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The Match

For many people, medicine is a mystery. As I try to explain here & there, exactly the process that we are going through right now, it’s quite clear that unless you have a family member involved in a career in doctoring, most people just don’t understand the path to become one. It’s not a process you hear about every day–and since I have been asked so much I thought maybe I would share here, so you know, in part, why I have been so physically & emotionally unavailable to blog regularly.

First comes medical school, then comes residency. We all know this. Any practicing physician does at least three years of residency–and to get that residency, he/she is required to “match.” This involves interviewing (and funding travel to interviews) and eventually a “rank list.” Programs rank medical students, and medical students rank programs. If they “match,” then everyone is happy. But you can see the obvious issue–and the reason for all the suspense–it is rare to match exactly where a med student wants to, because there are always limited “spots” at any given residency. So some people get at the least, the specialty that they want. Some “scramble” if they don’t match, and find programs who will take them for a year, until they can find a spot the next year if someone drops out or washes out. Not everyone makes it through residency. & some people continue on beyond residency.

So this is where our story continues. My husband is very close to being done with residency. Five years down. One to go. & he has decided to sub-specialize even further. Which requires three more years of even-more-intense training. (omg omg omg, is right.) So here we are again. Another “match” ahead. & there have been ten interview trips, done post call (meaning he skipped a night’s sleep & flew out to spend a night & day with a program, then returned to work.) Which also means, he went ten weeks without a day off. & skipped ten nights of sleep.

Still with me? Yeah. So you can see why I have been just a little busy.

I have recently noticed that many of my friends who have husbands who work with mine have degrees in counseling. Like, psychotherapy counseling. & I totally see why. Add the daily life & death stuff that we deal with as spouses (yes, they bring it all home), with this schedule and yeah. I can certainly see the value in earning that kind of degree. Maybe some day. So anyway…

We’re a couple of weeks away from the big day. The day where we learn how this match settles. It’s a whole lot different from residency–because there are very few programs and most take A fellow. (that’s what you are called after you complete a residency, most of the time.) So ONE. One person, maybe two, get to train at the prestigious programs. On rare occasion there are up to four fellows, but the point is that it is HIGHLY competitive. Only thirty-something people a year are trained for this particular job. & the process is a painstaking one. & the actual work hasn’t even started yet.

So help me, GOD.

So rank lists are in. They become final in a couple days. & then…we wait. TWO WEEKS. We wait. & pray and take comfort in the fact that every step in this journey across this country has put us exactly where we are meant to be during each phase of life. We pray the place he picked first is the one who picked him back. & if not, that we can choose to be happy wherever we end up.

Whew. So that’s where we are. That’s where I am. That is why this little space is so neglected.

But I feel its neglect and it makes me sad. I really miss having the energy to put into styleberry. At the end of the day, when everyone is tucked in & lunches are made & the house is picked up, I just don’t have any energy left to write. Add in those aching muscles from exercising regularly (major sanity saver) and I just need to get every bit of my my six hours of sleep to recover.

I think my balance will begin to start swinging back as summer approaches and our days are a little more relaxed. As soon as we KNOW what’s coming next. We can soon spend less time worrying & preparing for trips and recovering from them & the exhaustion that we feel as a family right now will hopefully be a distant memory.

But this has been really challenging.

So stick with me. Know I miss this place of creativity. Know that if you are like me & finding yourself overwhelmed with life and losing the things you love that this season will soon come to an end & life will shift again. Maybe soon we can find some more time to do the things we love & need to do to fill our souls…with something other than mothering. I love mothering, I really do. But sometimes, I need a break. My break used to be my blog, and right now, it’s lots & lots of yoga. That is ok. I’ll soon have enough energy to do both.

At least that is what I am telling myself. :) The mind is a powerful thing.

