There are some moments in life that hold unspeakable wonder. Those moments are etched more deeply than others in our memories and hearts and never wane with time. For me, the most memorable moments are from the birth of my first child. Of course, each subsequent birth brought the same joy and amazement at the end, but there is only one first time. After 35 years, I can still remember waking up at 1 am and staring at the second hand on the clock, timing the contractions for a full hour because I was more worried about showing up at the hospital and not really being in labor than I was worried about the one hour drive from San Clemente to the Naval Hospital at Camp Pendleton—even though I was already 17 days overdue—like it was yesterday.
I remember so many vivid details of my 20 hour labor: walking the halls to progress the labor, getting down on all fours to try and get my stubborn posterior child to roll around to progress the labor, begging for the pain meds my husband and I agreed I would not receive no matter how much I begged, and eventually telling every poor soul who entered the room that I was dying and nobody would help me. Ultimately, I remember being utterly amazed that something so perfectly formed and beautiful could be the end result of 20 hours of agony.
I think that labor is God’s way of preparing moms for what lies ahead in raising our children; in other words, it is going to be harder than anything you ever dreamed you could tolerate but the end result will be amazing if you can just stick with it. I personally believe there is a lesson in labor for dad as well; be strong, be silent, be supportive—if mom freaks out, know and understand it is because she is suffering on an entirely different level than dad will ever experience. That child grew in her body for nearly a year. She had to change everything about the way she ate, slept and dressed and then she had to suffer unbearable pain while this new life fought her way into the world. No matter how supportive, no dad can ever understand sacrifice on that level.
One thing I never imagined when I held my first child in my arms was that one day I would work for her. I mean, who thinks that? “Someday, my sweet baby, I will work for you.” I guarantee it didn’t cross my mind in those magical moments.
A few years ago [I guess it has been several, now that I think about it], when my husband and I were returning from our lovely little stint in Hingham, my daughter (Miranda) asked me if I was interested in doing a little work for her on the side…just a little medical billing. She had started her own business the year prior, Progress and Learning Autism Network (PLAN) and [at that time], she had been doing 100% of the administrative work in addition to the therapeutic work and supervision of her therapists. She was drowning in paperwork and had no time to fight with the insurance companies.
PLAN for growth. PLAN for learning. PLAN for life.
Helping Change lives everyday through ABA
If any of you out there do medical billing, you know how hard it is to get some insurance companies to reimburse for services—at the end of the month, it is a guarantee that remittances will be denied for all kinds of insane reasons you never imagined existed, although there has been absolutely no change to the authorization or services. I am convinced that each claim processor has a maximum dollar amount they can pull from each month and then they randomly assign a rejection code to buy time for a couple of months, since they all have regulations on how long they have to process that first claim, but a rejection? Well, let me just say that it has taken up to a year in some instances.
Anyhow, sorry I got sidetracked on that rant, I (obviously) told her I would be happy to ‘help.’ And ‘helping’ is how it began…but as her business grew and the administrative work grew, I found myself working more and more. I confess, I’ve never been one to walk away from a challenge, and this side of a psychology practice [that deals exclusively with children with autism] is full of challenges. Back then, autism care was in its fledgling stages. Not only was it hard to get authorizations for care, and get reimbursement for that care, but it was hard to find and train good therapists too. And in this business, the quality of the therapist is paramount; nothing is more important than a good therapist and continuity of care.
My great love of children—all children—came into play here as well. I wanted to free up every possible moment of Miranda’s time so she could completely devote herself to the therapeutic side of the business. Having raised a child on the autism spectrum myself, I fully understood the value of her services and how ‘time sensitive’ they were.
If you read between the lines, you will see little warning indicators of potential stress between us. A business in its fledgling stages has little extra cash, so payment from insurance companies was essential to pay those good therapists she worked so hard to find and train. It quickly became apparent that I needed to immerse myself more fully into creating efficient administrative policies and procedures, which I did and the business began to grow and flourish with each side of it properly tended.
This is where the hard part really came into play. Although it seems as though this would be the part where we would be celebrating over a glass of wine, the reality was that we could no longer enjoy a glass of wine together without one of us discussing the business. There was always some loose end that needed to be discussed, as is often the case when you own your own business. When there were more therapists, more insurance companies, and more clients, there were more loose ends to discuss….and we discussed, and discussed, and discussed….until it seemed like our mother/daughter relationship no longer existed. We simply could not get together, not even for a five minute drop off of one of her children, my grandchildren, without bringing up business issues. Talk about stressful!
Nobody should live their work 100% of the time. Work should stay at work (as much as possible) and home life should be separate. Eventually, a heartfelt email from my daughter reminded me of this fact. She was unwilling to give ‘us’ up. I take all of the blame—when I work, I am driven to work until the job is done, and done perfectly at that. I think I can be a bit of a nitpicker because I have that type A thing going on. In a field such as this, with all of the extraneous elements, those expectations were completely unrealistic. And I was driving both Miranda and myself crazy over the effort. Not only was I driving us both crazy, I was causing damage to our relationship. I am disappointed [in myself] to tell you that I am amazingly good at not treating my daughter like my daughter; you know the old saying, “it’s not personal, it’s business.” What a terrible thing to do to someone I love so dearly.
In the end, we made a solid agreement to meet and discuss business at specific times only, and during that time, she was the BCBA/Owner/Director and I was the contracted Operations Manager. The rest of the time, I was her mom and she was my daughter—no business talk! It was a really hard transition, but a good one. It seems we had forgotten how much we enjoyed one another’s company. Although some may have just called it quits—severed the business relationship—our mutual respect for one another’s abilities eliminated this choice.
Back to that ‘painful but amazing’ day she was born…when this child was born, I named her Miranda which means ‘admirable’…and she has lived up to that name a thousandfold. My greatest wish for her in those wondrous first moments was that she would grow up to be healthy and kind and that she would use the gifts God gave her to try and make a difference in the world. The same wish I had for all of my precious babies.
I am so proud of the woman she has become and the passion with which she pursues her chosen field of work. She is a ferocious advocate for children and loves all who pass though her care. These are the things on which I now focus, instead of work that needs done…because really, isn’t there always unfinished business: not only in the workplace, but in the game of life? The challenge is to accept the unfinished business and trust that you’ve done your best and that is enough. Then, devote your real efforts: your time, your patience, your heart, to the most important thing: living and loving your life and family.
When you run a part of the relay and pass on the baton, there is no sense of unfinished business in your mind. There is just the sense of having done your part to the best of your ability. That is it. The hope is to pass on the baton to somebody who will run faster and run a better marathon.
N. R. Narayana Murthy