From the time my husband and I started dating, his professional path was something that I took honest consideration about, among other things. Not to be a brat, but as someone who was a student nurse myself once upon a time, I was intimately familiar with the curriculum, it’s demands and assumed (correctly) that students who study medicine had little time for much else.
I was aware enough of myself to know that quality time as a love language was and is a big deal for me. In the end though (like my husband said at the time), the horse was already through the gate since we were pretty much already in love and wrapped up in each other by the time we (or I, really) were (was) ready to admit we wanted to be in a relationship.
All in all, by the time we were dating he was about third or fourth year (of five) and he promised me, he wasn’t going to pursue surgery or anything (in hindsight, that shouldn’t have been as comforting). So I went along with the idea more comfortably that his field of passion was one that wouldn’t demand as much time in relation to other specialties. (Trick me get trick!). By then we’d already built a relationship around his study routines and habits, so it was not an issue and we made it to the end of his degree largely unscathed.
Of course, the study of the typically lifelong profession didn’t end with undergrad. And while I had some idea it would be demanding, I sure wasn’t readyyyy! [Insert Kevin Hart voice]
You know how they say the first year of a marriage is typically the hardest? Yea. For us, that wasn’t it. That was intern year, and right behind that was our second year of marriage, which we will get to.
He was and is (but much more manageably) tired all the time. And when I say all the time, you may be tempted to think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. It was literally all the time! He’d work a 32-36 hour shift, come home that evening barely staying awake long enough to shower and eat, then hit the sack and be back to work the next day like nothing happened. This was on a three day loop. Weekends were half days I believe, and only if they didn’t land on the the third day, in which case insert the loop.
I remember sometimes we would be walking and I’d want to stroll or stop, and he would say no, because if his legs stopped moving, he wasn’t so sure he could convince them to start moving again. He slept like a rock. A dead rock, and within months, as you can imagine, our relationship began to chafe. I tried to be as understanding as I could, but there were days when no amount of understanding could stem my irritation from the constant half closure of his eyes during the little times he wasn’t sleeping. He once fell asleep on me, while I was waiting for him post-call. It was a full NINE HOURS before he snapped up long enough to realize what happened. Boy, was I pissed.
I did what I could to help. He gave me a key to his apartment and I started stopping by to do his laundry and cleaning, so that when he wasn’t working or sleeping, our time together wouldn’t be consumed by chores. We tried to maximize our time together by staying together most nights, either at my place or his. Still, the stress weighed on us, and we constantly argued (and faced other challenges too personal to share) and I found myself irritated a lot. Most of that irritation had to do with trying to convince him to make an effort to take care of himself, as well as knowing that there weren’t really any fixes for it in that time, so my choices were simple. I would need to shit or get off the pot.
Obviously, I shat.
Here we are right? Nevertheless, intern year was a crapstorm, but, we made it.
Senior House Officer, Medical Officer.
These years’ were much easier on our relationship. Honestly, I believe much of that ‘ease’ to be as a result of the monumental crapstorm that his intern year was. We celebrated milestones during these three or so years, moving in together, getting married and such. As an SHO, his duties were much less of a shock to us by then, and we learned that him coming home while he was on-call made no sense and so, he stopped. I wouldn’t sleep on his call nights either. Instead, I would keep the TV on and muted, much like it was when he was home because he refused to formally go to bed (Soo annoying!) and I would wake up in the middle of the night with him sprawled across the bed and inevitably some EPL match watching us for good measure. (This was the catalyst for me putting my foot down, no bedroom TV. Come a yuh damn bed.)
His years as a MO, were also easier than the previous phases. The easiest I’d say. He didn’t do duties (calls) then and this rare period meant he was home every night, and weekend. Almost like a blissful 9-5. This phase allowed us to solidify the foundation of our relationship, really enjoy our first year of marriage, living in bliss and with each other in general. I feel like this period allowed us that much needed window to cement our relationship and poured much endurance into it for the next few years.
May Day! May Day! Queue the resurgence of the crapstorm. Not only did the on-call nights return, I was a right good six months pregnant during the second year of our marriage when he started. I don’t know what I expected out of a husband who is a doctor when I was pregnant, but overprotectiveness and hyper-vigilance fed by things seen on the job is what I got in spades. Zika was a thing, and I was smack in that ‘try not to get pregnant’ window of a government advisory. I avoided mosquitos like the plague!
My long, lonely days and sometimes nights were filled with regular check-ins and begging my dad to stay over with me sometimes in case anything happens while hubby was at work. He didn’t want me doing anything, except to relax and grow baby. I’d have been mad about it, but I couldn’t do much of anything anyway. A wobble to the kitchen in our one bedroom apartment was enough to send my chest into overdrive and the one time I went ahead and cleaned our apartment, I thought I had done well and hadn’t overexerted myself so I showered, went for a nap and woke up needing a tinker.
I thought all was well, until a took a step and felt my body going down, down, down. After several attempts the result was clear. I couldn’t walk. I had to call my husband home from work to literally take me to pee. That my friends, was not fun. Even less fun, was silent anger that exuded from him for days afterwards (It’s Boobles. A quieter man cannot exist). He was so tense with it you could cut it with a bread knife. But the only words I managed to drag out of him were a grumble. “All I asked you to do was just relax. It’s just a few more weeks. But no, yuh ears tough!” He hadn’t even mentioned til years later that lifting my seven months pregnant self to take me to bathroom had hurt his back. (It’s the little big things, ladies!)
I hadn’t meant to, but he was in school, working and had literally been doing all the cooking, cleaning and hand-washing our laundry (the machine broke down) since I was waddling through morning sickness. I just wanted to help him out because he had so much on his plate. Yelp!
When our baby came, added to the mix was a squawking tiny human that refused to sleep. Those promises of newborn that mostly slept are a myth we have yet to see four years later. Between everything, I had to dig deep for patience and understanding as I watched him leave 24 hour shifts, go to class, come home to relieve me of baby for a while, nap for a few hours and be up and at ‘em to beat the books. We (baby and I) even cleared out to give him space to run marathons. We spent weeks and several time zones apart so so he could do what he needed for his program.
I’m not selling you on a fairytale here. This is the stuff marriages are made of. For sure it’s a lot to watch him work as hard as he does. I will say this, dating someone who is in the medical field takes love, understanding, patience, trust, grit, commitment and above all two willing partners. There are times when I have to snap my fingers at both his ears and say ‘hey, the balance is getting away from you.’ so that he can tighten up the ship, but ultimately, it’s his willingness to successfully balance that helps me to carry on. I don’t let him off the hook for being a doctor. He is also a husband. He chose that, and while I will be understanding most of the time, it’s not a free pass to slack off.
Would I deliberately choose this profession for him if I had a choice? Heck, no! But, his passion is what it is and I love the damn man, so we do it together!