pm.  I finish my work shift at 3:30pm and prepare to help Stephen make phone calls.

Once the phone calls begin, many programs are only allowing messages. I got through to one program in Florida and Stephen was able to do a phone interview. That was the first and only contact we had all week. Imagine us getting excited. EXCITED – about one phone interview and I can’t stop talking about Ken – who I passed the phone to Stephen to talk to for this interview. Friday morning, Stephen wakes up and continues to make unsuccessful phone calls and hopes that Ken will call. Match results are posted and Stephen gets to read about what most of his classmates have matched to. Meanwhile, we’re still hoping that a program out there is interested in him and that he’ll hear good news instead of “We’re sorry, all our positions are filled.” On Friday evening, Stephen gets an offer from Bluefield, West Virginia. At first, we are super excited. Then we map the program. It’s in the middle of nowhere and not close to any big cities. I look at homes on Zillow and there is nothing. I cry. I open birthday gifts from Stephen and the boys…and I cry. Stephen cries.

Then the weekend is here. I’ve turned 31 on this exhausting day and I don’t feel like celebrating. All I wanted for my birthday is for Stephen to find a program.

It is clear to us that anesthesia will have to be placed on hold until the following year. All plans we had made up to this point are being re-thought. I’ll keep working. We need the financial stability in case we’ll have to move again the next year. At this point, the only open positions were for Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, or Traditional Rotating Internships (this is the only route to take if he still wants to do anesthesia). The offer from Bluefield, West Virginia is extended through Monday. So we enter a new week hoping something better. We are still hoping for Ken to call us but it doesn’t seem the call will come. More disappointing news that the positions are filling up quick. Stephen has looked at many different sites saying positions are open which are not and somehow came across a site which wasn’t on a list at all. So he calls this place in Chillicothe, Ohio and gets a phone interview right away. He submits his application and while waiting, he gets another interview from a place on Long Island, New York – which is no place to raise a family.  But as of that moment – it was better than Bluefield, West Virginia. He gets off that call only to find that he’s missed a call from the program in Chillicothe. He steps out of my office to call the program director back while I try to keep Liam distracted. Liam had been following Stephen from room to room all morning cackling and making as much noise as possible. So when Stephen returns, ALAS – GOOD NEWS! A position was offered and accepted!  We’re moving to Chillicothe, Ohio! I jumped up, hugged him, held on, and I cried tears of joy. The torture finally ended and we are relieved beyond measure. We can start planning for the future. Though it’s not entrance into a 4 year program, this is the best thing we could hope for through this process. He’ll try again next year for entrance into an advanced anesthesia program as a 2nd year to complete 4 years without delay. We’re hoping that we won’t have to endure this process again next year…as we know now what a horrible experience it is.

We found out from another student that going into the MD match, only 10% of DO students will match into an MD program. Stephen had little to no chance of getting an offer. But there was no advice from his school, no support, no warning of what this process would be like. That’s education in America I guess – you suck the students’ pockets dry and let them figure stuff out for themselves. No thanks to them, we’re looking forward to moving on into the next chapter of our lives. I’m so grateful this process is over…for now.

Today, I found out that my job has laid off some pharmacists. So the next obstacle is going to be me finding out if relocation is a possibility. The plans we make keep getting modified with each day.

In 3 month’s time, we have to get our house ready to put on the market, Noah needs to finish 1st grade, Stephen graduates, we have to move and find a new place to live. I’m counting my blessings in the mist of all the trials we’ve had and will continue to have to endure. I’m grateful to have my family – my husband and 3 little boys who brighten my every day and give me hope for a better future. For now, I have a map of the Columbus, Ohio area permanently open on my computer and wonder where we’ll end up in the upcoming months.

Good Mother, Bad Mother

Is it possible to be a good mother while being a working mother? Define working mother – cause I’m pretty sure house wives are considered working mothers in my book. The problem with me is…I’m kind of both. I work full time from home – and with that, comes all the house wife duties. I’ve had an awfully long week and I’m sitting here frustrated at life and wishing things could be simpler. I feel like I have no control. I have an office door that I can’t keep closed because Liam now climbs up the stairs and bangs until he successfully sits in my lap while I try to work. And when I need to make a phone call or am on a phone shift taking incoming calls, my anxiety is at its highest as he tries to jabber while I’m talking. One of these days, I might lose my job because of it. Every time I take him down the stairs and set him down, he screams bloody murder and follows me right back up the stairs. I feel like the worst mommy ever. 

