The calendar is booked for the next six months with guest bloggers for The White Coat Wife. We have a wide variety of medical wife life experiences, so I thought we would start off with Sarah, who got married to her husband Joe between the first and second year of medical school. She was planning their wedding, while he dug deep into Anatomy. Sarah Stallings is a wife of 3rd-year medical student and mama to their baby due in summer ’19. Her week is filled with work, field practicum, studying for her clinical MSW, and one cup of caffeine a day. She enjoys chocolate, long walks on the beach, and 80’s movies.
“That season of life revealed that grace is in the messy.”
We got engaged and he went off to medical school. Very romantic, I know. My behind can attest to the strain of the long distance as I traveled the long commute to visit him almost every other weekend. Looking back on engagement and the first year of medical school, we learned a lot one step at a time. We mapped out strategic visiting plans and had lots of phone calls. That season of life revealed that grace is in the messy. These moments built on previous experiences and serve us so well as we continue through medical training. I’d love to take a moment to sit down and share what we learned. I hope this sharing will bring laughter, encouragement that you are not alone, and to know that it works out in the end-somehow, someway!
The first take-away for me was to embrace the rhythm of the season. It’s easy in medical school to peek over the fence and admire the “easier 9-5 life” we assume others have. In reality, every life is different due to free will and God’s individual call in our lives. Embracing the moment as a gift and choosing to respond in a creative and accepting way eases the comparison game. There is good right here. Yes, maybe it would be easier to plan a wedding in person; but that’s not the life given here. So I’ll take the 5 mins of a study break call to ask and check-off, “How much do you like the color blue? Who do you want to be in our wedding party? Where do you want to go on a honeymoon?”
I had no idea what medical school was like or how we’d prepare for marriage. But, life moments build upon each other! I had helped with medical school applications, night classes to get pre-reqs (for which I still ask—why Physics??), and supported MCAT study sessions. Discerning marriage taught both of us the attitude that marriage is a journey you go on together. In the same way, that attitude carried over to medical school training. I thought I understood then how to be together, how to support, how to be on the same team. However, that “togetherness” rhythm must be renewed and lived out in every season.
For us, preparing for the unity in our marriage meant supporting each other in our callings to serve and provide. Which for my fiancée was medical school and for me unfolded into applying for master programs in clinical social work. I would never have imagined in the middle of wedding planning to begin graduate school for myself, but that’s the beauty of doing life together. It challenges us to grow in ways we never expected. Ultimately, we realized it’s much easier to expect the challenges of medical school (or hey life in generally!) when it’s something faced together rather than in isolation. When he graduates and when I graduate, this couple is going to celebrate because we ran this race together!
It can start to feel as if medicine is the boss and is calling the shots on all areas of your life. It’s so key to remember to respond rather than react.
The second takeaway was scheduling. All you type-A friends clap with me and hear me out non-planners, this is good for all of us. A schedule brings harmony between us because decisions need to be made but also relaxation needs to be had. Medical school’s first two years of course-work are demanding with tests every other week and the student asking, “can he try taking your blood pressure just one more time?” It can start to feel as if medicine is the boss and is calling the shots on all areas of your life. It’s so key to remember to respond rather than react. Medical school, like all things, is what you make of it so Carpe the Diem, Seize the Day! Setting aside specific time with time limits allowed us to get the essentials done that need to be done (people need to eat something at the wedding!) and go do something fun; like hiking!
Through this season though the biggest grace was prayer. The value of prayer together and prayer apart cannot be underestimated. This journey, medical school and more importantly marriage, cannot be accomplished without the One who strengthens us. As Romans 16:25 states turn “now to him who can strengthen you.” Furthermore, prayer shapes our minds and hearts to know how to be in rhythm with God’s heart and with our neighbor’s. Somehow, we prayed together nightly on the phone; asking for the other person’s intentions and sharing our struggles. This enabled us to be in tune with each other and encourage one another. So often the act of praying together would encourage us and reset our hearts to gratitude for what was given. It provided the space for us to truly hear and share in the other’s person’s joys and struggles. As Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reads “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Finally, to use the popular slogan going around now, do what sparks joy. I got mono as my medical student was studying the spleen so I blame karma and choose to embrace the season through TV. Hey, it brought me joy. The first year of medical school and its process of training was and still is overwhelming to me with foreign terms and lingo. It felt akin to learning a new language. Once, I started watching “House”, then I too could say things such as “lumbar punctures, lab cultures, and CT scan” in somewhat accurate ways. Just last night, I watched an episode of “Call the Midwife” where a c-section was preformed, while the medical student practiced his sutures. Win-win for all.