You find out whether expected or unexpected that you are expecting a child. When the time is right, you announce your good news to your friends, family and possibly work colleagues. The congratulatory messages flow in en masse. At work, if you are the female, people seize the opportunity to touch your tummy at every chance while to some, you become the topic of discussion (gossip). Do you know she’s pregnant? Oh she’s having a girl! She’s due in October. Gasp! Everyone’s excited, nervous or just being plain curious about your pregnancy. If you are the man, then during your coffee break, you get the odd brave colleague who has mustered up enough courage, walk up to you to know more about your pregnancy journey.
For you the expectant dad or mum, there is excitement in the air, planning and preparations begin, and colours are chosen for the room – blue, pink or neutral! Gender specific furniture and clothing – check! And then BOOM! Bleeding or some acute pain in the stomach area and it is a quick dash to the hospital. You are told the unexpected and even unwanted news that you are not going to carry this child to term – the pregnancy is gone!!! What devastating news to any mum or family, regardless of how many children you have had or are planning to have.
As devastating as this is, if you are an employee, you still need to pick yourself up somehow and sort out your work life. So, here are a few things I thought I should share about how working mums or dads can manage their work situations if, unfortunately, they find themselves in this situation. These suggestions may also apply to any other loss or bereavement you may have to deal with during your working life.
1. Take some time off: Where do you begin? You feel a deep sense of loss, you need time to mourn, you need time alone to yourself, to get your brain and thoughts back in the right space. You need time to get over the distraught, devastating and hurtful way you feel. However, how much of this time can you take off work if you’re a working mum or dad? It’s not maternity leave so you can’t take several months off. You need to be signed off sick to have time for this information to sink in. You are additionally worried that if you’re signed off sick, your work colleagues might think you are skiving (if they had no idea you were pregnant). On top of the roller coaster of emotions, how do you brace yourself to face work colleagues on your return? What do you say when you go back to work? How do you pass by without people staring and gossiping? So many questions all at the same time. That’s where you need to STOP and think about yourself in all of this. Do you want to go back to work with these multitude of emotions and questions? The answer is probably No. Grieving is a daily process so you need to take a day at a time and go back when you feel emotionally and physically ready. If you go back too early then you might find yourself unable to concentrate and even tearful. You don’t need that additional attention. Even if people did not know you were pregnant or going through a miscarriage you still need that time off. You don’t want to be in a situation where you can’t tell anyone about it with the added pressure of a demanding job. This quote from an unknown source says it all “People at work cope without us but don’t really make much allowance when you’re there in body if not in spirit”. Think about this before you rush back to work.
2. Be open/speak about it: Recently, I came across a friend’s timeline on Facebook and she was promoting a stillbirth and infant death charity. It was also close to what would have been the birthday of the child she lost through stillbirth. Although she has gone on to have other kids, this is not the first time I would see her speak about her loss and try to create awareness. This I find to be a positive example. Granted this wasn’t shared in a work environment, however, it’s the ‘openness’ that matters. Sometimes people tend to judge and draw conclusions when these things happen which explains why people might not want to talk about it. It is this fear of being judged that makes people retreat to their shells. I understand that some individuals and families may want to keep the loss and pain to themselves but this may be impossible in the work place, particularly if you had an advanced pregnancy. Sometimes sharing with trusted friends, family or others who have probably been through the same situation could help alleviate some of the questions and worries you may have such as: will it happen again next time I’m pregnant? Will this pain ever go away? Will I have confidence to try again and so many more. It may also help you feel more at ease in the work place. This is why you should only go back to work when you feel comfortable to do so. When you talk about it, you will also be surprised at the number of people who have gone through similar situations.
3. Speak to your Manager: Depending on the relationship you have with your manager, it might be worth speaking to them about what you have been through and how you feel. Actually this should be the first thing you should do if your pregnancy was not obvious as unexplained absences or sickness might cost you your job. Letting your manager or boss know will also come in handy when you need the additional time off to grieve, let them in on a regular basis where you’re at and see what support they can offer. This might also be particularly helpful for the next time you get pregnant because then, they would hopefully understand your previous struggles and be more accommodating in terms of reducing work stress etc. Hopefully, your Manager will also be in a position to constructively silence some rumours surrounding why you are not at work if you need time to recover.
If you are going through this kind of struggle, then I am so sorry for your loss. I hope these suggestions/tips are helpful in getting you back into the right frame of mind to return to work. If you have any other tips on how you were able to survive this period of your life, please feel free to share them in the comments box. Thanks for stopping by!