Monday, July 11, 2016

Another 3 years?? Maybe

This month Richard is officially in his FINAL year of residency. It is amazing to me that time is flying by so quickly. It seems like just yesterday that we had matched at GHS and were getting settled into our new house. Now, we are starting on the 3rd and final year of residency. This year Richard is the top dog. He's come so far in his knowledge and throughout the course of his time at GHS, he has decided that he has an interest in going further into his medical training.

Richard has a passion and interest in Hematology/Oncology (Cancer and blood disorders). His intern year he started sharing how much he enjoyed it and that he thought possibly he would be interested in a fellowship. Well, the time has come for us to pursue that interest. Hem Onc is one of the most competitive fellowships for internal medicine with 1/6 people getting accepted. There are a lot of extremely competitive programs across the country and many associated with big name schools. Unlike residency, there aren't any small community based programs so the stakes are much higher. Richard has worked hard to beef up his CV  and has more research. He has asked some wonderful physicians to do letters of recommendations for him. On Friday we will once  again hit "submit"in ERAS and say lots of prayers. We have selected many programs across the country and hopefully, will be hearing from them soon.  If the programs like your application enough, you will be one of the lucky ones to get an interview.

The timeline of Fellowship events:
- July 15th applications are due
- August-October is Interview Season
- December is Fellowship Match Day

Should Richard match, we will be looking at another 3 years in a location TBD. We would be moving and selling our house in June of 2017.We are keeping our fingers crossed and saying lots of prayers for Richard (and our family). He will be so wonderful as a Hem Onc Doctor and I know that he will touch so many lives. I pray that these programs all want interviews with Dr. O'Neal, but I know that with such competitive odds that we are going to be thankful for any interview that we do get.  I have complete confidence that regardless of the outcome this year that Richard will someday be a Hem Onc Doctor.

Please keep Richard in your thoughts, send him good vibes and prayers that he does not get discouraged or overwhelmed with such a competitive application process. Pray for lots of interviews! We are excited about the possibility of another adventure in a new place and hope that we can visit people during the interview season. As always thank you for following our adventure.

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Mamas Fears

Since Lillie's birth Richard and I are constantly being told how "beautiful" she is. Yes, we think she's the most beautiful baby in the world but as I read things in the news or hear stories about things that horrible things that happen to people in our world I very seriously worry about my child's future.

I sat down with a lady (co-worker) the other day who shared with me a sad story relating to her daughter and a sexual assault situation at her high school. This young woman is stunning and has been since infancy. She was attacked by another student in her class and the school district is not doing anything to protect this girl or punish the young man.  This mother was in tears as she spoke about it and about her 14 year old being in counseling for something so traumatic. It broke my heart.

For years now I have been aware of the sex trafficking issues in South Carolina. There are people who prey on beautiful children or people that they can lure into enslavement. This is a very serious problem in the world and is in our own backyard.

This year there have been more violent hate crimes against the various minority groups than I ever remember happening in my lifetime. Never in 2016 would imagine that such hate for a population of people could exist. It is tragic and unjust what is happening in the African-American community and I pray daily that we will get to a point where skin color, religion or sexual orientation will not lump an individual into a category.

Lillie is 1/2 Colombian and 1/2 White. At this point, she looks more Colombian. In my own lifetime, people have made racist and ignorant comments towards me. "I don't speak your language" and "I was going to ask you for towels" are just two examples.  I am beyond proud of my heritage and my skin tone. I wear a Colombian bracelet everyday and proudly share my heritage with people who ask "where are you from" (which means what's your ethnicity).

Richard and I don't know what Lillie will look like as she grows up (maybe she'll eventually favor him more) but I do worry for her. I worry that people will remain ignorant and racist. I worry that she will be targeted for many reasons or that she will be discriminated against. Any situation that involves the safety of ones child or of human injustices is terrifying but for me as the mother of a "beautiful" (and bi-racial) baby scares me for her future. I really hope she has an awkward stage until she's 80. Braces, pimples, horrible glasses- you name it and I hope she gets it.  Most of all, I hope and pray for a safer world with more equality for all people

Please Pray for a world with accepting people, pray for a world with less hate and pray for the safety of individuals.


