Shame On Us: The Impossible Journey of a Working Mother

Let me tell you a story. A story that has me so angry on so many levels that I am not sure I’m going to be able to get this out without writing expletives on every other line, but I’ll try.

Meet Julia. Julia worked her ass off to put herself through business school. She took out a massive amount of student loans and commuted to Boston from her home, 60 miles south, in Rhode Island, every day for her first job.

Her first job was tough. She worked for a Hedge Fund company and the hours were long and the work was intense. She worked harder than she ever had before to prove herself and gave them her all. Her entire first year out of school was spent schlepping around the country for work. Practically living in airports, she was lucky she was dating a nice guy who understood her insane hours. Julia and Tom eventually got married and it took her two years before she realized that her current place of employment wasn’t jiving with her family plans. 

“You Can’t Have a Family” was practically written in their company handbook. Maybe not in ink, but it was made pretty clear by their expectations and the hours she was required to work. As she took a quick look around at the perpetually single and happily married but child-less co-workers who surrounded her, she knew that if she wanted to have children, she would need to change firms.

Julia moved onto greener pastures and found the perfect fit- a firm that was comprised of all women. It was everything she had been looking for: a place filled with strong working women, moms and wives who understood the daily struggle it is to be a woman in a man’s world. When she got pregnant shortly after starting there, they congratulated her and threw her an office baby shower. As her pregnancy progressed and her doctor appointments became more frequent, they understood; they too had been there at one time. She managed to fit her appointments in and made it through the calendar year without one sick day. Julia felt lucky to work in such a great working environment. She continued to pull her weight as a productive member of the team and earned the highest bonus in the company, while simultaneously preparing her home to welcome her much anticipated little bundle of joy. 

 She never slowed down and continued to work hard, even raking in one of the company’s biggest clients the week prior to her due date. Julia fully recognized that she was one of the lucky ones when she began her twelve week paid maternity leave when baby boy  arrived two days early.

Dylan was beautiful, even more perfect than Julia had imagined him being. Julia and Tom spent her maternity leave soaking up squishy baby cuddles and visiting local daycares. They enrolled Dylan in one of the top daycares in their area and Julia prepared to return to work. Twelve weeks flew by in a blink of an eye.

Julia had been back at work for two weeks before she had found herself in the same shoes as many other parents: exhausted from going back to work, continuously pumping and getting little to no sleep. Her immune system was down and she had caught a cold. She shipped Dylan off to her parents and told her boss that she would work from home. By Tuesday afternoon, she had spiked 102 fever and was diagnosed with strep throat and an upper respiratory infection. Julia was forced to take another sick day on Wednesday. She had been back at work for three weeks and had taken 2 sick days back to back , with one day working from home. 

Julia often worked from home prior to having the baby, but somehow, this time was different. Her phone didn’t ring once. No one from her office emailed her. Communication went dead. They were icing her out. Still sick as a dog Thursday morning, she knew something was up and she was going to have to go in to the office.

“We see that you are struggling Julia, and we want to help you out. We love you and we want to make you shine, but you are having a hard time and you are making yourself sick.” Julia’s boss explained, feigning a concerned tone. “We would like you to move to working as a consultant per diem. We have certain expectations of you now that you are mom, and simply put, you aren’t meeting them.”

“I wish someone did this for me, its sooo hard being a working mom. You know how much we love you, and we are doing this for you.” Some bitch, (obviously meant to be in the meeting as a witness) chirped. No one mentioned the fact that they had hired someone else while Julia was on maternity leave. “You will see this move as a gift, not as a punishment.”

“Yes,” Her boss interrupted, “I know this will be a big pay cut, but since you earned such a big raise last year, going per diem shouldn’t effect you so much. Think of all the money you will be saving on daycare now, too! We are doing you a favor.”

For Fuck’s Sake. Were these women for real? Had Julia had a streak of bad luck? Yes. She most certainly had, but she hadn’t even been back at work for 3 full weeks! Not only were they demoting her, but they were selling it to her like they were doing her a fucking favor. Shame on them. Julia sat there in silence, with a pounding headache and a sore throat, as she listened to these women feed her line after line of bullshit. 

