Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Madison, Minnesconsin

About 3 months ago, I found out I would most likely be kicked out of Denmark. I had gotten confused about what I was supposed to do to extend my residency permit, asked the authorities, never got an answer and then applied too late. At the same time, Denmark tightened their rules concerning foreigners and I got message that I was living and working here illegally. Yet I received no concrete message that I should leave.

Three months went by and I wondered if I would actually get a PhD, if I would get prenatal care and maternity leave, if our family would go on living in Denmark. We read in the news about foreigners getting kicked out, Americans included, for applying past their deadlines. It was getting to be time to devise a Plan B.

But last weekend, we received a letter saying I was allowed to stay and was again living and working legally. Not being big on committing international crimes, this was a relief. (The one additional thing we needed to provide was proof that we were living in an apartment that was sufficient for our family. I was surprised to notice that our apartment just barely met the requirements for square meters for a family of four. Needless to say, we're not living extravagantly, but we're not cramped.)

And now we are allowed to go on planning for the future.

For the greater part of my year's maternity leave next year, we are going to be living in Madison, Wisconsin. It is a very logical place for a whole slew of reasons – not the least of which is SR will be close to all four of his kids. Meantime I'll be working 10 hours a week on my PhD, all the while being paid for full time work (thanks, Denmark!).

This change in work hours for me just cannot come too soon. Right now, I work 12 hours days three days a week. And work regular 7-8 hours the two other week days. If SR didn't have a four hour commute each day, this wouldn't be such a big deal. But as it is, The Lorax is in day care 12 hours a day, three days a week. I should admit, I get time off in the middle of the day to run/swim whatever – that is I make time to prevent insanity – but The Lorax is getting the shaft. As is Natty who sits at home alone and is responsible for making her own dinner, etc. This is not fun for a 10 year old, I imagine.

This morning, it really hit me how detrimental this situation could be if it went on long-term. I had time to eat breakfast with The Lorax this morning and made him some toast with Nutella, per his request, only to have him tell me that he would prefer to eat breakfast at day care. He stared blankly, and with the honest numbness only a three year old can have, letting me know day care was becoming his home and he felt strangely abandoned. This is the kind of signal a dad might ignore. And maybe it is meaningless. But I attach a lot of meaning to it.

And thus, I find that in three years, when we do move back to the US, that I don't want to do a medical or surgical or whatever residency where I have to work 80 hours. For SR, me not doing a residency is unthinkable. Yet, I can't help dreaming of living in the US and working part time while doing a masters in say Music Ethnography (one can't accuse me of being overly practical). Or studying more of the history of medicine. Anyway, residency might have to wait until the children are older. Not that I don't want to do a residency – it sure would make finding a job easier. But I also have to be fair to myself here- it's not what I want.

If I did residency in Denmark, the work would be 40 hours a week – and manageable, partly becuase day care here is so darn good. But 80 hours a week in the US, even if just for two years, is to me, not an option. We could have the greatest nanny or au pair in the world and I would be left feeling miserable. And it would never be just two years, because I'd want to do a fellowship afterwards and bla bla bla.

The other thing about moving back to the US that will suck is I fail to understand the political views of most people there. And the way the society functions in general. I had trouble understanding it when I still lived there, and now it has become even more foreign to me. So, since I refuse to be a pessimist, I will just imagine that between now and when we move there, Wisconsin and Minnesota will join forces, becoming of course the country, Minnesconsin, where bike lanes, high speed trains, windmills and socialism rule (Wisconsin needs some help right now, Minn.). But it is pointless to talk politics because no one ever changes anyone elses' mind.

Instead, I will mention my pregnancy. All is well. Lots of kicking (or rather baby movement) and people are actually asking me if I'm with baby now, which preferable to the "you have put on a few" stare. Speaking of which, I still haven't gained a pound in the last five weeks. I'm happy about that because I feel like I look better and I also feel better. Maybe it is simply that I feel I have some semblance of control over the current chaos in my life. Regardless, I don't feel the baby is being harmed in any way. Oh I know people will write angrily at me for this, but you know what, I'm not attempting to not gain weight – I feel it is just my body saying more is not necessary at the moment.

Have to add a little interesting tidbit. I talked with my mom about pregnancy weight gain and she mentioned that both of my grandmas gained under 15 lbs in their pregnancies. Not only did I get the impression that my weight gain tendencies are indeed genetic, but I also was surprised when she told me that this is what was recommended to them – that they gain less than 15 lbs so that they baby wouldn't get so big that they would need a c-section. Just some interesting history, I guess. Though there was very little uniformity in physicians' recommendations those days.

Running Song of the day: Love is All by The Tallest Man on Earth

Edit: So the drama with my residency permit continues. I just got an email from Foreign Services, right after I wrote this post, stating our rental contract was insufficient and because it depends on my employment at the hospital. I thus need to provide a work contract stating I will be employed until 2013!!! How many people can provide that?! The laws here are unbelievable!


Marathon Mom said...

Glad you got everything worked out and are once again legal.

