Sunday, September 25, 2016

5 Benefits of Being Married to a Doctor

Some of you may know, about 10 days ago, my son was born through elective C-section surgery. For those who don't know what this means, it is basically an operation near the abdominal area of the mother to remove the baby from the womb. It is a fairly straightforward surgery. Our doctor advised us that natural birth posed a higher risk for the baby, but less risk to the mother. On the other hand, surgery posed a higher risk for the mother, but had minimal risks for the baby. Based on that, we decided to take the latter route.

And over the last 10 days, while I was busy celebrating the joys of being a new father, I had some time to ponder our 9-month long journey that led up to the pinnacle of Baby Michael's birth.

There were many ups and downs but on hindsight, this ride was made so much smoother just because my wife is a doctor. I don't show it often enough, but I truly and greatly appreciate the fact that my wife is a highly skilled and knowledgeable physician.

The list below is the top 5 of many other benefits of being married to a doctor.

1. Free personal medical advice/medicine/medical documentation

No prizes for guessing that I get free medical advice. However, being a doctor in the government clinic, she also enjoys the benefits of knowing other doctors, pharmacists who can dispense medication/supplements during her pregnancy.

She was also working in Sibu, Sarawak, which is about a 2-hour flight from Selangor, where I work. As a pregnant lady, taking flights back to West Malaysia requires a doctor's note. And my wife flies home at least 1-2 times a month. Having to go to a clinic to get a doctor's note every time she has to fly would have been a pain in the butt. But since she is a doctor who works at the clinic, getting those notes became no hassle at all.

2. Calm in the middle of a storm

By now, some of you may be wondering how can a pregnant woman fly so often. That is the very nature of my wife. In general, I truly believe that doctors are trained to be strong and independent. To remain calm when everyone around them is panicking. Otherwise, they would never get past 5 years of medical school.

What I truly appreciate about this characteristic is that her calmness keeps everyone else around calm. There were so many unknowns and uncertainties throughout the 9 months of our long distance pregnancy experience. How often do we have to fly back and forth to see each other? What happens if the baby had to be born prematurely? Can she survive living practically alone for 8 months carrying a child?

On hindsight, the past 9 months have been a miracle. My wife has been a rock throughout the last 9 months (and more). We are both truly blessed that our son is born healthy.

3. Other doctor friends

One of the coolest things about being married to a doctor is that they have plenty of doctor friends. I attended a couple of wedding dinners of my wife's friends, and we usually get seated at a table full of doctors. Generally, I don't really understand 50% of what they are talking about, but that is OK because that also means I don't have to talk very much. Just nod and smile.

Jokes aside, one of the other cool benefits is that she knows a Obstetrician & Gynaecologist who gave us a very significant discount for conducting one of our scanning sessions. We decided to go to a private hospital to get a 3D scan during the 7th month of pregnancy just to see what our son looks like.

A typical checkup costs close to RM300, depending on the hospital. We got to do our checkup for a steal. We could not believe the bill when we saw it.

Another great example is that my wife's ex-boss is also a Obstetrician & Gynaecologist. A very good one at that. Because of this, we knew exactly where to go to deliver our son. We did not have to shop around at different hospitals to find the most suitable and affordable option. We went straight to her ex-boss at a government hospital and we got excellent service there. More on this later.

4. Willingness to save others first

This is definitely one benefit that cannot be oversold, especially once you become a parent. For the first few days, your entire world (and sometimes more) revolves around the needs of this "can't-be-reasoned-with" dictator. 

WARNING: DO NOT stand or look too closely when you change a baby's diaper.

With the arrival of a child, if not managed well, the needs of the child can often turn into a major source of conflict for both parents. Whose turn is it to change the diapers? Whose turn is it to pick up the kid from soccer practice? This kind of behavior can often lead to unsustainable marriage practices as discussed in my previous article.

The Wall Street Journal quotes a research paper:

About two-thirds of couples see the quality of their relationship drop within three years of the birth of a child, according to data from the Relationship Research Institute in Seattle, a nonprofit organization focused on strengthening families. 
Sorry for all that negative publicity for having children. What I am trying to say is that while we share in the joy of having children, very often, couples forget to appreciate one another, and start to revert to their instinct of self-preservation. They start placing their own desires ahead of the family's. 

