Bibi Fell is an absolute icon. For one client, her quick wit resulted in a $105MM verdict and hundreds of millions in restitution for many others. She is a Top 100 Trial Lawyer, ranked by the National Trial Lawyers. Founder of Fell Law, she is a champion for justice and serves as Partner at Athea Trial Lawyers. They are a band of the best female trial attorneys in the nation. She is an educator, mentor, and mother.
Beyond the accolades, what set’s Bibi apart is her unflinching compassion. When the world crumbled around her, she had every reason to give up. Quit law. Turn and hide. Instead, she gathered herself up, sought help, dove into vulnerability, and came out stronger in the end.
She shares her story today as a reminder that life can be awful. But how we respond is up to us.
- Seek help early. When everything seems right, go to therapy and learn to develop the skills necessary to navigate a crisis successfully.
- Tap into compassion. When loved ones are struggling, hold space and support them.
- Keep going. Life comes with unavoidable challenges. How we respond to adversity is a choice.
Bibi Fell (00:01):
My reality right now is that I have a four-year old little girl who loves her mommy, and I’m not going to waste those moments. When you ring the bell, people think the fight is over and the fear is over. And it’s not, because you’re afraid of it coming back.
Maria Monroy (00:20):
Bibi Fell (00:21):
If I can get my kids through childhood feeling loved-
Maria Monroy (00:24):
Bibi Fell (00:25):
… that that was my number one job.
Maria Monroy (00:27):
I think that’s the most important thing, honestly.
Bibi Fell (00:29):
When you realize that you lose nothing by supporting another person, that you lose nothing but ego by saying, “You know what? I was wrong.” It frees you up to be somebody that you could be proud of.
Maria Monroy (00:44):
And at least I can say to them, “I followed my dreams. I did what I wanted to do. I had a happy happy life.”
Bibi Fell (00:50):
And I want you to be able to look back and say, in this moment, I treated the person I love With kindness.
Maria Monroy (00:58):
You have her back.
Bibi Fell (00:59):
Maria Monroy (01:07):
In law school, attorneys are taught to challenge everything, tear things apart, break them down. But the qualities that make lawyers great can be some of the worst for running a business. At every stage of growth, running a business and practicing law can feel overwhelming. And what happens when you try to add life and family to the mix? It can feel nearly impossible. You don’t have to do this alone. I’m Maria Monroy, co-founder and president of LawRank, a leading SEO agency for ambitious law firms. Each week we hear from industry leaders on what it really takes to run a law firm, from marketing to manifestation. Because success lies in the balance of life and law. We’re here to help you tip the scales.
Many consider her to be one of the greatest of her generation. Founding partner at Athea Trial Lawyers and Fell Law, she devotes substantial time to teaching young lawyers and law students how to work up and try cases. A member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, she has secured multiple eight and nine figure verdicts for her clients. Her firm Fell Law is constantly recognized by the Daily Journal, Law Dragon, the National Trial Lawyers Top 100 and Super lawyers.
We take a break from Bibi’s professional life and get personal. Bibi and I discuss the extreme circumstances that could have broken her and how she fought through it all. She tells her story today because she wants women to see that you can have terrible, awful things happen to you in your personal life and still move forward in your career. She reminds us that experiencing adversity doesn’t mean that you have to leave a life in law.
What interests me about you is that you seem to have this energy that is so full of elegance, the way that you handle life. It’s like, that’s what I want to be. I read your Facebook post, and I’m like, how does she do that? Were you always this way?
Bibi Fell (03:32):
I was always kind of quiet and calm, and I think I had a really good role model in terms of the way I wanted to be and interact with the world in that my father was a lawyer and he was just the kindest person ever. He was always that shoulder you could come to and the whole community knew it. I mean, there wasn’t a single weekend where I didn’t see him either on the phone with someone kind of helping them through whatever problem they were having or have somebody come over to the house who just needed like a shoulder to cry on. He was that rock, not only for my family, but for the whole community.
Maria Monroy (04:07):
That’s amazing. So let’s just start with a post that you posted on Facebook a few months ago. Would you mind reading it to us?
Bibi Fell (04:16):
So I said, want to hear a story? As many of you know, over the last 18 months, I’ve had a series of challenges. I’ll be honest, there were moments when I wondered whether the hits would ever stop coming, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other hoping that darkness would be followed by dawn. Well, here’s the story part. When we were in Cincinnati for Maddie’s treatment, we met a kind and brilliant man who despite his accomplishments, was bathed in humility. Jim Geller impressed me immediately in an interesting twist, almost a year after I left Cincinnati, our paths crossed again. Getting to know this amazing man has been a silver lining to be envied by all other silver linings. Today in France, we celebrate a new chapter to brighter days, never giving up hope and finding love where you least expect it. Cheers.
