I was only 23 years old when I found out I was pregnant with Josie. A few very short months later I found out that Josie had Trisomy 18, and was not likely to live past birth, and if then a very short and undetermined time. How maternity leave would go was one of the last things on my mind. I didn't want to make a plan or pack a bag or get anything ready. How could I celebrate and look forward to a moment that was likely to be the end of my daughters life and not the beginning?
When my water broke and I was in labor I was literally in denial. I was incredulous when my doctor told me to go to the hospital and head up to maternity. I had to send friends to get my bag and pjs and all that stuff because I was sure they would tell me to go home, it wasn't actually amniotic fluid, just something else yucky and pregnancy related.
To my delight, Josie didn't die when she was born but instead managed a breath and with oxygen by canula and a feeding tube she was able to come home with us. My "maternity leave" consisted of taking her to CCHMC for an electrocardiogram to determine the damage to her heart and how it affected the rest of her body, seeing her pediatrician, stopping by my work to pick up personal belongings and then taking care of her around the clock, administering formula through the feeding tube every 3 hours, letting people visit and comment on her tiny size.
After 9 days, amid my exhaustion and general anger at the world for letting me love something that would be ripped away had started to fade, she died. In my arms, peacefully and sweetly. I had never been so devastated. I don't actually believe that until that moment I knew how much I really loved her.
Then there were arrangements to make- a visitation, funeral mass, graveside services. This was only about 2 weeks of my maternity leave. I spent the next 4 weeks trying to figure out what to do with myself. Some days I cried endlessly. Some days I didn't leave the house. Some days I went out with friends, none of whom were married or had kids. None of whom had the slightest inkling of what I was feeling. I tried to pretend I was happy sometimes, I tried to go out and drink and party and act like any of the events mattered at all. I was stuck, I was lost and I was incomplete.
In short, I spent my maternity leave being a mom for 9 days, planning a funeral and then grieving and losing my mind for a few more weeks. I was definitely not ready to go back to work, but I had to. I was already getting comments, " well there isn't a baby to take care of, what is she even doing?" "if it were me I would already be back, better to stay busy."
The first morning I got up early and I cried the whole drive there. I came home on my lunch to cry in my living room and visit my dog and cats. It didn't matter because I wasn't eating anyways. I probably repeated that the entire first week. Other times I didn't go all the way home, but would instead sit in my car and cry, sit in the break room and cry. Call someone in my family and cry and have them tell me why I had to go back to work and not sit in a heap and cry. I'm not sure if the tears were necessarily grief, but more induced by anxiety. All my life I had always kept to a plan, I was rigid and controlling and wanted everything to be perfect. When Josie died my world was turned upside down and I couldn't even control my own feelings, my own body or my mind from racing and analyzing incessantly. Looking back, I should have sought help with a counselor or psychiatrist. But I didn't want to spend more money on doctors as Josie's and my prenatal care co pays were yet to be paid for.
Basically, my maternity leave flat out sucked after the first 9 days. When you are grieving the loss of a baby, there is no timeline for when it will get better, and maternity leave only seemed to compound that in my mind, telling me that I had to be "over it" in 6 weeks, because in 6 weeks I had to start acting like a normal person again. I wish that there was an effective leave to use when you have a baby and lose one all at the same time.
When I went back to school after Allison's death I cried as soon as I opened my locker I seen one of her ultrasound pictures. My peers all told me not to cry as a way to try to comfort me. I cried throughout first period. I was surrounded by people that I could no longer relate to. I don't think that there is ever going to be enough time to have off for maternity leave when your child dies.
You are amazing Brandi!! ❤️❤️❤️
Love you Brandi! Thank you for sharing this. I'm sure so many (sadly) can identify.
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