I am writing this post on 13 December 2017. 5 months since my Mason was born. At work, about returning to work. Happy 5 months my beautiful baby boy.
2 October 2017.
2 months and 13 days.
75 days since Mason passed away in my arms and I was heading off to work.
Saunders was relieved that I was going back to work. He didn’t have to worry about me being by myself at home. Not knowing what I was doing, what I was thinking, where I was. My parents and in-laws could stop babysitting me. To be honest I was looking forward to going back. There was nothing left for me to do at home. If I was at home I would be doing a few laps of the house, wandering aimlessly, cleaning an already cleaned room, sitting and staring at Mason’s table, watching “Touched by an Angel” or the midday movie bawling my eyes out with a cheese platter for one. It was time for me to go back.
I am one of those people who actually loves where they work. I love what I do, I love where I work and who I work with. I am a morning person. I wake up every morning at 6am, leave the house by 7am to walk down to the train station to catch the 7:21am train that takes me into the city before 8:20am. I work from 8:30am-5pm. Monday to Friday. I love it. Want to punch me in the face yet? Hate me much?
I work in law. I love it that much that I have been there for nearly 10 years. My first job out of doing tafe and uni. I work in a section where we all get along. Where I get to see all my best friends. My work girls who turned into some of my closest mates. I am living the dream. Oh and the work isn’t that bad either! It’s all I know and its been my second home. I am that lucky to work with an amazing bunch of people whom I call my friends. I mean who wouldn’t want to work with your mates, spend 90% of your lives with them right? Ok ok you get it, I love work.
Saunders got me a hot chocolate and dropped me off at the train station, gave me a big hug and a kiss and wished me good luck for my first day. Before I was pregnant I would always see this older couple. This couple would always be at the station at the same time as me. The man would drive his partner to the station. They would stand outside the front of the station and have a cigarette together before the woman would catch the same train as I did. She would pash the man (totally uncomfortable to watch, looked very uncoordinated and sloppy mind you) and the man would always go for a cheeky bum grab before she departed. Watching them make out was like watching your parents, you don’t want to. Every time I would walk past them, I could always feel their eyes watching me. They would always stare at me. Be silent when I walked past. The woman would always sit in the same carriage that I went in. The woman ALWAYS had to have a window seat so she could blow kisses to the man back on the platform watching her leave the. This woman looked exactly like Patsy Stone from “Absolutely Fabulous”.
One time I remember being pregnant with Mase, standing on the platform waiting for my train, the lady approached me and said loudly ” I knew you were having a baby! You were getting bigger! I was watching you! I was listening to you and your girlfriend chatting on the train. I knew it! I had none it for ages. I knew it because you are big now”. Well I think all of the people on the platform and the neighboring suburbs all knew it too that day. This woman was one of those ladies that yelled when she talked. I was embarrassed. She then calls out to the man and tells…. sorry yells at him “see I was right, she is pregnant, she is getting bigger, see she’s really big!”. Thanks. Thanks a lot. Oh wait it gets better. The man comes over and sees in my hand bag, two items from the bakery I had bought for breakfast and one for lunch. ” Oh yes, looks like she’s definitely eating for two!”. Red faced and sweaty, I just put my headphones in and proceeded to ignore them and get on with my day. I made a point of showing that my headphones weren’t connected to anything.
So there they were again. That couple on the station having a smoke. I didn’t want to walk past them. I didn’t want their eyes on me. I made Saunders drive to the other side of the station just so I could avoid them. The train came, I hopped on and sat down. I am safe from another public display of embarrassment. WRONG. The woman sits directly opposite me. There were other seats available but of course she took the one closest as possible to me. I grabbed my phone and pretended to be writing a text. I can feel her eyes on me. In the corner of my eyes, I can see her bright pink lips moving and then hesitating, like she wanted to say something but kept biting her tongue. She taps me on the knee. Then she says it sorry yells it. “What did you have?”. “A boy” I replied. “Oh how old is he now? You’re back to work early!”. There it is. The whole train is looking our way due to her megaphone of a voice. My heart. My shattered heart. “He passed away after birth. He was 6 days old”. Now everyone’s not looking. Now everyone’s looking down. At their newspapers. Out the window. Fiddling with their watches as if their watches had conveniently stopped at that very moment. The womans face went blank. She was silent. “I am so sorry. I feel terrible for asking. I am so sorry”. “I’m not. I am glad you asked” I replied.