Maria Monroy (05:10):
I was so happy when I read that, and now we’re starting at the end, but let’s talk about those challenges.
Bibi Fell (05:19):
So I didn’t perceive myself as someone with challenges. I would say about 18 months ago, I felt like I had the perfect life. There were literally days that I woke up and I was like, I’m so happy I wouldn’t want to change anything about where I am in life in this moment in time. And on January 18th, 2021, all of that changed dramatically. So I woke up in the morning and I took two of my daughters, my 15 year old, and then my youngest to see their pediatrician for just a normal well baby checkup. And when he put his hand on her tummy, I saw his face drop and he kept kind of feeling around and I could just sense something in the room. The whole room changed, and he looked over at me and he said, there’s an issue. I feel something here. It’s a mass. It’s very large. And then honestly, I don’t know what he said after that.
Maria Monroy (06:22):
That’s like every mom’s worst nightmare.
Bibi Fell (06:26):
It felt like the world was just spinning and I had to stop him and say, I’m sorry, I’m not listening to anything you’re saying right now. I’m just trying to decide how much to panic.
Maria Monroy (06:39):
Yeah, I mean, you were processing. It must have been awful. And and then what happened?
Bibi Fell (06:43):
He said, “It’s definitely something to be concerned about. Don’t panic yet. There are many reasons why there could be a large mass in her belly.”
Maria Monroy (06:53):
Did you panic?
Bibi Fell (06:54):
Maria Monroy (06:55):
Bibi Fell (06:56):
Maria Monroy (06:57):
You’re like, don’t panic. Yeah, I’m already panic. Too late for that statement. Oh my goodness.
Bibi Fell (07:03):
So then we were told to wait there until we could get an appointment to do an x-ray and an ultrasound, and it was a holiday, so nobody was open. And so I called one of my expert witnesses just in desperation saying, here’s what happened. I’m sorry, you’re the one I picked to get this call, but can you help me? And he was able to get on the phone with somebody from Imaging Healthcare who was willing to create an appointment for me at the end of the day after they were closed so I could bring my daughter in
Maria Monroy (07:35):
The power of having a community and a network. That’s amazing.
Bibi Fell (07:39):
Yeah. So we go in at the end of the day and Maddie has her x-ray done and her abdominal ultrasound at the time, she was four years old, almost five. And so she didn’t really know what was going on. All she knew was she was really hungry because she wasn’t allowed to eat. But other than that, she was in a pretty good mood and we were trying to stay positive and not let on that there was potentially something really wrong. So we went and we did that.
We went home and the pediatrician said that he would call us as soon as he heard anything from the imaging center. So it was about 10:30 at night when we got that call, my phone rang. I put it on speaker so my husband could hear, and he said, “So there is a mass. It’s very large. In fact, it’s so large that we can’t tell where it’s coming from because it’s touching so many of her other organs. But also concerning is that it’s not the only one. There are two other smaller masses on her liver.” So I asked him at that point in time, “Is it cancer?” And he said probably.
Maria Monroy (08:50):
Oh my goodness, that was probably the longest day of your life, just waiting for that phone call.
Bibi Fell (08:55):
It was the most awful moment of my life. I hope it’s the most awful moment of the rest of my life.
Maria Monroy (09:03):
I think you earned that. Yeah. Yeah. I hope so too.
Bibi Fell (09:06):
Yeah, it didn’t feel real.
Maria Monroy (09:08):
I’m sure it took forever to process.
Bibi Fell (09:10):
And it was hard to process. We were told by the doctor, get up super early in the morning, take her to Rady Children’s Hospital’s emergency room. I’ve called ahead. They’re expecting you. Don’t feed her, and they’re going to do an ultrasound or not an ultrasound, an MRI. And he said, pack a bag because you’ll probably either be admitted to surgery or you’ll be admitted to oncology.
Maria Monroy (09:32):
Bibi Fell (09:34):
So we tried to get everybody to bed early because we knew it was going to be a long day. And I remember the next morning waking up, and when you wake up in that fog, it’s like you’re in that line between dream and awake. And I remember thinking, “Gosh, what an awful, awful nightmare.”
Maria Monroy (09:50):
Oh my God.
