Blogger Men Tell All - June

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Hi, yes, it's me. Since I am not an elephant, it's safe to assume that I had our baby! Things are good. She is amazing. I will update you more later on that, as well as a few pregnancy retrospectives, a birth story, a summer update, and probably a few other things. But until then, take a look at the latest installment of Blogger Men Tell All, hosted Becca and Alex!

What is your favorite summer treat?

My dad makes an orange Creamsicle milkshake that's to die for. He makes it all year, but it tastes best in the summer.

If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go and why?

I'd like to go to Italy or Greece. I've never been to Europe, so I feel like I should start in/near the homeland. 


Do you have a favorite song that says "summer" to you? What is it?

"Summer Wind" by Frank Sinatra. It says summer in there at least three or four times.

What summer project are you hoping to accomplish before fall?

Oh, not much, just raising a brand new human being. I don't think we'll finish this summer, but at least we can get the ball rolling.

Blogger Men Tell All

And on that note, I'm going to go back to snuggling a baby and thinking about blogging. Hopefully I'll get around to writing something again before the kiddo turns 25.


Life Happened

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


Hi, my name is Alison and I am the world's worst blogger. Okay, that's a lie. I'm just really overwhelmed by school/studying for boards and being 37 weeks pregnant, and I guess just... life. I have a bunch of posts, just waiting to be finished, but I've been seriously spending most of my waking hours studying for my board exam.

So, what am I doing here, at 9:23 pm on a Wednesday night, a week before my scheduled COMLEX Level 1? Well my friends, things have a way of changing on you. There's a Yiddish proverb, "Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht, " or, "Man plans, and God laughs." John Lennon also wrote, "Life is what happens to you when you're making other plans," although apparently, that quote can be attributed to a guy named Allen Saunders. In any case, you get the point.

When I got pregnant, I did some very advanced math looked at a calendar and realized that I would be delivering this baby in mid-June, which is precisely when I needed to be taking my COMLEX Level 1 board exam, a requirement of all rising third year medical students. In fact, you have to take and pass this exam in order to continue being a medical student. Of course, passing isn't enough; you have to score as high as you can because it's one the main factors that residency programs use to rank their applicants. If you fail it, you can retake it, but it's basically the worst thing ever, and if you pass it, even with the lowest passing score possible, you don't get to retake it. Oh, and it's around $600 to register for the exam. Basically, it's high stakes and if you encounter a second year in the spring semester or the summer before they start rotations, you'll probably get something that looks like this:



Anyway, I scheduled my COMLEX for June 9th, which is next Thursday. I studied my face off. I read. I did a zillion practice questions. I took (and passed) the school's required practice board exam, the COMSAE, and got over a 450. (Note: 400 is passing, the national average is around 520, higher is better, the exam is out of 851, which is random and bizarre, but whatever, I don't make the rules.) I thought that I was in a good spot. I continued studying. Then this morning, I took another practice exam. 

I failed it.

After making sure that I was still breathing, I emailed the two administrators who run the Center for Teaching at Learning at my school. Well, first I frantically messaged my med school best friends and my non-med school best friends and started freaking out, talking about how I was going to fail my boards and have to drop out of med school and live in a box, in a van, under a bridge, down by a river, eaten by wild dogs. Or something like that. Then I emailed the CTL people. And the Dean of Academic Affairs. And then I waited. (I also ate cereal, but that seems to be a less important part of this story.)

The Dean called me within 30 minutes, which I found to be impressive, seeing as she is the Dean of Academic Affairs and probably has way more pressing things to handle then a 2nd year having a meltdown over her board exam. We talked for about 20 minutes and she confirmed what I already knew: I needed to reschedule my board exam. That was my gut reaction when I saw my score, and honestly, I had been considering it in the back of my mind for a few days because my question bank scores weren't where I wanted them to be either in order to feel confident to take the exam.

