March 30, 2014

Month 20

Wow - We are in our final month living abroad. It doesn't seem like it's been nearly two years since we packed up and left for the Bahamas; not to mention, another year and a half of living here in Dominica.

We fly out on April 26, overnight in San Juan, then arrive in Chicago on April 27. We have had a wonderful experience here, and I can't even begin to tell you the highlights. But, we are ready to go home. Ready to be surrounded by friends and family. Ready to drive ourselves. Ready for cheaper electricity. Ready for American food.

I would do it all over again, though. Matt and I have both grown so much in all areas of our lives, and our relationship has gotten stronger with every diverse experience we face together. Even with the challenges, I would absolutely recommend it to anyone considering.

The big day is tomorrow. Matt takes his final for semester four. Then, he will be an official third year medical student. Unreal! It is hard to believe how much knowledge he has taken in since August 2012. After his final, he then has a few weeks to study for the Comp exam. The Comp is a large test covering everything from first-fourth semester. Ross requires his class to pass the Comp before he can take his Step 1 board exam. So, needless to say, it's a pretty big test.

As for me, I'm trying to enjoy our last few weeks here. I took my last trip to Roseau yesterday via the free shuttle Ross provides. I came back with a few of my favorite souvenirs.

I will definitely miss my favorite basket ladies. If you're ever in Roseau, stop by the Vendor Market and grab a few of these. I'm so excited to go home and decorate the nursery and our home with these lovely reminders of our time here.

Next weekend will be the fourth semester banquet. It's a time to honor the fourths and celebrate their accomplishments. It's held at Cabrits National Park. I just hope I can find something to wear as I didn't think far enough ahead to bring any maternity clothes down here. Should be interesting.

The next Saturday is our next scheduled ultrasound. Hopefully Baby Wells will cooperate enough to show us the goods so we can find out if it's Baby Girl Wells or Baby Boy Wells. Any guesses? So excited for this!

And then we have the next weekend to pack, and we are out of here. I'm sure it will fly by!

March 16, 2014

Pregnancy In Dominica

Sure, women are pregnant here in Dominica every day. I know I'm not the first. I know I'm not the last. But this is my first pregnancy, so that counts for something, right?

Overall, being here in Dom during the first trimester was probably a good thing. Since I felt so crummy, it was easy to hide away and sleep through the exhaustion and all day sickness without feeling too guilty.

The things I've found most intimidating during the first trimester? The food. The smells. And being able to cook anything at all. Raw chicken? Blech. Eggs? Instant vomit. Any type of seafood smell? Game over. But I'm certain that would've been the same in the States.

Now that the nausea is subsiding a bit, the cravings are kicking in. I had a few cravings here or there during the first trimester. Mainly for The Usual Spot restaurant here in Picard. And mainly for their cabbage and green beans. That's a sentence I never thought I would write.

I'll tell you what though, pregnant women in the States, be grateful for the ability to run to the grocery when you have a random craving, or driving through at the best worst fast food place to curb the hunger, or just going to get some ice cream. It's a luxury. And let me tell you don't ever, ever take that for granted.

With the struggle to keep grocery shelves stocked consistently, our conversations are somewhat like this.

Me: I could really go for some apples. I think I could keep those down.
Matt: The grocery didn't have any.
Me: What about frozen fruit for a smoothie?
Matt: No milk. I guess I could use water.
Me: Ugh. I'll just have another dinner of green beans.

It's very fascinating to me how your body knows what nutrients it needs, and that's typically where your cravings come into play. For example, I don't eat the red meat here. Plenty of people do, and I'm sure it's fine. I've eaten Taco Bell at home and all. I realize it can't get much worse than that. But I just don't care to. I get my iron from my prenatal and try to eat as many green veggies as I can (hello, cabbage). However, I can't tell you how many dreams I've had about a burger. Or a steak. Or anything else in the red meat category. I've even sunk so low as to google menus of restaurants I've been craving. And dreamt of what it will be like when I can have it. I imagine an angelic chorus will ring out with the first bite. That's embarrassing to admit.

