Tuesday, May 3, 2016

30 Days Later: How to Survive a (Hard) Residency Rotation

Saturday was the last day of MICU and, of course, it was the weekend, so Will was the only resident covering multiple floors. He has nurses and an attending too, so it's not like he's all alone - it's just a lot of work for a moderate-high census. Bonus: no admissions!

MICU (medical intensive care unit) is a hard rotation; the hours are long, patient loads are heavy and require a lot of decisions to be made, and oftentimes, people die. So, you can't be mad that he's working late because he's talking to a grieving family. Their whole world is upside down.

For the family waiting at home, the hours feel longer (time moves faster at the hospital when you're so busy!), the routine misses a crucial element and we generally are just trying [to eat well, get the toddler to whine less, get work done, watch less Daniel Tiger, whatever].

Here's how we cope/ survive/ love each other:

Long Live Routine

OB appointments are typically on Mondays. Therapy is Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Class is Monday through Thursday. Grading and class prep on Friday. Grocery shopping is on the weekend. Laundry is weekend. Mass on Sunday. Because when you have things to do, time passes because it must. It's certainly not living life to the fullest, but we're in survival mode during these long work months since I solo-parent for most of the day/week.

The second part of routine is never letting "us" be taken for granted. It's saying goodbye at 5:30 a.m. and Will fixing enough coffee for both of us every morning so I don't have to do it. It's texting him updates on our day and pictures, so he feels included and keeps up with the girls. I don't expect responses too often - in the morning, he's rounding, and then the day rushes by; but he reaches out when he can to check in with me. It's a big hug and kiss when he comes home, and giving him a little space; it's the girls climbing all over him, even while he falls asleep on the floor during their bedtime routine. For half the month, he was home for bedtime, which was a definite silver lining.

Let It Go

For me, it means laundry once a week, max. And maybe not even put it away until Will helps me. I'm growing a baby, wrangling two little ladies, and keeping our family functioning. Laundry is not a priority.

Still a clean freak who can't concentrate well when the house is a wreck? Turn cleaning into a game. I feel like this is a the real secret of life.

Visit the hospital

The best part of this is how excited they were to see him, and how much they did not want to stay still for a picture!

This is one of our most favorite things to do- dropping off a coffee or coke or phone charger... we're lucky to live so close to Will's work, so hopping over briefly isn't a huge issue. It's a big production considering we see him for maybe four minutes max, but some days, it feels worth it. We mostly did this while he was on overnights/ 24+ hour shifts. Some days, it just felt like a game changer. We were all together for a few minutes and that mattered.

Extra Help

If your budget lets you hire a cleaning service, do it. If your budget means you hire extra babysitters, do it. If family members can swing it, invite them to come help for a week. If friends want to help, let them. Let your tribe help you. Let strangers help you. We're all human!

Special shout-out to my MIL for the week she spent with us, and all her help, which included grocery shopping, toddler wrangling, crisis control with our water heater's sudden clanking, and the fact that she's continuing to minivan shop for us since we can't find anything in our area.

Another reason I need extra help is to help manage my anxiety. I've never had this kind of stress before, and pregnancy has certainly acerbated it. I cry over things I could normally handle, and I'm very sensitive to ... anything. I'm just trying right now. My best support are all far away, so I am grateful for modern technology. It's hard being away from family and friends during times like this.

(It goes without saying, of course, that Will is my total rock. So having him on NICU for the past two days actually feels like a vacation - as a comparison between MICU! I'd also like to add that Grace's six therapists are truly amazing and took time this past month to ask me how I'm doing, check in on us, and even offered to pick up groceries, etc. if need be - we are so lucky to have these women love Grace and us!)

Have fun!!

Seriously: just do what needs to get done (feed children, pay bills, nap, therapy, class, get outside...) and keep a sense of humor. Some nights, we watched TV for two hours. Some days, we played outside. Always, we rolled with the punches. I learned to cope with a lot of whining ("use your words!") and clingy children who have recently decided that of all their stuffed animals, they BOTH love Cat Cat best. Flexibility is the key to surviving this residency anyways, I think.

It's all pretty overwhelming. Every day was the day I tackled. I didn't make plans. I kept to the schedule and I moved on. And when it was all over, we danced.

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  1. You and Will are doing a great job making the best of a rough few years! You'll come out strong on the other end! :) Plus, Grace and Laura are so happy and know that they are loved, which I feel like is the #1 thing with kids.

    And I'm only a few hours away. Really. If you need help, or even just a visitor, don't be afraid to ask! I love visiting with you all, and I think Laura wants to come home with me next time ;)

  2. Amen, alleluia, and a solidarity fist-bump. God bless you and your fam!

  3. Whew. I never understand how you can do all you do!!! The littles plus teaching online plus therapies plus husband in residency!! You really do amaze me and I'll be praying for you all. I wish we lived closer so we could hang out and let our kids run amok together!