My fear was, and still is, that I am going to be completely useless after I have this baby, and that I won't be able to study the way I need to for my exam. However, the more people I talk to, the more I realize that either way, this is hard. There are a lot of unknowns. Here are the things I do know:

- The COMLEX is hard. It's really important. I can't screw this up.
- I am not the first, nor will I be the last, student to ever push back a board exam.
- I can take it in August and not jeopardize my med school career or trajectory.
- If I need to push it into September, the Dean said she'd grant me an extension.
- Ken will be home with me for 8 weeks after the baby is here, and my mom lives less than 10 minutes away.
- I have an amazing partner in Ken, and he is going to be a fantastic dad, and I am extremely lucky.
- I have a great network of friends who are willing to help out with the baby.
- 4-6 weeks of solid, dedicated studying time is usually sufficient.
- Pregnancy brain is real. So is baby brain, apparently. Looks like I'm screwed no matter what.
- If I take the exam next Thursday, there is a significant chance that I will not pass it, or if I did, would do poorly.
- There are med students who push their boards back to August/September all the time, and they're not growing humans.
- Even if I suddenly was doing really well on my practice questions, I wouldn't feel confident going into the exam next week, which is not a good headspace to be in when you're taking an exam that kind of determines a huge portion of the rest of your life.
- The Dean of Academic Affairs knows what's up. Getting students to pass the boards and do well is kind of her thing. She wouldn't lead me astray.

The things I don't know:
- What this baby will be like
- How I will feel after having a baby

Those are big unknowns, but there are only 2 of them. I spent my morning freaking out, and largely hating myself for "not being able to make this work," where "this" is "finishing second year of medical school, studying for boards, prepping for a baby, actually growing said baby, and taking boards" all on a very tight timeline. I don't know why I held myself to this ridiculous standard, but here we are. What it came down to, in the end, was something one of my friends said. 

"Here's the thing. You're not naive - you know you'll be a zombie when she comes, honestly, the first year is tough! BUT we adapt and do life. I don't know. Just because other people say you can't do it doesn't mean you can't. Yes, you will be tired. Possibly useless and non-functional. But remember, a lot of people go back to work at 6 weeks. So, you can not study for a few weeks, then start to prepare again, or take it now. Either way is going to be hard, right? So pick your hard and make a plan."


When she said that, my immediate reaction was, "I like the hard option with more time, not less." I've had a lot of moms tell me that they were useless during their postpartum period, and I believe it. I have no delusions that this is going to be easy or fun. I know that I am going to want to be at home, snuggling my baby on the sofa. I know that I am going to want to be asleep when the baby is asleep. I know that there are going to be sleepless nights (like, a lot of them). I know that this is going to probably be the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. But what I do know is that right now, I am not in the shape I need to be in to take this exam in a week and really rock it like I need to. 

I tried. I really did. I can't say that I gave it all I had, because right now, whether I like to admit it or not, I'm growing a human and that is kind of distracting. I underestimated how tired I would be at this point in my pregnancy. I was very fortunate that aside from a lot of nausea, some back pain, and the ridiculous carpal tunnel syndrome that has largely resolved thanks to cortisone injections, my pregnancy has been relatively quiet. The last month has really started to take it out of me, though. I can't be up on my feet for very long without getting exhausted, and spent most of my day studying, drinking water, and peeing every hour, on the hour. I wake up a lot during the night, so I'm not getting great sleep. It doesn't help that it recently decided to be all-caps SUMMER, so now the heat is making me feel like a puddle of goo. But here we are. 

This is a really difficult place to be, stuck between two worlds and two dreams; I've fought like hell to get here for both of them, and I can't give 100% of myself to either. I knew that when I went back to medical school that this would be the rest of my life. Splitting my priorities between my family and my career, trying to keep all of the balls in the air, hoping to enjoy it as much as I could along the way. I didn't think it would start this soon, but again, life. Plans. Things happen. I am a planner by nature, and I do it because I like to control situations. It makes me feel good. It quells the anxious beast who lives in my brain and takes up way more space than it deserves. The hardest things for me to accept are the ones over which I have no control. Apparently, having a baby is one of those things. 

