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Lives of Doctor Wives: Truly Awful Doctor's Wife

Monday, March 25, 2013

Truly Awful Doctor's Wife

by Jennifer
From the Corner of My Couch

If you don’t already have an Awful Story, you probably will by the time you finish training. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m the only Truly Awful Doctor's Wife. But in case you don’t have an Awful Story, I thought I’d share mine in hopes of saving you the shame and disgrace of being a Truly Awful Doctor's Wife.

So Michael was in his fellowship year in Pediatric Ophthalmology. We had been married since MS 1, and now he was PGY 5. That’s a long time. On this particular day, I was a little weary. Between caring for our (then) two kids and the house and everything else, I was pulling a load of laundry out of the dryer when I noticed my once-lovely black twin set sweater amid the t-shirts and blue jeans. The sweater set that my mother had bought for me. At a department store. In the Name Brand section. The one I couldn’t afford on Michael’s meager PGY paycheck. The one that very clearly states in itsy bitsy font on the underside of the tiny little tag on the inside side seam DRY CLEAN ONLY. The sweater that was one of the very few nice pieces of clothing I owned because when your husband is in training, you shop at consignment stores and Target. The sweater set that I could dress up, dress down, and wear with every pair of pants and every skirt hanging in my closet. Well, almost.

The sweater set I now held in my shaking hands was shredded. Shrunk. Grossly disfigured. Completely ruined.

The doer of such an evil deed? My beloved pediatric ophthalmology fellow who, of course, was presently at the hospital.

I grabbed the phone, angrily punched in his pager number with all the force that my size 4 fingers could muster, and waited for him to return the call.

Calm down, I told myself. Breathe. Do not yell at him. Breathe.

But of course, when the phone rang, I let him have it. I yelled. I insulted. I fumed.

And he took it. Graciously. Humbly. Apologetically.

Whew! I feel better now, I thought. OK, I’m calm now. I took a deep breath and casually added, “So how is your day going?”

“Well,” he replied, “I just told two parents that their baby has retinoblastoma. He’ll probably have to be enucleated.”

(Retinoblastoma: a rare and ugly cancerous tumor in the eye occurring in young children. Enucleation: complete removal of the eyeball.)


Michael sees retinoblastoma about once a year, and every time, he is devastated. He takes it really, really hard – often to the point that he can’t sleep at night. And the parents of these kids? I can’t even imagine.

And my stupid, stupid sweater was ruined.

And I just yelled at my husband, who was fighting to save a baby’s life.

Truly. Awful. Wife.

Never mind that he was doing the laundry. Never mind that he is the kindest, gentlest, most generous, most humble person I know. Never mind that he didn’t purposefully set out to ruin my clothing. He was trying to help. He was trying to lighten my load. And no one deserves to be treated the way I had just treated him.

So there you have it. I was a Truly Awful Doctor's Wife. I’m embarrassed to say it took another year or so after that horrible incident before I really understood what it means to respect my husband. I needed a few more kicks in the rear before I quit being so insanely self-absorbed.

He hates it when I beat myself up. He sees something in me that I find almost impossible to see myself. He is quick to sing my praises and tell anyone how much I have sacrificed for him, how he couldn’t do it without me. And even though I don’t think I deserve such adoration, I love him for it.

The lesson here? Spare yourself the humiliation. In your justified frustration, remember that he loves you. Remember that he is doing really important work. Remember that someone else’s very life is in his hands. Take a breath, and love him back. Try to keep it all in perspective. When he does screw up the laundry—or anything else—wait before you speak, and when you speak, treat him kindly.

There will always be another sweater set.



Blogger Jenny said...

Thank you so much. You brought me to tears. I am guilty of this. My husband rocks, and like yours goes out of his way to try to help me. I guess what I am teyi.g to say is that your post is humbling. Thank you.

March 25, 2013 at 4:19 PM  
Blogger Sara Cate said...

I am so glad you shared this story. I have had similar moments, and It's so glad to know I'm not alone. It's easy to let one tough moment outshine all of other things hubs is contributing to/sacrificing, but you can't let it. Thank you for your story and reminder.

March 25, 2013 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger From A Doctors Wife said...

We have our own laundry story! I cringe every time he tells me he just started a load or transferred something to the dryer.

March 25, 2013 at 7:40 PM  
Blogger Jane and Stuart said...

Thank you for sharing your story. That was a good reminder for me. I know I have had a few of those moments.

March 26, 2013 at 12:10 AM  
Blogger Casie said...

Oh man, how I relate to this! It's really hard to keep in check about the small things that seem so important in my world and I do have to remind myself that if I yell at the hubs, he might have an off day at work and that could result in tragedy. I'm glad you shared this story because I think everyone can relate. I also think you are a great writer. Good post.

March 26, 2013 at 1:46 PM  

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