I don’ t talk about this part of my life on here very often because I have always felt that it is irrelevant. But–the more time I spend seeking support, the more I realize how little there is for this kind of lifestyle. If you are a residency widow, or have any advice to share, please help me make this a safe place for sharing that support. This lifestyle is lonely and exhausting and you don’t really get it unless you live it. Hang in there. Being married to medicine is a lot less glamorous than most think. We are not alone! :)

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  • Robyn - Shawna, while my husbands’ specialty doesn’t seem to be quite as intense as your husbands’ I can so relate to this! Many people don’t understand just how un-glamorous medicine really is! Blessings as you begin the next phase of your family’s journey!ReplyCancel

  • Cheri K. - Thank you for sharing! I miss your blog posts but I completely understand the need to reboot after a long day. Wishing you calmness and rest as you wait for the news. I am looking forward to hearing more.ReplyCancel

  • Sarahincola - I too am married to a resident. And the unglamorous lifestyle is something that is so hard to explain to people or be able to get them to relate. After an insurance agent told me it must be nice to be married to a doctor and I laughed like a maniac at her, it became all too clear just how little people outside of this path understand the process. We’ve been married 7 years – 4 in medical school and the last 3 in residency. Almost there! And then to pay off those pesky student loans. Best to you and your family as the next step is made clear.ReplyCancel

  • Georganne - Thanks for sharing! So true that you just don’t get it until you live it. My husband finished his internal medicine residency last year. I thought 3 years were rough…cannot imagine how tough it is for your family. And with kids! We just had our first 5 months ago. I, too, laugh when people make comments about how it must be nice having a dr. for a husband. Yes, residency is over but now student loan bills are due, he still works 12 hour days and is on-call on weekends. Not quite as glamorous as people think. But it is better than residency. ;) Good luck with your match!ReplyCancel

  • Kayla - My husband is not in the field of medicine but he is in the Military field, 12 years now and let’s just say he has been deployed more than actually living with me so I feel the wait, the pressure and anticipation for the next step all while supporting them in their dreams, but taking care of home. We have an 8 year old boy who misses his dad and after 7 years of trying we are finally getting a second child a girl, there just isn’t time and the little time we do have when dad get home its family time. Hang in there as I don’t know personally how residency goes, I know the feeling of not knowing. military life isn’t about free housing and games. Your kids have grown beautifully !!ReplyCancel

  • Lulu - As the daughter of an ER Dr, I know how life was in some ways, not as awesome as people would think. He missed A LOT of things while myself & my siblings grew up. Not too long ago, he expressed his regret over “not being there” and “missing out.” But truth is he was there for us in a totally different & awesome way; supporting, encouraging, being a prime role model for us and showing us Anything is possible & it’s never too late. My Dad didn’t start med school until he was married with 2 kids under the age of 3. When he finished med school, Mom went back & became an RN. It was hard on both of them of course! Somehow, they made it work and 42 years later they are more in love than ever and enjoying retirement! They wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t look back with any sadness that he missed so many sports games or school plays, etc. He’s inspired me more than most & while I’m not going to be a medical Dr myself, I am well on my way to becoming a counselor. (Go for it) So, hang in there. Keep breathing & putting one step in front of the other. It’s all going to work out.ReplyCancel

  • alison - So, I probably have a completely different view of this…that of a nurse. One that has worked many 12 hour shifts (I know no where NEAR your hubby’s), dealt with death, illness, tragedy and holidays away from loved ones. It’s so very hard. But the very best part is having an incredible, supportive, loving spouse to come home to. A person, who may not comprehend all that you see and feel as a Dr./nurse, but understands that you are doing something vital to who you are as a person…hard parts and all. Shawna, you are providing such a gift to your family by creating that loving, supportive place for Tommy to land at the end of his very long days. Bless you. I can’t imagine how lonely it must feel at times. You are doing it with a beautiful grace. :) Peace and blessings!ReplyCancel

  • Meredith - I can only begin to imagine what you are going through! My husband isn’t a doctor but he is in the medical field. Praying you are given the match that you want and peace amid the waiting!ReplyCancel