However, it is my belief (stereotypical as it may seem) that doctors somehow are less susceptible to selfish tendencies. This belief is founded on the basis that doctors generally have to fork out about half a million Ringgit to pursue what is considered to be one of the most difficult programs in university. To top it off, for the investment in being a doctor to be financially sound, one has to complete his/her specialization and sometimes sub-specialization before he/she can earn the big bucks. By this virtue, I choose to believe that doctors inherently have some gene in their body to want to help others first. 

And that is why I feel reassured that my wife and I will be able to raise our child in a wholesome and happy family. 

5. Special privileges at government hospitals

Last and perhaps the most important is that we really do get special benefits/treatment at government hospitals. 

Anyone who has been to a government hospital in Malaysia will most likely experience the expected dread that is the bureaucracy of the Malaysian public sector. I am actually quite pleased to say that we had quite the opposite experience at the government hospital that Michael was delivered in.

During our final check-up before deliver, I was admittedly dreading having to do it at the government hospital. Even though our appointment was at 12.30 pm, my wife insisted that we had to be at the hospital by 10.30 am and wait there for 2 hours. This would have been completely unacceptable in most other circumstances, but this is what we have come to expect from the Malaysian public sector. 

However, during our registration, the administrative assistant at the counter told us that we could just come at 12.30 pm and we were definitely too early for our appointment. We would be the first in line in any case. The multiple steps required by the bureaucracy still existed, and we had to do a bunch of silly administrative chores. Ordinarily, we would have been served by nurses and medical assistants that had sour faces (perhaps due to overwork). 

The biggest difference I noticed was that every time they looked at our files, they immediately took notice of the fact that my wife was a doctor, and their sour faces turned into smiles (that exude rainbows and unicorns). They became extremely courteous and polite, serving us to the best of their ability. I noticed the same thing happening again during the day of Baby Michael's delivery. All the nurses kept referring to my wife as "The Doctor" like she was the Don of some Italian Mafia. I was pleasantly amused. 

On top of that, only a few days ago, we had to take Baby Michael for his jaundice check-up. We were concerned that his jaundice had spread to his legs and decided to go straight to the Trauma and Emergency Unit. The medical assistant at the gate had initially tried to turn us to the clinic before allowing us to seek consultation with the doctors at the emergency unit. However, upon finding out that my wife is a doctor, he quite promptly ushered us in without any further argument. Thankfully Baby Michael is just fine and we were informed that it was safe to go home.

There were many other small examples of how a government doctor really does have special privileges, but the above is just simply a clear exhibition of the "good fortune" that I have experienced just because my wife is a doctor.

It goes without saying, but I really must say that I am truly grateful and blessed with a loving wife (not just because she is a doctor) and I look forward to raising a very cute and intelligent son with her. 

Thursday, September 08, 2016

3 Questions to Ask Before You Get Married

Ordinarily, catchy titles like these are just gimmicks or click-baits that make you click to an article that falls severely short of the promised content.

I did not even intent to make this into a public post, but after the continued urging and coercing by my peers, I felt that perhaps, there is some value of this wisdom that I have acquired through many years of studying human relationships and personalities.

One could argue that apart from finding your purpose in life, finding your soul mate is considered to be one of life's most important quests. It would seem unlikely that anyone could reduce such a complex matter to just 3 questions.

As a keen observer of life, I would actually argue the opposite. Most of life's greatest wonders are often simplest. When asked to describe their soul mate, many people have a list of criteria that they tend to belt out: e.g. smart, funny, has a nice smile, kind eyes, caring, loving and the list goes on. But this is the problem. Once the list gets too long, the criteria becomes impossible to meet.

So how then, do we know if we are marrying the right person? The 3 questions below will help you determine if your partner is that right one.

1. What does he/she do when shit hits the fan?

It is inevitable in life that things can and will go wrong. How does your partner react when you experience an unforeseen and unfortunate event. What does your partner do when your car breaks down in the middle of the highway. Does he drive out to pick you up? Or does he ask you to take a cab?

