Friday, August 19, 2011

Mommy Tracked

My career had been on my mind quite a bit the last several months.   There is a pull between my personal ambition and my role and responsibilities as a mommy that creates a state of constant conflict for me about this subject.  While I was enormously pregnant with Isla, I received a random phone call from a head hunter asking me if I would be interested in applying for a position with a firm that is looking for an associate with experience in medical malpractice defense.  My general philosophy is to follow these types of things and see if they go anywhere.  If they don't - no sweat.  Its good practice to keep your interview skills sharp and resume updated.  So, I interviewed and they loved me, but there was an issue about my burgeoning belly and the fact that I wouldn't be able to actually start working until March (this was October). 

So, that didn't work out.  But, it planted seeds in my head.  For one, I found out first hand exactly how underpaid I was for the work I did.  Second, it made me realize that I had become kind of lackidaisical and passive about my career.  Which, suited me just fine in the moment, but would end up royally screwing me long term.  I figured I probably ought to get the whole giving birth thing out the way first before I really pursued something new career-wise.  So, I did.  I gave birth and enjoyed my "maternity leave" (if you can call working 20+ hrs a week the whole time "leave"), and I eased back into my regular working mommy routine. 

But, I was pretty miserable.  I felt micromanaged, bored, taken advantage of.  I just wasn't happy where I was anymore.  Then one day, my boss came to me and asked me how I'd like the opportunity to be the lead attorney for a new client managing their collection work.  There were a lot of positive things that could come from it, so I said sure!  About a month later, boss man comes back to me and discusses the situation with me some more.  At this time, he tells me that his "vision" is that as I increase the amount of work I'm doing for this new client, I will gradually transition away from my other work I had been doing for the past 6 years - medical malpractice defense and complex litigation. 

Wow.  That took me by surprise.  I politely told my boss "thank you for this opportunity, but I want to be a med mal defense lawyer."  That's what I love.  That's what gets my blood pumping.  That's what makes the whole above-described daily conflict between mommy-Elle and lawyer-Elle almost worth it!  (Add on my huge student loan debt, and it tips the balance).  His response was that he felt this was the best "lifestyle" choice for me and my family at this time.  That being a trial lawyer is tough work and hard to do when you have young kids.  As if I didn't know this already...  Then he said that in his experience, only those people who have "nothing else" (read: children), ever become "great" trial lawyers.  Hm.....

So, I drove home screaming to my mom on the phone.  Frankly, I was pissed.  I didn't want to be a collections attorney (no offense if you are).  I had different dreams and aspirations.  And yes, its hard right now with three young children.  But they won't be young forever.  Taking this "detour" would ruin my chances of ever becoming a well-respected attorney in the field I DID want to make my "speciality" (although, lawyers aren't supposed to use that word).  I made the decision that night to launch a full-on job hunt.

That was a Friday.  Monday, I came into work as usual.  While I was in a deposition, another lawyer who does med mal defense commented that her firm was so busy, and asked if any of us knew of an associate with med mal experience looking for a job?  I told her, "I'll walk you to your car."  And the rest is history.  Of course, they adored me and offered me the job, and I accepted, and all is well and happy again. 

God literally dropped this job in my lap at exactly the right time.  It could not BE more perfect for me.  My two bosses are working mommies who know the challenges appertaining thereto.  The case work is amazing.  I'm given lots of breathing room to really spread my wings.  I'm loving it!

The moral of the story is - Ladies, don't let anyone box you in.  Stop telling yourselves all the reasons why you can't do this or that.  Bull cocky.  Go for your dreams.  Life is too short to sell yourself short!  And dammit - don't anyone dare mommy track me!


Once again, I allow over two months to lapse in between posts.  After I promised I would never do such a thing ever again...  Tsk tsk.  But surely, if you allow me to explain the reason for my absence, you will understand. 

You see, in the last two months, I have made two VERY big changes. 

First, I left the firm I had worked at for the past six years!  I joined a new firm and have been happily working my tail off.  More on that later.  That deserves a separate post.

