Caroline cried a lot, right from the start. It was a sound that made Jen come running, and she panicked when Caroline didn’t want to eat. Jen made sure to eat a balanced diet, to keep both healthy. Yet, Caroline continued to lose weight.
“It happens to some babies,” friends and doctors told her. But Jen's mama senses told her something wasn’t right. She tried soothing music, rocking, all the things that bring babies to comfort and ease. She dove into books, articles, and research. It took a couple of agonizing months to arrive at her own diagnosis: allergic colitis. Even then, the information she found on the subject was hardly helpful: “It’s temporary. And rare.” Bite me.
If her time at Joint Council taught her anything, it was to be scrappy, and I worked to get her baby girl healthy. Jen followed a strict elimination diet and read as much as she could about the condition and potential solutions. By the time she visited the office with Caroline in her arms, she was a healthy pink and was gaining weight. Jen's team members cooed over her, and Jen eagerly took in the sounds of the office. “I know we talked about telecommuting and I am really excited to get that going at full steam,” She told her team. Even as the words came out of her mouth, something didn’t feel right.
It didn’t take long for the truth to come out: they were going to backtrack on the agreement. Joint Council needed Jen to travel, and if she couldn’t, they needed her in the office. No exceptions.
Jen was holding Caroline when she gritted her teeth and made the decision to leave Joint Council. She couldn’t leave her baby for a week at a time. Please, God, let this be the right decision, Jen prayed. Please take care of those kids. I need to be a mama to this girl and take care of her. As Caroline gurgled and reached for Jen's hair, she couldn’t yet picture a world where she could fight to be a mama and keep my job.
And with that, the final door closed and Jen left the organization. Her career in international advocacy for vulnerable kids was over.
For a long time, Jen felt Joint Council had betrayed her. Jen feared that the horrible board member from San Antonio would gloat. Jen felt she had let women everywhere down by giving up so easily. So she did the one thing she always did when guilt punched her guts: She picked up her precious baby. She smelled Caroline’s sweet smell. She thanked God for this beautiful gift of life, of love. This is what it’s about. This is what I’m doing this for. This is more important than my career.
But despite Jen's love for being a mama, in the dead of night, her mind would light up with ideas for businesses and projects. Her soul wanted more. Her heart wanted to return to that frenetic everyday pace where the Filofax flipped and global change hummed in the air.
Then one day, within the same month that Jen left Joint Council, Eli and Jen attended their first baby-and-me class at a local Gymboree. The class was held in a big room with brightly colored blobs and pictures of animals prancing on every wall. Tiny babies and parents with bubble makers laid on mats, and Jen instinctively knew she would find her tribe. She held Caroline closer and nuzzled her sweet skin, taking in the primary colors and smells of Caroline’s childhood.
Jen's baby girl’s wispy hair tickled my nose as a woman came bouncing up to us, her brown hair pulled back from her face. Her mouth opened and a British accent tumbled out.
“Hi! I’m Joanne. This is my husband, Danny.”