For the sake of every partner, every child standing in the shadows while their spouse or parent gets through medical school and/or residency…
I don’t ask for sympathy. I simply ask for breathing room. For the chance to feel anything other than the glowing gratitude that society seems to expect of us.
There are times when we don’t know how to deal with the stress of raising our babies on our own. Or navigating a new city with no friends or family, or hell… even any knowledge of where to buy cereal. Moving states away from family, friends, everything we knew.
Residency made this life feel heavier, but also more empowering.
I feel stronger. Bolder. More brave. Less full of fearful anticipation and more full of bring on all the shit shows, buddy, because I’ve got this.
Except for today.
Today, I was working in the garden that was recently bulldozed by a heavy rain, and taking breaks in the 90-degree weather to play “lazer tag” with my boys with squirt guns. I forgot this morning that he (my husband) was not going to be home for a day and a half, even though we only live four blocks from the hospital where he works.
This morning, I forgot that he had a call shift because when he said “goodbye, have a nice day, I love you”, he hugged me for much longer than normal.
I assumed it was because he was feeling the weight of the fact that we are now down to one more night. One more night of waking up as a team that pulls little Henry into bed with us when he wakes in the middle of the night. One more night of “which one do you want to get to sleep tonight”.
Today, in the middle of the epic water gun battle, he called to let me know he had three minutes to get home and pack his overnight bag for his call shift. I scrambled to find what he would need, then just before he drove away, I frantically called to our oldest son James (little Henry was napping - a true miracle). I worried that James would be upset about missing his chance at an extra Papa hug.
Fortunately, James is at an age where Papa hugs and Digimon episodes weigh out pretty evenly. He was hidden away safely in the basement play room when my husband drove off.
This “see you tomorrow morning” hurt more than usual. Just yesterday, I was at the annual picnic that is held for a huge collection of people who work in coordination with my husband’s surgical residency program. I recall speaking to the partners of this year’s intern class about my experiences over the last year, and how I felt like a pro. I felt/feel stronger and more capable and ready to take on more challenges that come with being the spouse of a general surgery resident…
But that was last night. Today, I don’t feel as strong. Today, as I hugged my love and kissed him, and breathed in his semi-sterile smell (still lingering on his scrubs after his short 2-minute commute to our home), I had a difficult time remembering to breathe and not cry. I’m sad.
I’m sad. And uncertain. And feeling maybe a little bit scared.
Two months without him. Our boys will be without him for two months. His hugs. His dirty socks on the floor that drive me nuts and his nightly ritual of having a bowl of cereal after dinner, or FOR dinner. Because you know… life. And in his case, more often than he’s willing to tell me because I’m an empath, death.
I guess through all this, my friends, is that more often than not, those around you are going through more than they’re willing to say. Please be patient and kind.