Bibi Fell (09:51):
And then as the seconds ticked on and I woke up a little bit more again, that realization that, no, this is real. This is really happening.
Maria Monroy (09:58):
It hit you. Again.
Bibi Fell (10:00):
Again, over and over for weeks. Every morning when I woke up.
Maria Monroy (10:05):
I have a four, five year old now, five year old daughter. So this hits home. And I’ve met Maddie. I actually met Maddie before I met you. And as you can tell, I’m drawn to her because I can, I’m going to cry. I can only imagine. I look at her and I’m like, there was a point that her mom was like, “She’s magical.”
Bibi Fell (10:25):
Maria Monroy (10:25):
Bibi Fell (10:26):
No. I think one of the most awful moments for me in that early part of the journey was walking by her bedroom, something that I did all the time in the morning and wondering, should I make her bed? Should I make her bed or should I leave it crumpled like she had just slept in it ,because at that point in time, I wasn’t sure she was ever coming home.
Maria Monroy (10:54):
So she was admitted.
Bibi Fell (10:56):
She was, yeah. So my husband took her to the hospital. It was during COVID so there was only one person allowed at a time.
Maria Monroy (11:03):
Oh my God. And what an awful time to go through this.
Bibi Fell (11:06):
Oh, it was terrible. So I couldn’t even be there in the hospital. So he was in there all day with her. She did the MRI, we got the diagnosis, and at the end of the day, I was able to join them on the oncology floor.
Maria Monroy (11:22):
How incredibly difficult.
Bibi Fell (11:25):
The news just kept getting worse and worse. It’s like, you don’t understand. You think that cancer is a diagnosis and that’s an awful diagnosis. No, that’s just part of the story. That’s the first step to hear your child has cancer, and then you have to hear the rest of the diagnosis, which for us kept getting worse and worse. It wasn’t one mass, it was three masses. It was coming from her liver and she was going to need a liver transplant to save her life. There’s a risk stratification. They don’t go by stage 1, 2, 3, 4 for this type of cancer. There were about 32 different risk profiles that go from very low at the top to high risk at the bottom. And she was second from the bottom on that list when the doctors showed us. So it was a flurry of activity. She needed to have a surgery immediately to get a port placed in her heart where they could deliver the chemotherapy.
Maria Monroy (12:21):
I didn’t even know that was a thing.
Bibi Fell (12:23):
They put it right in the chest and it delivers the chemotherapy. We were talking about getting a transplant, a liver transplant consultation and getting that set up, which they couldn’t do in San Diego. So we were going to have to go somewhere else, probably Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles. And then they were just talking about all the different ways our life was going to be changed over the next seven months, including whether we would approve for our child to be on a clinical trial to test new therapies or an old therapy, but a new way of delivering the therapy to try to treat her type of cancer.
Maria Monroy (13:00):
Oh my God. And you are running a law firm at this point?
Bibi Fell (13:05):
I had just started my firm a year prior, and it was in the middle of the pandemic. And so I’m trying to run a firm, keep that together, care for my older kids who are still at home while I’m in the hospital all day long in a pandemic where we can’t have other people in and out of the house helping. So it was really, every second of every day was just so intensely focused on whatever I needed to do, whatever fire I needed to put out in that moment.
Maria Monroy (13:34):
What kept you going? How did you have hope in that moment and how did you show up for your law firm, for your clients, for your staff?
Bibi Fell (13:44):
Well, fortunately I had gone through a lot of therapy in the years prior to this happening. So I was able to come to this situation at my best self. So I didn’t crumble because I had a stronger foundation because of the therapy I did before I was in crisis. And so one of the things that taught me was that anxiety is about worrying, mostly worrying about things, 99% of which will not happen in the future.
Maria Monroy (14:14):
You’re about to become my therapist because I have a ton of anxiety.
Bibi Fell (14:18):
So every time my mind would start to wander and go down this horrible, horrible path and say, “Okay, all of these things I’m thinking, these pictures that are coming to my mind, everything that I’m imagining right now that’s sending me into a panic, 99% of that’s not going to be true. So I just need to come back to the present moment. What’s my reality now? My reality right now is that I have a four year old little girl who loves her mommy and wants to spend time with me, and I’m not going to waste those moments.”
Maria Monroy (14:48):
And you’re right, because she didn’t even understand. I mean, there’s no way she can comprehend what’s going on. And regardless of what was going to happen, you had that moment with her right then, and you had, again, a law firm, two other daughters, a husband. There was so much going on. How did you explain what was happening to your older daughters?
