After my husband opened up the letter on Match Day to find the results of his Match and where we were going to live for the next three years, I proudly posted on my Facebook wall, “We matched!”
A commenter asked, “Are you a dual-physician couple?“
I wrote back, No, just him.”
But I kept going back to that comment in my head that day. I felt very embarrassed. By mentioning “we,” in “we matched,” I mean we were celebrating together, just like when couples announce, “We are pregnant.” Of course my closest friends and family understand my intentions, but I realized I may have been confusing to others.
Since that incident, I began to correct myself and said, “HE is graduating,” “HE is applying for fellowship,” and so on.
After all, I did not sit on the board exam.
I do not get pimped by attendings who ask obscure medical questions to keep me on my feet.
My voice is not the one answering the pagers.
I do not bear the weight of making life and death decisions on my patients.
After all, it’s not me, but my husband, who is the physician.
Later at a Christmas dinner, I sat next to an attending doctor’s spouse, who ended up becoming a mentor to me. She told me that even though her husband was the only physician in the house, she referred to as, “THEY went to medical school, THEY matched, THEY went to residency,” and so on. So did all the strong medical marriages in her experience. It created a sense of solidarity.
“‘We’ signifies that we are a team, we’re in it together,” she said.
Kim Moser, Kentucky state representative and former President of the AMA Alliance, as well as an attending doctor’s spouse, also agreed.
“I call it ‘our’ first year of medical school, because we went through it together,” she said at an AMA Alliance meeting.
I heard more and more stories from medical spouses like this. And all these stories resonated with me. Since the very earliest days of our relationship when we knew we were meant to be together, my husband and I had always been a team. There was nothing we didn’t handle together.
When he was a student, I read the flashcards out loud for my husband while he studied. When he took the grueling series of 8-hour board exams, I found myself looking at my clock from home, knowing exactly when he would take his break, and when he would be wrapping it up, as we rehearsed.
I had aspirations of other kinds of achievements, but my job became “the job,” and his job became “the career,” so that I can support my family better. I did the pickups and drop-offs of the kids at their preschools and daycares. I brought his pager to him if he forgot it at home. I took off sick when the kids needed me.
I sat with him when we found out he did not match into GI fellowship at first attempt and stayed with him until dawn to brainstorm an alternative plan — one that would eventually allow him to successfully match.
Each time he got a new job, I packed and moved us and our kids away from our home. I looked up the closest grocery store, found new doctors and dentists, and made life as easy as possible for everyone as you got uprooted and replanted.
Friend, I know it’s probably the same for you in your relationship, too!
When married to medicine, you accompany your DrSpouse all the steps of their medical journey. Your ups, downs, surprises, disappointments, celebrations become both of yours. Your fates are intertwined. And both your goals are the same, which is to get through training successfully and create a successful family while at it, too.
So go ahead and say “we” and act as a team TOGETHER.
WE medical spouses get it.