Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Countdown to Graduation, The Finale

Continued from Countdown to Graduation, Parts OneTwo, Three, and Four.

Last Friday, I graduated from medical school.  I spent most of last week reflecting on the past four and a half years and the memories I hope to someday share with G-Bear, E-Bear and Baby Bear.  Here is the Finale.

The Finale

As my friends blazed through their final 10 month of rotations, residency applications, interviews, the Match, and graduation, I plodded along taking 4 weeks off in between 6 week rotation blocks.  As a result, I would graduate a year later than my class, but I would be able to be home for substantial periods with G-Bear and E-Bear.  This certainly presented challenges, as I have often felt like I have a foot in one of two worlds without belonging fully to either one.  The benefits that I received have been undoubtedly family-related:  my routine and relationship with the G-Bear and E-Bear continued to flourish, I was able to accomplish potty training with G-Bear over a winter break from work, not to mention all the little moments during nap time, playtime, wake up and bed time that I was able to share with them.  Despite my periodic steps away from medicine, God continued to bless my efforts and learning at work, above what I thought was possible and certainly beyond what I deserved.  At times His blessings at home and at work seemed to be accomplished in spite of my efforts, and for that I remain humbled and eternally grateful.  

Family medicine, OB/Gyn electives, pathology, ICU and cardiology, pediatrics, gyn oncology, and a summer of maternal fetal medicine research all passed by quickly.  Before I knew it, T had matched to a post-residency fellowship program across the country and it was once again time for me to prepare for the Match.  I visited the city where we would be moving after graduation and even met with the OB/Gyn program to introduce myself and our situation.  It was a great visit and I received a welcoming response.  But something didn't feel quite right.  Perhaps I know too much about how hard residency can be; perhaps I didn't want to keep us in a city without family for 4 more years; perhaps I wasn't ready to commit to a program before T had job offers;  perhaps I wasn't ready to give up the daily moments with G-Bear and E-Bear; perhaps, for some unexplainable reason, it wasn't the right time.  

After weeks of sleepless nights and agonizing in prayer, I withdrew from the Match in August of my final year.  A week later, I found out that I was pregnant with Baby Bear.  I will always consider this God's way of blessing me with the confirmation that I had made the right decision to defer the Match for yet another year.  I needed that confirmation, because I received mixed responses from others, and that often shook my confidence.  I didn't want to let down my parents, my mentors, or my advisors, even as I made a choice that I felt was better for our family.  As I wrote to one of my advisors:

"I realize that each time I decelerate from the process of traditional medical education I give myself hurdles of knowledge retention and loose part of my competitive edge as a residency candidate, both of which I worked very hard in medical school to accomplish.  These were difficult realities for me to accept as I made my decision to withdraw from the Match.  Ultimately, however, I have had to weigh advice like yours against the personal cost of starting residency next year.  That cost was too great for me to accept.  Perhaps I have reached the limits of my ability to push the envelope when it comes to medical training and personal life balance.  Then again, perhaps my medical path isn't finished and this is the next step toward my ultimate success in serving others as a wife, mother and doctor."

My final 9 months of medical school have been full of growth.  I have grown in my love for patient care.  I have felt myself grow uncomfortable in the role of the medical student, feeling ready for the new challenges and responsibilities that come with graduation and residency.  I have watched T grow out of his junior resident roles and assume the role of the senior chief.  I felt and watched as Baby Bear grew inside me, and now our love for him grows daily.  I have grown in my appreciation of how wonderful and challenging it can be to be a wife, mother and working woman.  I have grown in my opinion that doing it all is an illusion and hard choices have to be made.

As graduation arrives, I realize that this both an end and a beginning.  I have come a long way (a veeeeery long way, as I look at my bookshelf of medical school books), but we have many more adventures ahead.  When people ask me what I plan to do next, the simplest answer is the honest but unconventional one: I don't know!  Unlike most graduates, my decisions about residency, specialty, location and the Match are still ahead, not behind me.  Yet, I know that the Lord is the one who has brought me this far, and I am ready to trust His plan for our future.  


SnoWhite said...

And He certainly will! The best place to be is being guided by Him and clearly, your testimony of your journey through medical school is evidence of His faithfulness and His continued and constant leading and directing of your lives. Looking forward to where His journey continues to lead you.

B-Mama said...

You are a wonderful pioneer and example, Queen B! So proud of you!