So I did it. My first week of work is over and I’m absolutely exhausted. I received so many kind wishes of encouragement, strength, and love. Thank you all.
So how did it all go?
Let’s face it, I set my expectations pretty low for my return to work. I knew that it would be terribly difficult and it was. I had major anxiety about what people would say but I probably had even more anxiety about what they wouldn’t say. I had visions of being the leper of the office, fielding looks of pity at every turn. I thought that no one would want to talk to me because they found it too awkward. I thought that most people would ignore my darling little Benjamin’s existence. I feared that I would start crying and I wouldn’t be able to stop. Add to that a full week’s work when it was originally only supposed to be 2 days and a trip to Sydney where I would be away from Merv for the whole week. It was safe to say that I was as nervous as hell.
As my alarm rang on the first morning I questioned whether I had slept at all. I went to turn on the light and nothing happened. Our power was out. Not an ideal start you might say but the thought of my impending cold shower temporarily distracted me from what lay ahead. I walked out of the house and closed the door behind me. “I can do this”, I repeated to myself over and over again.
My heart was beating out of my chest by the time I reached the office. The elevator doors opened and I walked out onto the floor that I had left 10 months before heavily pregnant. Struggling to hold back the tears I saw one of my favourite people and she gave me a big hug. I met the next person and same again, another lovely hug. And then another hug and another after that. Everyone was so nice, welcoming and supportive. My heart started to slow down, I could start to breathe again. It felt like my email had worked and I started to think that maybe this wouldn’t be as bad as I had originally thought.
After a successful first day at the Perth office, my next challenge was the Sydney office. I was feeling confident as the previous day had gone so well but this confidence would soon be crushed. One of the first people I met had been away traveling for the last 8 months. At this point, I had assumed that everyone knew that Benjamin had died…wrong. After some polite small talk about his traveling, he started to ask me how I was going. “This was your first child, right? How is it going?”. To say I nearly died was an understatement. Things started to move in slow motion as my mind raced with what to say. My bottom lip quivered as I replied: “Yes, but he passed away”. Before I knew it the tears started flowing down my cheeks. I don’t know who was more horrified…him or me. He was so terribly nice and I tried to keep talking but I was struggling to stop crying. I managed to compose myself…eventually. I had been dreading crying at work so at least it was now over, or so I thought.
One hour later and I was at it again. This time with a new guy who had started the week before. “So I believe you have been on extended leave”, was all he needed to say to kick me off. Jesus, I had just met this guy and now I’m crying in front of him. He must have thought I was a nutcase. I felt defeated.
I have gotten used to crying since Benjamin died but there is something about doing it at work that is different. For me, my work life and my personal life are very separate. There are many aspects of me that work colleagues don’t see. I’m known as a bit of a hard ass…more of a dragon than a kitten. So now I have to stand in front of these same people as my most vulnerable self. I know that there is nothing wrong with showing vulnerability but for someone who never does, it is extremely difficult. It is another loss to add to the already long list of losses I have experienced in the last 10 months.
There were also other unexpected challenges. One of the girls from the office had a little baby boy on the day I arrived in Sydney. The meeting I was in was interrupted for the announcement. I felt like running out of the room just to escape but I knew I could not. I smiled along with everyone else as I slowly died inside. I had naively thought that I would be able to excuse myself from these types of situations but it’s not that easy. Sometimes excusing yourself draws more attention than just sitting in silence. People’s memories are short and they don’t realise how the announcement of the birth of a healthy baby boy would impact me. How it would remind of how I was never able to do that. Instead, I had to carefully word a message to let everyone know that my bundle of joy had died.
Despite the challenges, the week was a great success. I survived. I’m still standing. At times I even felt normal. I’m excited about the new project I’m working on. I like the people I’m working with. There were challenges, yes but there were also positives, lots of them. The biggest being that I felt Benjamin with me every step of the way. I know that I can do this. I know that you can do this. All we need to do is try.