Bibi Fell (15:12):
My older daughters were, let’s see, 16 and 14 at the time. They were old enough to know. So my 15 year old was with us at the pediatrician’s office. She knew right away that something was very, very wrong, and my older daughter knew as soon as we said there’s a mass. What they didn’t understand was that it didn’t mean that their sister was definitely going to die. So they were trying to process that there was reason to still have hope, and that’s what I was trying to focus on too. I remember grabbing the oncologist in the hall and saying, “Look, I need you to help me understand this. Right, okay, so this test showed this and this showed this, and the picture looks like this. That means that there’s good reason to hope. It’s not that all hope is lost.” And she would have to reassure me periodically, “No, there is reason to hope.”
Maria Monroy (16:08):
And let’s get to the happier stuff. So then what happens?
Bibi Fell (16:12):
So then part of the way I dealt with my stress was to just work constantly. And I was working on how to help Maddie. So I was calling doctors around the country to try to figure out if there was somebody who could help her find the best transplant hospital in the country, find the best surgeon. And what I found was the best team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the oncologist, was the oncologist who was running the clinical trial that we enrolled my daughter on.
And so instead of seeing a small handful of patients with my daughter’s type of cancer, hepatoblastoma in an entire career, this was somebody who saw hundreds, and then through the research, saw so many more through the data. And so I felt like we really found the oncologist who knew the disease better than any other. And then his partner was a surgeon who did a lot more of these surgeries than any of the surgeons that I was able to talk to on the west coast. So we sent all the information over, and it was a matter of days before I got the call from Cincinnati, “We think we can take this out now. When can you get out here?”
Maria Monroy (17:22):
Bibi Fell (17:23):
Maria Monroy (17:24):
And again, remember everyone, this is in the middle of COVID.
Bibi Fell (17:27):
Right. And my daughter had already had a round of chemo, so she is now severely immunocompromised. And so we knew that it would be risky to take her in a public place like an airport and sit in a public plane. And I didn’t know how I was going to get her there. If I had to put her in a backpack and ride my pedal bike to Cincinnati in the middle of the winter, I was going to do it. And that’s when the community stepped in. And I got a call from somebody who I had only met a couple of times before at conferences, Chris Dolan.
Maria Monroy (18:03):
Oh, I love him.
Bibi Fell (18:05):
He called me and he know, probably be embarrassed that I’m even using his name. He’s just such a kind person. He did this for no reason other than to help somebody. He’d probably be embarrassed that I’m talking about him and telling people he did this.
Maria Monroy (18:17):
People like he deserves it.
Bibi Fell (18:20):
He absolutely deserves it.
Maria Monroy (18:20):
He is so sweet. That is wonderful.
Bibi Fell (18:22):
So I’m in the hospital and I get a phone call and it’s Chris. He says, “I hear you have a little girl who needs to get to Cincinnati. I’m sending my airplane and my pilot to San Diego, and they’re going to wait at the airport for you until your daughter gets discharged. Then they’ll take you to Cincinnati so she can get the surgery she needs.”
Maria Monroy (18:43):
How much love did you feel in that moment?
Bibi Fell (18:45):
Oh, I was just bawling. I just couldn’t believe that this person who I had met for such a brief period of time was so willing to selflessly extend himself to help my little girl, that my little girl’s story had moved him that much.
Maria Monroy (19:06):
Yeah, that’s beautiful. So you get on his plane
Bibi Fell (19:10):
And we get on his plane and we go to Cincinnati. We land in the middle of a historic blizzard.
Maria Monroy (19:16):
Bibi Fell (19:16):
And we go directly from the airport to the hospital where my daughter gets checked into the emergency room. The very next day she has an MRI and prep stuff. And the day after that, she had a surgery and the surgeon was able to take the tumor out, save her liver, get clean margins, and really save not only her liver, but her life. So, so incredibly grateful.
Maria Monroy (19:44):
So then you guys came back to-
Bibi Fell (19:47):
So we were there for a couple of months, maybe two and a half months
Maria Monroy (19:50):
For checkups and stuff like that.
Bibi Fell (19:52):
Got some more chemotherapy. She still needed really intense chemo after the surgery because they want to make sure that they kill any cell that might’ve dared to travel. So we were still going to finish her protocol. We came back, we did some more of the protocol here in San Diego, and it was in July of that year that she finished the treatment, got her end of treatment scans and was officially cancer free.
Maria Monroy (20:17):
That’s beautiful. That’s amazing. I’m so happy. How did you feel that day, the day that they’re like, I assume she’s in remission.
