Hello again, Danny Boice here, Trustify’s CEO. This is the third post of Chapter 2: The Voice as part of our Journey to Trust book series. Jen Mellon is the one sharing the story in this chapter including her experience with postpartum depression and much more. Jen Mellon is my wife, and she’s also the co-founder and president of Trustify.
Resistance boomed from the belly of a new mother and rested on a conversation we had had during my pregnancy about telecommuting.
“No,” I told them. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I had to fight through fear and tears to stand my ground. “I can’t leave my newborn baby.”
“If you’re not going to travel for us, we’ll need you here in the office, running operations,” my colleagues told me.
More fear. More tears. “But I thought we had agreed I could telecommute for the first few months after maternity leave and until I could find reliable childcare for my baby…” My voice had trailed off as I saw the frowns on their faces.
Caroline had allergic colitis and I was in and out of doctor’s appointments. Eli had just passed the bar exam and was never home. It’s clear to me now that I was suffering from post-partum depression and was trying to hold myself together. In retrospect, I should have fought for a more robust maternity leave while I got used to motherhood. I was twenty-five years old, unsure what to do, and, despite my strong personality, good at doing what I was told. The people pleaser in me had not asked for a contract, a certainty that our agreement would be honored.
I’m going to have to quit, I realized in that moment. I’m going to have to tell Eli I’m quitting. I’m a mama now, and I’m going to have to give up my career dreams for my baby.
I slunk home to Eli that day, feeling heavier than I had just a few months earlier, when I had waddled the eight blocks home with my still-protruding belly. I walked down the steps of the stone sidewalk, away from the building that served as the Joint Council’s headquarters in Alexandria. Black iron lantern streetlights and low branches of towering maple and chestnut trees hung in front of the historic buildings on St. Asaph street. For the first time since I had started working for the Joint Council, I didn’t—couldn’t—breathe in gratitude for the beauty and opportunity around me.
I had given birth, and I was about to let one of my oldest dreams die.
My dream was one that started when I was 13 years old and my mom handed me one of the Reader’s Digest magazines lying around the house. She was on her way to the hospital for her shift as a labor and delivery nurse, and I was home sick. I couldn’t watch MTV, couldn’t wear black in our strict Catholic household; but I could thumb through Reader’s Digest, the family-values-approved fare that had the patina of learning about it. It was a small magazine with a quarter-inch spine, like a paperback novel. I sat on the blue couch in our tidy family room in my pajamas, surrounded by boxes of Kleenex, and mindlessly flipped through the worn pages until I saw The Picture: A tiny baby with a mouth opened into a black wail and a face scrunched into an angry red splotch. I read the words marching across the page, pulling me in, one after another. Orphan crisis. China. Babies abandoned. One-child policy.
“This is insane. We have to do something about this.”
I looked around our family home in South Jersey, where we lived outside of Philly. I felt a shadow of anger and near-despair pass nearby, brushing me with prickly fingertips. Here I was, my belly full of food and my family about to arrive home from work and school, while helpless baby girls in China were tossed away like trash. The fact that families did this because they could only have one child and wanted a male heir stirred something in me. Rage and anger passed through my good-Catholic-girl compass and knitted itself back together as determination and intent.
Riiiiip. I tore the pages free of the spine. The article and that picture, The Picture, lived the rest of my teenage years on my bedroom mirror, the edges curling and yellowing as day after day I brushed my hair, put on my earrings, and got ready for school or church. I knew I would do everything in my power to help kids who had no one else. No babies would get thrown out on my watch. And I hadn’t even heard the voice of God at that point. At least not in a way I had recognized.
The giant bromeliad Puya raimondii, the Queen of the Andes, grows in mountains in Bolivia and Peru. The spiky flower takes years to bloom, to come to full life. For years, I was like this, too, thinking of abandoned children around the world, gathering their stories so that in some way they would not be forgotten. I was preparing.
...to be continued tomorrow!