No…not every moment is like this. But it happens everyday without fail at some point during my working hours. It doesn’t matter if someone is here taking care of him while I work – simple fact is…he just wants his mommy. And while I understand that wholeheartedly, I can’t give in and give him 100% of me. I have an obligation to my job and maybe working from home doesn’t make it easy for Liam and I – but it’s my best option and I don’t want to give it up. Every day, we are getting closer to finding out where will will move. The DO match was unsuccessful and so the MD match is what we’re waiting for now. We’ll know for sure in a few weeks…then we can start planning how we’ll sell the house, where we’ll move and my biggest decision – do I still want to work? My heart says no but my head says yes.

I’ve been providing for this family since Stephen and I began our relationship. I have anxiety feeling that I’ll be worthless if I don’t work and continue to provide. And there will be days when life is bliss and I’ll have nothing to do and wish I had a job. Life is so tormenting…. Liam obviously needs me – and so do the older boys. Evan is behind with his speech problems and says he doesn’t want to go to school until he’s 6 – YES – he said this. I’m so unsure of just about everything right now. Stephen is on his last rotation away from home and it makes it so much worse when he is not here. Nothing ever seems to be easy.

Excuse my rant. I must return to work. 

hopes of a simple life

Liam is turning ONE soon. Last night, we threw a birthday party for him 11 days early to join the celebration with Bethany’s (his aunt) 24th birthday. While I don’t mind doing the work organizing and preparing for these parties – like Thanksgiving and Christmas – I am so relieved once they are over. Because even though I’ve done my best to throw a good party and to make everyone else happy – I’m reminded that I’m living for them and not for me. If I was to do it for me – I don’t know what would be different – maybe I wouldn’t do anything. I don’t remember birthdays ever being significant when I grew up or before I got married. I feel like I’m as confused about birthday parties as I am about religion. On the left I have Stephen’s Caucasian “Christian” family and on the right I have my Vietnamese Buddhist family. The two lifestyles/beliefs don’t mix or merge in anyway for me. So I’m left living three lives…one for each set of families and my own little family.

This morning as Stephen left for Rolla, yet another rotation site hours away, a feeling of sinking inadequacy fell over me and I have been crying off and on all day wondering when I can have some stability in my life.

In exactly four weeks, MATCH DAY will be here. My sister’s baby, Dexter will also be expected to arrive into this world. It’s a day I have been looking forward to for the past 4 years. When Stephen and I made the decision for him to go to medical school away from home, we never thought it would be this hard. It has felt like a lifetime but it’s finally coming to an end (somewhat). I know that I can’t survive another year living apart…or living here. I need a chance to live in this world where I can be me without feeling like I haven’t done enough to make each and every person around me happy.

As expected, while I’m throwing this party for my sister in law and Liam, my family called to say they were having a get together. Anger flashes over me. Why? Because I feel bad I’m throwing a party they didn’t get invited to? Why? Because my “American” party would never be good enough for my family. My photo banners, cupcakes and appetizers would be subject to criticism and ridicule. Why else? Well…because I want to be with my family despite how they make me feel. In 2 weeks, we’ll have a party for Liam with my family so I shouldn’t feel bad – but I worry about the things they’re saying as they’re having dinner without me. I can never win this internal struggle between each of our families as long as we live here – minutes from them. These thoughts have consumed me and have made it more and more obvious that what I need most in my life is to be free from these bonds which keep me tied here. What I want most is to be able to focus on being a mother and wife above all else.

I’m looking forward to a simple life. At this point, we don’t know where we’ll be in a few months, whether or not I will still be able to work, if we’ll rent or buy…but I’m looking forward to it all because it’s a time of rapid change that will make our lives better in the end.

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Mismanaged

I’m lying awake at 4am because my mind has told me I’ve reached my sleep allowance for the night, or at least it’s reached what it’s used to. This past week has passed by painfully slow amidst the little milestones in our lives with each day.

Stephen turned 30 on Monday. I know a lot of people would say that 30 is not a big deal. But to me it is. I turned 30 in March alone postpartum and spent it with 3 little ones while Stephen was away. I don’t fret the lack of celebration, but in my heart, I do feel a little cheated that life at that moment was the way it was because of our circumstances. Stephen was able to be home with his family and I threw him a surprise birthday party which I felt was a big success with only one minor hiccup which was completely beyond our control. It’s something we get to look back on and remember forever-the good and bad. At 30, we’ve own two homes and have 3 kids. I’m established in my career while Stephen is closer to graduating from medical school. These are certainly things to be proud of.

During my first work break of the day yesterday (Friday), Stephen received an email from Des Peres Hospital in St. Louis where we hoped he would be accepted for residency. He was nervous to read this anxiously awaited email…not that we expected anything to begin with. Sadly, he was told that he was not ranked in the top. They said it was possible, but not probable that the would get into their program. But, he is being ranked and that he can still rank them as well. So the chance is still there, but it is not great. Disappointment has reached us many times since he began this journey. I’ve watched him struggle month after month trying to find ways to be home during his rotations and most months, he is not successful and we find more and more people who are unwilling to accommodate or try to sympathize with our situation. While it was a let down, we are glad to have received some word that will make things more realistic to plan since we can rule one place out and see a clearer picture of what the future may be like. We have 5 months until graduation and I can’t wait for this time to pass.

A coworker asked me today (or technically yesterday), if I have a problem with depression because I had mentioned a few things which made him think that my self worth seemed very low. I answered no….but it’s true that my self worth is low. Work has been very emotionally taxing as it is less about comfort and more about numbers in the big corporate world. I feel that I’ve become devalued as a vital member of a team. It’s also easier to feel that way when I don’t leave the house to see coworkers on a daily basis as my office is one door down the hallway from my bedroom. I’ve been unhappy with work but I think most people are right now from all the conversations I’ve had with coworkers.

So on top of all these thoughts, there’s Liam: our little 10 and a half month fireball who uses me as a human pacifier. I have not had a full night of uninterrupted rest in over a year and a half since I got pregnant with him. Between potty training Evan (while I was pregnant) and being pregnant and nursing him nightly, I get no more than 3 or 4 hours do sleep at a time if I’m lucky. Most nights, Liam seems to stir almost every hour and in sheer desperation to get him to settle back in and for more sleep, I’ve allowed him to use me as a pacifier. Three nights ago, we decided to put that to an end. He has consistently woken up every hour frustrated and confused as to why I’m not nurturing him in the same consistent manner I have been for the past 10 months. Sorry baby, I need my sleep and so do you. Since I’m laying here writing, I guess my thoughts include a bit of hope. I’m encouraged that it is getting better to console him with each waking. He isn’t crying or whining as long but maybe it will be a struggle again at 5am as it was the first two nights we did this. I’m looking forward to a full nights rest in the near future for all of us.

I’m mainly awake because I’m anxious. An issue with a family member came up shortly after Noah’s birthday in October and Stephen and I have tried to avoid it in our attempts to move on and block it all out. But, the time has come for us to face it and I can’t picture a beginning or an end. I don’t know how to start a conversation that encompasses so much frustration and hurt. And I don’t know how a conflict that began with our marriage can truly be resolved with another talk as we’ve already had a few in the past 10 years. This too shall pass, they say. I hope and know that statement is true….but they never tack on the dooming statement that it will return with a matter of differing perceptions and opinions or acceptance of our ever evolving lives. We do hope to be respected for how we choose to live our lives and how we choose to spend our time, but that’s so hard sometimes when the world around you imposes itself on what it thinks should happen. It’s an act of God to keep Stephen home during these rotations and an act of God to get them scheduled at all. It’s frustrating to handle the spontaneity of family functions and even the planned ones.

I need rest. Physically, mentally, spiritually. Yes….even spiritually. I know I’ve said before that I find myself in limbo about it. And here is one example why: It makes me angry when people on Facebook claim to be spiritual leaders and warriors in their faith, but they show no Christianity in their hearts to see true hurts or to reach out. They are what seems to me to be the most self righteous, most self entitled, and most disappointing people I know – especially where they think using that title would give them a thumbs up. Because truly…when I read and witness that most are attention seekers who only put themselves first (not God)….it’s a total thumbs down from me. Hypocrites don’t get any scoring points from me. I deal with enough BS in my life to see right through you….so don’t pretend to be my friend by liking the pictures of the cookies I post. Simply like my picture without being pretentious and for your honesty, I would truly be grateful. There’s my frustration with social media. That’s a tangent for you.

To all our faithful readers…pray for us and with us. I’m hoping Liam will begin sleeping through the night soon. That Christmas will pass with joyful ease. That match day will come and we will be happy with the outcome and that life will get easier.

