I feel so grateful to have so many folks willing to contribute to the Marriage & Medicine series. The more voices we have speaking into this space, the better, and today is no exception. Here to chat about her experience as the wife of a urology resident is my dear friend Lauren Carnes! Lauren is no stranger to this blog...in fact, she was the VERY FIRST person that I interviewed last year as a part of the Celebration Series (check it out if you'd like!).
Lauren and I met in college and have stayed in touch over the years as we've travelled very similar paths (get married, support husband through medical school and again through residency, start a business, work from home, get a dog and snuggle him/her all day long. You know, as you do. In all seriousness, Lauren has always been a few steps ahead of me in the business-building realm and I've benefitted immensely from her advice and wisdom over the years. I feel so lucky to have such a supportive friend who knows exactly what I'm going through...because she's lived it herself.
That's really my vision for this space. That we can find, virtually or otherwise, people who have been exactly where we are and can speak into our lives when we're dealing with the hard stuff.
Alright, enough rambling...let's get into the interview!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you and your partner been together? Where are you in the medical journey?
Hi friends, I’m Lauren Carnes! I’m a photographer & communications strategist working from home with our sweet yellow lab rescue pup, Sophie. My husband, Chip, and I originally met in college (where Lindsay & I were sorority sisters, and her husband Beau and Chip were fraternity brothers actually!). But our story has a fun little international twist to it… in fact, we had all of the same friends, but somehow never had met during my first two years of college.
Just before a summer of studying abroad, we discovered we’d be on the same trip and briefly ran into each other during a big cycling race one weekend in downtown Athens, GA. However, we didn’t truly meet until we were roaming the orange-tree lined streets of Sevilla, Spain during our 2 months abroad.. I was going into my Junior year, and he was preparing for his Senior year, which meant lots of talk of medical school applications, interviews, and more. That summer of 2009 was a pretty magical one, I won’t lie. I mean, who doesn’t want a summer romance that lasts a lifetime? When we returned from our summer of studying abroad, life looked a little different once school began again. However, one thing was for sure when interview season came around: we were in this together, and I was ready for whatever the medical journey had in store for us.
He was accepted into the first class of a new partnership between the Medical College of Georgia & University of Georgia, and we opted for staying in Athens for 4 more years. Not long after I graduated, he popped the question, and we got married 5 years ago on March 10, 2012, just a couple months before Step 1 of the Boards. Anyone who remembers that time knows that Boards prep means endless studying with few breaks. It certainly wasn’t easy, but the dedication to teamwork was, and still is, the only way this medical journey has been made possible for us, our marriage, and our lives.
Chip now is a 3rd year (of 5) Urology resident at Georgia Regents University in Augusta, GA. We’re already exploring potential options for once he finishes, and it actually blows my mind to think that one day he’ll be finished with school & training!
What has been the hardest part of the medical journey?
Immediately upon return from our honeymoon, Boards were looming. Studying was a full day event, and I remember having a hard time with reframing my expectations of the “newlywed” life. While there were certainly times we would get to enjoy relaxing together and visit farmers markets, adventure, and travel on the weekend, most of his hours were spent in his office with test prep books and quizzing notecards over dinner. Nobody said it would be easy to marry into medicine, but I also remember how much I wanted to find ways to help Chip focus well so that we could get back to our “honeymoon phase” quickly!
During that season I quickly learned how I could support him best: preparing dinner so he was able to truly check out of studying for 30 minutes each evening, keeping myself busy with friends and hobbies so he felt less guilty about his long hours (in fact, this was when I started exploring photography!), and even letting him share about what he was learning during his long hours of test prep. I could resent his schooling, or I could see it as an investment he was making for our future family. When I turned the tables to see it as the latter, “he” quickly became “we.” I learned the value of cheering him on in his endeavors – through the great days and the really hard ones – knowing full well that all of this time and effort (and a few tears from me) would be worth it and would make us stronger as a couple.
How do you find joy in your circumstances?
Like I mentioned, I firmly believe in the power of teamwork and of finding what makes you and your season of life unique. Residency isn’t easy. It’s not uncommon that people’s jaws drop when I tell him he will have 9 years of post-college schooling/training before officially being an attending physician. It’s a long haul, but there is also joy in the process. We’ve made some of our dearest friends through the medical journey: couples we likely would never have connected with had we not been through this process together.
Plus, I’ve been challenged to step outside of my comfort zone during this season to pursue a business that lets us live wherever his career calls. I went from working a traditional 9-to-5 to working for myself shooting everything from weddings to food photography, and consulting other businesses on marketing and communications. I don’t know if I would have been so bold to pursue these opportunities had Chip’s career not prompted a move and a change. Plus, teamwork goes both ways. Yes, I support him in his medical journey, but he also supports me entirely in my adventures as a small business owner! I find the joy in the day-to-day growth of our lives and marriage that reaps rewards and benefits far beyond the date he received the coveted MD at the end of his name.
What’s something you’ve learned about yourself and/or your relationship lately?
I recently started asking Chip one particular question every day after work. I’m an extrovert, so sitting at home by myself all day can definitely result in a waterfall of conversation the minute his key clicks in the door. Chip is right smack dab in the center of the Myers-Briggs scale – 50% Introvert, 50% Extrovert, but after a long day at the hospital, he needs a bit of down time. So instead of flooding him with questions, I’ve picked one single question that has made all the difference in our family.
“What is the most interesting or terrible thing that you did, saw, or experienced today?”
It sounds simple, but that one question gives endless insight into the type of day Chip had at the hospital. It highlights anything that we can celebrate together, and also gives insight into if it was just a particularly tough day. I’ve learned that different communication styles and personality types respond to excitement and stress differently, so this question has been crucial in our marriage to set the tone for the evening!
And on top of it, it’s prompted an equally unique question from his end: “What is one thing you learned today?” And do you know what I love most about that question? Chip’s a forever learner, and it makes me smile getting to discuss something that sparked interest or education in our lives each day!
What’s the best advice you could give to someone else in your shoes?
Find something that lights your soul on fire. On those long days (and nights!), having something that not only keeps you busy, but also fuels your purpose, can make all the difference during the medical journey. Make plans with others, and keep them, even if your partner gets called in to the hospital or runs late in surgery. Believe the best in your partner… I promise, they don’t want to be studying or working long hours any more than you don’t want them to be. ;) And finally, remember that teamwork really makes the dream work. Support, encourage, and celebrate one another every day, even when it’s tough. This is just a season, and the days are long, but the years are short.