Bibi Fell (20:28):
Yes. She is. And so the last day of treatment is the day that they ring the bell. And I had very mixed feelings because we had really the support of the community behind us while we were going through this journey. There was a lot of fear, but there was also a lot of support. But when you ring the bell, people think the fight is over and the fear is over. And it’s not because you’re afraid of it coming back. And then you’re still, that’s the end. That’s the last dose of chemo. But the dip into the danger zone comes a few days after that. So you’re still on high alert, very concerned. Things could still go very horribly wrong even though the rest of the world around you is celebrating. So it’s like this disconnect. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to be excited, but I was still so afraid and acknowledging that we weren’t out of danger yet.
Maria Monroy (21:28):
That’s where your therapy comes in to kind of bring you back and say, okay, well, right now all is good. But now it’s been how long?
Bibi Fell (21:37):
She’s now a year and three months, about, cancer free.
Maria Monroy (21:42):
How often do they check her?
Bibi Fell (21:43):
Every three months, we go back for blood tests where they check the tumor marker. And then because of my anxiety, I want ultrasounds every three months, even though it’s not required.
Maria Monroy (21:55):
And is this for life now?
Bibi Fell (21:58):
So it’ll be every three months until she hits the two year mark. So it’s not that she’s cured after two years because there’s still is the possibility of relapse, but that possibility goes way down. So that’s when we can kind of take a breath.
Maria Monroy (22:11):
A deeper breath.
Bibi Fell (22:12):
Maria Monroy (22:12):
Yeah. That’s awesome. Now, what happened after?
Bibi Fell (22:16):
A few months after my daughter was done with her cancer treatment, my husband ended up coming out as transgender, and he was going to make a transition to being female, which I didn’t know. It came as a surprise to me. But in a sense, it was the kindest gift he could have ever given me.
Maria Monroy (22:36):
Bibi Fell (22:37):
Maria Monroy (22:39):
And that must have been, what did you feel in that moment?
Bibi Fell (22:43):
Fear, sadness. I mean, we’ve just been through this real rollercoaster and I felt like, okay, we have finally landed on firm ground and we can build our family back up. And I had what I believed was a beautiful family for the rest of my life. And so my world came crashing down.
Maria Monroy (23:06):
Bibi Fell (23:08):
Again. And I called Zoe Littlepage, my partner in Athea, and she spoke just the most beautiful words to me in that moment. It was exactly what I needed to hear. She said, “Look, as much as you are hurting, the person you love has got to be so afraid right now. And I want you to be able to look back and say, in this moment, I treated the person I love with kindness.” And so it really helped me to take my mind frame from being like, what about me? To thinking about, “Oh my goodness,” putting myself in his shoes and how scary that must be for him and making this big change to being his authentic self with the which he absolutely deserved.
Maria Monroy (23:58):
We all deserve that. And I think the right word here is empathy. If we had empathy for everybody at all times, we would be a wonderful world because it’s really not about us usually. It’s really whatever the other person is going through. And you were able to do that? Did you feel betrayed?
Bibi Fell (24:18):
I did. I felt lied to. There are moments, I have moments, there are ups and downs, still. But when I step back, it’s like nobody wanted him to be the husband, the father, the man more than he did. And we’ve come through the transition and her name is Tara now, and she has been handling the transition beautifully. She has come alive to her true self. And what has been so clear to me from the moment that I was told to present is that this was not a choice. This is not a choice that a person makes. She absolutely needed to do this to be the best parent she could be for our child. And of course, I’m going to support that.
Maria Monroy (25:15):
That’s beautiful. You also had a really wonderful post about Tara, and I think it ended with, do you remember, what was the last sentence you had in there.
Bibi Fell (25:26):
Maria Monroy (25:26):
I’m such a fan girl. The first time I met you, I totally went up to you and I was like, I’m a huge fan. And I think it was pre Tara, but I was already a fan. I was like, I’m such a fan of yours. I follow you on Facebook and you’re probably, you were just, you were very sweet, but you were probably like, who is this crazy lady?
Bibi Fell (25:43):
No, not at all. I thought you were so sweet. I think it was something to the effect of, just so you all know where I stand, if anybody says something negative about her, it better not be to or around me. Because I did get a lot of questions. People were concerned about me for good reason, but I wanted the world to know that if they wanted to support me, the best thing they could do is support her.
Maria Monroy (26:10):
You have her back.
Bibi Fell (26:11):
Maria Monroy (26:12):
I mean, you guys share a child and you’ve been through so much.