So yes. It's June 1st, at 10:25 pm. I paid my $85 rescheduling fee and my board exam is now August 23rd at 8:30 am. The plan is to do content review until this baby decides it's time to arrive, and then take a couple of weeks to put my head back on. Then it's back to the books, hitting the ground running. I may be wearing a baby, but you'll still find me at Starbucks or Barnes and Noble or the library, headphones in, books open, multi-colored pens and highlighters strewn over the table. I'm doing this, becoming a doctor, for me, sure. But I'm also doing it for my daughter, who needs to grow up knowing that she can do the hard things, the things that people tell her she can't do. That she can follow a dream, even if the route to the endpoint is twisty and you can't always see the path in front of you. 

My whole life, I've been the one who does the hard thing, often because it's there in front of her and she wants to say she did it. That, simply doing the hard thing because it's hard, has been worn out of me because it's unsustainable. But I still don't shy away from a challenge. In fact, I kind of live for them. I'm not sure how this will go, but I know that I'll get through it. Somehow. 

I like to remember that so far, I've survived 100% of my worst days. That has to count for something, right?



Blogger Men Tell All: March 2016

Thursday, March 31, 2016

This blurry selfie brought to you by my stupid, Go-Phone. Womp.

I'm currently up to my eyeballs in geriatrics studying for my exam tomorrow, but I wanted to link up with Becca for Blogger Men Tell All before I forgot! And so without further ado... Ken!

Popcorn lover’s day is March 10! What’s your favorite popcorn flavor?

I always forget that popcorn comes in other flavors until I'm in some specialty popcorn store, which is usually about once a decade.  So I'm going to go with "salt and butter".


What is the farthest you’ve traveled? 

That would be to California for our west coast honeymoon adventure.

Have you ever dyed your hair? If not, what color would you dye it?

I haven't dyed my hair but I know someone who wants me to ;).  Left to my own devices I would definitely dye it blue.  You gotta have blue hair.

Wife comment: I only said you should color your hair because it's going grey and I love your dark hair! Also, I have never heard you say, "You gotta have blue hair," before, and now I'm a little confused/concerned. 

How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions?

...was I supposed to be doing something?


If you want to link up with us, you still have time! Grab your husband, boyfriend, brother, dog, mailman, whoever, and have them answer these questions. Then head over to Becca's blog and post your link!

Blogger Men Tell All


Dear Baby: Letters to the Ones I Never Held

Thursday, March 17, 2016



These are letters I wrote to our babies we never got to hold in our arms. I didn't know if I would ever share them, but it feels right to put them out there now. I have been writing to our Baby Girl, as well, and I'll be sharing those letters here at a later time.

***

Dear Baby,

We barely knew that you existed before we were worried you would leave us.  I found out on a Monday, December 15, 2015, that you were there, and two Wednesdays after that, I thought I might be losing you when I saw a few tiny drops of blood in my underwear. I had blood drawn and we saw you on the ultrasound that day, and we were so glad that you looked okay. Except you weren’t okay. It took 3 more weeks after that, but you probably had never been okay, not even on that day we saw you at the end of December. By the end of January, you were gone, out of my body; I felt like I had lost my heart as well. It took almost two months for my body to get over losing you, but my mind still hasn’t healed. I carry you with me, in everything I do. I think about the little person you would have been. 

When your due date came and went on August 26th, my heart felt as heavy as my arms felt light. Everyone says that I never have to forget you, but I don’t know many people who understand how impossible that would be, like it was even an option. I don’t know why, but you dad and I were convinced that you were a girl. It doesn’t matter who you were; we will love you always, and we will never forget you. Never.

I didn’t know why this was happening. I still don’t know why it happened. I had been so thrilled to know that I could get pregnant that I never thought that I could have a miscarriage. I wrote about losing you, and slowly, women began to come out of the woodwork. So many had lost their own babies, and even more people I knew had known others who had lost theirs. I had felt so alone, but I wasn’t. I was surrounded by other women, other families, who were broken and hurting and feeling alone. I decided that I would tell my story, our story, as many times as I needed to so no one else would ever feel as alone as I did in that moment.
I will always miss you. You will always be my first baby, even if I never got to hold you in my arms.
                                                                                                               
