By Monica Swanson
We had our first son after my husband’s second year of medical school. Just two years later, I was a full eight months pregnant with our second son when my husband graduated, and we made the big move to Oahu for Family Practice residency. Son number three arrived during the third and final year of residency. Six years later, we decided to “try for that girl,” and nine months later, welcomed our fourth son into the world.
Some may question: How in the world did we find the time/energy to make all of those babies? It’s true—medical school and residency use up most of your time, and all of your energy. I guess we are pretty fertile.
If you’ve been through medical training, or been the spouse of someone who has, then you can imagine that I had some long, lonely days and nights during those years. I grew compassionate toward all single mothers because I certainly felt like one. The worst part might have been that we were living across a giant ocean from all family and close friends.
Indeed—I was stretched, and I did a lot of growing up during those years. It’s true: Choosing to have kids during any part of the medical training years is a mixed bag. There are plenty of unique challenges to this decision, but also plenty of rewards.
Looking back one thing I have is a heart full of memories of some of the funny things that came along with having young kids during the medical training years. Even if some things didn’t seem so funny at the time.
Routinely, the boys and I would load up the car to drive to the next town where my husband did many rotations in the hospital ICU and Emergency Department. How often I remember unloading strollers, sippy cups, Tupperware containers, and diaper bags so that we might join my husband in the cafeteria or a quiet meeting room to eat together. I looked forward to these meetings, especially on days were I hadn’t interacted with another adult. All. Day. Long.
It seemed to never fail, as soon as we would find a place to sit down (or more often, before we could sit,) my husband’s pager would go off. He would check the pager, and then with a quick look of regret in his eyes, Dave would dash off, often leaving his family, food, and the luggage that came with us, behind. The emergency department ended up with many plates of homemade cookies that year, even if my husband tasted few of them.
I’ll never forget one such night when we pulled into the ER guest parking lot. Our two-year old Jonah squealed excitedly, and then yelled “Oh yay! We’re going to Daddy’s house!”
I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry.
How many times we’ve seen people at church, or at a weekend event, and someone asks, “Where’s your dad today?” to which one of my young sons replies, “He’s at the doctor’s,” or “He’s in the hospital.”
Another risky thing in our family is scrolling through photos on my husband’s iPhone. Accidentally happening upon photos of random infections, or oozing wounds, the boys have more than once been simultaneously repulsed and intrigued.
I always love to hear one of my elementary-age boys wish his daddy farewell before work, or greet him when he comes home from work. In child-like fashion, he always says, “Have fun at work today Dad!” to which my husband says he’ll try. And after work, in genuine interest, our son will ask “Did anyone die today, Dad? Or, “Did you keep everyone alive?”
These are all things that, whether or not the kids know it, are unique to being in a medical family. And though at the time, I wished away a lot of those moments, I am glad to have them to remember for a lifetime.
We’d love for you to comment with any funnies from your own medical family!
Monica Swanson lives with her very active family on two acres in the country on Oahu, Hawaii. You can read more about Monica and her discussions on parenting, healthy marriage and recipes at her blog: www.monicaswanson.com.