Bibi Fell (26:16):
We shared a child. We shared a life for a long time. We went through incredible highs and incredible lows. And the reality is, and that seven months when my daughter was in the hospital all the time, it was my spouse who was baring most of the burden so that I could work. And I could never hate the person who was there for my child and there for me, and there for my other daughters the way that she was.
Maria Monroy (26:46):
But how did you do that? I want to know how you do this, because I wish I could just bottle it up because I, it’s, I think that hopefully all of us want to become better humans. And a lot of the things that you talk about, I don’t even think you have a lot of empathy for Tara. How can people do these things? What would you say to them?
Bibi Fell (27:08):
I mean, it’s kind of cliche, but put yourself in their shoes. I think we can, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in ourselves. I feel this. I feel badly. It must be your fault. And it’s easy to point the finger at other people, but the reality is human beings are so complicated and we are all going through our separate struggle. And if we could open our eyes to what other people are going through, it’s not hard to have compassion for the journey that they’re walking. So many of our journeys are similar. The facts may be different, totally different. Very few people will have a child. Well, statistically percentage wise, a small percentage of people have a child with childhood cancer. But the emotions, the fear, the love, the sadness, the grief, all of those are so common among humans. And they’re things that we share so much more that brings us together than divides us.
Maria Monroy (28:12):
And even when Maddie had cancer, you would say, wait a minute. She needs me right now. I need to be present. And with your husband, you chose empathy. And I think these are beautiful things that I want to be better at.
Bibi Fell (28:30):
I think when you realize that you lose nothing by supporting another person, that you lose nothing but ego by saying, you know what? I was wrong. It frees you up to be somebody that you could be proud of it’s a lofty goal. I’m sure I fall short of that every day of my life. But when you get it right, it does feel good. You can’t feel proud about who you are and what you’ve done.
Maria Monroy (29:02):
So at this point, your husband has come out as trans.
Bibi Fell (29:06):
Maria Monroy (29:07):
And that was the end of your marriage.
Bibi Fell (29:09):
Maria Monroy (29:10):
And what happened next?
Bibi Fell (29:13):
So we kept it quiet for a little while. Again, it was her secret to tell, and I wasn’t going to out her before she was ready. And so when she decided she was ready, we told the family. My older kids took it hard. Maddie was great. Maddie was like, “Oh, okay. So you’re a girl. You’re a girl, and you want to feel pretty.”
Maria Monroy (29:34):
And you want to feel pretty. That makes perfect sense, right?
Bibi Fell (29:41):
Absolutely. I mean, she kind of looked at both of us. I think kids, they take notice of what their parents do. They’re looking to us for how to react. And so when we were able to talk to her about it, yeah, duh. Right, of course, if you’re born a girl, of course you want to feel pretty. Right. She was like, “Hmm, okay. Well, you love me and you still love me, so I guess we’re good.”
Maria Monroy (30:07):
She was like, that was easy. So funny because it reminds me totally in a different subject. The first time, my son, he must have been five, he was like, and I was pregnant with my third, and he goes, “Mom, how is she going to come out? How do they take her out?” And I grew up in a household that was, those things were taboo. So I was 13. I thought that they just always open, it’s always a C-section, right? Or that somebody brings the baby, I don’t know. And I looked at him and I went, I’m just going to push her out of my vagina. And he was holding two little toys and he goes, “Okay.” And kept playing. And I was like, “I thought you were going to be …. Where’s the trauma? Where did the trauma go?” And in that moment I realized, oh my God, I’m just never going to lie. I’m just always going to the appropriate truth, right? But then it bit me in the ass when I was in the grocery store and someone’s like, oh, how far along are you? And I’m like, “Oh, she’s due in two weeks.” And he turns and he goes, “She’s going to push her out of her vagina.”
Bibi Fell (31:21):
Oh my goodness.
Maria Monroy (31:22):
I was like, I’m really rethinking what I tell you, buddy.
Bibi Fell (31:25):
From the mouths of babes.
Maria Monroy (31:29):
They just take it. But my whole thought process was like, if you live at a farm and you see animals doing it, and you see animals birthing it’s just the most natural, normal thing. You don’t question it, right? It’s like, why was I going to lie to a five year old? He thought it was made perfect sense. It’s just kids. They’re just like, okay. And it really makes me wonder, the power we have as a society,
Bibi Fell (31:54):
So much power.