Monday, May 2, 2016

5 love languages... while being married to a resident

At work this past week, our Chaplain gave us the 5 love languages test to help us identify our own love language. Although I had already guessed which love language categories I fall under, it was nice to see it in person. After taking the test, I ranked highest in Acts of Service and Quality Time. These are the things that have always and will always be important to me. Having someone help around the house or spend good one-on-one time with me is essential. We are in a hard phase of life right now with residency that makes both of these things difficult in our marriage. Richard is swamped and overwhelmed by residency and the hospital is his "mistress" as I call it.  It is hard for him on his bad months to even get sleep let alone help around the house or to spend time with us without his cell phone beeping with pages from a nurse at the hospital or something residency related. Richard's love languages are absolutely not the same as mine and I know that without him having to even take the test. Working with one another to address the way we feel loved is often hard when many months we are like 2 passing ships in the night. Richard cherishes 5 minutes of hand holding or cuddles on the couch in addition to words of affirmation. I know that he struggles to function between his duty as a husband and father along with his career goals. Encouragement , praise and understanding keep him motivated.

Being married to a resident is so rewarding in so many ways. Watching him grow and become an incredible doctor has always been and will always be a joy. Many years ago (almost 8) when we first started dating, he told me of his dream to become a physician. I promised Richard then that I would bring him coffee late at night during his journey to become a doctor. Little did I know for Richard that would really mean bringing a bag of spree and a regular coke. Growing up I witnessed the challenges and incredible strength that my parents had (have) related to my fathers own career as an ENT. It is so hard to explain this journey unless you've lived it or are living in it. It's hard to explain to our friends and family who don't have any knowledge of this journey or process what it's like for us. Yes, this is normal and part of the journey, but still doesn't make it any easier. We struggle to hold onto the little time together as a family and savor every minute the 3 of us have alone. I knew that the journey would be a long and challenging one but that there would be many rewards along the way.  Living it daily is financially challenging,  often isolating and lonely, but on days that he comes home and shared something incredible that happened that day make it worth it. He is becoming an incredible doctor and has such a God given talent for taking care of patients and families. At home, Lillie and I cheer for him from a far and wait to catch a glimpse of his handsome face.

Richard recovering from ICU nights and Lillie during nap time. Few moments that they can snuggle

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Pictures that chart Lillies growth over 12 weeks of maternity leave

I was thinking the other day about how far Lillie has come since birth and went back to to look at pictures of how much our baby has changed. When we brought her home she was 5 lbs. At our last pediatric visit in February, she was just below 10 lbs. Today I think she is somewhere near 11/12 lbs. At the end of April we will go back to the pediatrician and I cannot wait to see how far she has come since February. It's amazing how much she changed even in my 12 weeks of leave. Enjoy these pictures

1 day old

2 week pediatric visit

1 month old

2 months old

last day of maternity leave

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Back Blogging: It's a baby girl

Our due date to welcome Baby O into the world was January 16th, 2016 but for the last few months of my pregnancy I had a fear of going early. At birth, I weighed 5 lbs and I spoke with the OBYGN about that being due to prenatal nutrition or if my birth mother went into early labor. I spoke with him about how that would impact my own delivery. He assured me that it was not factor in my own situation.

Lets back up to the week of Christmas. While at work in Anderson, my car transmission died. I was stuck 45 minutes from home and wound up having to call a tow truck to bring me and my Nissan back to Greenville. While riding in the tow truck, I suddenly was VERY aware of my babys head. The truck was very shaky and I honestly felt like I was sitting on top of the baby. It was a horrible feeling and I started texting Richard. I was worried that the baby was so low that labor would happen any minute in the tow truck. I tried my best to hover over the seat and lift my rear end up so that the sharp pains and discomfort would ease up. Well we finally made it back to Greenville and no problems. After that ride however, I began to have those same sharp pains while sitting down. I often had to get up from sitting because of them. This went on for a few days. We celebrated Christmas at our house with the entire O'Neal family. It was lovely to have everyone here and we were so thankful that everyone drove to be with us since we were stuck within a certain proximity of the hospital.
Since Richard had the week of Christmas off, it was his job to cover for the residents who had the week of New Years off. Beginning Sunday the 27th I had a strange feeling it would be just around the corner before this baby arrived. The bags were already in my car and I had everything set. Sunday I spoke to Richard and urged him to have a conversation on Monday with his attending physician about an In-case of Emergency plan for coverage. I believe my exact words were "Richard this baby is coming- you need to have a plan in place". Sunday night, I began my bloody show. My wonderful OBGYN friend said when I talked to her that it sounded like things were moving. I went to work Monday and still had that horrible feeling looming over me that this would happen very soon. I moved all my visits that were spread out that week to Monday and saw everyone. I went home and we had a normal night. I asked Richard to give my lower back a rub because it was aching a little bit. Just for kicks before bed I read the Labor and Delivery chapter of my book. In there is said "you might want to cover the mattress with something incase your water breaks while you're asleep". In my mind, I thought "Noted: will accomplish tomorrow". Richard was asleep and I quickly drifted off too (10:30 pm). At 12:30 I woke to a "POP" and a slight gush of fluid. I softly said "Richard.... Richard..", but Mr. Soundsleeper didn't stir. Finally I had to yell his name a little bit. "Richard- I think my water just broke". Richard leaped out of our bed so quickly it was funny. We had NO idea what we needed to do to get to the hospital. I took a shower while Richard contacted the hospital to see and then I made him get a shower before we left. Poor Luka was so freaked out by all of our frantic behavior at 1 am. We contacted my best friend and asked her to take care of him in the morning (they live a mile down the road) so we knew he'd be in good hands.  We made it to the hospital triage by 1:30 am.