Second, we moved!  To a smaller house that will be much more manageable for our budget and my cleaning lady (yeah, that'd be me...).  But more importantly, to a better school district where Carter can attend public school!  (We really disliked the elementary school our prior house was zoned for and therefore shelled out major moulah to put him in private school for Kindergarten).  We're still settling in and there are a few unpacked boxes lying about here and there (and a washing machine in my dining room b/c we can't seem to get it to the basement....), but slowly but surely, we are making progress!!!  Its a quiet little neighborhood with lots of open space and kids!  This is my favorite thing about my new house - the back doors:

Summer has whizzed past me at lightening speed. I simply cannot believe that Carter goes back to school in just a little over a week!!!  I didn't accomplish half of what I intended to do this summer.  Oh well.  Keep looking forward, right? 

Summary - I've been busy as hell.  I'm starting to settle in.  I'll try to post more often. 

Monday, June 13, 2011


About two or so years ago, I came up with this BRILLANT business plan that involved organizational products for for moms.  I got two of my besties involved in the project with me and we were plotting to launch Organizher.  Love the play on words?  Yep, that was my genius.

Well, babies started coming and our lives just got busier and busier and the business never took off.  I still haven't given up on it though.  One day....right?

From time to time, I like to escape the house after the kidlets are in bed and wander around Target for some "me" time.  On one such trip, not so long ago, I stumbled across this:

That's right!  Mead STOLE my business name!!!!!  And worse yet, they trademarked it!! 

Yeah, yeah, I know I didn't actually do much with the business other than buy the domain name (ha ha ha!  Take that, Mead!), but I still feel violated!  Now, I have to think up a new name!

But, being a Type-A personality and always looking for ways to be better organized, I couldn't resist picking up a few of the products to try out myself.  And you know what?  I really like them!

I use this pull-away note pad to keep everyone's schedules and our meals organized:

And this notebook to keep track of my daily To-Do's and things to remember:

And because I'm very unselfish, I decided to pass on this tip to my dear friends.  Seriously, you should check out this line of products. 

Mead even has some printable templates on their website for you to download and print off.  Otherwise, this line is sold at Target.  Happy organizing all!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Why I Chose: To Work

For a while now, I've been thinking about starting a series of posts on occassion about why I chose to do certain things.  Over six years into motherhood now, I am well-acquainted with the Mommy Wars.  Its not simply confined to working v. staying at home, it touches on EVERYTHING we moms have to make choices about - breastfeeding v. formula feeding, extended rear-facing v. early turning, co-sleeping or not, and the list goes ON and ON and ON.  Of course, I think MY way is the best way for me.  That is why I chose it.  But some people get this idea that if you feel passionate about your own personal choice, that it means you look down on and cast judgment about their opposing choice.  To be honest, as long as your kid is being cared for, I don't really care what you chose to do.  I have too much going on in my own life to stick my nose into other's business. 

I think a more productive use of these conversations (rather than getting offended or feeling high and mighty) would be to really LISTEN to each other and why each one of us makes the choices that we do.  Only then can you begin to understand the nuances and differences in each woman's life and family dynamic.  Only then can we move from sparring with each other in an attempt to constantly one-up each other (and I'm still trying to figure out what the "prize" is for winning), to supporting each other.  Because what it boils down to is:  motherhood is a hard, yet beautiful, job.  We can ALL learn from each other.

So, to kick off this series, I thought I'd start with an issue that was put on center stage for me recently:  Why I Chose to Work.

Now, I should put it out there from the start that it really isn't much of a "choice" per se.  While there once was a time in my life when I could have afforded to stay at home, that is not my situation now (at least not without some MAJOR consequences and lifestyle adjustment to subsistence living).  My family needs my income and my benefits from my employment.  If I were offered an opportunity to be a stay at home mom for a few years, I think I would jump on it.  But that simply is not my reality.  So, I am going to embrace this as a "choice" rather than a prison sentence, and make the most of it!  In so doing, I am going to focus on the positives (because I'm like that).

