I went to work yesterday.
I’ve been dreading going back to work for so long that I don’t think anything that could have happened would live up to what I feared. At a basic level, it’s just hard for me to accept that I’m going to be there, this year. That wasn’t how it was supposed to go – I should be wrapping up my last days before maternity leave. I also find it so awkward to exist with my colleagues right now, it that strange blend of silence and forced cheerfulness that has persisted on my visits. I’m grateful that the school is allowing me to increase my days slowly over a number of weeks, an option that I know a lot of women in my situation don’t have.
Aside from the fact that I somehow managed to randomly pick as my start date the day that they were holding a coworker’s baby shower (we had the same due date – ouch), it was mostly fine. I was able to avoid said baby shower, although I did duck into an empty classroom to avoid my gift-laden, exactly-as-pregnant-as-I should-be coworker in the hallway. Some things are just too hard.
It felt a lot like starting a new job. The routines are all a bit different and I’m working with a new teacher. It will take a while to find my stride again. It was very good to see my students – I work with children with autism, and transitions are not the easiest thing for them. They’ve had a lot of staff turnover this year and any reaction that they might have had to my reappearance would not have surprised me. They were charmingly happy to see me and I hadn’t realized how much I missed them.
There’s no one on earth quite as matter-of-fact as children. In the midst of all of the awkward fumbling with adults, I had the following exchange with one of my kids in the middle of a gym class:
Child: I like you!
Me: I like you too! I’m so glad to see you guys.
Child: I don’t know why you haven’t been here for grade four.
Me, unsure how much he knows: Well, something very sad happened in my family. I needed some time at home.
Child: Oh. Your baby died, huh?
Me, after a pause: Yes. Yes, he did.
Child: Babies aren’t supposed to die.
Me: No, I guess not. But once in a while, they do. It’s sad, but I’m okay.
And he ran off, totally satisfied with the conversation. It summed up the experience, really.
It’s sad, but I’m okay.
Mostly okay, anyway. More okay than I was. Increasing amounts of okay. Working towards okay. Back at school.