Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A New Chapter

Tomorrow is my last day at the job I've had for the last 6 1/2 years.  The new job I will start on Monday is pretty much my dream job (policy work for a county health department Homeless program) so I've been a little confused about some of the hard feelings I've been having.  This morning it hit me.

In our documentary, at one point I say something like, "there are two things I am proudest of in my life.  One is my relationship with Laura".

The other one was getting the job that I will be leaving tomorrow.

For reasons that will become obvious, I couldn't blog about what was happening while it was happening. I feel like enough time has passed that I can tell the story now and hope that the telling will help heal some of the tender spots still left.

When Simon got sick, I was in a job that I had had high hopes for. I was on the fast track to move up quickly and, though I was feeling increasing pressure to put in more hours and was less and less sure I wanted to be there long-term, it was a perfectly good job.  Things started to get a little bumpy when I told my boss I would be taking 6 weeks of maternity leave when Laura gave birth but I didn't make the connection between that decision and the increase in pressure from her until much later.  Simon was born and the heat started to turn up more, but it was managable.

But when Simon got sick, all hell broke loose.

I asked for 2 weeks off the day he went into the ICU as we tried to determine if he would live or die. When it became clear he was hanging on but really sick and still unstable, I asked to work part time for about a week.  At the end of that week, I met with my boss to discuss options, including dropping to part time for a few months and/or working remotely for a day or two a week.  No dice.   Not only no dice, but I was told that if I dropped to part time, there was no guarantee that I could have my job back.  This was a BIG problem because we had also realized that Laura would not be going back to work anytime soon.  Our family was completely dependent on me keeping this job.

During that conversation, my boss ACTUALLY said to me, "I think coming back to work full time would be great for you.  A few good wins under your belt at work will really help your spirits".  My newborn was in the ICU with a life threatening disease and I was being advised to lean in at work. By the director of a women's health center focused on supporting new mothers and their newborns.  I almost laughed in her face.

Shortly after that meeting my boss set up a meeting with HR.  I was really looking forward to the meeting, naively assuming that it was called so that we could talk about possible options to help me support my family AND continue to do good work for them.  Thank god I had lawyered up by that point because it was a nightmare.

The HR rep started the meeting by saying, "I didn't think it was legal for you to use the Family Medical Leave Act for the time you've already taken off [when Simon got sick] because you were just providing emotional support [to Laura] but I did some research and it turns out that it's okay".  I was so in a state of shock from everything that was happening that my lawyer had to point out the insane homophobia in that statement (ie, Laura is the real parent, you are just some person helping her out in the hospital, instead of me being a full parent there to be with my son while he was critically ill).  It only went down from there and ended up with me being presented with document saying I was on probation, despite my stellar performance review 6 months prior.  Again, praise to my lawyer because she had warned me not to sign anything in that meeting.

I stalled on signing the document for as long as I could while I started madly searching for new jobs to apply for. There was nothing, nothing, nothing and then, like a shining star falling from the sky, a job popped up and the name on the posting was a former colleague. Within a week I had an interview scheduled and I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The morning of the interview, Laura and  I stopped by the hospital to see Simon as we did every day before I left for work.  Usually he was happy and chatty or still dozing but that morning he looked dead.  Literally, he looked dead.  He was grey and barely moving and could hardly open his eyes when I anxiously cooed good morning to him.  His nurse appeared immediately and explained that he had started to run a fever in the middle of the night and that they weren't exactly sure what was going on.  Not wanting to leave Laura in the middle of a crisis, I offered to reschedule my interview for another day.  She grabbed me by the shoulders and looked me right in the eye and I got it.  We needed me to get this job and we needed it badly.

I worked for a few hours and then left for my "appointment". By some miracle, I was able to be friendly and chatty and articulate during the interview.  I returned to work feeling numb and stunned and hopeful.  At about 3 pm , Laura called me and I could hear the terror in her voice.  She gave me Simon's temperature in Celsius and said I should come to the hospital.  I was so afraid of getting fired on the spot that I decided to talk to our manager (not my boss) about whether or not it would be okay for me to leave.  When I told the manager (a former nurse) what his temperature was, her face blanched.  She said, "Jaime, that's 106.9 Fahrenheit!  He is really, really sick.  You have to go right now".

Shortly after I got to the hospital, he started vomiting and pooping what looked like coffee grounds. It turned out that he had been started on antibiotics to fight an infection of yet-to-be-determined origin and the drugs had interacted with his blood thinner.  His naso-gastric tube had irritated his stomach lining and he had developed a GI bleed so significant that he was moved back to the high intensity section of the ICU and given a blood transfusion.  The next day they determined that he was septic with gram-negative bacteria which are the worst kind- the bacteria are basically like little nuclear bombs that release super toxic waste when they die.

I forced myself to go to work the day after this terrifying incident and prayed with everything I had, to anything and anyone that would listen, to get the new job.  A few days later, I got a call for a second interview and shortly after that, got the job. The rest is history... (The Department of Fair Employment and Housing took my case, identifying at least 3 separate violations, but my employer had been very careful not to leave a paper trail so there was not enough evidence to move forward).

It's been so intense to realize how much has changed since those awful days when I was so desperately trying to get this job I'm now leaving.  It ended up being the perfect job. I had a supportive workplace and boss, work I loved, time and flexibility to support my family- so many things that were exactly what I needed at the time.

Today I notice that while I still have scars, I have healed and grown enough that I'm ready to move on and stretch myself.  I can't wait to see what this next chapter holds...for my career and my family.

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