Not all fun and giggles

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Being a parent is not fun sometimes. I’ve had a really long and hard week with these boys. Liam is sick again for what seems like the 3rd time in 4 weeks. He may be teething but it’s so hard to tell the difference between teething and a virus. I tend to the crying baby all day while trying to work my 40 hours and when he sleeps for an hour here and there, I take care of Evan. If Noah is home from school, I make sure homework and done and harp at him to read a book.

I co-sleep thinking life could be easier and warmer if I don’t have to roll out of bed every time the baby cries – but I’ve also made it harder because he’s established needs and knows I’m right there if he wants me. My breasts get sucked at, clawed at, pinched, and beaten. Don’t get me wrong – nursing him and my other kids is the most rewarding way to be a mother – giving him nourishment straight from me, but sometimes, it’s more than any mother can handle. I’ve been waking up every hour it seems to a disturbed baby, cleaning/catching vomit, and have gotten very little rest.

Last night, I didn’t care how cranky the baby was, I was in the spirit to decorate/redecorate. I wanted to move the Christmas tree to the living room and add garland to the mantle. I’ve been so cranky from everything that’s unraveled in the past few weeks and last night, I couldn’t handle much. I’m cranky about our Rav-4 being damaged in the night by some idiot who was too selfish to leave a note. I’m cranky that I’m planning thanksgiving for my family and some of them plan on eating and leaving. I’m cranky that one of my sisters has told me I’ve left mac and cheese off my menu this year (so I say I’ll make it) and I’m cranky that my other sister who never cooks is tells me I’m making mac and cheese with fake cheese (velveeta) – and that is NOT the only thing I use to make mac and cheese, thank you. I’m cranky that my 4 year old didn’t eat his dinner and cried to the point of vomit and that my 7 year old is being annoying (which is not his fault for being 7 and has something to say about everything). My only moment of peace last night was the hour I spent at the grocery store. I came home to put groceries away and went straight to making dinner and watched Stephen try to help take care of Liam with a little bit of resentment because it’s something he only has to put up for 2 hours when I have to do it 24/7. He’s great at being a daddy, but I can see he struggles because he’s not the one the baby wants.

Ok…I just need to calm the heck down because this is all stuff beyond my control and it is NO ONE’s fault. But I’m missing the fun and giggles and while everyone is sleeping in this morning, I’m reflecting on my horrible week and sitting here beating myself up feeling like I’m the worse mom/wife in the whole world. I deserve this moment of meltdown, right now. UGH!!!!

And now…it’s Sunday. The saddest day of the week. Stephen has to leave later tonight and I am dreading another awful workweek with a sick baby. And on my only day off, I’m going to bake and cook and be extremely excited, but in the back of my mind, I’m hoping I don’t let some selfish people destroy my spirit. Lord, help me.

 P.S. I LOVE my family – no matter how hard it may seem.  I just need fresh perspective RIGHT NOW.

St. Louis – Reception/Interview – by Stephen

I walk into the conference room and there are people all over the place standing and sitting, some table full and some empty. It was nice to see familiar faces from my class, so I went to talk to them first. I was standing by a round table that was completely full and then some. These tables probably fit 10 people comfortably and this one had near 20 crowded around. Two of those people were residents in the program.  It looked pretty silly to try to squeeze in, so I grabbed some food and wine and sat at a different table with some people I knew from school. There had to be an announcement or welcome message coming soon. I saw the medical education director walking around and I thought he would be the one to organize this shindig. That welcome never came.  There I was, sitting at a table with just a few people that were not applying for the same program as me. The anesthesia applicants were the ones crowded around the two residents and I felt completely left out. “Why did I come to this?” is what I kept thinking. I thought maybe I should be aggressive and shove my way in to the congregation, but that was suppressed by my desire to remain professional. One of the anesthesia interns recognized me from my rotation back in August and came to sit with me. We had a light conversation and I got a few of my questions answered. By the time it was over, I felt defeated. This is my first choice location for residency and so far my chances were not looking good.

Coming back to the hotel that evening was a relief. I had the pleasure of being greeted and entertained by my wife and boys who trekked out to St. Louis with me. It was so comforting to have them there. I hate being alone, and this night would have been that much worse. I grabbed food on the way back and a free (somewhat strong) drink at the hotel bar and unloaded my evening on Caly. She was able to use her wisdom and encouragement to put some positivity in my mind. Then we had a nice long swim in the heated pool and hot tub. It was super relaxing and wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. The kids had a blast jumping in and taking rides on my back, and Liam was beside himself to be cuddling with mommy in the warm water. After we got in bed that night, my nerves about the interview in the morning weren’t ready for sleep. I stayed up later than I should’ve practicing answers for my interviewers’ questions.

