When the Leave Ends

By |2017-12-12T10:42:06+00:00December 12th, 2017|Parenting After Loss|1 Comment

I don’t remember it being so hard before. No, I’m not talking about the pregnancy. And I’m not even talking about the delivery. I’m talking about going back to work. Somehow 12 weeks flew by, my maternity leave was over, and I had to return to the office last week.

Before I go on, I’ll start by saying that I know how lucky I am to have been able to cobble together 12 weeks of paid leave. Maternity (and paternity for that matter) leave in the States is a joke, but that’s a whole other discussion altogether. Add to that cruel joke that at the point where our babies start to “talk,” smile and become interactive, back to work we go.

Maternity leave for me, and I suspect many other loss moms, is a momentous time filled with all sorts of emotions. There’s the pure joy of finally getting to bring your breathing, living, and hopefully healthy baby home. There’s the overwhelm of caring for this new life. The craze of hormones racing through your body. And there’s the guilt, grief and sadness of the baby(ies) you never had this opportunity with. That’s quite a combination to deal with on a good day, let alone a sleep deprived one.

When I was home on leave with C, it was the most calm and relaxed I have ever been. I may not have carried or birthed him, but he was our son, and it felt incredible to finally have a baby home with us. I spent those three months peacefully enjoying motherhood, with all focus on him and our family. Now, that’s not to say that there weren’t moments of chaos, sleeplessness and uncertainty, but the overall was a feeling of relief and joy. He was formula fed, so Aaron and I switched off on feedings, and those feedings were quick 20 minutes, changed and back to bed. When my leave was ending, I was able to ease back into work with a combination of working from home and in the office. I wasn’t ready to go back, but I made the most of it.

Fifteen months later, my maternity leave with J was completely different. I was so relieved and proud to have carried him to term, and so frazzled. It wasn’t that I delivered him and was recovering, it was not having a clue about how much breastfeeding entails and not being prepared for that. J was a fussy baby, and I questioned my abilities as a mother (even though my gut told me I was doing a great job). And I was also trying to balance having a toddler running around. Aaron and I went to man-to-man defense, and we got into our groove with the boys, and I started to navigate working full-time while being the mother of two under two.

Fast forward three years, and my time off with Little E was all over the board. This time, I knew what to expect from nursing, but the chaos of having a 4 and 3 year old in addition to a newborn posed new challenges. Aaron and I went back to zone defense, trying to put together a new play book, for a game where the rules were constantly changing. I looked forward to my quiet time with Little E during the week when the boys were in school. I tried to stay present, enjoying each moment, knowing this was the last time I’d have this opportunity. On my last day of leave, I sobbed…we’re talking big ugly cries throughout the day, as though I’d never see Little E again. I was going back more exhausted then when I had left, and uncertain of how it was going to come together.

As these 12 weeks ended, I look back and wonder where it went and what I accomplished. I had all sorts of goals in mind. In addition to spending time with the baby, giving my body the chance to recover, and catching up on sleep, there was so much I wanted to do: write, exercise, cook, organize…the list goes on. Sure, I realize (and probably knew then) that this was not practical, and quite frankly unrealistic, yet the pressure to do it all, and do it well while smiling was there.

But then I remembered an article a dear friend shared with me. And I remembered I should be kind to myself and really take a look at what I had done during my time off. When I stepped back, I realized I did exactly what I was supposed to do. I spent quality time with my beautiful, new son. I took naps. I fed him. I read with him. I made him feel safe, warm and loved. And I even showered and got dressed every single morning. #winning!

As a loss mom, and a mom in general, it is easy to get caught up with “the shoulds” of motherhood. And it is easy to rationalize it by saying, I worked so hard to get to this point, I should only be grateful and do all of the things. Yes, and…this is still real life. As another loss mom friend reminded me, don’t invalidate how tough it is in the moment. And right now, it is tough. I’m not sure how I’m going to do it, or what’s in store for me. What I do know is that I can make the choice to not try to figure it all out. I can make the choice to breathe, and to put one foot in front of the other to keep moving forward.

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About the Author:

Erin Kuhn-Krueger
Erin Kuhn-Krueger is a 5x miscarriage survivor (including a daughter, Baby Krueger, at 16 weeks 6 days in April 2010), and a 2x stillbirth survivor (twins, Sarah and Benjamin, at 20 weeks 5 days in October 2012). After her 4th loss, Erin created the blog and resource portal, Will CarryOn, for those experiencing baby loss, and learning to live and survive life after loss. She writes from the heart, touching on oft-taboo subjects, showcasing the struggles, determination and hope that have kept her (and her husband) together, and moving forward. She believes the more people talk about baby loss, the less alone those walking a similar path will feel. Erin received a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from Drake University where she studied advertising and marketing. She uses her personal experiences and marketing background to shape her advocacy work and community outreach in the adoption, loss and infertility arena. In addition to her writing, and speaking at support groups and conferences, Erin also works as the Community Outreach Director for The Blossom Method, a center providing therapeutic support and counseling for infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, baby loss, pregnancy after loss, postpartum depression, and more. Erin and her husband, Aaron, live in the suburbs of Chicago, and are parents of three sons: C, by way of domestic adoption (May 2013), and J (August 2014) and E (September 2017), after successfully carrying two pregnancies to term. You can find her on Twitter, and follow Will CarryOn on Twitter and Facebook.

One Comment

  1. Pappy December 12, 2017 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    😍

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