Love always,
Mama

*** 

Dear Baby,

You were the result of fertility meds and our second IUI. On the day that we were supposed to bring home the baby that we conceived in December, we found out that you were here. We were so happy; we said that our first baby had sent you to us, to make sure we wouldn’t be too sad on my original due date. That was a Thursday. On Friday, the nurse told me that my lab results were good; I was definitely pregnant! Four days later, I had more bloodwork drawn. It was not good news. Two days later, more bloodwork, more bad news. You were leaving us.  A few days later, it was all over. In less than a week, we had gone from the highest of highs to the lowest low. It all happened so fast, my head felt like it was spinning. My body recovered quickly, but my heart still hurt. Continues to hurt.

I began to think that there was something wrong with me, with my body. One miscarriage was awful and painful and bad luck, but an absurdly high percentage of pregnancies (some say between 25% and 40%!) end in miscarriage. Two miscarriages made me even more suspicious of my usually-disobedient body. I made an appointment with a reproductive immunologist, despite the fact that it’s considered “snake oil” by a lot of reproductive endocrinologists, including my own. I had lab work done, and it came back that while my antiphospholipid antibodies were negative, my natural killer cells were elevated. I know these are all really big words, my baby, but it means that sometimes, according to my immunologist, my body has the capacity to attack a tiny embryo because of a variety of reasons. I hated to think that my body was the reason you couldn’t stay. Once again, we’ll never know.

Even though you were only a part of our lives for 6 days, you left a mark on us that we won’t forget. You went back to be with our first baby, wherever you are. Mama and Daddy love you, baby.
                                                                                                                               
Love always,
Mama

***

To anyone trying to conceive and finding it far more difficult than they anticipated, are dealing with infertility, or are struggling through the heartbreak of a miscarriage, know that you are not alone. Please reach out to someone, and if you feel like you have no one, then reach out to me. I'm here to listen.



Oh, Hey There

Monday, March 7, 2016


Tap, tap, tap... is this thing on? 

Hello! It's me. I've been wondering if after all these -- oh, wait. No. That's not right. Sorry.

Anyway, I'm back. A few things have happened since I last wrote, so I figured that a good old "Currently" post would be helpful. But first things first.

We're having a baby!!!
If you follow me elsewhere on social media, then you totally know this already, but I figured an official announcement on the blog is necessary. Baby Girl (!!!) is due June 19th, and we are over the moon to be growing our little family. This photo was from around 22 weeks, and the bump has been continually growing. I'll be sure to do a photo montage of the pictures I've taken thus far, and I'll be doing some weekly bump-dates here now. I have so many thoughts about being pregnant and having a baby, so I apologize in advance (not really) for the upcoming baby posts. I promise, this won't turn into a mommy blog, though. Pinky swear. 

Now that that's out of the way... on with the show!

CURRENTLY...