In Labor
I won't go into details about the experience but by 3:30 I was 4ish centimeters and ready to go to Labor and Delivery. All of the nurses we encountered in the journey were wonderful and it was such a wonderful experience. At this point I called my parents to let them know I was in labor and being admitted. My sister, her husband and my brand new niece had just arrived in PA for a visit plus, my parents were throwing a huge NYE party on Saturday.  I am certain none of them went back to bed after that phone call! I had my epidural placed and sent Richard on his way to go round on his patients.  Around 9 ish the doctor came to check me and determined I was a "good 9 cm". He asked the nurse to have this giant egg/yoga ball type thing placed  between my legs to allow babys head to come a bit further down. At 10:30 he came back to check again and said it "looked great and wouldn't be long" he also asked the nurse to do some practice pushes with me. Well,  we did about 3 practice pushes and the doctor had to come back because her head was right there.  There was a total of about 15 minutes of pushing before I was told to stop.  I was too focused to understand Richard when he told me the baby had its cord wrapped twice around its neck (this hit me the next day). I was able to push again and before I knew it the Doctor said " OK Dad, tell mom what we have". Richard said "it's a girl " and he immediately began to cry.  I was too concerned about him that I didn't even cry (for all of you who know me -this is a shocker). Waiting on finding out the gender was amazing and so magical.  I honestly don't think we'd ever find out after that experience. It was too perfect

Our baby girl was born on December 29th, 2015. She weighed 5 lbs 8 oz and was 19 inches long.

Richards family arrived at the hospital within the hour of her birth and were the 1st people to see her. Melanie purchased premie clothes which later were a huge help as our baby wore those for about the 1st month because she was so small. The next few days in the hospital were very busy but everyone we encountered were amazing. There wasn't a lot of sleep being had at those nights in part because she didn't sleep but mostly because I couldn't not stop staring at the miracle that we had created. 

We came home on NYE and how perfect that was too. In 2008 on NYE after months of "talking" , Richard and I finally put a title to our relationship.  In 2015, we brought our baby Lillie Jean O'Neal home. 

While in the hospital I had the lactation consultants on speed dial and our mom/baby nurses were amazing.  There were a lot of feeding and latching problems initially so our girl dropped down to 5 lbs while in the hospital. It was an extremely stressful first week monitoring her and trying to make sure she was getting enough, adjusting to no sleep and not to mention the healing that was very slowly occurring from childbirth.  We had 2 pediatric appointments too.  Needless to say we were overwhelmed but having my parents here that first weekend was incredible.  They ran errands for baby items while we bonded as a family.  My mom stayed to help and single handedly organized my life and took care of us with food and clean laundry.  I cannot sing her praises enough. 

It was amazing for us the immediate love we felt for her.  Richard put it best when he said that he immediately felt so important to someone so little.  We have a very important role in her life and it's amazing how that clicked so immediately with both of us.  We love our precious girl and are honored God has chosen us to raise her. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Happy Fall, Ya'll!

It's been a while since I've had the opportunity to write about how things are progressing in this pregnancy and life. Since the end of August, I have not had a single free weekend due to insanely busy activities and therefore the blogging has decreased. Over the past few months,  we have had multiple weddings in various locations, an anatomy scan, a baby shower in Lewisburg, a lot of growth in the stomach, a birthday party in Charleston, the purchasing of maternity clothes, a day fishing trip, the creation of baby registries and even a Bachlorette weekend. Richard and I are counting down the next 2 weeks in anticipation of when we will gain our weekends back until the baby arrives (although his next rotation will mean that he works weekends once again). 

