Two weeks of away rotations completed and two weeks to go! On July 31st, my husband, Thomas, started his third year of medical school and the first month of clinical rotations. For those who are unfamiliar with the training schedule of medical school. This is the year we pay $$$$$ for him to work over 60 hours a week at the hospital, while he still balances studying for boards, more exams, family, and attempts to sleep, eat, and exercise.
For many student doctors, clinical rotations are connected to the University hospital they are attending, but we are at a private university in a rural area and there are not enough local options for the 160 students per class to stay local. Fortunately, my husband was placed at a rotation site that has four hospitals connected to each other and most sites will be within an hour commute. However, for his first rotation, he started in general surgery at a hospital 1.5 hours away with a start time of 6 am (end time TBD daily, but usually after 6 pm). Way to be thrown in the deep end right? Commuting from our home wasn’t a safe option.
But let me just brag a minute on my God and then my man. We are expecting our 2nd baby (our daughter is only 15 months old…so yes, TWO BABIES under two) September 22nd. When we were talking about expanding our family again, I knew this would be the year I would mostly be at home raising our kids alone. We hoped for kids close enough in age that they would be besties. Plus the medical school route we are on is realistically a 12-year journey, so there really isn’t a right time for baby number 2, 3, or even 4. And throw in the fact that I’m thirty-three (he is a bit younger). When I found out the due date for our son, I also had to come to terms with the fact that my husband would most likely not be present at the birth. Several weeks later my husband was asked to switch with another student who had military responsibilities so that Thomas’ vacation month would land in September AND then my due date was moved up a week to Sept. 22nd. What a huge answer to prayer! Not only will my husband be able to be at the birth but he will not have hospital responsibilities the two weeks before and two weeks after our son’s due date. Oh and don’t let me forget to mention that he has a free apartment to stay at during this general surgery away rotation. Two of his classmates are assigned vacation month this month and went home to visit family, so they offered for him to stay at their apartment.
Now to brag on my man. He is balancing an 80 hour+ week between board studies and general surgery rotations. He drives back home on Friday’s to stay the weekend and spend quality family time, while still balancing board study, and any weekend activities we have planned. Like throwing a 20 person party at our house for the medical wives ministry Side by Side last weekend. Every night despite long hours, long-standing surgeries, and then having to prepare for the following day’s surgeries, he makes time to FaceTime us with undivided attention. So attractive! When he was studying M1-M2, it was harder for me to appreciate his work ethic. I’m task oriented and place value on $ making work. It was easy to downplay his long hours studying because it was sedentary and not income producing, but that hard work and dedication is what has prepared him for the skills needed to jump straight from books to assisting in operations on very sick people.
We both feel our marriage has been strengthened by the time apart these past two weeks. After three years of marriage and one toddler, it’s so easy to be in each others presence but not present. For the first two years of medical school, he studied from home. Although he was physically at home the majority of the time, he was focused and in one of our office spaces studying while I was going about my day with our baby girl. With FaceTime, we are actually gazing into each other’s eyes again for more than 5 minutes undistracted. It reminds us of the period of time before we were officially dating when I lived in Thailand and he would Skype me once a week from the U.S. Our attention is focused on one another, we are listening intently about each others day, celebrating our daily highs, and verbalizing our attraction to one another again! I’d call that a win for our society where everyone is looking down at their phone and not making eye contact with those around them. Of course, I wouldn’t want this FaceTime communication to last forever and I hope it will help me build a habit of intently listening as I gaze into my man’s eyes on a daily basis when we are back living under the same roof.
At some point in your medical career journey, there will be a time when living apart from your spouse may be necessary. Maybe it is during audition rotations or during a 7-on-7-off schedule or during fellowship where you have to live apart. Whenever it happens, even if it is during your 8th month of pregnancy while your toddler wants to climb everything and you are having to learn to food prep so your husband doesn’t eat Bojangles every night for dinner, keep your eyes fixed on what is ahead. I’m not just referring to the paycheck at the end of the month or the exotic vacation (like for real… for the majority of us student loan debt will be taking our vacay $ for a while anyway). Fix your eyes on the fact that your husband’s work will change lives and your work as a spouse will change his and the people around you. Your attitude and your response can make a positive difference or a negative one, its for you to choose from. Pity parties over being a “single” parent or resentment toward your spouse for not “pulling his weight” during this exhaustive season, will not make the challenges more comfortable.
I was reminded tonight of the verse in Hebrews 11: 13-15 that many people living in the not so urgent generation had the perseverance to face the unknown with faith. They wavered at times, yes. They lost sight of the end, yes, but in their old age, they still remained faithful.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one.” Hebrew 11:13-15