(in no particular order...)

#1 - I think being a well-rounded woman makes me a better mom.  Kids benefit from a little space.  No one needs a helicopter mom!  Having something that I do away from my kids gives them that space.  And it gives ME diversion.  I would go crazy if all I did was obsess over my kids 24/7.  Of course, working isn't the only way to do this.  The same objective can be met through volunteer activities, hobbies, clubs, etc.  I just don't want my children to see only one dimension of me:  mom.  I want them to see that I am mutli-dimensional.  And that includes my career.  I happen to like my career.  I want them to see that.

#2 - I know that if anything were to happen to my husband, I would be able to provide for my children.  Oh, and I guess this would be a good place to say I have over $100K in student loans to pay back from law school.  Small point. 

#3 - My children benefit from being cared for by others and the structure that comes from that environment.  I tried my darndest to provide a "mimic" of this environment for Bennett while I was home with him on maternity leave, but failed miserably!  He begged me daily to take him to school.  He LOVES the structure, activities and friends at school.  Bennett stayed at home for the first 2.5 years.  Once he started preschool, he BLOSSOMED.  We saw a measurable difference in his mood, his behavior and his development!  Peer pressure can be positive!  He also formed valuable bonds with his caretakers.  Isla too - She LOOOOVES her teachers - it is so sweet!!!

#4 - Spending time away from the kids makes me really appreciate the time I DO have with them!  I get so excited to come home every day to see my babies.  Because of this, I am able to really focus on them 100% and give them quality time and attention.  I'm sure some stay at home moms are able to do this well, but I really struggled with this when I was at home.  I was constantly trying to conquer another task on the to-do list and had a hard time focusing on being present with the kids.  And heck - *I* need structure too!

#5 - Its nice to pee alone at least once a day.  And to have a complete thought.  At home, there is at least one child hanging off me 24/7.  I don't even get to sleep sans kids!  I'm not "complaining" about that per se, but no one is going to tell you they don't enjoy a solo trip to the potty every once in a while. 

#6 - I like having a sense of accomplishment.  This is a totally selfish point, but one I think is undervalued by women.  I was reading President George W. Bush's new book Decision Points and was struck by something he said in there - While explaining to their 17 year old daughters that his decision to run for president was not to ruin their lives, he told them that this was his and Laura's way of living THEIR lives.  As parents, we all want our children to dream big.  We want them to live life to the fullest!  We tell them you can be or do ANYTHING you put your mind to.  Can't we do that too, as parents?  If not, then aren't we lying to our children?  And what type of message are we sending our daughers? 

Now, before you get your panties in a bunch, I fully acknowledge that what some people want is to be full time moms, and that is in and of itself a very worthy goal.  If I raise happy, healthy, God-fearing and society-contributing children - THAT will be my greatest accomplishment of my life.  My point is - go for your dreams!  Your children will learn by example. 

So, in sum...if I had the opportunity, I would take a few years to stay at home while my kids are little and still want me in their hair.  But since I can't, there are still plenty of good reasons to stay in the work force and make the most of it.  I refuse to let myself be rendered guilt-stricken.  I'm going to focus on the PROS and take whatever steps I can to minimize the cons (i.e. optimize the quantity and quality of time I DO spend with my children and make sure I'm there when it COUNTS). 

So, ladies - what are your "reasons" for working or staying home?  What is your "ideal" situation?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Isn't It Ironic?

Isn't it ironic ...

*  That every time you put a clean cover on the changing pad, the baby immediately finds a way to soil it?  The same thing goes for new sheets on the bed.

*  That every time your kid swears to you he's so sick he is DYING and you rush him to the pediatrician or emergency room, once you get there he is all of a sudden fine?

*  That every time you finally get the laundry completely DONE, the kids change into pajamas and the laundry bins are half full again (and in this situation, half full does not connote optimism)?

*  That without fail, your toddler manages to have an accident, or your baby a blow out, the one time you forget to shove a spare outfit into the diaper bag?

