Friday, March 27, 2015

March Madness: Baldwin Style

"Don't clean up the kitchen," Will says to me for the umpteenth time. "We'll clean it together when I get home."

That sentence is how I am surviving this month.

Well, that and a lot of raisins:


I'll admit - as much as I loved my in-laws and my mother visiting and helping around the house, I have felt a bigger sense of ownership and pride in Will and I taking the reigns of our little family.

So... the house is in a perpetual state of tornado runneth through it. The downstairs will be clean; the upstairs will have laundry everywhere. Then, we'll do all our laundry, and the downstairs needs a good sweep. No matter how often I clean, I cannot keep up.

And I am finally, finally, finally realizing: that is okay.


Today is the end of third quarter, so I am also in the midst of grading. It's good to be back in the classroom, even though I am more tired than before (how is that possible?!). My AP kids are gearing up for the AP test in a month and change, so I am getting extra pumped for that.

Grace is currently pulling out all the shoes from our closet, and "wearing" one of my running shoes. I am ordering her first pair of Keens this weekend, and am looking forward to the look on her face. (Grace loves shoes!) We're hoping these will motivate her to take more steps on her own more, if she feels more stable.

Laura sleeps extra well during the day, and quite loudly at night. Not really sure what to make of that, but overall, a very sweet baby. We are incurably smitten! Grace loves her sister too, and will sit next to her when she cries, always tries to put her pinky in her mouth, will occasionally sit on her when trying to sit closer, and waves in her face when Laura stoically stares off at the wall.


Will is finishing up night float this week, and even has his first weekend off this month! After, of course, he gets home around noon tomorrow. ((He'll wake up in time for the UK-ND championship game!!))

Second to last Friday of Lent, so I am fixing a super easy Zatarain's red beans and rice (if you're looking - Grace likes!), broccoli and may even have a beer because hey! ho! It's Friday! Other exciting plans include confiscating the baby wipes every time GHB finds another unsuspecting package so she cannot pull them all out (again), going to the grocery store, and taking Will his dinner. Busy night ahead! Grace has pulled off Laura's socks only a dozen times so far.

No wipes left behind.
But enough about me - any plans this weekend, readers? Are you surviving another glorious day too? No shame in surviving; that's half the battle.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Night Floatin'

We're nine months into residency, and possibly the best part of it is how comfortable I feel about stopping by the hospital to give Will a meal, or just visit him. It isn't too frequently that we stop by to visit him during a shift, but tonight, the SICU was relatively low-key. We took Will dinner and I successfully handled two girls by myself. (It was our first outing just the three of us!)


Boo-yay! Baby in the ergo, baby in the stroller. This is us leaving the hospital - I wore Laura against my chest, and then tied my maternity coat around both of us (could not zip... and apparently look like the inverted humpback of St. Luke's). Grace wore pink, pink and more pink, and we sang "The Wheels on the Stroller" all the way home.


It's nice to have the break-up of routine, sometimes. It's cold outside and we don't have to take Will food, but that's part of building our little family. I always imagined I'd love Will the most on our wedding day - the day we made our vows as husband and wife. But last night, he took Laura in the middle of the night so I could keep sleeping. Tonight, he works night shift and I have her. 

Families take care of each other. When Laura cries, Grace crawls to her and sits next to her and tries to stuff the wubbanub back in her mouth. Our human experiences could be solo - we could eat apart, sleep apart, play and read and work apart. Humans, however, crave interaction and community with other humans. To need others is not a weakness; to accept love as freely as we give it is quite a gift too. Will's shifts tend to feel longer for me than him - he's got to do rounds, he has patients to see, a trauma comes in, someone needs something.

Life at home is slower. I can't grade with the girls (or very efficiently, at least) because they want my attention, and frankly, I want theirs. I love them, and I want to play with them too. They are only little for so long.

In the same vein, residency is only so long. I'll be glad when it's over, and I'm grateful it's now. I know we'll look back fondly on the day we needed only a singleton stroller or the ability to walk from home to the hospital, if only to drop off dinner in exchange for a hug and kisses all around.



Okay: Laura just fell asleep for the umpteenth time, and I'm going to end this post soon so I can dive beneath the covers before she wakes up again... the delicate dance of newborn sleep patterns!

**UPDATE: Apparently his night got way more busy after we left - no sleep till he got home 20+ hours later! Prayers for all involved in the many, many car accidents. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Reading as Enjoyment

"Those are the important things, the permanent things.  If you are not reading The Wind in the Willows as Theodore and Edith Roosevelt and their children were reading it, then you should not read it at all.  If you are turning Tom Sawyer into a linguistic exercise with a veneer of intellectual sophistication, then you should not read Tom Sawyer—in fact, you cannot have understood a blessed thing about Tom Sawyer.  If you are reading The Jungle Book for any other reason than to enter the jungle with Mowgli, Bagheera, and Baloo, then you had best stay out of the world of art, keep to your little cubbyhole, cram yourself with pointless exercises preparatory for the SAT, a job at Microsoft, creature comforts, old age, and death." --Anthony Esolen, How Common Core Devalues Great Literature


What is a favorite book to enjoy?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Impossible Reality: What Happens When Medical Students Don't Match

The updates are rolling in this weekend; it's Match Week! This Friday, medical students all over the country are finding out where they'll be living and working for the next 3+ years of their life.

"Smile bigger, Will!!!" - his loving wife
I remember last year well - on Monday, we got the e-mail: Will had matched. The weight we had tried to make light of, the weight that threatened to crush our lives had been lifted. Was the sun extra sunny that day? I think so.

