Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Back to the grind has a whole new meaning.

On Friday, I have to go back to work.

I am filled with anxiety about it.

I even had a dream that I walked into my building and someone else had set up shop in my office.  "Oh, we moved you, while you were out," she says and ushers me across campus to an empty office.  And then, "You're a few minutes late, and your class started five minutes ago," as she throws me in front of 25 college students.

I walked out of my office on November 4th, expecting to be in the next morning just a few minutes late after my doctor's appointment.  My routine 34 week check up.  Only it wasn't so routine, and I haven't been back to my office since.

I was working my butt off to get ready to be out for 7 months on maternity leave.  I wanted to be in a good position where I could leave and not worry about it.  And now I have no idea where I am with that work.  No idea who has picked up what - or what hasn't been picked up at all - in my absence.  No idea how to shuffle that work to January.

I can't stop thinking about how I should be home with both of my children.  In my parallel universe.  Sometimes I wonder if I am causing myself more pain by continually thinking about what I should be doing, instead of what I am doing.   Is it any easier to return to work while thinking about how I should be home with both my babies?  No.  Can I stop it?  Can't seem to.

I can barely hold conversations with people.  It's still hard for me to leave the house.  I avoid eye contact when I do.  And now, now, I'm supposed to return to work and have conversations (that are not about my daughter) and be productive?  How exactly is that going to work? 

And what if people did not hear that my daughter died?  What if they saw me, 8 weeks ago, very clearly very pregnant?  And then see me now, very clearly not pregnant?  And make the not-so-crazy assumption that I had my baby?  And that my baby lived?  What if they ask, "How's the baby?"

And what if people who know don't mention it at all?  What if they act normal around me, as if anything is normal these days?  One thing that irks me is when people send sympathy cards but then don't say anything to my face.  I know people don't know what to say, so here are some suggestions:
I've been thinking about you.  (Or the religious one: I've been praying for you.  Not my favorite but better than nothing).
I was so sorry to hear about Lydia.  (Bonus points for using my daughter's name.  Thank you). 
How have you been coping?  (Which is better than "How are you?" because now I know you know.  I know that you really care, rather than just making conversation.)

I wonder if the anxiety about and anticipation of going back to work might be worse than the actual event.  I have been off for 8 weeks now.  Which equals 8 weeks sitting around and grieving.  At some point, it's got to be a good thing just to get back into routine.  But the routine takes me further from Lydie, and that's tough for me. 

Wish me luck on Friday and even more luck when I have to face a full work week next week.

3 comments:

  1. Good luck. It will be incredibly hard. But I know you have the fortitude to handle it. Put Lydie's photo on your desk. Put Dad's Word of the Day calendar on your desk. Know that we all love you and are thinking of you all every day.

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  2. EXCELLENT idea about putting Lydie's photo on your desk!!!
    Also…do you HAVE to go back?? I felt the same about returning to work and upon a visit with HR found that in fact I didn't have to return that school year, after all. It made all the difference having until the following August/September to face work again (having lost Anna in December).
    I know there's probably both an internal and external pressure to return, but honestly. I've spoken to a gob of support groups (from a position of being farther out from loss) where women talk about this (and every other thing you've written). Sometimes there's no choice but to return. But sometimes there IS, you just have to ask and talk to the right people. Here's what I've said to other mamas - "Take your time. Be so, so gentle with yourself. This first year especially, people give you a lot of latitude. Use it. Take advantage. It doesn't seem fair that as the wounded party you have to educate others as to your pain, but so often, you do. See if there's opportunity within your company or organization for FMLA or just some freaking humanity for latitude with your job. Seriously. Losing your child is a valid mental health situation. Sooo not the same as losing a parent or other immediate family member (save a spouse, maybe). I beg you. Ask."
    But. If you must return or risk losing a job you need/enjoy (or hope to enjoy again, when enjoying anything ever again seems possible), then be open about Lydia. Talk about her, wear her name, the picture on your desk is a great idea. She's your daughter. She deserves time and space, and YOU need it too. You'll soon learn safe spaces and people to talk to, cry with. I for one have cried in approximately 1,000 bathroom stalls. Do what you have to do when you have to do it. Anyone who doesn't understand or at least give you the space doesn't deserve your time or energy.
    Also, it's true, your work may not be of the same caliber it was 2 months ago. It's ok. My guess is you're great enough at your job to run on autopilot for awhile. The students will probably not even know. Ask for help from trusted colleagues. Again, take advantage of compassion and shoot, even pity. If there's ever a time…it's now.
    Good luck. Will be thinking of you and awaiting with a big virtual hug to hear how it all goes.

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  3. Friday will be hard...It's true.

    I do like the idea of putting one of Lydie's pictures on your desk. Some might think it's weird, but screw them. She's your daughter.

    The first day back was bizarre because no one really knew what to do with me, and I didn't know what to do with them. It was stupid. It was an exercise in normalcy that wasn't normal anymore. But you'll figure out your safe places and safe people, and TALK to them about it. It'll be good to talk about...

    I hope you have the option to leave if you have to. If you can't stand it anymore. I definitely pulled that card a few times in those first weeks back.

    I remember one day about two months after I got back--around Christmas. We have this lady that comes around our office and waters all of our plants. I don't know her that well, but we know each other in passing, and she obviously knew I was VERY pregnant the last time I'd seen her. So the first thing she said to me when she saw me was "Oh you're back! HOW'S BABY!!??"

    I died.

    There are repercussions like that that just happen...for awhile. In places where you can't even expect them--they just plop on you like a bomb. I froze with he. All I could spit out was "I lost him. He was stillborn." And then I bawled in front of her and she left. It was awful. After that, I was terrified of getting in the elevator with someone that knew me in passing who would say something like that ever again because it hurt me so much. And it was so incredibly awkward. Strangers are so much more awkward to handle than people you know.

    Take care of yourself--Put a post-it note on your monitor like I did reminding you to. No one else matters more. Ask for help, and take all the pity you can get, because fuck, it's needed.

    I'll be thinking of you ♥

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