Maria Monroy (31:55):
We could change the world if we just taught them everything correctly. They’re just all the hatred that’s in our world. I’m like, you know those people did not have a good childhood. That’s where it comes from. And it also scares me because I’m like, I hope I’m not screwing my kids up, but-
Bibi Fell (32:13):
Well, you are. Because we all do.
Maria Monroy (32:16):
Thank you. You’re right. Thank you.
Bibi Fell (32:19):
Nobody comes out of childhood unscathed.
Maria Monroy (32:21):
Bibi Fell (32:21):
And it’s really hard for working moms because we have this guilt. If we’re working, we feel guilty that we’re not with our kids. If we’re with our kids, we feel guilty that we’re not working. So let me take the pressure off. You will screw your child up.
Maria Monroy (32:32):
Yeah, no, and I have that same issue. I feel guilty no matter what. So I was like, you know what? Fuck it. I’m just going to do what I want to do because I’m going to feel guilty no matter what. And at least I can say to them, I followed my dreams. I did what I wanted to do. I had a happy life.
Bibi Fell (32:48):
I loved you as best as I could. And I showed you the best example that I could. And I’ve always felt like if I can get my kids through childhood feeling loved-
Maria Monroy (33:00):
Bibi Fell (33:01):
… that that was my number one job.
Maria Monroy (33:03):
I think that’s the most important thing. Honestly, as long as they know that they’re loved, like you said, we are going to mess them up. And we’re here. I truly believe that we’re here to learn. And if we were supposed to be here to just have a good time and feel happy all the time, well, that’s what we would be doing. But we’re not doing that. And that’s for a reason. It’s okay. We had issues with one of our kids in school. My husband was like, “I’m just going to take him out, put him in another school.” And I was like, “No, it’s okay for him to have some adversity as long as we’re here to support him. And I’m glad he feels comfortable coming home and crying to us and we’re there to love him. We’re just not going to pull him, just because …” I mean, at some point, sure. But sure enough, it was a new school. Sure enough, a week later, he’s perfectly fine.
Bibi Fell (33:54):
Right. And so you’ve built resilience.
Maria Monroy (33:56):
Bibi Fell (33:57):
And I think people need to see struggle and they need to see somebody come out of the other end to recognize how resilient we can be as humans. And so part of the reason that I’ve decided to tell my story is because I want women to see that you can have terrible things happen to you in your personal life, and you can still move forward in your career. You do not need to leave the law because you’ve suffered a loss, because you’ve had something bad happen to you because you got fired or you whatever, fill in any of the difficult things that happen all the time.
Maria Monroy (34:33):
You had a boss that sexually harassed you.
Bibi Fell (34:35):
Which unfortunately is a lot of us.
Maria Monroy (34:38):
Yes, I know.
Bibi Fell (34:39):
Mean. It really is still a problem.
Maria Monroy (34:42):
It’s a very big problem. Even at conferences is a huge problem.
Bibi Fell (34:45):
Huge problem. Yeah. And it’s going to take people calling those people out.
Maria Monroy (34:50):
I know. I feel like we’re behind on the Me Too movement in the legal space.
Bibi Fell (34:53):
For everyone that comes out, there are so many that don’t. Right. It is scary.
Maria Monroy (34:57):
There’s a lot of shame. Now, if there are any women out there that have gone through something similar, can they reach out to you?
Bibi Fell (35:05):
Absolutely. Most women I know in this space have a story. And to recognize that we are a community and we can support each other through it. And there are people to talk to. Even if you’re not willing to talk to the world, you can find support.
Maria Monroy (35:22):
I like happy endings. Okay. Yes. Laugh at that joke all you want, but I want to hear your ending.
Bibi Fell (35:28):
Maria Monroy (35:29):
Bibi Fell (35:30):
So about 10 months after we left Cincinnati, just to bring you all back. I’m here. My daughter’s done with treatment. I’ve found out that my marriage is not going to last. So I’m kind of single, focusing on my kids trying to work hard. And the oncologist from Cincinnati, who saved my daughter’s life, he always says no when I say that, but let me tell the story the way I wanted to tell the story. I was in San Diego for a conference and he posted a picture of himself watching a football game at the beach and just on a whim reached out to him and said, “Hey, you’re in my city. Let me take you out for a drink.”
Maria Monroy (36:11):
But wait, when you sent that, was there already you were interested or it was just very benign?
Bibi Fell (36:19):
I think when I look back, there was an interest, right? Yep. There was certainly a ton of respect, a lot of professional respect. I mean, there was nothing untoward, inappropriate that happened when I was there. It was very professional. And then our relationship as it continued on, because I would reach out for various things, refer people over and that sort of thing. Very professional. But there was something special about him that I recognized. So I was excited. I was excited to see him.