So that leads me to bacon. Turkey bacon is at the grocery that comes from America. I know, technically not red meat. So I'll eat that - more than I care to admit. And Matt does an excellent job of making it super crispy, so I'm basically eating burnt bacon, but it satisfies the craving for the time being. Probably not the best thing to eat, but hey, it could be worse.

The other thing I've been struggling with is the heat. It is grossly hot and humid here. Dominica 'winters' are still hot in my book, so I've been on the struggle bus with this one. Splurging on the AC has been the solution.

The last struggle is the car rides. The girl gets carsick in America. Which spells disaster for Dominica. Mix that with pregnancy, and no one has a good time.

But, there are definitely positives of being pregnant while here.

Besides being able to hibernate, I'm not getting wrapped into the big baby rush extravaganza. There's not much I can do here to get ready for baby. So I'm not getting overwhelmed with the shopping and pressures of the commercial side of it. Plus, I'm not even delving into the online forums of scary moms. I think that can be the most intimidating thing about pregnancy and motherhood - other moms. So I'm getting to lay low on that one. And very grateful.

Matt and I can also bond just to the two of us to our little one. Sure, school is a major time suck for Matt, but beyond that, it is just us three. And that is really special.

There are some things I can do to prepare. Like spending a ridiculous amount of time researching car seats, strollers, etc. And I stalk (let's call it what it is) other mom friends, especially posts like these, for their recommendations on what their little ones preferred and what worked best.

I'm sure all pregnancies have their ups, downs and certain challenges. I'm sure mine's not unique. But that's ok.

Baby Wells is growing and healthy and that's all we could hope for. Even if it's on a Dominican bacon diet. With some cabbage and green beans on the side.

March 14, 2014

Next Stop, Michigan

We are officially headed back to the Midwest!

I can't even tell you how heartwarming it is to be able to say that. We've been living in the Caribbean for 19 months. 19 months that have flown by in all honesty. But it's still quite a while.

Matt got his assignment for his fifth semester. Ross gives the options of staying in Dominica, Miami, or Saginaw, Michigan. Being that Saginaw is less than three hours from my hometown, we have been eagerly aiming for Michigan.

And we finally got the good news he was accepted!

While we have had an incredible experience here in Dominica and in the Bahamas overall, we are so ready to be close to home, close to our family and friends, and back to the comforts of America.

Truth be told, I am a little anxious about coming home. Living here and through this experience Matt and I have both changed quite a bit. It will definitely take some acclimating to get used to living outside of our bubble, but I'm eager to do so. All the while trying to not wish the last of our time away here.

So fifth semester is a transition semester from lectures to clinical settings. Ross is actually changing this program, as Matt's class is the last class to go through it as it is currently structured. This semester is shorter, running from June 1 - Aug. 2. Perfect timing for Baby Wells's anticipated arrival of Aug. 28!

But for the most important question - what to do with the name of blog. Cornstalks to Palm Trees signified our move from Indiana to the Caribbean. So now....?? Cornstalks to Palm Trees to....Cornstalks? I'm open to your suggestions. It obviously needs some work.

Matt takes his last mini of semester four on March 24. Then he has his final and a clinical exam to finish off the semester. This semester has certainly flown by.

We've seen some pretty incredible rainbows and sunsets in the past few weeks. A good reminder to soak up the sunshine and Caribbean Sea view while we can.

March 4, 2014

A Dominican Ultrasound

Matt and I have both adapted quite a bit to the Dominican culture and have tried to embrace our surroundings to get a full, well-rounded experience. But beyond the medical clinic on campus at Ross, we haven't had to delve into the local medical care. Well, at least for me, as Matt has attended clinic and such. But being on the receiving end is a bit different.

When we started thinking about getting pregnant and planning our ideal situation, we decided we wanted to be pregnant on the island, and come home with plenty of time to deliver in the States. And, we were lucky enough for our plan and His to match, so here we are.

I was under the impression all of my medical care could be done through the Ross Clinic barring everything was normal and healthy. We had known the clinic just got a new ultrasound machine, so I automatically thought that meant we could be totally taken care of there.


For the most part, yes. That's where I've been going to see the doctor for routine appointments. However, there isn't a designated radiologist at the Ross Clinic to read the ultrasound. It's used for emergency purposes only is what I've been told.

