Monday, December 9, 2013

Going back to work

Just before Olivia, I was working part-time at an advertising agency, and was also building my own home-based business. Just weeks before we found out we were pregnant with her, I had promoted in my business and had replaced my income at the agency. And so, two-week-notice it was for my work! I couldn't wait for this new journey to start. Life was just falling into place, and I was so excited.

That feeling that everything was so perfect did not last long enough.

A few days before my last official day at work, I was sitting in an office party when the cramping I had been feeling suddenly became awful. After about an hour of me crying on the bathroom floor, trying to get on top of the pain, a friend told me she was taking me to the hospital.

A very long story short -- exactly a week after that ER visit (where nothing was conclusive), my fallopian tube ruptured. I was internally bleeding, and required immediate surgery.

They were able to repair my tube. But nothing could repair my broken heart.

I was grateful that I did not have to go back to my work right away -- as I had just quit! However, I did go back after a few weeks to collect my things and have lunch with my friends.

I was so nervous about going back. It was if I were a WHOLE new person entering that building. I was a broken, shattered soul with a put-together exterior. Normally outgoing, I was afraid of seeing anyone! I was afraid any wrong word would break me, but hearing no words that would speak to my pain would be infinitely worse.

I was also concerned about the trigger just being at that building would be. The very last time I was there, I was pregnant.

My friends were beyond gracious. The set up a table in very quiet corner of the building where no one would bother us, and ordered take-out for all of us. We caught up -- but I was feeling that internal pressure to just SPEAK about what just happened to me. I know they all were afraid of bringing things up, but I finally just said, "It's ok to talk about it and ask me questions. I WANT to talk about it."

They proceeded to let me speak, and asked gentle questions, and the whole thing went so much better than I could have anticipated. I ran into a few people I wasn't planning on. Some I told what happened, and others I just smiled on the outside. I think having such amazing, thoughtful co-workers made coming back, even briefly, pretty amazing.

My business, however, was a whole other story.

After we lost Olivia, I did not want to work at my business. I had no emotional or physical energy to pour into it. Not surprising, our numbers dwindled, and I became concerned that I wouldn't keep the promotion I just received for very long. But our rising bills just added pressure to the grief.

A few weeks after our loss, I had a few home parties coming up. I didn't WANT to do them, but I felt like I should -- especially with the bills! My sponsor, who has had a miscarriage, told me she absolutely understood and supported me in whatever I decided. Then she asked me a key question. "Rachel. I know you don't want to do the parties, and I wouldn't either. But I just want to ask -- at the end of the month, what would it feel like to have DONE them, and have a nice paycheck and some activity behind you?"

I thought about that a lot, talked with my husband, and decided to do the parties.

The first party I was a mess, absolute mess, the night before. I thought I was crazy for trying for the party --- but with a ton of help from my husband -- I did it! And it felt good to do something "normal." Sure, I made a ton of mistakes. I dropped things during the presentation, forgot names, and left half of my stuff that I needed in the car.

But -- I took one step.  And eventually, that led to another, and another and another.

We have now had two subsequent losses since our ectopic pregnancy with Olivia. Ironically, both times I had a large presentation scheduled on the same day as the heaviest bleeding.
Both times I went ahead and did the presentation. Both times I was uncomfortable, myhormones were EVERYWHERE, and I couldn't help but tear up often. But I gave myself tons of grace, and rested a lot once I was home.

For me, getting through that FIRST step after a loss is the hardest. And the sooner I was able to do it, the easier it was for me to keep going.

Another thing that helped was feeling "normal." When the nurse called to let us know our hcg had dropped and would miscarry (with our second miscarriage), I chose to follow through with my work that night. I could have cancelled. But I just wanted something that would distract me from my pain for a few hours.

I don't think there's any "right" way to go back to work. But I have found that being able to surround myself with supportive people, take that first step, let myself have a few hours of "normal," and listen to and voice what I really needed was immensely helpful.

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