That was the reality smack dealt to immigration attorney and new mom Stacy Ehrisman-Mickle earlier this month, when an immigration judge in Atlanta denied her request to delay a hearing that fell during her paltry six-week leave. Though two other judges granted her similar delays, Judge J. Dan Pelletier Sr. claimed there was "no good cause" to push this one back, ABC News reports. And rather than let Ehrisman-Mickle know this before she went on leave, he sat on the request for nearly a month before rejecting it a mere five days before the hearing was to take place.
To say the new mom was surprised would be an understatement. In fact, she was in bed when her secretary called her with the unfortunate news. "I was in a state of panic. I didn't know what to do with my baby," she told The Associated Press. With her husband out of town, no family in the area and a baby too young for day care, Ehrisman-Mickle had no choice but to bring her daughter to court with her. (She first cleared it with her pediatrician, who advised her to wear the infant in a carrier facing inward to avoid germs.)
As if walking into a courtroom with a baby strapped to your chest wasn't rough enough for the attorney, the four-week-old started crying in the middle of the proceedings. Judge Pelletier's response? Why, fuss at the new mom for being inappropriate, of course, and then wonder aloud whether her pediatrician would be upset about all the germs the baby was being exposed to. "I was embarrassed. I felt humiliated," she said of the public dressing down.
Demoralizing complete, Pelletier granted a delay until Ehrisman-Mickle's doctor gives her the OK to go back to work. Meanwhile, the new mom has filed a formal complaint against the judge, and an investigating judge has already interviewed her to get her side of the story. Pelletier is staying tight-lipped for now (smart move, I think). According to ABC News, he said immigration judges can't comment publicly, and the branch of the Department of Justice that oversees immigration courts also won't comment.
I don't know what's more frustrating about this story -- the wildly unreasonable judge or the fact that it's oftentimes up to us parents to fight for (and protect) whatever maternity leave we can eke out. The sorry state of our country's leave policy has been the source of some discussion lately. (We're the only developed country without laws that provide paid maternity leave.) It made the agenda during the White House Summit on Working Families, and the Department of Labor even came out with a video encouraging paid leave laws. But despite the support, lawmakers have yet to enact laws that will give new moms and dads the precious time they need to care for their newborns. Maybe the sight of Ehrisman-Mickle -- tired but smiling on the way into court, with her baby nestled in a carrier against her business suit -- is enough to spur them on to (finally) effect real change.
Tell us: How was your maternity leave? Were you able to enjoy it, or was it interrupted by work demands?
Getting ready to go back to work after baby? Check out our tips for making a smooth transition back from maternity leave. And if you're considering becoming a SAHM, you can use our Stay at Home Calculator to see if you can afford to make the move. To keep up with the latest baby news, don't forget to like All About Babies on Facebook!
Image of gavel in courtroom courtesy of Shutterstock