On the Side: April 2023
WHY We Need Each Other
It is not rocket science
Carol Mason Shrader
Some days when the deadline for writing my On the Side devotional is looming—or loomed last week and is now bearing down on me like a bullet train—and the words are stuck in my head, I scroll through old issues to see what topics we have covered as a team. Today, I was on a mission. We had a recent question from a leader who was looking for guidance as she replied to a hard comment about why doctors’ wives have to meet together—why must we form “cliques”, she was asked. So today, I went digging to find the day I had poured all of this out. I let every raw emotion we felt during residency find its way to my paper in the hopes that no one reading would ever feel alone. If you indulge me, I am going to share again. Forgive me if you read this in 2011, but I don’t dare try to recapture what was still so fresh then:
Recently, I read a book about the original astronaut wives. I am not sure I recommend it—it was poorly written and told tales that frankly disappointed me about some of our national heroes. But as a former NASA wife, (yep, my hubby was a rocket scientist before medical school) I was curious.
One particular scene keeps sticking in my head: the second group of astronauts have been selected and moved to Houston, Texas where they all lived in the same neighborhood. As the new group of wives enter the first meeting of the Astronaut Wives’ Club (according to the book, NASA thought all good astronauts should have a good marriage) there was a trepidation and an innate fear among the new recruits that they could not possibly live up to the standards the first group of wives had set. There were fears about the women waiting to throw themselves at their husbands when they were in Florida for training, and fears that their husbands would not survive the missions set before them. But these women were scared to express even one of those concerns to the more seasoned wives for fear of looking weak, unable to cope.
My heart ached for these women even as I felt deep in my soul a sense of familiarity to their feelings. A sense of understanding:
The room felt like a college activity fair. I walked in and was immediately aware that the Alice Mayo Society, the sponsors of the introductory brunch for all the incoming resident spouses, was going to make it very easy to connect with my fellow resident wives. I was thrilled. My inclination was to sign up for everything—right before I remembered that I had three two-year-olds in tow and might not have the time for volleyball (or the skill set required, but who was thinking about that?), supper club, Bible study AND underwater-basket-weaving (ok, that wasn’t a thing, but how cool would that be?!).
I signed up for two things that day—Gourmet Supper Club (in hopes that the club would force hubby and me out of the house together at least monthly) and a healthcare spouses Bible study (Side By Side).
I remember walking into my first Side By Side meeting. I was fairly tripping over myself with excitement—and diaper bags. I was eager and hopeful and full of anticipation. But there was a smidge, a tad bit, a hint of fear that I did not want these new acquaintances, these possible friends, to know the struggles I feared in my healthcare marriage. Surely, I was alone in my worries, fears and loneliness. The beautiful ladies gathered around my table certainly did not look like they had the same worries.
Regardless, Fridays became my best day of the week. I left Side By Side feeling empowered by the Spirit of God, I could be the single-mother I needed to be. I could be the wife my husband needed during his training years. I could do this.
But in the dark of night, when Wade was called to the hospital, Satan could have a field day: “You can’t do this. Your man is doing life-saving work. Why would he want you? He is tired. He is tired OF you. He is with smart, amazing people all day long. You change diapers all day long. He must be bored with you. He must.”
And so I would wrestle. I would struggle. I would cry out to God, but I was afraid to tell anyone else, even my fast-becoming-friends at Side By Side, that I was struggling. Because, like those young astronaut wives in 1962, I was afraid to show weakness.
Wade was having his own struggles. He was exhausted. He was tired. He was doing life-saving work and the stress of that was no small thing. My encouragement felt like platitudes in my own ears. How could I even possibly understand what he was going through?
He never said that to me. He tried to assure me of my worth. He told me how much he valued my role as wife and mother to our children. It wasn’t his words that were bothering me—it was words in my own heart, in my own mind—in the lies Satan was whispering.
Then one day, when my husband was in the midst of a rotation that required long hours at the hospital, more nights there than home, and exhaustion and fatigue that was visible when he did walk in the door, one dear soul at my Side By Side table did it. She said something out loud that blasted through my walls and assured me I was safe in baring my soul. She looked at me and asked, “So, your husband is on the trauma service?” I nodded and she continued, “Has he had a personality change yet?”
What? I couldn’t believe my ears! Still guarded, I asked her what she meant. “You know,” she said, “those guys are working such long hours that they are barely recognizable to us when they come home. I keep track of how many weeks it takes [Bob] to undergo a personality change. It is always a relief at the end of that service to get my husband back to himself.”
And with that simple conversation, I realized I was not going crazy. I was not losing my mind. I. Was. Not. Alone.
Oh praise the Lord! Praise the Lord for caring about every single struggle we endure. That conversation was not by accident. Rather, I am convinced that the Holy Spirit was prompting those words just for me.
Satan’s lies intend to paralyze us. His lies intend to torment, divide and conquer. For me, the lies of deception the enemy whispered were wall-building, isolating. I was my own worst enemy because the walls were causing me to remain silent. My pride was keeping me silent. My pride was causing a great grief. Once I was willing to be transparent, to tear down my walls, grace was able to conquer. Love and support of women who understood were able to protect me and build me up in a way that left me stronger than I ever imagined.
Satan lies to tear us down.
God’s truth is that we are never alone.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave your nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV).
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1, ESV).
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4, ESV).
God’s truth is that we are not the first to go through any sin or struggle. We are not alone!
“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, The Message).
God’s truth is that He knows the plans for us—and our husbands—plans not to harm us, but to do us good.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’”(Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
Whatever season you are in today, can I ask you to examine your heart and make sure you are not building walls out of pride, walls out of fear, walls out of alone-ness?
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20, NIV).
Oh dear ones, it has been 12 years since I first wrote those words but I can still say resoundingly that THIS is why Side By Side is so important. We are not forming a clique because we only want to hang out with other doctors’ wives. As a matter of fact, I encourage you to engage in your surrounding community. But there are days, months, seasons (dare I say lifetimes?) where we need to be surrounded by others who know the particular stressors, who understand the unique trials and frankly who can speak the acronyms (for the love, there are so many acronyms).
I am praying for you today that you can find connection where you are—through a local Side By Side chapter, through our Facebook or Instagram communities, or through our virtual Side By Side chapter. I am praying that you tear down the walls, and know that unlike those astronaut wives, your Side By Side sisters are waiting to welcome you with open arms, shared experiences and probably a muffin and cup of coffee!
Carol Mason Shrader lives in Wilmington, Delaware with her rocket-scientist-turned-orthopedic-surgeon, one teenaged daughter, one young adult son and two dogs. She is happy her adult daughter has settled for now in Philadelphia just a short drive away, and her other son has opted to pursue his PhD on the east coast (Brown) so will be much much closer to home soon! She finds that she can switch between over-sharing and building walls in two minutes flat and so works diligently on finding the balance!
 Koppel, L. (2013) The Astronaut Wives Club. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing.