Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Part 4: Nobody Knows the Trouble I See...

Just as a sidenote, telling my story has been much more involved than I initially thought. I'm hoping to finish it with this post, but who knows?

I returned back to work the last week in October, just as Harry received an offer for this dream job. He was going to start the week of Thanksgiving and would leave on Sunday afternoon and return Friday evening. I would stay in my current position until June, when I would (hopefully) receive an appointment near Harry. Thankfully, Nora was a delightful and easy baby, once those first few weeks passed. She was sleeping through the night by the time she was six weeks old and enjoyed going out and doing things.

However, I was not ready to go back to work. I didn't see any other choice, though, so I just tried to dive right back into things. I was overwhelmed, tired (because I was getting up to pump breast milk once a night), and very weepy/fragile. I also wasn't very productive, despite my best efforts. I had Nora in daycare, and tried to make the daytime hours count, but it seemed like I was moving in slow motion. I had gone back one medication when Nora was six weeks old, but it just wasn't doing the trick. My MHNP and I kept trying to find a good combination that would be effective AND safe for breastfeeding. We didn't have much luck, so I continued to be depressed and fragile.

When I returned to the pulpit after maternity leave, the church's welcome was lukewarm at best. They didn't even seem very excited about Nora, which hurt my feelings. When I checked my church e-mail account my first day back (I hadn't been checking it during my maternity leave), I found an e-mail from my PPR chair dated the last week in September. She had arranged a meeting of the PPR to discuss my salary for 2008 and wanted to let me know if the date and time (the first week in October) worked with me. I immediately replied, informed her that I had just received her e-mail, and apologized for the delay. I was perplexed by the e-mail, because E had never, ever e-mailed me before this. She had always either called me or talked to me in the "handshake line" after church. I didn't get a reply from her, and didn't get to talk with her until right before worship on Sunday.

Charge Conference was exactly one month after my return from maternity leave, so I immediately began preparations. I found out that the PPR had set my salary during my leave (that wound up causing problems later) and that the Finance committee had set the Sunday after my return as "Stewardship Sunday." I continued to have productivity issues, so when Charge Conference arrived, I was way behind. I had tried to share some of my issues/frustrations with a few PPR members, but no one seemed remotely sympathetic. I got the clear impression that they expected me to "perform" no matter what, and with very little help from them. I had the hardest time getting officers, especially my PPR Chair (my current one was rotating off PPR). I asked four different people, and they all said, "no". Finally, I had to place the matter before the PPR and told them to deal with it.

We had a PPR meeting the second week of December. I thought it was just going to be a matter of determining whether I stayed or went (their wishes, anyway. I was planning on asking to move). However, it wound up being a performance evaluation during which hardly anyone spoke. I did tell them about our new job/living situation, and said that I would be requesting a move in June. There was no reaction to that. A few concerns were raised about my recent performance, and I promised that things were looking up in that regard. I requested two weeks of vacation after Christmas to be with my family and regain my bearings. That proposal was met with a great deal of protest, so I (reluctantly) agreed to just take one week of vacation. I decided to be straight with them, and outlined how difficult the past few months had been for me and how fragile I felt. I was trying to get them to understand my position and my current state. My PPR chair then asked me if I was "emotionally stable enough to be their pastor." I was incredibly stung by that comment, but I did say that yes, I thought I was (and I really did think that). At that point, it became clear to me that the church in general didn't care one whit about me or my family, as long as I was there for the church.

Part of what hurt so much about that meeting was that they didn't know half the story. I hadn't told them that there had been moments over the past few months when I worried if my marriage would survive and if I was a horrible mother and had made a mistake having a baby. (Rest assured, that last thought process stopped around the two month mark when Nora began to be more interactive and I more confident. I now absolutely adore her.) Honestly, probably nothing would have changed in their eyes if I had said all that...except they would have thought for sure that I was too unstable to be their pastor.

 Click here for the next part

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