Julia had a perfect record working in this company up until this point, and the fact that they escalated things so quickly after her coming back seems a little more than unfair. I have more issue with the fact that they pretended this was in her best interest than the actual fact that they demoted her. They planted the seed in her head that not only was she failing as a new mother, but also as a working mother. If she wasn’t able to handle one baby and work, how was she ever going to think about adding any additional children to her family? Her confidence immediately  plummeted the more they continued to talk. She left the meeting feeling emotionally exhausted, defeated, and like a piece of shit. Her self worth, both as a mother and a working woman had been attacked, and her psyche had been severely screwed with.

I’m all for gender equality, and I am all for having a solid work ethic and what is expected from employees in a professional setting.  All that being said, I question if this conversation would have occurred at all if Julia was a man. I severely doubt it. I have heard story after story of working women being considered a sub-par employee once they have children. I have seen it and lived it. I’ll admit it; It’s almost impossible to give 100% at work and at home. I spend the most time I can during work hours with clients, only to race to pick up my children from pre-school and daycare, make dinner, give baths, read books, cuddle and put them to bed.  Once I pickup the house after everyone has gone to bed, I pull out my lap top and get BACK to work. Ask any of my clients or co-workers. They’ve received an email or finalized documents at 12:35am in the morning from me.

The chips are stacked against us women. I’m not a man-hater, I’m just stating the facts. If Julia was a man, she wouldn’t have been on maternity leave in the first place. This is something that no one can control. Men are simply not equipped by nature to give birth, and therefore, this honor falls on our shoulders. 

 If Julia was a man, she would have not only been the target of such an attack, but I also firmly believe that if the bosses in this scenario were men, such personal issues wouldn’t have been brought into what should have been a business conversation in the first place. 

Fine, you don’t think I’m doing the job I should be? Demote me. Fire me, even. That’s fair. Don’t insult me by telling me you care about me and are doing me a favor. Why do women always feel the need to bring personal issues into business related material?

So, on some level, this story is made worse for me because her bosses are fucking women. They should know better. They should know that it takes some time for adjustment going back to work after having a baby, and getting sick is especially something that you cannot control. 

Julia is a perfect example of all that is wrong with the way the United States views new mothers and maternity leave. I have discussed the Glass Ceiling in previous posts, and this is a prime example of why it is virtually impossible for mothers to excel in the workplace. Working and managing a family, especially living with a newborn is not easy. Julia was set up to fail from the moment her FLMA leave time expired. 12 weeks is not enough time to spend at home with your new baby and adjust to your new “normal”. At 12 weeks old, Dylan had just started to wake up from his “newborn slumber” and was starting to become pretty fun as he became aware of the world around him. He was beginning to respond to Julia and Tom and his social smiles were more frequent now. Parenting had just begun to become more rewarding, and Julia watched as Dylan grew leaps and bounds both mentally and physically as each day went by.  Despite this exciting time, Julia was still exhausted; she was breast feeding and pumping every four hours and Dylan was still waking up three to four times a night. She hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in months. 

 At 12 weeks, your baby still needs you just as much as the day it was born and yet, some political genius out there thought that 12 short weeks all the time you needed to bond with your child before shipping them off into someone else’s care and heading back to the work force- not to mention that it’s not mandatory for your employer to pay you while you’re on maternity leave. I took the maximum 16 weeks I could when my second baby was born sick. I lost out on a quarter of my salary that year, not to mention the potential commission I lost because I work in sales and missed meeting with clients.

Unless you are blessed with available family, your child will spend their time with a stranger at a daycare, as you get a collective four hours of (non-consecutive) sleep a night and are expected to function like normal human being at work.

Shame on these women, shame on this broken system, and shame on us for allowing this sort of thing to continue in the United States. Turn the news on and all you will hear are politicians preaching about job reform, employment rates, and making sure that our economy grows. It’s never going to happen if we can’t address this glaring issue within our society. THINGS NEED TO CHANGE. We are living in 2017, not 1955. We are drastically behind on the times, and it’s embarrassing. Don’t kid yourself, this issue does not just effect women, it’s effecting everyone. 

Like mine, Julia’s  entire family’s income changed overnight, adding stress to her and her husband, and with the increased costs a child presents to their family, you can bet your bottom dollar they are going to be contributing less to the economy. The single guy working at the local restaurant that Julia and Tom frequent is now going to be out a few extra dollars since they won’t be in as often. The owner of that restaurant has lost two customers for the time being, and the person who supplies that restaurant’s produce has just received a slightly smaller order for this week. You may not think that this effects you, but it does. It trickles down to everyone. For being the most “powerful country in the world”, it’s deplorable that we haven’t figured out a better way to handle maternity leave and working mothers in a better way.

