So, I’m not sure how my story will fit or if it will fit, but I think what happened to me is kind of similar? So anyway, here goes.
I was a married student working on my B.A. in Music. It was Fall semester and I was a key member of the percussion section in my college’s Wind Ensemble. Performance participation in the Wind Ensemble is required for the degree, but I was quickly developing complications due to diagnosed pre-eclampsia. I talked to my degree adviser and ensemble conductor (we shall call her Jane) about how I thought I might need to take time off and that I had been informed by my OB-GYN that I should not travel – at all – for any reason. At first Jane reminded me that performance participation is a requirement of the degree and that if I didn’t perform I would have to drop my major. Then she gave me a lecture about how I needed to set an example for women and show that women were no different from men and that I just needed to muscle through my situation. Also, I was apparently the only person who could play my parts, several which were solos, so my absence would cause obvious holes in the performance. I was told that I had made commitments and that, as a pregnant woman, I had a duty honor those commitments.
I was young and impressionable. I was worried about letting anyone down. I was worried about being kicked out of my degree program. So I went on the Fall Tour with Jane and our college music group. It was a long bus trip with little opportunity to move unless we were packing and unpacking gear. I would also spend several hours standing during each performance and lecture at the various elementary schools and high schools that we stopped at. The trip took a heavy toll on my body and hurt my health so much that when we returned I was forced to be on full bed rest for the next two months until they needed to induce me — 6 weeks early.
After my baby was born I got a phone call. I had planned to take the Spring semester off, but again I was given a lecture that I had to set an example for all women that there was no difference between men and women and that childbirth doesn’t interfere with careers… and I was still needed to play, so I was back at concert rehearsals 1 1/2 weeks after my baby was born. When I started showing symptoms of postpartum depression, I was told that again it was something I needed to push through because work came first and if I wasn’t willing to put my work first then I would never succeed — and I am sure you see a pattern this was the same person who (in hind sight) I should not have trusted, but was essentially my boss and coordinator of my chosen major, so I didn’t feel that I really had a choice.
I wasn’t fired, but I also wasn’t given respect to make decisions that were in the best interest of me and my baby. I wasn’t respected. My pregnancy wasn’t respected. I was given the impression that my only options were to – be superwoman example to all – or – basically consider myself a failure. I had no provisions in place to ensure that I would be allowed to take the necessary time off to care for myself and the baby and recover from a life-changing event, which also just happens to be very a serious medical condition (in my case life-threatening). The whole event was so traumatic that within a year I had withdrawn from school and my husband, son, and I had moved back home to live with our family so that I could finally focus on getting better physically and mentally.
I loved music and I had wanted all my life to be a music teacher and a performer, but once I left I just couldn’t go back. I wasn’t brain-dead, I was pregnant and dealing with serious medical side-effects that required care. Professors from my other classes, when informed of my situation, made accommodations so that I could continue my coursework without penalty. It wasn’t until the day that I was formally withdrawing from school that I learned that Jane was also required to provide me with any and all accommodations that I might need because of health issues. In fact there was an office that I was supposed to be directed to, the moment I informed my adviser that I had a medical condition, to provide support and advice if I felt I needed it. I was never made aware of this. Honestly I still don’t understand why Jane couldn’t allow for the idea of providing me with a few accommodations or perhaps the assurance that I could continue with my degree as soon as I was able to return to health. Perhaps Jane didn’t tell me about any of the support resources on campus because then she would have been forced to modify her plans, and that was just more work than she wanted to do. For her I think it was just easier for to force me to either suck it up and deal — or quit. Sadly, I quit – ran away from music, and never really looked back. And though I know that I didn’t do anything wrong, I still have moments when I remember that time and feel like a failure because I couldn’t muscle through Jane’s hoops even though I should have been allowed to continue my education at whatever pace I could handle and then take the equivalent of a maternity leave that following spring semester. Yep, I think maybe I got screwed.