While it may seem like common sense, it is very far from common practice. The point I am trying to make is that, is your partner willing to sacrifice his own convenience to assist you in overcoming yours? Such behavior would be a clear indicator of how he/she would treat you when you are in need.
It is easy to be caring and loving in good times. But the true test of the right partner is whether he will stick around in bad times. Try to observe your partner's preference over a period of time. This is the most easily observable trait. If he/she fails this first question, we don't even have to go to questions 2 and 3.

2. Do you have common principles?

What are principles? Google gives us this definition:

a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior.

An example of life's principles is Abundance:

Abundance: We live in a world of abundance. There are unlimited wealth and unlimited opportunities for everyone. So don’t worry about whether you can succeed in something and focus on how to succeed in it.

Another example:

Being yourself: It is better to be a first rate version of yourself than a second rate version of someone else.

There are always tells for your partner's principles. Does your partner require other people's approval to to feel happy? Do you feel that your success is defined by your own terms and not on others?
Bear in mind that there is no right or wrong here. It is just how you choose to live your life. However, if your fundamental beliefs are different, it will more often than not become the source of your disagreements.

You will begin to notice that many of your arguments often begin or end with the question, "Why do you keep.... *insert verb*...?" These are clues that show that you have differing life principles.
Having similar life principles is infinitely more important than liking the same movies or the same songs. Tastes and preferences change over time. But our fundamental beliefs and principles? I would not bet on it.

3. Am I bargaining?

Well, sorry because I tricked you. This question us actually in 2 parts. So technically it is 4 questions. But these 2 questions are so interlinked, I decided to lump them together.

3a. Am I bargaining with my partner?

Some people tend to see this as compromise. Yes, if done sparingly, this can be perceived as compromise. For example, this question manifests itself when situations like these occur:

"Yesterday I washed the dishes. Today is your turn."

"I just hung the clothes out to dry earlier. Can you please bring it inside?"

On the surface, this appears like helping each other out. However, if these scenarios happen too frequently, it can transform into pettiness. It is actually a symptom of being calculative. For a relationship to be sustainable, partners should be generous with one another. As in all relationships, we often get in return more than what we put into the relationship.

As my wife often suggests, always aim to give 10% more than what you are supposed to. You will be surprised at what you get in return.

3b. Am I bargaining with myself?

Often, in our journey towards finding a soul mate, we come very close. We arm ourselves with our lists of criteria, go out into the world, in search for the partner that meets all our criteria. After years of searching, some of us get lucky, but most of us, usually come close.

Some of my peers have commented that they love their partner very much, but there is just one or two things that they wish that their partners could change. The counter argument to this is that we should accept our partners as they are, their flaws as well as their imperfections.

I submit that it is hogwash. As the saying goes, there is no such thing as finding someone who is perfect. Rather, only someone who is perfect for you. You would usually find yourself in such a situation when your partner fails Question No.2. On some level, your principles are not aligned. Eventually, you will find start bargaining with yourself, especially regarding your partner's behavior. You tell yourself that you should be able to accept them for who they are, including their flaws.

Therein lies the problem. The fact that you perceive your partner's traits as flaws is in itself problematic. Traits are just traits. If you have to bargain with yourself to accept your partner's traits, you will be starting an internal conflict that will continue to fester until it eventually erupts.

However, that is not to say there is no remedy for this. For starters open communication is key. We need to be able to communicate our dissatisfaction openly. In order to avoid getting stuck with being unhappy with certain traits, we should openly discuss how we can move on together as a couple.

For example, if you are a neat freak and find that your partner likes to leave things around all over the place. It is easy to just whine about how they should keep keep their stuff neat and tidy. However, we need to take the extra step and provide an enabler for that behavior. One way is to buy a shelf for them to store their things. Perhaps, the reason they are leaving their things lying around is simply because there is insufficient space to store those things.

It must be surprising that the secret to a lasting relationship can be simplified to 3 simple questions. But it sure beats having to run each and every one of your partners through a list of criteria that cannot be fulfilled in its entirety.

I must however warn that the 3 questions above must not be compromised. If your partner meets 2 out of 3 of the criteria above, it is still very far from being sufficient. All 3 must be met for a long and sustainable relationship.

That said, I wish all of you the very best in finding your soul mates. I would very much like to hear from your experiences in the comments below!