Let’s do something to change this. Start with Julia’s story and be inspired. Don’t let this happen to your family or someone you know, but the sad reality is that it probably already has.

And simply because I didn’t get to use enough profanity as I had hoped to in this point, let me close with offering those two ladies a big FUCK YOU on behalf of Julia and all the other working mothers and families out there.

Throwing Modesty Out the Window: Things No One Tells You Before and After You Give Birth

Congratulations! You’re pregnant? 

SAY GOODBYE TO ANY SHRED OF MODESTY YOU HAD.

I was two weeks overdue with my first child and took a week off prior to my due date (in case he was early) and ended up sitting around for three weeks as a hormonal mess. 

I kept wondering if this baby was ever going to come out of me. Finally, the day before I was about to be induced, I went into labor. I waited nine hours before actually going to the hospital. 

One of the fun parts of labor they don’t tell you about is that your stomach muscles are contracting so much, you’ll probably end up shitting yourself at some point. Everyone is so worried about doing it while pushing the baby out, no one thinks to worry about what happens before the baby comes out. As soon as I arrived, the nurse gave me a hospital gown to change into and I headed to the bathroom. The toilet seat was obviously made for a NBA basketball player and was way too high. I hoisted myself up onto the seat and was sitting there, buck naked, 8,000 months pregnant, feet dangling 5 inches from the floor, literally going to the bathroom when the nurse casually came in to have a little “chat” with me. It was as if this was completely normal. I was a gigantic  naked, fat whale, having a complete coversation with a stranger while I was actually pooping at the same time. There were literally audible sounds coming from the bathroom that neither came from her or my mouth. She didn’t seem the least bit phased, and as I sat there in all my beluga whale glory, I answered her questions . I walked out of that bathroom in my cotton hospital gown and knew in that instant that any privacy I was used to was soon to change, very quickly. 

For the last nine months, as my belly grew,  I had been having external and internal exams by my OBGYN.  It’s like your yearly OB exam on crack- a super pleasant experience where as a bonus you get to weigh in every.single.time– reminding you that size 4 dress in your closet will forever haunt you as what could be considered “your former self, before children.”  You might as well use that tiny piece of fabric as a burp cloth, because your fat ass isn’t going to fit into it again for a loooooong time; if ever.

During the holiday season while I was out shopping, I was asked by no fewer than five strangers if I was “due any day now” or “carrying twins.” I was 3 months away from my due date at that point and my only answer was that I was carrying an enormous beast in my belly- but thanks for asking anyway.

I had come to the point where I just wanted to wear a tee shirt that said: 

“Yes, I am pregnant. No, I’m not having twins. It is a boy. We do not have a name picked out and if you even try to go near my belly with your grubby hand I will back hand you… have a great day!”

I started growing out of my maternity clothes and refused to buy new ones because I was just so sick of wearing them in the first place. I’d sit in weekly board meetings with my staff, 2 inches of my bare belly hanging out of my shirt, in spandex and wearing slippers because my feet were so swollen. I had given up. 

In this world, there are “hot” pregnant ladies and then there are…. the rest of us. My wedding photographer begged me to take maternity pictures to commemorate this time. I should have done it at 3 months along- because that was pretty much the only time I looked like a “hot pregnant lady”

By the time my first child decided to make an entrance into this word, I had been in labor for 31 hours and my 10lb pork roll child was born via emergency c-section because his fat head couldn’t fit for a regular vaginal delivery. My delivery was documented in a previous post so I won’t go over that again, but this was the first time I really valued how incredible modern medicine is. I counted my blessings because if this had been 100+ years ago, I probably wouldn’t have lived through that delivery, and neither would my child. Without that c-section, he was not coming out.

There were quite a few post-partum moments that my modesty just flew out the window again. The first time my nurse took out my catheter so I could pee normally, she insisted it was her job to  “monitor me”. At this point I couldn’t give two shits about what was happening, so I sat on the toilet, I watched her squat down in front of me and spray warm water onto my nether regions. I swear, if I could have kissed this lady, I would have. Nurses deserve a lot more credit for what they do. After carrying a gigantic human inside of me, EVERYTHING was swollen. As this nurse helped me out, I almost cried because it felt so good. There needs to be a tip jar in your hospital room. 

