Many times throughout this medical journey Kelly Clarkson’s lyrics “Miss independent; Miss self-sufficient” have rang through my head. Sometimes more as an anthem to keep myself strong and other times as a “hell yes!” pat on my back for getting through something challenging entirely on my own.
The one piece of advice that I was offered at the start of residency (and when I started dating my husband, when we got engaged and when I married him) that I have found to actually be true was: be independent; be your own person; have your own life. I don’t think this is unique to just a medical marriage/relationship. I truly believe that in any marriage each party should still be their own person and be able to stand strong independently. But, when you are married to a surgeon in training either you have your own life or you will begin to resent the time that they are not around because they are working 80+ hours a week caring for other people. And just to give you an idea what that looks like: it is about 4am to 8pm or later every day, give or take a few over night 24-32hr on-call shifts.
I have always considered myself independent, but when you get married you want to do things with your spouse. You want to share experiences and go through life together, not as two entirely separate people who pass at odd hours. And then when they miss things because of work, which leaves you to handle/do things on your own, it is hard. It takes some time to get used to and frankly never is easy.
Thus far in residency, my husband has missed holidays and long weekends, which were difficult, but I was fortunate enough to be able to spend those times with my parents, bother and sister-in-law. PGY2 has started off with a bang and has been a little rough between the even longer hours and schedule restrictions.
During the end of July there were two things that I would have loved to have my husband around to experience with me:
- A friend’s wedding in Syracuse, NY. (I only knew the bride and groom)
- Taking our furbaby to the vet to get spayed.
Now neither of those things are that big of a deal and I can and did handle both on my own. But, you start to feel a little like an island when you realize you do more without your spouse than with them.
This was the first wedding I went to alone since being married and I wouldn’t have missed it since it was the wedding of my good friend who also was one of my bridesmaids. It was a Catholic wedding (like ours) and I also was one of the readers. So needless to say I was feeling sentimental and emotional. I got to answer: “Where is your husband?” about 100 times. Her family and other friends were very welcoming and I did have a good time, but it was hard to be the third or fifth wheel to people you just met. With all that being said, I was very proud of myself at the end of the weekend. I felt like I had grown in my independence and proved to myself yet again, I can do this!
As I mentioned last month, we adopted the sweetest yellow lab from a fellow medical family who hit a bit of a rough patch and needed to re-home their pup. In a very short period of time this dog has completely won over my heart and has become such a great joy in my life. She greets me when I come home from work and she is by my side every night my husband is working late or is working an over night shift. She truly has been a blessing. So of course when it came time to take her in to get spayed I felt like a horrible doggie mom. I didn’t want her to be in pain and in typical Briana fashion I was worrying about every little thing. My husband was at work and unable to come with me to the vet or to help me with her after the surgery. Dropping her off was difficult, I could tell she was nervous and didn’t understand why I couldn’t go back to the room with her, but the worst was when I picked her up. She was still weak and coming off of the anesthesia. She was shaking and just flopped on the floor. I started to cry because I felt so badly. The tech thankfully helped me get her in the car and she slept on the way home. Then getting her in the house was a challenge on my own, she was 60lbs of dead weight. But, as soon as I got her in the house I wrapped her in a blanket and let her rest. Three days later and she was back to being her silly, loving self.
Moral of the story is that this medical journey requires you to be tough and stand alone quite a bit. But, remember your spouse is supporting you from afar and they would be at these events if they could be. Also, they chose to spend their lives with you for many reasons, but one being that they know you are strong independently. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but it means that you can do it! And if you ever need moral support or a friend to talk to, a fellow medical spouse will always be there for you- because we get it.