Here’s your first official letter after the intro letter, and this one is an apology of sorts. It’s also an explanation of why life became really hard for everyone when I went back to work after Isla was born. It’s not super fun to read about but it’s real and may help you guys understand why I was so sad.
But first, the apology.
I am so, so sorry, my loves.
As you know, January 2016 began a disheartening cycle of physical challenges, emotional suffering, constant change and lack of understanding. I was crippled by a gnarly headache - unlike anything I had ever experienced before in my short but deeply affected life. It began instantaneously with a pop near my right temple during a loving moment with your dad. Pain made its way quickly through and around my entire skull. It never faded, but I fell asleep regardless.
I awoke the next morning dreading the day before me. I was to return to a Catholic elementary school teaching job I hated. The one where no one was speaking to me, but I had no idea why. The one where the teacher I worked with literally said two words to me per day: hi and bye, and even then, only sometimes.
This was a change that happened after returning to work post-maternity leave. The need (and legal right) to pump had angered those who needed me most, and seemed to then set them on a path of distrust and irritation. From then on, my every move (as well as some made up moves) was documented without my knowing, and used against me at the end of the year. It was awful, but before that end-of-the-year meeting took place, I simply had a wild headache that made me dizzy, nauseous and ruthlessly pained 24/7. And yet, no one cared, or understood or sympathized. Rather they deemed me whiny, lazy, irresponsible, moody and unreliable.
I needed sick days, but they rolled their eyes every time I needed to go home early. I needed accommodations for my new pain-related disability of sorts, but was looked at as though I thought I was too good for the tasks I was asking to be relieved of. I needed patience, kindness, care and, hell, prayer!, but instead I was given the silent treatment and side-eyed glances down the hall.
No one believed me or cared to ask me why I had changed so much in such a short amount of time. Rather, they chose to judge me, and deemed my behavior as that of a girl who thought she was better than everyone else, and could do whatever she wanted. I could tell by the way they laughed at me and then said weird comments in my direction, and also because it couldn’t really be the fact that I had to pump breastmilk for my new baby, could it?
If not, maybe it was because they assumed I would now suck at my job since I was a mom of two. Or, was it because I said we shouldn’t require kids to make their parents go to church every Sunday and announce to their class whether or not they were successful? Was it because I was confident? Was it because I was smart? Was it because I was happy with my husband and kids? Was it because I personally didn’t go to church? Was it because you, Lorelei, didn’t go to their preschool?
Seriously, wtf was it?
I’m sorry, girls, for that tangent. As you can tell, that time in my life was really difficult for me, and I still can’t wrap my mind around why I was so hated at a job I actually really liked, a job where I actually enjoyed being around these women every day. In fact, I liked it so much I almost became an elementary school teacher myself instead of becoming a doula. (For real though, I am so thankful I didn’t. This is totally my calling.)
Nevertheless, on the day my superiors surprised me with their notes of my lack of competence (which was all incorrect or falsified info, by the way, that I immediately corrected them on), I let them know that I would never, ever let my kids attend their private school. After the way I was treated, after the way the students were treated, after the way sexually inappropriate parents were allowed to watch over the students during school hours (with the kids being told to just go play somewhere else, and me being revealed to him as the teacher who filed a complaint about his actions)...how could I possibly send you guys to that place? I would never subject you sweet girls to that kind of environment, knowing what I knew.
I also let them know that I would finish the current school year, but I would not be returning the following year, and I cried for days thereafter, because I was hurt, offended and broke af. I was also still in a scary amount of pain and couldn't figure out if it was ever going to go away. At that point I had had a migraine-style headache every single day for six straight months, so the chances of ever being rid of it were looking slim. That was very depressing.
Before I go on, it’s important for you to know that I was brave saying what I said and standing up for myself. It’s extremely important to always do the right thing and to express your most important thoughts when appropriate. It’s important to tell people when what they are doing is wrong, especially if it’s affecting the well being of others. It's also important to question authority when appropriate, and to not immediately back down just because someone said their title is worth more money than yours. I'm sure we will talk about this so many times throughout your life. Be prepared; I'm full of thoughts and opinions on the topic.
Now, for what it’s worth, the teacher I worked with put a vase of flowers on my desk the next morning, with a gift certificate to a nail salon. She told me many times that she was sorry - she had no idea I was going through all I was going through (chronic pain, a violent and threatening neighbor, (remember him?), a baby (you, Isla) suffering from what I now know was a reaction to vaccines, persistent colds between you guys and no sleep whatsoever for any of us.
But, the thing is, I tried to talk to her about it so many times, and she literally would walk away when I was in the middle of a sentence. So yes, she did have an idea. She just didn’t care to find out more or allow me the opportunity to explain with more than the words, “My head hurts again today.” It’s truly upsetting to me that the notion of “women helping women” isn’t one shared amongst all women, even though it’s easy to see that in taking part in this movement you will definitely benefit time and time again, because, you know, it’s about helping all women, including you! More on that topic later for sure. For now, remember that women helping women is basically the most important thing ever.