Four glorious months later of living with a colicky, screaming baby, I found myself miraculously pregnant again. We had talked about having more children, but certainly not this soon. I always joke that I got pregnant with my second baby alone. My husband had gone out for the night with friends and I decided to drink and entire bottle of wine alone to celebrate my child  finally sleeping through the night. My husband came home as I was throwing the bottle in the recycling bin, and the rest is history. 

I ended up having two c-sections,13 months apart. My second c-section was planned. For months, I hadn’t been able to see my feet, never mind anything else below my gigantic belly.  I had an infant to take care of, while waddling around pregnant with my second child and maintaining my lady parts was last on my list of priorities. As I was being prepped for surgery, the nurse asked if a student doctor could shave the area of the surgery site. I was in a good mood and replied “Sure, as long as she brought a weed whacker with her. ” My husband almost fell off the chair in embarrassment. I was a million months pregnant at this point and was happy at least someone was taking care of what I had been neglecting down there for so long.

I started some new medication earlier this summer and one of the side effects is weight gain. It had been 2.5 years since having my last baby and I remember wailing to my doctor “but I just lost all my baby weight!!!!” 

He assured me this medication caused the least amount of weight gain… and to some extent he was right- my ass stayed the same, my face stayed the same and my legs and arms look fine. Those lovely  extra few pounds have taken up shop in my gut and I look essentially early first trimester pregnant. I’ve been asked 4 times over the past 2 months if I’m expecting baby #3, resulting in a meltdown in my office one day that startled every one of my co-workers, including the Vice President of my company, who just stood there, wide eyed.  Like a crazy lady, I randomly screamed  “Attention! I have an important message for you all!  In case you’re wondering- I AM NOT PREGANT- THERE IS NO BABY IN HERE, just FAT, most likely caused by wine and hard ciders that I use to nurse myself to sleep each night, so spread the news, THERE IS NO FREAKING BABY IN THERE, suckers!” 

Once you’ve had kids, apparently these are the things you have to yell in your office to get the point across. I’m pretty sure no one talked to me for the rest of the day in fear I may bite their heads off.

Bottom line. Prepare for the unexpected. Prepare to be embarrassed, but know that no one else is. They’re professionals and see this stuff all the time. Having a baby changes things; I’m just glad I was married before going through all of this, because I knew my husband was bound to me, even after seeing what he saw, he legally couldn’t run away.

Prepare yourself to feel your heart burst with something that is unexplainable; a love that you never knew existed until you see those little eyes looking up at you and you realize you made this tiny human.

Once you get over the initial endorphin high, If you want to talk REAL FUN, we can discuss post-partum adult diapers and the dreaded first post partum poop sometime. I’ve got some great stories.

Until next time,

Coastal Mama 😘

Karma’s a Funny Bitch

“Be kind, for everyone is fighting a harder battle”. I chose this quote for my senior picture in my High School year book. I’m sure my parents were stunned when they didn’t find some Kurt Cobain quote under my name, or some proclamation of love for my high school boyfriend. Nope, I chose Plato. And I think of these words often, still today.

I’m not sure why they choose to circumcise little boys right before they leave the hospital.  The stress of bringing a new human being into your life and and home is obviously not terrifying enough, so having to care for a wound that is attached to an appendage that a mother is completely clueless about is just an extra little bonus that parents of boys who choose to do this get!

First of all, I don’t care if you have one or five children, for new parents, you can’t help but feel shocked when the hospital actually lets you leave with your child – without so much as a manual. Having this much responsibility placed on you at one time, after giving birth, and in my case, spending time in the NICU, can really make your feel a little faint of heart.

We spent two weeks in the NICU with baby #2 and the day the decision was made to release him, I had to go home and pick up my husband. He had been working full time and staying in the NICU at night, while I spent my days there and then returned to my 13month old, trying to feign some sense of normalcy during the evening, while I felt like my world was crumbling around me.  Thus, the day my second boy was circumcised, I was not in the building unfortunately, as  I was on my way back to pick up my husband and arrange child care for my other baby. When we returned, nurse was all smiles when we entered his room after his circumcision. “The doctor who performed the procedure said she knew you! What a coincidence! I guess it really is a small world.”

