This week has been hard. There was no way around it but through. I returned to work this week, a month earlier than my original planned maternity leave.
As I drove to work, I remembered the last time I was there. I remembered the excitement and anticipation of heading out on maternity leave, so close to meeting my daughter that I had been waiting for. I remembered the struggle of the stairs every day at 36 weeks pregnant. I remembered leaving my desk with photos of Greyson displayed and imagining coming back to work and putting a picture of my new baby up for all to see. I remembered parking in the Expectant Mom spot.
These memories left me feeling hopelessly empty upon my return to work. I was returning to work without leaving my baby with a caregiver, because my baby is not here. I was returning to work without signing up to use the Mother’s Rooms, because I am no longer nursing my baby. I was returning to work, knowing that coworkers that didn’t know might ask about how my baby is doing. I felt broken and anxious beyond words.
I repeated over and over to myself: I can do hard things.
I pushed through.
I waited for the dreaded conversation for the first few days, and it finally came. I had to tell a colleague that my baby had died, and held back tears as best I could. I ripped off the bandaid, and got through the first few of these conversations, stronger and more prepared each time. By the end of the week, I set up a picture of Maddie on my desk next to Greyson. She is still my daughter, and I still get to show off her beauty to my coworkers, and have her picture on my desk to look at daily.
Photograph courtesy of the McDaniel family
I was vulnerable.
I was able to openly talk about Maddie this week, even though a few tears were shed. I said her name out loud. I was welcomed back to work with grace, kindness and empathy by my friends and coworkers. I connected with people I work with on a deeper, human level.
I was brave.
I went to yoga, and dedicated my practice to Maddie. I wore her ashes in my necklace and felt her with me in my heart all week. I watched the butterflies outside my window at my desk and knew she was watching over me.
This week was harder than I expected in so many ways; yet so freeing at the same time. It was a step forward. It was a reminder that I can do this.
These days are hard. This period of life is hard. But I can do hard things. We can all do hard things.