There is a common theme that I have noticed since Quinn died. Avoidance. Now the avoiding isn’t only on my part, it is also on the part of the outside world. Reintegrating yourself back into society after the death of your child is a daunting task. One filled with much trepidation and anxiety. I avoided a lot of things initially, packing up her clothes, returning her baby shower gifts, but the thing I would say that I avoided the most in the first weeks following Quinn’s death would be my return to work. A move for my husband’s job when I was around 23 weeks pregnant took us to another state. We went back and forth about whether I should just stay at my old job until I delivered (it would have been a 2.5 hour drive one way) or find a new job so I didn’t have to drive so far during the winter months. The final decision was to find a new job, which happened pretty quickly. Thus, I started my new job in November 2015 and soon became known as “the pregnant girl who moved here for her husband’s job.” I didn’t love this new job like I loved my old job, but I thought hey, in a few short months I’ll have my baby and it won’t matter to me anyway. If I only knew then….
I called my nurse manager from the hospital in the early hours of the morning once I was admitted. I’m not sure why I called her then; I think I was worried because I was supposed to work night shift all weekend. I was relieved when it went to her voicemail. Sobbing, I told her I lost the baby and that I wouldn’t be in to work for awhile (I have a former coworker who jokes with me about how my delivery of things can catch people off guard, and this was no exception). She called me back later in the day and told me to take all the time off that I needed but to update her in a few weeks on my status. I knew before leaving the hospital that my follow-up with my OB would be 3 weeks later, so I knew I was going to take at least 3 weeks off. I had said I would go back the first week of March. The more I thought about it, the more anxious I would get. How could I step back into a unit where people barely knew me? I was only there for 2 months before everything happened, so I didn’t have time to develop relationships with my coworkers. I thought about how I was now the girl with the dead baby. Would people know? Would people ask me about it? I can be a crier, how am I supposed to go to work and take care of patients if I am crying all the time? I waited 3 weeks to speak to my manager about how I felt. At that time, I decided to take the full 6 weeks of leave that was granted to me via a medical leave of absence. I was starting to feel squirrely being at home by myself doing nothing, but I literally couldn’t fathom going back to work. I finally went back to work, on March 14, almost 7 weeks later. Let me tell you, every scenario I had drawn up in my head happened. The 2nd person I saw when I walked into my unit happily asked how baby Quinn was doing. When I started crying she said “Oh honey, I know it’s tough coming back to work.” Imagine the look on her face when I blurted out “She’s dead.” (See, my delivery gets me every time). That day ran the gamut of people telling me how sorry they were, people asking how the baby was doing, and people avoiding me all together. Almost a month later I still have at least one person per shift ask me how the baby is or how my maternity leave was. That is hard, but it is the avoidance that gets me. I feel uncomfortable in the avoidance. Do they know or not know? I can never tell, and then I worry how the conversation will proceed.
There was one person on my first day back who said the most wonderful thing to me. I am sharing this because I hope someone reads this and sticks it in their back pocket to use one day if the need ever arises. She walked down the hallway to me and said “I don’t want to upset you, but I also don’t want to not acknowledge it. I am so sorry for your loss, and please know that if you ever want to talk I will listen.” Now of course I started crying, but it was so nicely said. She was acknowledging all aspects of a very delicate situation, the hurt of talking about it, the hurt of not talking about it, and lending an ear if I ever needed one. Death is a difficult topic to discuss, much less speaking about the death of a child, but the parents of these little angels have a desire to keep their memory alive. It hurts to hear that people don’t reach out to you because they “don’t know what to say” or are worried about upsetting you. Here’s a newsflash, I’m always upset, I may be smiling or laughing, but I’m always thinking about my baby. I didn’t forget she left us too early and there is no magic word that someone is going to come up with to fix it. Just be genuine. Ask how we are. Ask if we want to talk about it. I want people to know my little Quinn was beautiful; she had my nose, my husband’s eyes, and my humongous feet. She was 4lbs 9oz and 17 ¾ inches of perfection. I want to talk about her. Do not be afraid of my tears because it will be a long time before they dry.