The Anatomy Scan was on August 26th and it was amazing to see the growth/development from our initial ultrasound to this particular scan. Everything looked textbook on the baby and although he or she did NOT want to be disturbed, we were still able to see how perfect our little miracle is already. We remained strong and both turned our heads when the tech looked at the gender. We are so excited for the big moment in January when we find out Boy or Girl! From the moment I found out that I was pregnant, I thought that it was girl. After seeing the 3D ultrasound picture,  my opinion changed to boy.  Today, months after the ultrasound, I am back to thinking girl.  Whenever Richard and I talk gender he never has thoughts or opinions. Regardless of the baby being a boy or girl, the one thing that we care about is the health of the baby. We want a healthy baby. Please continue to have good thoughts and pray for everything to remain healthy.

Our Nursery is still a work in progress... All of the painting is done and as of recently, the crib is put together.  Richard was so excited to be able to put the crib together that the day it arrived, he put it together. We are attempting a travel/world theme for the nursery and are excited to see how it progresses over the final months of the pregnancy.

At the beginning of October, I flew to Lewisburg for a wonderful baby shower. It was a small group of  women and included some of the most important people in my life. Brooke &  Justin flew up from New Orleans to surprise me, Jerri, Liz and Mel came from Buffalo/NYC and my Aunt Jan and Uncle Bob drove up from TN. It was wonderful to celebrate Baby O'Neal with so many important people I was overwhelmed by the the amount of love and support given by everyone towards Baby O'Neal (and us).  All the people who traveled far for the shower, everyone who came the shower and brought gifts for the baby touched my heart in ways I will never be able to express. Our house is filling up with baby items and I love that each gift comes from such wonderful people.  Soon we will have another one in Rock Hill surrounded by Richard's family and friends. It will be a beautiful event and I am positive that once again, the outpour of love will be amazing.

For the first work free weekend in Richard's schedule for a while, we attended my best friends wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony and an awesome reception.  I loved being able to stand next to her as she married her soul mate. Additionally, it was so nice to have Richard at my side looking extremely handsome. When we left the reception, we headed up to TN for our "babymoon" day excursion. We went fishing on the Watauga with a guide and had a blast. The trout weren't biting very much, but spending a whole day with Richard was wonderful. I can't begin to tell you the last time we did that.

At my bffs wedding
Sometimes I think back to the days of our long distance relationship and I see numerous parallels to that time and our current life in residency.  The parallels in both phases of our relationship are these: Weekends together are sacred and rare, there is no way every task you have to accomplish will get finished, get used to independence because often we are both off doing separate activities in different cities and keeping your phone charged is essential because texting/phone conversations sometimes is the only way we get to check in with one another.

Being married to a resident and starting a family with one is no easy task. For example, while most women have their husbands along for each prenatal doctors visit, Richard has only been able to attend 2.  Richard will only have 1 week off (including Labor & Delivery) before he returns to work. Should the baby come late, the days in which he'll have "normal"  work hours will diminish (rotations change early February and again he'll be working 90 hrs a week).  I am mentally trying to prepare myself for the challenges associated with adjusting to life with new baby but  also how life with a resident husband and a new baby will be. I will admit that the future terrifies me and I pray everyday that I have the strength inside to do a lot of solo parenting while Richard finishes his training. I know so many women have done this before and are currently do this, but these future hurdles more than anything related to pregnancy or childbirth gives me anxiety.

Luka loving on the baby while the baby kicks him
Being in the 3rd trimester, we are now in the home stretch! Baby moves constantly these days and loves to have dance parties all night long. I am struggling to find a sleeping position that keeps the both of us comfortable. I can tell you that already, this baby is demanding and likes to makes him or herself known (especially at 2 am). We're anxious for January, but also hoping time slows down a little but so that we can finish everything in preparation for the baby. I am now seeing my OBGYN every 2 weeks and eventually I'll be going weekly. By the time the holidays get here, my travel will be restricted so that "in-case" something happens that I will be near the hospital.  It is hard to believe that January is just around the corner and soon we will be able to love on this little one.