The woman then told me that she used to stare at me every time I would arrive at the station (I know you did you big creep). She then told me that she thought I was the most beautiful woman. That I was the most beautiful pregnant lady she ever did she. That she was always excited to see what I would wear to work that day as she loved my clothes. That seeing me at the station made her day and that work was bearable because there was something about me that made her happy and smile. That she looked forward to waking up in the morning to see me. That she would go home after seeing me and google where I got my bracelets from as she showed me her arms covered in the exact pieces I have. That she imagined I worked in fashion. That she adored me.
Yep say it. Go on, say that I am the biggest bitch in the whole wide world because I sure felt it. I felt terrible. I spent the whole train trip trying to get to know the woman. She told me she worked just out of the city, at a call centre selling raffle tickets. That she has been with the man for a few years, never has been married or have any children. I told her that I worked in law which she couldn’t believe. The whole train trip she had a big, wide smile on her face. Before she got off at her station she said to me ” You have made my day sitting with me. I can’t believe I spoke to you. I am so happy. I can’t wait to tell my man!”. Awesome. Make me feel more shit than I already felt. But its ok, because when she got off the train, remember how I was holding onto a hot chocolate? Yeh well I spilt it all down the front of my brand new white dress. Karma is a bitch. But a well deserved one.
As I got to work, before seeing anyone, I headed up to the kitchen to try to clean myself up. It literally looked like I had shat myself. One of my close friends Jacob who is the Catering Co-Ordinator of the firm was in there and greeted me with a big warm hug. Jacob also handed me a bag. In this bag was all the ingredients to make my favourite dish…..you guessed it….Gnocchi…and 3 cheese gnocchi at that. How thoughtful. What an amazing friend to think of going out of their way to do that for me. Well that was dinner sorted. Once I had gotten as much of the brown stains off my dress, I took a deep breath and headed down to my desk.
The desk I had before going on maternity leave was the best desk. Where I worked was quiet, secluded, it was close to the kitchen, the lifts, the library and I was surrounded by amazing people. However, I couldn’t get my original desk back as another colleague was sitting there but I could go back when she went on maternity leave. That’s right. I was returning to work from my short maternity leave to a section full of pregnant women. I was so worried about how I would feel going back to work and seeing all these women. I walked into the office to my new desk. I had packed my work bag the night before with photos and photos of Mase. A photo book of Mase. A big letter “M”. A coffee cup with Mason’s photo on it. A “M” magnet. I wanted Mason around me everywhere. At home and at work.
I got settled in. I felt like I had never left. 8:30am. The girls would be coming in to work. I couldn’t wait to see my work girls. These girls made going to work so enjoyable. They made me excited to get up in the morning. I loved these girls. They were family. They were there from the very start. Before, during and after Mason. They watched Mason grow. They were there every step of the way. When I left to go on maternity leave, I was so upset that they would replace me. I would remind them the week leading up to my last day that they had better not replace me and that I was their only “token Asian” friend. They all came to Mason’s funeral. They took care of Mason’s mummy.