The next morning, or middle of the night as I call it, I woke up at 5am and got ready to go. I was told by the intern that the interviews are first come, first serve. This made me feel like I needed to be there early so that I don’t wait all day to be interviewed. If I did, I think I would drown in my nerves and the anxiety would worsen as more and more applicants exited their interviews. When I was ready to leave the hotel room it was dark as could be and my family were all sleeping soundly in bed. I left quietly in my formal business attire and headed straight to the hospital. There were only 3 applicants there that morning at 6am, and none of which were going for anesthesia. Whew. I was the first to arrive! I felt good about this because I think it shows dedication and timeliness – both solid attributes of a good resident. Also, I would be the first seen that day and they wouldn’t compare me to anyone else…. yet.

“When there are so many applicants for this program waiting out there, why should we choose you over them?” was the first question fired. I knew this question would come. I practiced my response. I was prepared. I was also nervous. This was not a friendly one-on-one where they are just trying to get to know me. This was 6 residents and 3 attending physicians sitting behind two 8-foot folding tables full of applications and paperwork. There was one chair saved for me, but it was in front of them and placed about 5 feet from their tables. I am not sure if this was their plan, but it was beyond intimidating. My answers started out rough. I was struck dumb and tongue-tied. The good thing is I answered the questions eventually and was not short on my responses. I shared more info than I was asked while on the stump. It was actually when I was talking about my wife and kids that I began to collect myself and my responses. I was then able to notice that many of the residents were wearing warm, friendly expressions. That reminded me of how well my audition rotation went back in August. The first day was rough, but I went the extra mile with bells on and the rotation went supremely well.  The looks I saw them giving me were worth a thousand words to me. Mostly, they told me they remembered how well I did and that they wanted me there. I can only hope that it was true. After all was said, I was done. Ready to clean my blood off the floor where I sat and have a nice vacation day with my family. I was finished at 7:30am!

A Weekend in St. Louis/Interview #1

We spent two days in St. Louis this weekend. Stephen had an interview reception Friday night and a formal interview on Saturday morning.

On Friday, we drove there just in time for Stephen to change and leave for his reception. The boys and I hung out in the hotel while Stephen was away. When he called, my heart sunk when he told me he didn’t think it went so well. I tried to stay positive but at the same time…I was peeved because I felt it could have been different if he had seized the moment. I can’t blame him though. The four hour drive and rush to get to the reception probably shot his system a little and he just wasn’t prepared for a reception that was so unorganized and unwelcoming. I sympathized with his feelings about it and encouraged him that the interview would be completely different. So we went on to enjoy our night with our boys.

Early Saturday morning, Stephen got up before dawn and left for his interview, hoping to get it over early. He didn’t say goodbye so I just laid there waiting for a message and hoping he’d do well. He was done by 7:30 a.m. and was the first to interview. He thinks it went well!!! I’m so excited. He if fairly hard on himself…so the fact that he says he thinks it went well is a GREAT thing!!! We were able to have breakfast together instead of him waiting for hours for his interview. We had a lot more time together than we expected, so we drove through New Town, where he had stayed when he was on rotations there for a month. We looked at a few homes and liked one…but came to realize that we really need to look at more options. We have months to look into it and we still don’t know for sure if he got the residency in Des Peres that he just interviewed for. We just can’t help ourselves – we get excited and jump the gun looking at houses. It’s like a bride to be planning a wedding 2 years in advance and getting more done sooner than later (I have a friend who is doing this and I totally get it!)

Naturally…Stephen and I are looking at more homes this morning when we got up. We’ve decided that New Town may not be the place for us. But we’ve decided on a builder that has lots of different house plans for us to choose from in several different neighborhoods near the hospital Stephen will potentially be at. We just need to decide where depending on the school district. The ultimate goal is to live in an area that is best for our kids. I’m feeling hopeful…but I’m scared. Stephen has 3 interviews…2 left to go….neither of which I’m excited about.  We really don’t have any desire to move to California – mainly because of the homes and schools that are available. The third interview is for an MD program here in town as a backup, but Stephen and I have our hearts set on moving to St. Louis. We really want to have a fresh start – to focus on our family the way we should since we haven’t had a chance to do that the past 4 years. We’ve spread ourselves thin hogging weekend time with each other while trying to fit our extended families in. We need to focus on us for a while. The anticipation is killing me….waiting to find out in February/March is going to kill me slowly.