Well, ok. That's fine. Not a big deal to us. The only radiologist on the island has her office in Roseau, the capitol city. But she does come to Portsmouth near us every other Saturday for appointments. So when it came time to schedule my ultrasound, we made the appointment, hired a taxi and drove into town.

Now, I have to say, for my own sanity, it was a good thing Matt and I have been on island and adapted the way we have already. We are familiar with the culture and respect that culture, so we weren't totally freaked out by what was ahead. Just more nervous because it was a different experience. We didn't know what to expect.

So, we drove to the 'office' in Portsmouth. This is the building.

You'll notice there are two blue doors. One says Professional Offices. The other says Apartments. Easy enough. We tried to open the door for the offices, but it was locked. So I called the doctor's office to tell them their door was locked, but they let me know we were actually supposed to go in the door labeled Apartments. Ok, that worked.

The tech came downstairs to meet us to assure we headed in the right place. We walked up the stairs to the second floor and wound around to a teeny tiny apartment. Even smaller than our first apartment here. 

I'm assuming since the radiologist doesn't maintain an office in Portsmouth regularly, it was just easier for her to use this space. Whatever works.

We walk in. The tech puts out some plastic outdoor chairs for Matt and I to sit. Keep in mind this is an apartment, so we were seated in the living room/kitchen. The tech had his laptop out and was sitting at a wooden kitchen table. The kitchen was to our right. And a twin bed was straight ahead. Not exactly what we were expecting, but we can handle that. At least the AC was on.

The tech was very friendly and welcoming. He charged us up front - $150 EC. Which is roughly $40 USD. We pay cash - that's what they accept. No insurance, no credit. So then we waited. Not too long, but they needed to finish getting set up.

I was able to sneak a few pictures while the tech was in the 'bedroom' helping the doctor get ready.

Then it was our turn. We were the first appointment, so we made our way into the bedroom/exam room. This is where the AC unit was held, so it was freezing in here. Not complaining. I should point out that the wall that separated the bedroom from the rest of the apartment didn't quite reach the top, so it gave an outlet to the rest of the space for the AC to circulate. This eliminated all sense of privacy as even though the door was closed, there was still open space for conversations to carry.

The exam table was converted into a exam table from a day bed. There was a protective cover and a paper lining on the mattress. I laid down and Matt got comfortable. Then, our doctor started the ultrasound. She explained what we'd be looking for and took her time to make sure we understood. 

Once it started, this most amazing site was on the screen. It took my breath away. Matt's face lit up, and tears rolled down my face. There it was. That was our baby. It was real. How incredible.

She looked at all the screens, showed us the placement of everything, reassured us there was only one baby, and most importantly, that Baby Wells is healthy.

And then, we got to hear the heartbeat. It was the most wonderful sound I have ever heard. More tears. More overwhelming emotions.

The doctor was wonderful in answering all of my questions, being so patient and explaining it all so clearly. She also explained things in medical terms for Matt, and Lehman's terms for me, which is nice. At the Ross Clinic, they typically see all medical students, so they use the teaching vernacular. I'm not a medical student. I have no idea what most of that means. So it was nice to be able to understand the doctor myself and not have Matt translate. 

And then there was Matt who was so overwhelmed with seeing Baby Wells and fascinated with the medical side of it too, that he kept bouncing back and forth between Daddy Wells and Dr. Wells. It was endearing to watch.

Our appointment came to an end all too quickly. She printed out a few pictures for us, and told us to take a seat back out in the waiting area.

While we were out there digesting the beautiful site we just saw, her and the tech were preparing our report. Not ten minutes later, the brought out our report and photos in a sealed envelope and sent us on the way.

We were so over the moon that day. It's something we will never forget. And it of course gave us another learning experience to cherish here in Dom.

The important thing to take away for our experience is even though the facility wasn't the same as in the States and the procedures may be different, we still received great care. As I was laying on the day bed, I never felt as though the radiologist wasn't competent or incapable of providing quality care. 

Again, I was glad we had been here for awhile so we weren't completely overwhelmed by the physical qualities of the experience. But we were able to fully enjoy meeting our little one. Our Dominican ultrasound will be a memory of a lifetime. 

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