*  How kids ONLY ever seem to puke on MOM???

*   That every time your child swears he's looked everywhere for his shoes, homework, special toy, etc., it ends up being right where you told him it was in the first place?  Selective blindness maybe?

And the list goes on and on.  Its enough to drive any mother to repeatedly bang her head against the wall.  Oh, the joys.....

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Birth of Isla Michelle

Better late (i.e. nearly 5 months later...) than never, right?  I'll be honest, the last five months have been a whirlwind.  I worked through most of my maternity leave, then returned to work full-time at 10 weeks post-partum, Bennett was hospitalized for a week in April, and with three kids is just plain HECTIC.  So, forgive me.  But I have to share this story.  I think it is even more poignant to me now than it was in the immediate aftermath.  I've made no secret that my first two births scarred me - literally and emotionally.  I wanted so badly to have a healthy, HAPPY birth with Isla, and I accomplished that.  This baby girl has healed me in so many ways.

Its a loooong story (yes, feel free to pity me), so hang in there.  On to the narrative:

Thursday, December 23

I went to the OB and was really feeling discouraged. The week before, I was told I was 2.5 and 80%. This OB said I was much more like a 2 with a lot of length still. WTF? That's like NO progress since 30 weeks!!! She asked me if I wanted my membranes stripped. I said, if she thinks it will help, sure, but if not, then let's wait because it would be much more effective the following week. She said she wouldn't do an "aggressive" strip, just see if she could help loosen it up some. She really doubted it would start my labor though, and said to tell the OB I saw next week to strip me "really good." With vbacs, there is much more concern about going overdue as the success rates are shown to decrease significantly at that point, and obviously there are very limited options for induction. She didn't think it was a big deal, but she said she didn't want another doc freaking out on me for going post dates. So, I left the appointment really frustrated.

So, I go home feeling conflicted - glad that I would not likely have the baby in the middle of the holiday, but just ready to be done and afraid of having to deal with going over due. That afternoon, I started to get REALLY crampy. Not contractions per se, but yucky menstrual like cramping.

Friday, December 24

When I woke up on Christmas Eve morning, I started to feel like something was brewing. The cramps were growing more intense. I spent the day cleaning and organizing. My parents arrived from Kentucky. We get ready to go the 4:00 mass. Right before the mass, I start having super painful contractions with the cramps. They aren't super close, but they are getting really "deep" and intense. The entire night, the contractions start to grow closer bit by bit and more painful. We had our celebration with Ace's family that night and everyone kept telling me I was going into labor - I just had that "look." Around 11:30 pm, I try to go bed. I couldn't lie in bed to save my life. I was having contractions every 5-6 mins and I couldn't stand to lie down through them. I was like "great...of course she's going to come NOW, and I'll miss Christmas morning with my kids!" So, I "slept" in the glider in the nursery all night in between the contractions and tried to focus on relaxing and trying to keep the contractions from getting closer.

Saturday, December 25
Christmas morning, I decided to wake the kids up at 7 a.m. to open presents b/c the contractions are 5-6 min apart at this point and requiring concentration to get through them. We had a nice Christmas morning, and I was so glad she held off. The entire day, my contractions ranged from 5-8 min apart at various points.  My mom helped keep me distracted by playing Gin-Rummy and making me walk on the treadmill - ha!  It was starting to get really exhausting, especially since I really hadn't slept more than a few minute snipits the night before. I was contemplating calling my doctor to see if something was "wrong" that could be keeping me from going into active labor, or if I could take something to help me at least sleep. Then, around 9 p.m., my contractions almost completely STOPPED. I was about to lose my mind at this point. I just started crying. I lied down to try to sleep. I was still contracting, but every 15 minutes. BUT, the contractions were more intense than anything I had ever had up to this point. I couldn't stay in bed through them. I posted on Facebook about my frustration. Everyone suggested getting in the shower. Honestly, that was the LAST thing I felt like doing at the moment. I just didn't feel like getting wet. I just wanted to SLEEP!!!

