Thursday, May 5, 2011

Countdown to Graduation

At long last, I will graduate from medical school on Friday.  

Looking back, it is hard to believe how much life has changed for us in the past four and a half years.
There is so much I want to remember to tell G-Bear, E-Bear and Baby Bear about how we all got through medical school.

Year One

I started medical school two months after T and I got married.   He had started residency a few weeks before.  Three days before my orientation, I found out I was pregnant with G-Bear.   I was so excited to be married to the man of my dreams and so thrilled to be pregnant, that I seriously considered not starting medical school at all.  The day before orientation, I climbed the steps to the med school administration offices to speak to one of the deans and give up my spot in the incoming class.  The dean met me at the door to her office with a firm hand shake and a big smile.  I introduced myself.

"I came to talk to you because I just found out I am pregnant--," I blurted out.  
She interrupted me, "I just knew you were going to say that," and she flashed a tremendous smile.  "Congratulations!  We are SO happy for you.  I am sure you have a great deal on your mind, but let me say right away that we are very proud of our medical student parents.  We will support you in whatever way you need.  We have been supporting parents through medical school for years."  

As you might assume, I never got around to resigning from the incoming class.  The next day I was sitting with 164 peers in orientation for medical school.

I spent most of my first trimester in the throws of anatomy, wearing a 3M gas mask and double gloves for hours everyday in the dissection lab so that I wouldn't expose the baby to formaldehyde.  Most of my class had no idea I was pregnant (because we hadn't yet told my parents), and many must have thought I was tremendously paranoid to tolerate a mask fit for Darth Vader.  At the end of my day, I would take the hospital shuttle across the river to the other hospital campus where T was working, and I would study in his hospital lobby until he was done around 8pm.  At some point during first semester finals, overwhelmed by the amount I had to study, I started to cry, wondering how I would ever keep up after the baby was born.  I couldn't imagine how it would all get done.

But, somehow my class and I plowed through exam after exam, and before I knew it I was 39 weeks plump.  Three days before she was born, two girlfriends and I studied all day, non-stop for a dreaded neuroscience quiz.  I took the quiz the next day, and 24 hours later found myself in labor.  But G-Bear was slow and steady in her arrival, and even after being up all night with contractions, I still sent T to work in the morning so that he wouldn't have to take a whole day off.  She was born much later in the evening on that snowy Holy Wednesday.

In the 14 days following G-Bear's birth, I had 9 exams and three finals.  When I didn't go to class, I watched lectures on my computer at 3am when she woke up to nurse.  I would walk up to school for a lecture with her strapped to my chest in our infant carrier and feed her in the back of the lecture hall if she woke up.  She was strapped in the carrier for my neuroscience lab final.  I studied for my microbiology final with flashcards while walking with her around and around the block.

When I finished my last final just 3 days later than my classmates, several of them asked me how I was doing it, as if I had just swam the English Channel without a wetsuit or climbed Mount Everest in a bikini.   It certainly wasn't easy, parts were honestly painful.  But I realized that G-Bear was a saving grace in many respects.  Whereas, during winter finals I had been obsessed with exams and every possible point, her presence in my life for spring finals was literally life changing.  Suddenly, exams and studying were put in their proper place of significance.  G-Bear's life was so much more valuable to me than points on an exam.  Her company as I studied invigorated me and I was forced to concentrate more in the moments when I could study, because there was no time to waste.  Ironically, I did better on my exams in the spring than I had in the fall.  But I didn't have to do better to make it worth it.  I was a med student momma, and I was never going back.


B-Mama said...

B, this is an incredible look at the sacrifices you've made and obstacles you've overcome to be where you are. I'm so proud of you. What an awesome achievement!! Congratulations

SnoWhite said...

Amazing, friend. Thanks for sharing your journey!!

Chrisy said...

What a true example your children have to look at when they are told that they can do anything! Two words: SUPERWOMAN and SUPERMOM! Congratulations to you!

"By perseverance the snail reached the ark." Charles Spurgeon (19th Century English preacher)

Katie Lee said...

So proud to be your sister!!