Monday, November 6, 2017

Too Far (Miscarriage & Big Law)

Last month I billed 254 hours and felt like I would puke at any given moment during each and every one of them because of morning sickness.

A couple weeks ago I started spotting and then started bleeding a lot. My dad is an OBGYN. I'm a thirty-something year old women who has heard firsthand accounts of miscarriages from many other women. I knew what was happening and thought I knew what to expect.

I was not bereft. It was okay. I was happy to know that it was still possible for me to get pregnant without the help of IVF and was hopeful for a happy ending next time. I just had to figure out a way to get through it while closing a couple deals at work.

On that Wednesday, I noticed that walking to a partner's office for a conference call left me a bit light headed. That night, there was so much bleeding I sat in the tub because pads just couldn't keep up. I called a nurses line and was told to come into the office the next morning. After that call, I started cleaning up. Either the sight of all that blood or simply standing up left me even more light headed and I started to feel panicked. I tried to get to my phone to call for a ride to the hospital and, for the first time in my life, fainted. When I came to, I was in bad enough shape that all I could manage was to pull myself into bed and fall asleep.

On Thursday morning, I woke up to a barrage of urgent emails. Neither of my deals were scheduled to close that day, but a client needed an executive employment agreement that I'd drafted revised "immediately" because (surprise!) the client had a scheduled in-person meeting with the executive that would begin in about an hour. Changes included pressing issues like delineating who would keep the company's NBA season tickets. I felt better than I had the night before, so I didn't go to my doctor's office. I revised the employment agreement. One thing led to another and next thing I knew I had worked a ten hour day. I told myself I would go to my doctor's office the next morning.

So I got in my car and started my drive home. I had been talking to my family on the phone while driving and felt fine. We ended the call and I pulled over to a gas station on the side of the highway to switch out my pad. There was a lot of bleeding when I got to the bathroom. I fainted once in the bathroom--a women who saw me laying on the ground stepped over me and tsk tsked (I can only imagine that she must have thought I was strung out). I made it out into the convenience store portion of the gas station and started asking for the nearest ER when I fainted again.

At this point, a stranger called 911. He stayed with me until the ambulance arrived. (Thank goodness for the kindness of this stranger.) In the ER, the team of doctors and nurses determined that my hemoglobin was 5.8 and that my miscarriage was only 1/3 complete. The attending OB admitted me to the hospital. By 3:30am, an anesthesiologist had put me under, an OB had completed a D&C and transfused two units of blood.  About twelve hours later, I was discharged with a hemoglobin of 7.4 (still only about half my normal blood volume--the threshold for transfusion is apparently a hemoglobin of 7) and a pile of bloody clothes.

I'm putting this on the internet because what I did was incredibly stupid. When I skipped that doctor's appointment to work on that employment agreement, I wasn't trying to be some sort of hero. It was easier for me to work than to face that something serious was going on with my body. That decision was also driven by all the big law bullshit that makes it hard for female associates to admit to their supervisors that they are pregnant (my group knew I was not feeling well and that I had fainted the night before, but didn't know that I was miscarrying). I don't blame big law--this job is what it is, but I do think my poor decision making means that I've been in it for too long and that I've taken the whatever-the-client-wants-we-do mentality too far--that I've lost perspective. 

I am 100% responsible for what happened to me, but I think things might have turned out differently if there was at least one female supervisor in my group or if I had seen better outcomes for the other big law associates I've seen take maternity leave during the course of my career. That's where things get circular. I'm the most senior female associate in my group these days. I wish I had handled this better. Set a better example.

Please don't read this and worry about me. I'm feeling better. Everything is going to be okay. This post is here because I want to think about whether it's time to call it quits or maybe just time to reflect on how to handle situations like this better in the future. This post is also here in the hopes it might influence someone to give themselves permission to step out of the deal flow to take care of their health. Your health is more important than clarifying that the selling executive gets to keep those season tickets. Enough already.