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.