I really, really missed you guys when I would have to go to that job that year. I felt like I was being forced to leave my love nest every morning at 6:30 a.m. just to throw myself to the wolves. Not the good ones. Not the strong, mystic wolf mothers whose pack I aspire to always be immersed in, but the bitchy ones who feed off the beauty of others; who rip the beauty apart until those wolf mothers no longer have that inner light and outer warmth that all wolves deeply desire to have. They ruin them so they will be one in the same; no better or worse. Just tragically angry, abusive and always, always hungry.
Don’t be those lame hungry wolves, girls. Be the cool ones that work together for the greater good. Be like me - ever growing and blooming through life’s many seasons; using the downs as lessons and the ups as motivation for many more ups. Yeah. Be the mystic mama wolves the three of us love to sing about (thanks, Devendra).
Back to the initial subject of this story: the headache.
It all started with this headache that came out of nowhere. The headache ruined my prospective teaching career, as previously mentioned, but it also drove me a little bit insane. Isla, you were not even one yet and I couldn’t hold you as often as you needed and wanted me to. Your dad had to take care of you by himself a bunch of times when I was home, so the routine became me going to work and then coming home and laying down in excruciating pain, most likely crying because of how terrible my coworkers were to me. This happened constantly for days, then weeks, then months. The headache lasted forever and nothing would make it go away. Not steroids. Not antibiotics. Not probiotics.
Not sleep. Not water. Not days off.
Not sex. Not ibuprofen. Not tylenol with codeine.
Not the many, many doctors appointments. Not massage. Not acupuncture.
Not the chiropractor. Not supplements. Not vitamins.
Not the gluten-free diet. Not the sugar-free diet. Not the meat-free diet.
Not the egg-free diet. Not therapy. Not anti-anxiety meds.
Not yoga. Not meditation. Not craniosacral therapy. Not essential oils.
Literally nothing eased my pain. I spiraled into a deep, deep fog of anxiety, depression, hopelessness and surrender. I surrendered daily, but nothing ever changed. I woke up hopeful but always cursed my entire body by 8 a.m. The pain was big, and it was overpowering all that drove me to live the way I had been living just months before. I was the happiest mom on the block and you guys were totally rockin’ it before the headache blocked our path.
But you guys know this part so well. Probably better than me. You guys know that I went from being an awesome, loving, happy mom to the loudest, angriest, meanest bitch of a mom you had ever seen. A mom you should never have seen. A mom that sucks and honestly needs to disappear just as quickly as she appeared in the first place.
I had no patience. I yelled too much. I let you watch way too much T.V. I put you in bed hours before your bedtime because I just couldn’t mom anymore. I never gave you chances to do things on your own because I knew it would be more work for me. I didn’t play with you as often as I should have. I didn’t hold you in spite of the pain when I should have. I passed you off to your grandmother too often. I didn’t cook for you enough and relied on cheap boxed food way too often. I told you I didn’t care about the things you insisted were important. I took away your toys and put you in timeouts.
Oh man. Did you pick up on all of that verbal perfectionism? Clearly, I am way too hard on myself, because none of this sounds as bad as I had initially implied it was, but I didn’t realize it until I had typed it out and read it over...and over...and over. More on that later. I’m sure this is an important lesson for you guys to learn at some point, too, you know, the one about perfection. Here’s a quick lesson summary: No one is perfect, which means everyone is already perfect just the way they are in spite of their small misgivings, because there is no such thing as perfect or imperfect...if that makes sense. If not, we’ll get there.
All of this is why I’m writing you this letter. Because ever since January 2016, I’ve really been a challenged mother, and I need you to understand why, because it had absolutely nothing to do with you. Rather, it had everything to do with the mean people I worked with, the toxic work environment that created them, the physical pain I was dealing with, my anxiety issues and a complete lack of control over every aspect of my life.
I also really need you to understand that you should never stay at a job (or with a person or a group of people) that mistreats you and makes you feel bad about yourself and your life. You can always leave a situation and you will ALWAYS find something better waiting for you at the end of that path. There's always a new path and a new journey to be had. Never forget that, and quit any and all shit that does not serve you and your greater purpose. You are beautiful beings that can totally conquer the many challenges that will come your way. Remember that any difficulty you come through is one more thing you've lived through and owned. Be proud of that. A lesson can always be learned, and knowledge is power.
At this point of blog post length, you’re for sure spinning in circles together with stuffed cats tucked into your shirts, begging the nearest adult to feed you a delicious snack. So, let’s take a break. I’ll write more to you when my spare time, energy and creativity are all in alignment once more. Fingers crossed that’s tomorrow.