May 30, 2016 Last Night of Maternity Bereavenent Leave
I’ve Never. . .
Returned from maternity leave without a baby to return to, show off, check on. . .
Without pumping and storing and transporting
Or with people not quite knowing what to do with my presence
Or with the uncertainty of what level of emotional control I will have. . .
Or with that feeling I know all too well that things are not as they should be.
But I know this. I am blessed. I mostly have control of my attitude. And my God goes with me and before me. . .
He knows the way. I don’t walk alone and he knows my heart. He’ll sprinkle what I need throughout my day so I just need to set an alarm and look sharp. . . And be a good listener. . . And. . . Good gravy it’s like I’ve never worked before and yet I’ve been working very hard. . . And I work in a big place called a hospital where there’s lots of band aids and Kleenex and people who’ve dedicated their whole lives to caring for others. . . It’s gonna be great! I tell you. Great!
Above all, love each other warmly, because love covers many sins. Welcome each other as guests without complaining. Each of you as a good manager must use the gift that God has given you to serve others.
1 Peter 4:8-10
Even after the year I’ve had , it’s weird to see the words maternity and bereavenent together.
But it was important to say them together. If you just say maternity leave, you will have a problem on your hands.
There will be joy-filled questions with joyful voices. Little squeals of Oooooh! What did you have? A boy or a girl? How’s that baby doing?
And you’ll choke on your own heart trying to answer them. You’ll step in your own mess of a soul that’s come undone and is just oozing everywhere.
“we had a girl” you’ll think and you might even say it. . . what did we name her? Ellis Grace. Ellis Grace. Ellis Grace. Ellis Grace. I miss your face. But then you’ll need to switch to past tense. Because they’re gonna ask how she’s doing. And you’re gonna have to find a graceful way to say that “ she died.”
The first time I said it. . . That’s all that came out. The other person was embarrassed and shaken and I spent the rest of the time making them feel better about asking a perfectly normal question that had turned in to an unpredictable dance of shock and woundedness.
Since then I’ve gotten much smoother. I can now say that we have 3 dirty little farmers and a farmgirl in heaven. She lived for 41 days and they were the best 41 days and it’s OK” I have to tell people it is OK. We all know that it’s not really OK. It’s far from OK. And that OK isn’t even a glowing report. . .but more of a “it’s holding together” kind of an answer.
Because people are sorry. They say I’m sorry.
They are sorry to hear that.
They are sorry for your loss.
They are sorry they asked you about your baby. Your family. How many kids you have.
Whatever question landed them here to this naked and exposed private part of your heart that you take out in public with you – – wherever you go.
I watched other moms recently back from maternity show off the pictures. Complain about the short supply of sleep. The pain that pumping at work is. I made no attempt to correct their misconception. They had every right to curse the part of their identity that I begged God for. . .
Some people avoided me. Some People sought me out to get it over with so that they wouldn’t feel the need to avoid me. Some people acted like I never had a baby at all to avoid the above referenced awkward conversation. And some people asked me how I was doing in an unsure repetitive way – as if looking for another answer besides the complimentary OK that I have learned to dish up on no notice.
For the record, I am not writing the handbook on what to say or not say. Do or not do. There isn’t one. I did like it when people were happy to see me and glad to see me out trying to do “normal.” Whatever that is.
I can only tell you that it is very hard to go back into a world with so many triggers and such tender grief bubbling under the surface. People who do this – myself included – are very brave. There must be no end to the grace we give them. And whatever is happening is OK if we just commit to get through it together.
I didn’t remember things. I had a tremendous problem focusing. I was distracted in meetings. I had days when I cried all day. I had triggers that I couldn’t get through and left seminars to go cry and be terrified in my office. I nearly broke everything in my office every time the baby chimes went off at the hospital – – for a time. I needed lots of bible verses. Lots of breaks. Lots of days when I left early. Lots of days when I came late because I could barely get ready, drive, get out of the car. . . etc. . .
But there was a commitment on everyone’s part that it was all OK and we were going to get through it together. I had come back to work, back from maternity leave, with no baby . But I had not come back alone. I was surrounded by people who were committed to it all being OK and to us all getting through it together.
I am still surrounded by the constant reassurance that it’s OK and I’m not alone because we’re all in it together. I’ve been allowed to recover from trauma and keep my job. To have days when I can’t make it work and have to leave early. But I also have a boss who says come back to work tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. Because you know what? IT’s OK. You’re OK. And we’re gonna get through it together.