THINKING about the fact that there are 53 days left in 2nd year, 39 of which are school days, and 8 of those days are exam days. There are also 93 days until my board exam, which is moderately terrifying.
FEELING
 TIRED. Growing a human is exhausting, and med school certainly isn't helping. Fortunately, this past weekend was full of sleep and relaxing, so hopefully I can make it through this week. Also, I'm feeling lots of kicks and who knows what else in there. Baby Girl is very active these days, and I love it.
READING
 blogs. First Aid for the USMLE (even though I'm taking the COMLEX). Consumer Reports and reviews of baby products, because apparently, this is my life now.
WATCHING HOUSE OF CARDS!!! Ken and I just started the 4th season last night, and we managed enough self control to only watch 3 episodes. So good. I'm also still watching Criminal Minds, SVU, How to Get Away with Murder, and Scandal. I started watching Blindspot, but I'm pretty far behind, so I only watch it every once in awhile. I'm trying to get together my Netflix/Hulu list for this summer when I'm home for 12 weeks with the baby. Suggestions welcome!
TRYING
 to muster up the motivation to really kick my boards studying into high-gear. I need to start banging out the questions from UWorld/ComBank/ComQuest, and getting more micro in with SketchyMicro. If anyone is interested, I'll post my upcoming study schedule, and how I'm using CramFighter to stay organized. 
COOKING as many times a week as possible. We got into a habit of eating dinner out once a week, and decided to quash that, so now we don't really go out as much, and more often than not, if we don't cook, we order a pizza or go to Panera or something. We try and reserve our dinners out for time with friends, rather than, "Ugh, I am not in the mood to cook." Also, we're great cooks, so eating at home is awesome.
EATING all the cheese. So far in pregnancy, my food cravings haven't been that bizarre. From weeks 4-6, all I wanted was hummus, which was hysterical because I never liked hummus before that. I don't know what it was, but I could NOT eat enough hummus. In fact, I MADE my own hummus, that's how much I was eating. Now, I'm eating cheese, peanut butter, fresh fruit and veggies, and trying to cut down on the sweets (but chocolate has been calling my name!)
DRINKING orange Fanta, which is also weird. I had occasionally had orange soda in the past, but since being pregnant, it is the only soda I really want. This is convenient, because Fanta is caffeine-free and although I haven't sworn off of caffeine entirely, I don't drink as much as I did before, mainly because I don't need it. I'm also trying (operative word) to drink 3 liters of water a day. So far, it's not going well.
LOVING maternity clothes. Stretchy pants forever. Although if someone could invent maternity jeans that don't fall down, I would kiss them on the mouth. Or at least pay them a significant amount of money.
DISCOVERING more podcasts that I love! My list of "must-hears" now include Lore, No Sleep, Serial, Chilling Tales for Dark Nights, RadioLab, Tanis, and The Black Tapes. If you have other suggestions for weird, creepy, sci-fi, horror, or generally interesting podcasts, leave them in the comments!
ENJOYING the weather. I think we finally had our last snow of the season a couple of weeks ago, and this week, the temperatures won't be below 60. Aside from the inundation of pollen that is sure to follow, spring sure is nice. (Of course, now that I've said that, it will snow 3 feet this month.)
HOPING that everything with this pregnancy continues to be good. So far, things with the baby have been great, and she is doing awesome. Keep growing, little one!
LISTENING to podcasts! And recorded lectures. And sometimes the radio. But mainly podcasts and recorded lectures.
CONSIDERING buying my own domain name. Anyone have a preference for which site to buy through?
STARTING to get the house ready for baby! I decided to rearrange the living/dining room, put a mantel shelf over the fireplace, and am trying to plan for a gallery wall downstairs and some other photos around the house. We'll be painting the nursery over Ken's spring break, the furniture is ready to be picked up, and my baby shower is May 15th. Time is flying!

And now, you're basically all caught up! I'm going to try and blog more frequently, so check back around these parts for an update soon! I missed you guys!

Facing the New Year

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Burt’s Bees for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.



In my 2015 wrap-up post, one of the questions was about new habits I cultivated. I answered that I had started wearing make-up on most days, even if it was just powder and mascara. One of the reasons that those are the two products I chose are because they are easy to apply and make a real difference in my appearance, at least to me. One thing that always makes me feel more put together though, is wearing lipstick.

It's not news that wearing lipstick can really turn your day around. I mean, Mindy Kaling says that. "Sometimes, you just have to put on lip gloss and pretend to be psyched," and she's pretty popular. This idea that lipstick can change your mood extends back to the Great Depression with something known as The Lipstick Effect. The Huffington Post published an article last year that talked about all of the ways that lipstick can improve your day. Among them are improved mood, people thinking that you're more confident and competent in a professional setting, and increased attractiveness to potential mates. The best one though? It just makes you feel good! Finding the red lipstick for me was a great triumph last year, and I love being able to break it out for special occasions (or you know, Tuesdays).

One of the main reasons I don't usually wear lipstick is that I am extremely picky about what it feels like on my face. I don't want it to feel dry or flaky, but it also can't be gooey, like a gloss. I love a good 12-hour lip stick that stays put, but I can't stand how dry they make my lips. The ones I could stand to wear rubbed off on my coffee cup, my sleeve, my husband, the cats... it just wasn't worth it. When I had the opportunity to review the new lipstick line from Burt's Bees, I was super excited, because I am basically obsessed with their vanilla lip balm. Also, it was an excuse to go to Target, so I was pretty stoked about that too.