Maria Monroy (36:50):
That was my next question. I was like, were you leading up to it? Were you just excited?
Bibi Fell (36:55):
I remember sitting in the car driving to go meet up with him and calling my best friend from high school and saying, you are not going to believe who I’m going out to have a drink with.
Maria Monroy (37:08):
But had you told her, I’m attracted to this person.
Bibi Fell (37:12):
No, I hadn’t. I really hadn’t told anybody. I mean, it had been so long since I had seen him.
Maria Monroy (37:17):
And during such a tough time.
Bibi Fell (37:19):
It was such a different context.
Maria Monroy (37:20):
It was such a tough time where you weren’t even there.
Bibi Fell (37:24):
It was really, I was getting to know somebody for the first time because I only knew him in this one very narrow context. And that’s all I knew.
Maria Monroy (37:31):
So you go out to drinks.
Bibi Fell (37:33):
We go out to drinks, and we hit it off. And then he goes back to Cincinnati, nothing happened.
Maria Monroy (37:43):
I’m like, get to the good stuff. Just kidding.
Bibi Fell (37:45):
He didn’t even tell me he liked me. It was just very a nice drink with a friend.
Maria Monroy (37:51):
Get to know.
Bibi Fell (37:51):
Maria Monroy (37:51):
Bibi Fell (37:52):
But I definitely noticed a spark. And he noticed a spark. So after a little bit of time passed, he told me how he felt about me, and we decided to give long distance a shot.
Maria Monroy (38:04):
Yeah, how’s that?
Bibi Fell (38:08):
I love how COVID pushed the world into the modern age. So now I can do a lot of my work from elsewhere. So I will go to Cincinnati for a week out of every month, and he’ll come to San Diego a week out of every month, and he’s able to work remotely for that week.
Maria Monroy (38:30):
And does Maddie know?
Bibi Fell (38:32):
Maria Monroy (38:33):
How does she feel about it?
Bibi Fell (38:34):
It’s so funny because she likes him, right?
Maria Monroy (38:37):
That’s good. That’s good.
Bibi Fell (38:39):
And she remembers him. And I remember one of the first times that they spent time together, she fell and she scraped her knee and she was crying and she ran to him. She wanted a professional opinion. She didn’t want a mom opinion. She wanted a professional opinion about her boo boo.
Maria Monroy (38:53):
Oh, look at that.
Bibi Fell (38:55):
And so he looks at it and he says, I think it’s going to be okay, and you’ll probably wake up tomorrow and feel a lot better. So the next day she was riding in the back seat of a friend of mine’s car, and my friend said the funniest thing happened. Maddie was in her car seat, kind of posted back this, staring out the window in a very reflective tone, said “It’s so good to have a doctor in the house.”
Maria Monroy (39:25):
Bibi Fell (39:30):
Because She felt like he was right. And I mean, it was so it one of those funny moments.
Maria Monroy (39:36):
I wish there was a camera. That’s crazy. And did your friend know?
Bibi Fell (39:42):
No, she didn’t know she was, it was like the funniest thing. This is what Maddie said in the car. And so then I filled her in on the story because that’s what Maddie was talking about. She woke up in the morning and she was like, he was right. My boo boo is better.
Maria Monroy (39:56):
She was more impressed with the healed boo boo than-
Bibi Fell (39:58):
I know. She was so impressed. So impressed. I’m like I could have told you that.
Maria Monroy (40:04):
I knew that. But you’re not a doctor.
Bibi Fell (40:07):
Maria Monroy (40:08):
You are a lawyer.
Bibi Fell (40:09):
… credentials. Well, I didn’t go to three years of law school to not practice medicine. Right.
Maria Monroy (40:20):
Life will bring with it unavoidable challenges and hardship when times are good. Builds solid foundations of support like family and therapy that will help carry you through Bibi’s incredible story serves as a reminder that it is possible to keep going, tap into compassion and treat everyone around you with kindness. Thank you so much to Bibi at Fell Law for everything she shared today. If you found this story valuable, please share it with someone you want to see succeed. Subscribe so you never miss an episode and leave a five star review. It goes a long way to help others discover the show. Catch us next week on Tip The Scales with me, Maria Monroy, President of LawRank, hear how the best in the business broke out of limiting beliefs, overcame adversity, and built a thriving, purpose driven business in the process.