But, I figured what the hell, and got in the shower. Wow. Almost immediately, my contractions picked up to every 3-5 minutes apart. I yelled to Ace to come in the bathroom to time them. It was funny actually because he was playing Starcraft and was super annoyed that I was interrupting him. But after he saw a few come super close, he decided it was time to log off. After this lasted 30 mins, I called my OB and told him what was up. Since I had a far drive and there was a forecast for bad weather, he told me to come in and they'd see if it was real. I honestly fully expected the contractions to stop again. But no. Every 5 minutes like clock work the entire drive there!!! I wanted to kill Ace, as it seemed like he was taking every curve extra tight and hitting every pot hole along the way!

Sunday, December 26

My last belly pic - Still able to smile!
We got there at 12:05 a.m. I thanked Isla for NOT having a Christmas birthdate.  There was only 1 other mom in labor at the time. I go into triage, and I fully expected her to tell me that I'm a 2. Nope. She said I'm a 4.5 conservatively, but probably more like a 5 and almost completely effaced. Baby was still high at -1 though. They get me checked in to my L&D room. My nurse comes in and I immediately do not like her. She is Chinese and hard to understand, and just brash. She asked me if I had a birth plan, and I gave it to her. She said "most moms who say they don't want an epidural end up getting it, and right now is the ideal time if you are going to get it." I said no thanks. Then I hear her talking to my OB in the hall say "Another one who thinks she's going natural." B!t(#. So, I didn't like her the rest of the night.

My doc checked me and said I was a good 6 and 100%. I was feeling SO confident at this point. I was handling the contractions pretty well. I felt like I really could do this. I knew transition was going to hit soon and was mentally preparing myself. Sure enough, within an hour, the contractions were about 2 minutes apart, and it seemed like they would come two at a time before I'd get a break. So, the nurse sees this on the monitor and comes in and checks me and I'm 7 cm. I was SO psyched!! I felt like I was handling it really well. I knew that this meant my baby was really close, as transition generally lasts 1-2 hours, right? Well, after an hour of this, the nurse checks me again and I'm STILL a 7. I was disappointed, frustrated, but determined not to let it get me down. No big deal... But over the next hour, I was starting to really struggle with it. I'd been in transition about 3 hours at this point! They check me again and I'm STILL 7. I started to lose it. I could take it 1 contraction at a time, I knew that. But I mentally couldn't handle the thought of HOURS more of this.

I asked the nurse if I could get an IV narcotic to help calm me down because I was starting to get panicky feeling. Nope, she said it was too late. My only option was an epidural. I said no, I don't want it. But I was really starting to doubt my self at this point. Each contraction that came after that, I started to lose control more and more. I started to hyperventilate and tremble and felt literally like I as spinning out of control. My mom did an excellent job of helping me to refocus, but every time I'd panic, Isla's heart rate would go super low then super high. The nurse came in and said I really needed to focus on BREATHING b/c the baby wasn't liking it. I tried my darndest, I really did, but every few contractions, I'd lose it again and go into an anxiety attack. Finally, I said F it. Give me the epidural. I can't do this. I really couldn't.

As soon as my moms left the room, I spiraled out of control. I turned into one of those crazy shrieking women you make fun of on TV. It was nuts. But I got the epidural and was able to at least calm down. The epidural was no walk in the park though. It gave me major shakes and I still felt the contractions enough to have to really work to concentrate through them. My OB came in to check me and I'm STILL 7 cm. I was so glad at that point that I got the epidural. She recommended breaking my water, as she thought that was preventing the baby from descending and stalling my dilation. Ok.

As soon as she broke my water, Isla's HR went way low. They tried positioning me a million different ways, but the only way she would tolerate it was flat on my back. Again, I was REALLY glad I got the epi at this point because there was NO way I would have been able to lie flat on my back through this, and I'd have been off to a c-section for sure. I didn't get the rest I'd hope for with the epi though because I was panicking at every decel she had and was shaking like a leaf. I also had a "window" in my left hip where the epi didn't work at all, and I had the most intense stabbing pain there with each contraction. I had one mom putting her weight on my shoulders to help stop the shaking and the other one pushing my hip in!  Thank God for them!