The residency was a strong factor that stopped me from med school when I was considering it a few years ago although the thought still returns sometimes, but guess I'll just stick with finishing grad school at this point! The long work days are stressful and really make you think about the kids and how they feel. A few months ago I saw this myself when Ophelia went to my mom (babysits when I work) for comfort when she was scared and not me, this was a quick moment of realization that I must not be home enough :(

Being a MN girl (not a football fan), not so sure how your combined MN/WI would work so well during football season ;-)

SteveQ said...

I thought there'd be a mention of Madison, Minnesota, an exurb of the Twin Cities, which made the news with 19 inches of snow in one day this week.

I spend a lot of time hearing people say politically charged things and wonder "Can you really believe that?!" so not getting the politics here must be common.

amy said...

I visit Madison a few times a year to visit my sister and family, so will look forward to meeting you in person!

sea legs girl said...

Marathon Mom,

Totally agree with you about the med school thing - when I applied, I somehow figured I would be so special that I would be allowed to skip residency (I tend to be unreasonably optimistic about things!). I thought when we moved to DK that it had worked out... but then the PhD. Bla bla bla.

Minnesconsin would become like The US during the Civil War during football season. I guess that would make Wisconsinites the confederates :).

Steve - I did not know about Madison, Minnesota! Neither that it existed nor that there was so much snow there. Not everything in Minn news makes it to Europe, I guess.

Amy - that is so cool! I would just love to meet you in person. I am already imagining a long run with you. Me keeping up (maybe) at the beginning and then - ewh. And then you reminding me I'm not on Montrail for a reason :). Hey - ever consider doing a race in Minnesconsin? :)

Ross said...

As a fan of The Tallest Man on Earth, and a discouraged resident of River Falls, WI, let me be the first to nominate Sea Legs Girl for Governor upon your move to Madison.

As long as you keep to the platform of bike lanes, high speed trains, windmills and socialism, you've got my vote.

mmmonyka said...

Good luck with residency issues. One would think that being married to a citizen, going to school and work there would be enough...

I guess that my plan of quickly marrying an American and live happily ever after in the US might be harder to execute that I thought it would be:)

It must be irritating seeing people think that you are getting fat when in reality you are growing a baby:)

cherelli said...

Agh, residency issues suck. Hopefully they get resolved soon. Regardless, it is interesting how time changes outlook: even a couple of years ago I'm sure - like SR was - that not doing residency was a ridiculous notion for you. I find it interesting to watch how peoples views change as family and priorities shift...sure will be nice if you can get that full year paid maternity though - good luck!

Tracizzle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fast Bastard - World's Fastest Hematologist said...

Well, many MD/PhDs never do residency but go into straight research. So that path, in itself, isn't unusual.

There are residencies in epidemiology and preventive medicine that are probably not too time-consuming.

But is that what you want? In my mind, spending a career finding out if broccoli prevents heart disease (or whether running 40 miles a day reduces risk in pregnancy) sounds boring.

SLG enjoys clinical medicine. Many residencies in the US aren't even close to 80 hours a week (the legal work hour limit). My senior year of residency was like a normal full-time job. SLG is already done with intern year, typically the worst year, and if she does ophthalmology, she will enter residency with an unusually high amount of knowledge.

Residency in Denmark takes longer than in the US (5 years in Denmark; 3 in America). Even SLG admits that the training is better in America. One could argue that a Danish ophthalmologist without fellowship training is like a US optometrist.

Just do the ophtho residency in Madison. It's close to our families and it's the world's foremost center for ophthalmologic epidemiology, the field in which you are conducting a huge, succesful study. Everyone but you can see that you are headed into an enviable career.

Or go alternative. Do sports medicine. We'll end up in a smaller hospital, where your background would land you on the research committee and you could direct studies of barefoot running in pregnancy.

SteveQ said...

I'm somewhat more liberal than Ross. When you become governor of Wisconsin, have voting rights there extended to Minnesotans, so I don't have to move. I once voted in the Netherlands because I could (I could barely read the ballot); tourists were allowed to vote!

I only know two MD/PhD's. Both got the MD so they could get paid more to do what PhDs do.

PiccolaPineCone said...

oh it takes so much tenacity, patience, stamina, creativity, and teeth grinding to remain "legal" in a foreign country. i well remember our pseudo-surprise visit by the italian police to inspect whether we lived where we said we did and whether the place was large enough (despite having submitted the necessary blue prints of the house in advance!). funnily my half-sis & her hub were visiting at the time and they had not checked in with the police (as visitors staying in private residences in italy are supposed to do). they sat quietly in the kitchen... not hiding but not drawing attention to themselves either. had the policeman turned his head even 90 degrees he would have seen them... but he left completely ignorant of their presence in the house.

re: weight gain in pregnancy - wanted to weigh in (ha ha ha) with my numbers. on the day i gave birth i had gained 22.5 pounds but was down from a high of 26 pounds. i lost 3.5 pounds in the 3rd trimester. obviously i wasn't trying to (in fact i remember drinking full fat milk trying to find those pounds again) but obviously everything turned out fine. re genetic: my mom gained 35-40 pounds in her pregnancies. not trying to prove any point with my "experiment of one data", just giving you my stats :)

PiccolaPineCone said...

p.s. re: the advice given to your Gradmas re: only gaining 15 pounds. I remember reading somewhere that in the 30s-40s-50s it was common to advise women to limit weight gain to under 15 pounds in order to "preserve the womanly figure".