  • lindsay - i can’t even begin to imagine what you are going through. my husband travels with work and he is gone maybe 1 week out of the month. a new job opportunity might have him gone 3 weeks out of the month and that scares me! BUT it will make him happy considering he is our provider. he deserves to be doing what he loves. being home with two boys under two by myself really freaks me out. thinking i won’t be able to do it, keeping a clean house, taking care of my babies AND taking care of myself! that makes me exhausted typing that! i seriously don’t know how you do it all! although my story is nowhere near the same as yours, i really admire all that you do for your babies, yourself and your home. and now you are working out in the middle of all this chaos???? you are amazing!

    i have no advice, but just wanted to say you still inspire me everyday and sometimes when i find myself fed up with doing everything on my own, i sometimes actually think what you would do in this situation {weird, i know}. your blog is one of my favorites and you are truly inspiring to all of us mammas out here in blog land. keep up the amazing work you are doing and praying that your family is placed happily where you are meant to be!ReplyCancel

  • Kaley - It is so hard being an almost single parent. I am married to the government, not medicine, but I relate so much to what you are going through. We miss him, and it is so, so hard to do everything on my own. Hang in there, and keep going to yoga! It has saved my life. :)ReplyCancel

  • Brooke - We’re still out here, Shawna. We understand you’re gone for all the right reasons. And we’re always happy to hear from you when you have the time! Don’t pressure yourself. Knowing that you’re human and that you have to prioritize helps all of us do the same. :)ReplyCancel

  • Melissa WIlson - I hear you sister! I’ve been a faithful follower for a couple of years now and I have always wondered how you do it all. I think you do a wonderful job of contributing to your blog when you can. I totally get what it is like to run the family life while my partner does medicine. We’ve been through 2 matches as well. I still remember where I was when my hubby called me with match results each time.

    Keep strong. They couldn’t do what they do without us.ReplyCancel

  • Christine - So is he a doctor yet?! Hehe. Jk. That is the comment that makes me crazy still.ReplyCancel

  • Alisa - My boyfriend is in the same position as your husband also a 4th yr surgery resident. We’ve been in Chicago the last 4 years and are anxiously waiting to find out where his fellowship will be. As a nurse working in the hospital And dating a surgery resident definitely has made realize how much surgeons and their spouses have to sacrifice. Surgeons work way harder and longer hours than any other doctor. Best of luck on your match!ReplyCancel

  • Ingrid - I know exactly where you are coming from. I am married to a surgeon, he is now finished, but we have been together since residency and fellowship. Only a spouse married to medicine knows how unglamorous it is. It does get better but it certainly is not perfect. You are giving your husband the best gift by supporting him and taking such good care of your babies. It does get lonely especially when you move far away from family. Stay strong and know we all support you and completely understand the absence. We do miss seeing you and your beautiful babies. Thank you for letting us be a tiny part of your life and all the inspiration you give!ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - What a relief that the interview process is over! I can’t believe you’ll find out where you’ll be going in two weeks! (The Plastics guys have already matched, lucky ducks.) I’m anxious thinking we won’t know where our next PCS will be until maybe 5 months before we have to move, eek! I’m with you — I hate not knowing what’s next! But I’m trying not to worry about it too much right now. Anyway, I’m wishing all the best for you guys and I look forward to hearing the match news!!ReplyCancel

  • Pattyann - My husband is a pgy2 in rad onc and his internal year was in gen. surgery. So I feel your pain. One of my fellow resident wife husband had a military career before med. school. She Says she has lived her life for 15 years in 3-5 year chunks and she says the only thing she regrets is always wishing whatever chunk of time she was in away. Wishing away 2 years at a base she didn’t like, wishing away year long tdys, wishing med school was over, ect. We all have to remember to enjoy the phases of our lives. Don’t wish away a month waiting on the fellowship match to come through. Because that ends up just being a month of your life and your kids’ lives you forgot to stop and enjoy. Best of luck with your match!ReplyCancel

  • Krysta - Ahh Shawna, you’ve given me an insight as to what my future (hopefully, if he gets what he wants!) holds! My boyfriend is about to finish his first year of med school and already knows he wants to do some sort of specialized surgery. So although I don’t fully know what you’re going through yet, I can totally empathize with you. I’m sure it will be a journey.