I cannot tell you the sheer RELIEF I felt when the nurse told me I was complete!! I was so scared for Isla at this point and just wanted her OUT safely. Her HR was in the 100-120 range the last few hours. She had me do a few practice pushes, telling me to push into my butt. Only problem was, I couldn't FEEL my butt!  I asked her to turn the epi off or at least down, but she wouldn't. I never got the urge to push. That made it really difficult. Fortunately, because of the window in my hip, I could feel when a contraction came, but otherwise, I felt like I was pushing blind. My OB came in and helped me out tremendously. She pressed on my perineum so I had a focal point to push toward. Unfortunately, because of the HR issues, I had no choice but to push flat on my back, which felt SO unnatural. But I guess it wasn't too bad because it only took me 25 minutes to push her out!!! Once her head started to emerge, I felt the ring of fire, and that was all the motivation I needed to get her OUT!

It had been my wish to let the cord stop pulsing before cutting, but I knew something was up when she made me stop so she could cut the cord before delivering the rest of her. It only took one push after that, and they put her on my chest. It was the most incredible feeling ever. I just held on to her so tight. She as soo warm!! I just started bawling. I can't even put into words what I felt at this moment!! It was a confluence of a sense of awe of what had just happened, this little creature, everything!

Unfortunately, she wasn't breathing, so they had to take her to the warmer pretty quickly. They got her breathing there but she was breathing really fast and having retractions, which meant she was having to work too hard to breathe. And her heart rate was very irregular. They started her on oxygen and called the NICU. The Neonatologist came in pretty quickly and looked her over. He explained to me what happens sometimes when a baby has a tight nuchal cord in utero, it can cause acid to build up in their blood stream. This caused her to have respiratory distress at birth. So, they took her to the NICU to give her some IV meds to help flush out the acid and kept her on O2 for a while until she was able to breath well on her own. I was obviously pretty upset by this all. How ironic - I get a termie and she still goes to the NICU! The nurse told the Neo about Bennett so the Neo said they could do her weight and measurements in the room with me and let me hold her for a few minutes before transferring to the NICU. I really really appreciate that!!!

She was 7 lbs 6 oz and 20 1/4'' long.  Her AGARS were 5/6/8.

Needing a little extra oxygen
Daddy talking to his girl!
The epidural wore off pretty quickly, but my right leg stayed totally numb for several hours.  So, they wheeled me to the post-partum room and told me to sleep.  After being awake for the past 50+ hours, 41 hours of which were spent in labor, they didn't have to tell me twice.  I was OUT and slept the deepest sleep I think I've ever had in my entire life.  When I woke up, I hopped out of bed and declared I was ready to go see my baby!  I walked down to the NICU (which AMAZED me because I didn't walk for at least 24 hours after the boys were born) and found my baby girl sleeping soundly in a warmer, with the blood and amniotic contents still matted in her hair even!  She was doing GREAT so they let me nurse her and she took to it immediately like an old pro.  Then we gave her a MUCH needed bath.  I felt like I was high on happy juice the whole time!
Chillin' in the NICU

By 6 pm they let her come over to the post partum ward with me and has been FINE ever since. She's a beautiful girl and pretty easy. But according to Carter, she has "big attitude" when she's upset, lol. I ADORE her.
Big Brothers meeting their Lil Sis!

She is my little girl - something that has taken on a meaning I could have never imagined.  She is perfect in everyway.  I thank God for her.  Beyond just being amazing in her own right - she has literally healed me from the traumas I carried from Carter and Bennett's births.  It was not a perfect birth.  I was a little disappointed that I didn't go 100% natural.  But I went full term.  And I got to hold her on my chest when she was born.  And she is perfectly healthy.  So, in the end, it was MY perfect, imperfect birth.