Do you ever feel like you hit a plateau in your life, and you just keep going along at that level for a while until you get thrown off plane and everything changes?
Benji and I were sort of hanging out on a plateau for the past 8-ish months, grieving and recovering from our miscarriage and our time in Uganda, finishing our bachelor degrees, and always subconsciously wondering what's next? What's next?
That's the big question people ask once you've graduated, and we started to almost avoid it because we didn't know. Vague answers like "make money, I guess..." "save the world..." "we're still figuring it out...." were the best replies to give ourselves and them. All of our peers seemed to be heading off to medical school or buying houses or at least having some sort of loose plan to guide their thoughts.
Benji was casually exploring different options for advanced education and the requirements for various programs and career paths. Everything felt "fine" and nothing felt "wrong" so we were still just hanging out on our plateau, praying and seeking and wondering.
I suggested one day that he just take the GRE and get it out of the way, since nearly all of the programs he might decide to pursue required it. So just like that we dropped the $200 fee and picked a test date 4 weeks out and said "just see what happens." We spent a few weeks sitting on the couch, him with his GRE study books and me with my NCLEX study books, wondering if this is what graduating college and not having any more homework is supposed to feel like.
One day Benji was driving home from work and he called me with excitement in his voice. He had just spoken with a woman about the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at the University of Utah Asia Campus and she had been extremely reassuring and inviting. Right then and there he decided to go for it.
Within a month he had taken the GRE, scored decently well, written his letter of intent, requested letters of recommendation from wonderful mentors, submitted the application, and received an email that said something like this:
"Dear Benjamin Lambson,
Congratulations on your acceptance to the University of Utah Asia Campus Master of Public Health program....classes start August 27th, 2016."
Did I mention it's in South Korea?
Did I also mention I'm pregnant?
At this point in the story, I would like to pause and express gratitude for some serious tender mercies we've already experienced:
- Benji has a dear cousin who has lived in South Korea for the past four years with four children while her husband worked there. Two of those children were born there. I can't believe we have a wonderful family member with so much expertise and experience available to us. Not to mention, she is incredibly faithful and loving and is the best resource ever.
- BYU. I am still constantly in awe of the blessing it was to study nursing at BYU. I felt impressed to reach out to a professor (who has retired, bless him) and ask for his advice. His response was so positive and encouraging, AND he referred me to another awesome professor who--wait for it--served his mission in South Korea.
- My plan, since before I was ever accepted into nursing school, was to get a job at Primary Children's and work there until I turned into a fossil and became a monument on the wall. I never wanted to just be a nurse, I wanted to be a Primary Children's nurse. So what the heck happened and why did I willingly withdraw my applications to Primary and accept a job at the University of Utah Hospital?? Because for some reason at the time, it felt right to take a job that didn't require a minimum 15 month work contract. At the time, we had never even heard of the UofU Asia Campus. Turns out Heavenly Father knows everything, and He knew I might just need to have some flexibility in my first RN job.
- And of course, the fact that both of our families live within 20 minutes of each other and are the most supportive and encouraging that anyone could possibly be. I think my brother Andrew's initial response when I told him about all of this was: "I hope your baby likes Kimchi."
So now, to answer all of your questions (insofar as we have them answered ourselves...) :
When is your baby due? December 25th. *All I want for Christmas is you, Baby!* Which means as of this post, I'm 16 weeks pregnant.
What are you going to do about your job? Right now the plan is for me to keep working at the U while Benji does his first semester abroad. I have the kindest boss and a great team of coworkers. The pay is really good (for RN's in Utah) and the benefits are even better, so it seems to make sense for me to stay here and save money and grow a baby. Also, you can't fly in an airplane after 36 weeks.
Wait, won't that be hard to be separated? Yes. Yes it will. So grateful for FaceTime and prayer and Temple sealings.
How long is the program? They say it can be done in 1-2 years, depending on how fast you take classes. They also say you have the option to complete a portion of it at the Salt Lake campus, but that's literally all we know about that at this point. We are definitely looking into every option.
What's Public Health? I once heard this phrase from a Public Health nurse: "If you haven't heard from us, we're doing our job right." Public Health officials are like the healthcare team for communities--they work primarily to prevent injury and disease, research causes and solutions for widespread health issues, and improve the health and wellbeing of communities as a whole. Benji always says "A doctor takes care of individuals, and public health workers take care of a population."
What kind of job can you get with an MPH? Working for state or county health departments if you want to stay local, or if you're Benji probably pursuing work with an international ministry of health and working to solve global health problems, like Ebola, Zika, AIDS, maternal/fetal death rates in impoverished countries, etc. They often work on access to clean water, nutrition/obesity, and fighting Big Tobacco. All those billboards you see about talking to your kids about underage drinking? Thank a public health official. They also look at a lot of death/disease statistics, and lobby to the government to make environmental and health promotion laws to keep us all safer.
*This is also why Benji did his internship in Uganda last summer researching menstrual hygiene disparities and the consequences for women and girls around the world. So, basically he's going to help save the world.
Why South Korea?! Well for one, most applications for nearly every other MPH program in the country are due in January. Benji decided this is what he wanted towards the end of May. Luckily, the UofU Asia program was still accepting applications through the end of June for an August 2016 start date. So unless he wanted to wait until January to apply, and not even start for another year, this was the only option.
Secondly, Benji is very passionate about international health. The major foci of interest for international public health workers are Africa and Asia. He's being custom made into the exact person with the exact experience the world needs. This program is perfect for him.
Will Benji be back for the birth? What happens after that? Baby is due the end of December, and Benji's finals week ends December 17th. Hopefully he'll be home a day or two before that, and I will stay securely pregnant until he can safely be there to cut the cord. Worst case scenario, he gets to watch via FaceTime and then come home asap to snuggle his family. Women have done it before me, and I can be brave if I have to.
After that, honestly, we're trying to only see as far as Christmas. But if we had to speculate, the three of us will all go to Korea at the end of February for Benji's second semester.
Whew. Thanks for coming along for our massive catapult off the plateau. All prayers, international living advice, long-distance relationship experience, and overall well wishing are extremely welcome.
*READER'S DIGEST VERSION: Benji got into grad school in South Korea and I'm not going because I'm pregnant. Thank you have a nice day!