    However, I did just want to agree with something I read in the comments. Pattyann’s comment really struck home with me because I am that type of person who is always looking for this phase to be over and for something better to come along, when really I need to appreciate and enjoy what I have right now, in this moment. As my mother says, “THESE are the good ol’ days!” So as hard as I know it must be for you, remember to cherish the positives and let go of the negatives!

    Best of luck to your husband! I’ll be praying for you both! :)ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - Shawna,

    One of the ladies in my master’s in counseling cohort is the wife of an MD :) I totally see what you all are going through. Education/Internship/Residency is no easy feat for both the therapist/doctor or the family members.

    Keep up the good work! Your blog is an encouragement.ReplyCancel

  • Amber Berkoski - This is similar to life as an Ex-Pat. We did that for three and a half years and the hours were horrendous. Six mostly seven days a week, gone before the kids woke up and home after they were in bed, stranded away from family and friends, living in a foreign country. All the strain of a government job without the perks of military life that has other wives and other kids and othe people that know what you’re going through. Working for the Dept of State was mostly single guys stationed abroad with us and we very quickly discovered why.

    It takes a special kind of woman to be widowed by their husband’s job. And it’s funny to hear you say most of the women have advanced degrees in counseling because I DO TOO. And you’re totally right – it’s because it’s one of the only ways to survive life like this.

    We live day to day with never knowing an ETD and many times that turns into no D at all. It’s super fun when I can’t get ahold of my hubs because he’s in some secure room looking at super secret spook stuff. I feel ya. We’re all widowed in different ways. The most important thing is we stick together and lift each other up.

    You’re a daily inspiration to me, hope you know that! Yoga saves my sanity and so does running. Do what works, right!? XoxoReplyCancel

  • Kate B - Thank you for sharing your story. My husband is not in medicine, but he is military. He just returned home from deployment #11. I understand about not being a complete family and trying to do it all yourself, to parent alone. There are plenty of days I am exhausted and don’t have any me time. I am grateful for the me time I get at the gym, or going for a run. I feel I am always looking at that painting I need to finish or my camera and how much I miss that creative outlet I love so much. But there are more important things to tackle, like being a mama. I try and keep in mind that the season of my babes being so little will pass, so i need to soak it up. i also try and take one day at a time. It makes those really LONG days a bit easier.
    Thank you for sharing. I too miss your posts, but completely understand! Much luck to you and your family!ReplyCancel

  • Tammy - Shawna, I can relate. I remember the days of the Match (both residency & Fellowship) and I’m thankful we hadn’t had our children yet because it was nerve-wracking not knowing where we’d end up. I don’t know how I would’ve survived that. Even now that my husband has his “real” job, and we are settled in one place, it’s tough handling everything at home on your own. You are an inspiration to me and I know you will make the best of this time in limbo. Hang in there girl. (PS: I finally made your homemade granola bars last night and they were AMAZING!)ReplyCancel

  • Michelle T - I can relate to the being a mama alone so many days. My husband is a touring musician and plays with a successful Christian band. He is on the road all the time and I work full-time to help support our family. We do not get to spend much time together with our schedules being opposite and him being gone so often. We have one little guy, 21 months old. Hang in there, I know it is not easy but supporting our sweet husbands in their dreams and goals means so much to them.ReplyCancel

  • Sara Grothe - any updates?ReplyCancel

  • & we are moving to……. » styleberry BLOG - […] MIDWEST! WAHOO!!! My hubby has “matched” again, and will be spending another three years perfecting the art of fixing broken hearts. :) OOh […]ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - Miss you on IG! Love the new look:)ReplyCancel

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