A Work Day In The Life Of Steph

I often wonder for women with endometriosis – how hard it is to get through each work day?

I started off as a clerk, then became a preschool teacher, then spent 11 years behind an office desk for various startups and corporations, then went back to preschool teaching.

Not a one of those jobs was easier than the other for the pain of endometriosis. Whether sitting, standing, stooping or bending, it all hurts like hell for a woman suffering with endo. I implore all women with endo to write A Work Day In The Life Of… to illustrate what it takes out of us, just to bring home the bacon.

I am an assistant teacher to children aged three to five in a Montessori school.

Work begins at 8:30am. Clutching four clipboards in one arm, I open three sets of gates on the school grounds to allow cars to drive in to drop off their children. I need to open car doors, stoop and bend into cars, gather up jackets and backpacks and lunch boxes, hand a clipboard to parents, disembark their child or children, fasten their accessories to them, get the clipboard back from the parent, close the door to the car, and sometimes walk the child to their classroom if he/she will not walk his/her self. Lather, rinse, repeat, for up to 20 minutes, then close one or two of the gates (other assistant teachers help me close the rest of the gates).

Next, I do one of two things: if none of the other teachers or assistants is absent that day, I will help my co-teacher set up the outdoor classroom. If a teacher or assistant IS absent, I am often the one sent to replace the person, which means I go into that person’s classroom for the day.
Either way, the rest of my workday consists of stooping and bending to be eye level with the young children. Often, I need to be in two places at once, so there is a bit of hurrying about. There are also emotional meltdowns throughout the day that I need to tend to, and I need to not contribute to their meltdown – I am the one who must diffuse and calm (I do an excellent job of that most of the time, btw). During my morning shift, I must also clean up spills. If I am not running the outdoor classroom, I have to get snack ready, and clean up after snack (load dishes into dishwasher, sweep under tables, wipe the tables).
At 11am, I go from classroom assistant to lunch monitor, where more stooping and bending is required, more wiping up of spills is necessary, and running around on the playground with preschoolers is required (“chase me!”).
After lunchtime, I need to sweep a few hundred square feet of outdoor lunch area, which includes lifting or moving painted lumber child-sized picnic tables (i.e. they may be child-sized, but they’re still heavy) to sweep underneath.

If I’m working in an indoor class that day, I get out of cleanup duty and instead have to go in when the class goes in from recess, help the children put their coats away, and get them settled on their nap mats. I have to sit on the hard floor and rub backs two at a time to help get everyone to sleep for naptime.

I have scoliosis, a tipped uterus, and near constant back pain in one form or another. Sitting on a hard floor – whether cross-legged, legs sticking straight out, knees drawn up, or on my side – is always painful for me. But it’s even more painful around the time of my period, when my lower back and entire pelvic region is already inflamed as it is.

After all that, around 1pm, I get a 45 minute lunch break.

After lunch, I either go back to the outdoor classroom for one more hour, or I substitute in an indoor classroom for one more hour, and then turn the kids loose for “extended care”, which is free play daycare time, much of it spent outdoors when the weather permits. Which means more “chase me!” and running around til 3:30 or 4pm, when I finally get to go home.

That is my workday, five days a week. It’s exhausting. I rarely get to sit down. I barely have enough time to take a sip of water or go to the bathroom during the day (but I’m getting better at carrying my water bottle around with me).

Now, add chronic pelvic pain to the daily routine.

I am pain-free for about one to two weeks out of every month, and it is often not consecutive pain-free days.

In the few days leading up to menses, I am heavily fatigued, and my body feels like a water balloon. I am winded just by standing up. I get headaches. I get intermittent cramps bad enough to make me gasp and/or double over. My lower back screams, and in fact my entire back tries to seize on me. Lifting and carrying a bucket of water right before or during menses – may as well be the same as caning me in the lower back and pelvis.

During menses, I don’t even come to work – I’m literally bedridden from the pain.

When I am able to return to work, which is anywhere from 1-4 days absent each month, I am still fatigued and not firing on all cylinders for one to two days, while my body recovers from having been bedridden.

Then I’m back to my old self – romping around the playground with the children, doing silly dances with them, stooping and bending with ease to converse with them.

My ‘old self’ – the part of me I consider my normal state – only gets to shine for one to two weeks each month.

But you know, that’s a lot more than many women with endometriosis get.