At eighteen years old, I remember being filled with this sense of wanderlust. After high school I was going to strap on a back-pack and explore the world, with Berkeley California as my starting off point. Not that I had any real knowledge of what life was like over there- still I was poised to take on the world. Of course, when I told my parents about my intended adventure, my mother- always the practical petunia- warned me that I would never get married if I didn’t do the sensible thing- stay at a local college and start dating…as soon as possible.
Let me give you a little background regarding my youth– I was raised with the understanding -despite its archaic roots- that the greatest achievement a woman could ever make was to nab a doctor for a husband. The mere act of typing these words makes me cringe- but I allowed my mother’s sense of urgency and good old-fashioned scare tactics…”you’ll end up 25 and alone–an old maid (perish the thought)” catapult me on that singular mission to find my doctor McDreamy.
It was a roller coaster ride; dating doctors of every specialty, logging so many years being entrenched in the field of medicine I almost feel as though I should be awarded with some sort of honorary- girlfriend of a doctor medical certificate.
Doctors are a certainly a unique breed; imagine sacrificing a good ten years of your life to medical school, internship, residency, fellowship until you can finally begin making some money and establishing your career. Of course I am the polar opposite– having flitted between so many jobs-I think that might be one of the attributes that kept me on a steady stream of dating these men of science…their ability to be so utterly convicted and committed. Surely how could a man armed with that focused sense of personal responsibility and virtue not make the perfect husband?
Then it happened. I finally met my Doctor McDreamy, McSteamy all rolled into one– and I truly thought we would to ride off into the sunset- stethoscope and all. And for a few years we did just that. I was the doctor’s wife my mother had primed me to be…attending banquets and conferences and acting the part of the dutiful, committed better half. But it wasn’t even remotely like anything I had envisioned or been promised. He was never home, and when he was he was being called in at 3am on a regular basis to perform emergency dialysis on patients. Even when I had his physical presence beside me, I always felt like the wheels inside his brain were spinning about the blood levels of his patients, skyrocketing malpractice premiums, colleagues who were being implicated in one malpractice suit after another, and I could see him drowning -although he never actually verbalized it to me.
There’s a dark side to medicine- the one those awe inspiring docs on Grey’s Anatomy don’t dare mention– malpractice, and it is the underbelly of every decision a doctor makes.This dark and frightening reality is something every doctor– and his better half live with. While most can simply take it in stride, the thought and threat of it- looming like an ever present thunderous cloud- able to erupt at any minute – despite my husband’s obsessive attention to detail and 24/7 commitment to his patients- is what has ultimately forced him to leave his clinical practice after 20 very long years as a practicing physician.
How ironic? I ended up married to a doctor who no longer wants to be a doctor. So where does that leave us now that we’ve got two kids, private school tuitions, a hefty mortgage and lots of bills? I’ll admit it, I’m nervous, but my husband on the other hand…I haven’t seen him this happy and at peace since our very first carefree date-12 years ago… roller blading in Central Park- with a brand new beginning in front of us- a clean slate with endless possibilities.