I cannot thank those of you who regularly check in with me enough. It is so encouraging to get a message or email that asks how I'm doing or how baby is doing.  It truly means the world that people think about me and this adventure enough to reach out. As always, thank you for your support, your encouragement and your well wishes. Time is flying by and January will be here in just a few months. Until then we are awaiting the arrival of our niece or nephew who is due in the next few weeks, Richard will begin Critical Care (one of the hardest rotations during residency),  we are trying to finish all baby related projects and still enjoy some time with one another. Hopefully it won't be so long before the next update, but who knows. As always, thanks for reading and supporting us on this adventure!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Adoption and Baby O'Neal

For many varying reasons, adoption has been a recent topic of conversation with people in my life. Adoption, as those of you who know me is an important topic that is near and dear to my heart. It is the reason I am a social worker and it is the reason that I have the beautiful life that I do.  In 1987, a young woman made the hardest decision that she possibly could have... she left her newborn infant at the hospital to be given a better chance at life. It is something that I don't dwell on or think about with the exception of rare moments where I am so thankful for that incredibly difficult decision. I cannot imagine the feelings that she must have felt leaving her baby someplace with people she didn't know with only the hope that I would be able to thrive in my new life (something I believe she knew that she could not provide).

Me with my awesome parents and Mercedes (the founder of FANA)
My recent conversations with various people in regards to adoption have mostly been about the struggles that adopted children often face due to their individual struggles with abandonment, cultural identify or feeling that they aren't complete in some way or just don't belong. I have known a number of adopted children who fit somewhere along this spectrum or who are struggling with their identity (or have struggled) but I have also known people who are understanding of their early life circumstances and are not searching for closure beyond what is available in their current lives.  There will always children who vary on this spectrum and their life circumstances will absolutely play into these feelings. I've talked with my mom countless times about why I have never struggled with wanting to know who my birth mother is or why I was abandoned or any of the other countless questions that adopted children have. In my own case, there was never the possibility of finding my birth mother because she never provided documentation with her name and I was actually abandoned (no papers were signed to terminate her parental rights).  Beginning as far back as I can remember, adoption was always an open topic of conversation (should I want it to be), my parents both encouraged/supported my involvement in FANA (my orphanage) and my interest in the Colombian culture. These are the things I attribute to my understanding and acceptance of my early life circumstances (plus I have a really awesome family that I am thankful for).

There are people that I continue encounter in my life who are fixated on my adoption or the fact that I "am an orphan". I will be absolutely honest when I say I really really dislike the word "Orphan", I might even say that I hate the word. I understand that the bible, journal articles and many adoption program use this word but as an adopted child I find extremely offensive, negative and it attaches a stigma to me that is only relevant for the first 9 months of my life (due to circumstances that I could not control). I am not an orphan as I have 2 wonderful parents who raised me.  Mercedes, the founder of my orphanage spoke about her love of uniting "families with a child" not "children with a family". She looked at the adopting parents as the ones who were missing something that would make their hearts complete. I love this perspective and philosophy because there are needs being filled on both side of the adoption.. It is not just children in need of a family or parents. We have dear friends who are currently in pursuit of making their family complete through the process of adoption and it has made me reflect on a lot of these things (in addition to my conversations with other people).   I am so excited for them and this incredible adventure that they are bravely starting. It is an adventure in search of making their hearts full, making their family feel more complete and most importantly it is a journey about being able to love a beautiful child.

Our awesome wedding photographer wrote a beautiful book, which I pre-ordered prior to its publication date in June of 2012. It is called, You are so Special, Little One and it talks about the special process of adoption. It is the story of a young adopted child who is asking her mother questions related to her own adoption story. I absolutely recommend it to those of you with little kids, who know someone with an adopted child, if you have an adopted child or for those of you who maybe just love adoption.

As Richard and I prepare to have our own journey into parenthood, I can't help but think about my adoption. For most people, having a child that looks like you is a concept that one might not even think about. For me, it is an amazing and mind blowing reality of what will come with the birth of our child. When we become parents, it will be the the first time in my entire life that I am going to have someone that looks like me in some way. It might just be my nose or my dark eyes and hair but it will be someone who is genetically related to me.  I will be able to look at my newborn picture and compare it to this baby's newborn picture and hopefully (unless it takes 100% after Richard), there will be similarities. Now I know this may seem like a normal concept to those of you who have someone in your life that you're biologically related to, but for me it takes my excitement for this baby to a new level... a more emotional/meaningful level. Richard and I continue to be thrilled about this journey. We are thankful for each and every life event that has brought us to where we are at point; especially my adoption and everything involved with it. I am thankful for the decision my birth mother made but more importantly I am forever blessed by the choice my parents made when they decided to expand their family.