I was glad to see that the Target near me was well-stocked, and all 14 shades of lipstick were available for my perusal! I tend to wear nudes/browns, so I chose Suede Splash. I also wanted to try something new, and since berry lip colors seem to be in right now, I picked up Brimming Berry. At $8.99 each, they were about as much as I pay for my regular lipsticks, and since this was Burt's Bees, I had high hopes that I would like the way they felt when I applied them.

I tried out both shades over a couple of days. The first one I tried was Brimming Berry, and I wore it to my birthday dinner with Ken. Immediately upon applying it, I noticed how smooth and creamy the lipstick was. It went on very smoothly, and didn't feel heavy at all. I am not super-great at applying make-up, and usually it takes a couple of applications for me to get a nice shape and distribution. The Burt's Bees Lipstick went on great the first time, though! I choose mostly matte lipsticks, and this said it had a satin finish. It wasn't too shiny at all though, and I liked it a lot. With that, it was time to take it out for a test-drive at dinner.




I took this selfie after dinner and hadn't reapplied my lipstick at all! We went out for Japanese food, and I didn't notice any color on my chopsticks, fork, or glass at dinner. I loved the way my lips felt, I never felt the need to take my lipstick off while eating (which I often do), and if I hadn't been going to bed, I would have worn it for much longer. The lipstick will hydrate and moisturize dry lips for 8 hours, which is great especially during this cold, windy weather in the northeast. I was sold on this shade, and I can't wait to wear it again.

A few days later, I wore Suede Splash and was equally pleased with the wear. I wore it all day, and only had to reapply once after eating pizza, which was pretty greasy. This is what is looks like with my more usual routine make-up for a school day:




The nude shade is perfect for everyday wear, and it is definitely the most comfortable lipstick I've tried in a long time. This is a great shade for when I'm in clinic too, and want to brighten my face without calling a ton of attention to the fact that I'm wearing make-up.

Another thing I love about Burt's Bees lipstick is that you're still getting that great Burt's Nees natural product. Even their lipstick is 100% natural, and includes ingredients like Moringa oil (which has lots of fatty acids, to help keep your skin soft) and Raspberry Seed oil (which improves skin elasticity). Both of these things contribute to how the lipstick feels on your lips, and it actually helps keep them soft and smooth. Also, it smells really good, which is a nice bonus.

One of my goals this year is to continue last year's habit of wearing more make-up. I just feel better and more put together when I wear it, even if I'm holed up in the library or at Starbucks with my head in the books. Now that I've found Burt's Bees lipstick, I am pretty sure that I'll be able to wear lipstick way more often!

How about you? What is your daily make-up routine? Do you have "can't live without" products, or products you never use? Tell me your best make-up secrets!

  






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Blogger Men Tell All: Winter 2016

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


It's that time again! Becca hosts a quarterly link-up where the "men behind the blog" get to make an appearance. There's still time to link up your posts, so grab your husband, fiance, boyfriend, significant other, insignificant other, brother, dad, turtle... you get the point. Without so further ado... Ken!

1. Did you accomplish your goal for 2015?
I...don't remember what my goal was for 2015.  I'm going to assume my goal was to make a bunch of awesome levels in Mario Maker, in which case, mission accomplished!

2. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Still spending the day after Christmas at Nana's house.  This year we had a few extra cousins and significant others, and we even stole Grandpa from the hospital for a few hours.
Wife's note: Wait, you stole your grandfather from the hospital!? I don't even... as a future physician, I do not approve of this.

3. What did you gift your blogger for the holidays?We're going to see Book of Mormon and spend a night in the city!  That's New York, for you Jersey people.


4. What is your favorite holiday movie?Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Wife's note: Uh, as awesome as the movie was, I'm pretty sure that's not a holiday movie, but it's not like you're going to say anything else so I guess I'll leave it.



Blogger Men Tell All


And that, my friends, is that! I'm off to... continue studying. Such is the life of a second semester, second year, med student.