On Friday, our good friend Vy Ahn came over so we could find out our results together. Will and I were nervous but we smiled at each other: we knew Will was matched, we just did not know where or in what field. Last year, Will applied to emergency medicine (his top choice) and family medicine (his next preference). We opened the e-mail and read:

EMERGENCY MEDICINE
BETHLEHEM, PA

Where were we going?!? Who cares! We're in, baby!

A year before this, we had learned a much more harrowing lesson: not everyone matches.

The Association of American Medical Schools reported in April 2014 that
More than 16,000 U.S. medical school seniors matched to a residency position this year, according to data from the National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP®). At 94.4 percent, this year’s Match rate rose from 93.7 percent last year. Despite this improvement, several hundred U.S. medical students did not match to a first-year training program, raising concerns that the 17-year cap on federal funding for graduate medical education (GME) will exacerbate a looming physician shortage.
It was a shock to us - Will had good grades, exceptional USMLE Step exam scores, and excellent letters of recommendation. The problem, we discovered, is that he did not apply to enough programs so as to ensure "enough" interviews (this number is different per field).

The [very simplified] process looks like this:
  • a student decides on a field (or two, though this is not necessarily encouraged) and applies to X number of programs. Each program receives 1000+ interview requests, and usually grants around 200 or so. If people do not accept an interview, the program will extend an interview to someone else on their waiting list.
  • Interview season begins in October and ends in late January (although I have heard of early February?); in February, students submit their preference for residency spots to ERAS (Electronic Residency Application Service), and in March, they are matched.
  • The Matching is done by an algorithm - the students put in their top choices, the programs list their top choices, and the computer makes all the matches. 
  • If you do not Match, then you scramble (in another program called SOAP, which helps with the unfilled spots). If you do not get a spot there or do not want to go into a different field, then another idea is to work in a lab or another year of graduate school in a related field. 
We decided not to go into a surgery; we laugh now about how we would have fared living in Brooklyn, NY. Instead, we spent the year in sunny New Orleans. Will got his Masters of Science in Clinical Research at Tulane University, and re-applied to the Match that fall. His school schedule was flexible and allowed him to travel for interviews. Using your "off year" wisely is also a way to show that you are prepared to work hard and continue your education towards practicing medicine.

This is going to be tough. Not matching will be one of the most difficult things to happen. We were newly married, newly pregnant and completely side-swiped. Will going into residency always felt like a given reality. Medical students (soon to be medical doctors) must first go into residency in order to practice in most states. This felt crushing.

It was a really tough emotionally. Will took it the hardest, and I did everything to support him while we worked through it. I still had him go to his M.D. graduation (but not his M.S. graduation). Even if you do not match, there is still a reason to be proud of your accomplishments. You are not a failure. There is so much - still - to do, and try, and accomplish. This is a discouraging set-back, at most.

Outside our family, only a handful of people even knew - writing this now is really stressful for me. We just never brought it up to other people. What could we say? Will is awesome and qualified and still didn't match? But a good friend of mine told me that this story might help other scared medical students (and their loved ones), because there were certainly no stories out there as I obsessively researched options during Match Week two years ago.

So here I am, writing this while Will is sleeping off night shift. It's okay to be scared; it's not okay to be passive.

That was something we faced too late - his passive, unhelpful advisor. If you have one, I really recommend finding another doctor to mentor you. Do not try to go through the March process alone. A mentor can help lead you through this difficult year, and to remind you what a great prospective doctor you are! Will was lucky and when he asked for help, many doctors stepped up and really support him during this time, with advice and recommendation letters.

Again, going through the Match a second time is even more daunting. Of the six people in Will's M.S. program who went through the Match, only three matched a second time. But it's worth it.

Since Will was little, he wanted to be a doctor. He grew up with his grandfather, father and uncles being doctors, and the profession was a natural choice. To watch him grow in residency is extremely rewarding for me: how hard he works, his great attitude, how much he studies, and even when he's frustrated, he does what he thinks is best for the patient. I hear it from other residents, and I see it in his interactions with other residents.

To be his helpmate during that extremely difficult and daunting time for me was hard for me too. It is stressful to not know, especially in pursuit of a desired and hard-sought goal. There was a lot of trust in God and even more prayer. The most important thing to do as a significant other is affirm your person and be with them.

But I can still remember our walk down Tchoupitoulas Street, going to a brewery to meet friends to celebrate (which we got turned away from because Grace Harriet was under 21 years old/ in her stroller). We walked over to Magazine Street to make our way back home, and Will and I just relished the time. We talked with a kind of freedom from those chains of uncertainty. We felt so light; so blessed. As much as it felt like an earned victory, it also felt like a given one too, and one we humbly and graciously accepted.

St. Patrick's Day parade - NOLA 2014

No matter what happens, you will get through this tough period. Repeat this to yourself: you will survive. Maybe you'll adjust your dreams, maybe you'll achieve your dreams - either way, there are still many options available. Allow yourself to think of new possibilities, and embrace the chance for a new adventure!

Moving to New Orleans was the best thing for us - as a couple, for personal growth, and for professional ambitions. It was scary to move so far from home (1k+ miles), to start over and try again. It was the best of times and the worst of times (to quoth Charles Dickens), and no matter what, you will survive - and thrive! - if you let your dreams expand and you work hard, as you already do.

We were lucky enough to have a successful end: Will matched in his desired field. He loves his department, and he finds satisfaction in his work.


This time is stressful, and it is okay to mourn - but this is not the end. Anything is possible!

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Weekly Wallpaper! {pretty, free}

Blessed Is She's Erika created a beautiful wallpaper for this week (or maybe longer, in my case, because I like it so much) based on yesterday's Gospel!



Download here!