Wait a second. I knew her? I didn’t know anyone who worked in this hospital. I didn’t give birth there and my son and I were both transported, separately via ambulance to a specialty hospital with a state of the art NICU that my tiny seaside hospital that I gave birth in was unable to provide what he needed. Who was his doctor???

I vividly remember the day he was born. It was my second baby and a scheduled c-section. I had enjoyed an easy pregnancy and was loooking forward to meeting my little man. He was born at 8:25am and I knew the moment that they took him out that something was wrong. He wasn’t crying. I couldn’t see what was going on, but my husband could, and the look on his face made me shutter. After a few terrifying moments, a loud wail engulfed the room and I felt a sigh of relief. The nurse put on a brave face and brought him over to me to see him for a second and it was then that I knew something was really wrong. Instead of a plump pink baby, I was presented with a pale, grey infant, the color of a storm brewing, far in the sky. 

My husband left my side to check on the baby, while I waited anxiously for some answers. No one was giving me answers and I wracked my brain for some sort of question to ask. “What is his APGAR score?!” I yelled out. (From 1-10, 10 is the highest. My first child scored a 10. I had been reading so many baby books that my husband probably didn’t even know what I was talking about but returned to my side reporting that my baby was scoring a 4. My suspicions were confirmed and I knew in my heart- something was wrong with this baby. 

He was whisked away to a special unit where I was unable to visit him. My husband could, but he was under instense respriaatiry distress and they were making arrangements to transport him to another hospital with better facilities to take care of him. I, on the other hand, back in my recovery room, was suffering majoring hemoraging. I had six nurses surrounding me, intensely concerned, and yet, all I could ask about was the baby. My nurse said as long as I didn’t pass a blood clot the size of a grapefruit or bigger, I was going to be ok. A grapefruit?! Are you fucking kidding me??? I never looked down, but if that was coming out of me, I didn’t even want to see.

A doctor arrived from the NICU and peppered me with questions in front of my husband, mother, mother-in-law and nurses. Did I smoke during pregnancy? Drink alcohol? Engage in illicit drugs? The questioning  was necessary, yet mortifying at the same time. No, I hadn’t done any of those things. My entire pregnancy, I was sleep deprived and caring for another newborn at home. I felt dirty and guilty. I must have done SOMETHING TO HAVE CAUSED THIS. May I remind you that while this questioning was going on, I had my legs spread wide open, hemoraging with multiple nurses attending to my vagina. My perfect day was rapidly becoming a nightmare. 

The first time I actually got to see my baby, it was eight hours later. He was intubated and sedated. He was in what I can only describe as a giant glass coffin. It was a special contraption to transport him in the ambulance. I reached my hand into a little hole and touched his lifeless hand and told him I loved him. I couldn’t go with him, because as soon as he was born, we were considered separate patients. Emergency plans were made to pick up my other baby at daycare and I sat and sobbed as he left the room, my husband following in our car to meet him there. 

 I arrived via separate ambulance hours later and it wasn’t until 10pm that evening that I was finally able to see my baby. Surrounded by loud beeping monitors, sedated and intubated, I was informed I wouldn’t be able to hold him until he got a little better- it would be a day, days or weeks. No promises were made. Those two weeks in the NICU were hell. It was four days before I finally was able to actually HOLD my baby. I watched them poke and prod his tiny body with needles, shave parts of his head and as hard as it was to watch, I knew he was receiving the best care possible. I feel guilty because I know people spend much longer in the NICU, but for me, recovering from a c-section, with a baby at home I couldn’t forget, and I couldn’t help but feel helpless. 

When he finally was released, and the circumcision discussion came about I was caught off guard. Who did I know in that hospital that knew me? The nurse explained it was a prior bride I had. 

The moment she said this, my husband’s face went ashen. For the most part, I have a wonderful relationships with my clients, but there are always one or two bridezillas each season that he hears about.

“Please tell me you got along with this bride…” he looked at me with a serious face. I could see him visualizing some unhappy previous bride being in charge of his precious baby boys’ most prized position on his body.

I laughed. She was one of my favorite clients and we had gotten along fantastically. 

My point is that you never really know who is going to end up in your lives- or reappear. Be kind. It costs nothing to be kind. You may end up in a situation where you need to rely on someone from the past to take care of you or your family. I never thought in a million years that a former client would be taking care of my son, but as fate would have it, she did…. and she did a fantastic job.