The hugs came flying in left, right and center. I swear I lost a few body parts. Everyone was excited to see me and have me back. It was so touching to feel so loved. There were a lot of tears, mostly from others and me comforting them. It was safe to say that no work got done that day. After the girls welcomed me into their arms, the rest of the crew which involved solicitors and my bosses were next. Everyone was so loving and welcoming. It made coming back to work much easier. Not that I was dreading it. I was eager to come back and I knew it would be hard the first few days. I know there would be tears, hugs, awkward situations, my work family wanting to know what happened. Answers to why I was robbed of my first-born. They couldn’t understand it. They witnessed my healthy normal pregnancy. They were there from the start. They watched me grow. Yet they couldn’t understand where he was. Why he wasn’t here? I mean every other woman at work went to hospital, gave birth, had a baby and then a few months later came into the offices to present to the team their beautiful bundle of joy and then enjoyed their year off on mat leave.
Yet I had just pretty much given birth, gone back to work after 2 months and had no baby to show. I didn’t have the answers they needed. I didn’t have my closure to give them. I was still waiting on my closure. I was still waiting on investigations and the Coroner’s report. All I could say was that Mason had a long labor, he started to become distressed, he was loosing oxygen and when I finally did get an emergency c-sect, the damage was done. Mason came out flat, and fought for 6 days before I had to let him go in my arms as he had suffered lack of oxygen to the brain. That is all I could say. I wanted to tell people because they needed answers and closure too. They didn’t understand just like I didn’t. Mason was healthy. He was kicking away happily all through labor but the end wasn’t the happy ending that I was supposed to receive. I needed to speak for Mason. Mainly because I wanted everyone to know it wasn’t anything he did. Mason didn’t do anything wrong. It wasn’t his fault. All he did was tried to get here.
The flower deliveries started coming in. The emails of “Welcome back!” and “I am so sorry” flooded my inbox. One of my lovely colleagues made me a batch of green pistachio biscuits. She was an expectant mum. And thank god seeing her didn’t break me even more. If anything seeing all my pregnant work friends made me smile. Made me happy. I love babies. There is nothing wrong with that. I had one! The best ever! Babies are beautiful and we need more of them in this world. Instead of a ball pit, give me a baby pit I could jump into!
Everyone reached out and did the best they could to give me a smooth transition back to work. I am truly blessed. I love my job.
I continued to work for the same people I did as before I left. As I said, it was like I had never left. I worked for the same people, had the same files, had the same friends, just sat somewhere different for the time being. The first day was filled with love and tears, just as I expected.
I went home that night, exhausted but I still had one more task to do.
The next day back at work was much the same. The second round of people who didn’t want to bombard me on my first day back came to my desk for a cuddle and a cry and to ask for reasons why. Our company covered 3 floors so I knew I would be having a lot of visitors at my desk from all over the firm. One colleague came to my desk and asked to come into a meeting room. I thought I was in trouble. This colleague was a man from another section who attended Mason’s funeral. He wanted to first welcome me back and to see how I was doing. Secondly he wanted to let me know how perfect and beautiful Mason’s service was. That it was the best funeral that he had attended. That Saunders and I spoke incredibly well and that he was touched by our words. That we should be so proud. This grown man had began to well up and I saw tears in his eyes. I’d never made a grown man cry before! I found myself comforting others more and more. I was the one telling them its ok.
My section leader is an amazing woman. A strong woman. She was there from the very start. We are quite close and she was so heartbroken when Mase had passed away. She had the difficult task of telling the company when it was Mason’s last day on earth and that Saunders and I were saying goodbye to him. She would always check up on me, call, email, share a cry, a cuddle or two. She always looked after me. So thank you Liz. You will never know how much I truly appreciated your love and support.
The best thing everyone at work did for me was talk about Mason. I didn’t want to return to work and no one ask me about my pride and joy, my beautiful baby boy. I didn’t want people to look the other way, or pretend I never left or was pregnant. I was over the moon when people asked about Mase. I love talking about him. I will never stop talking about the little guy that made me a mother. Every time someone asked to see photos, or asked questions about what he looked like, smelt like, felt like was a chance for me to speak about my son. And everyone at work gave me every opportunity to. To acknowledge Mase. To still make me feel like a mother. A mother proudly talking about their children.
So if you know anyone that’s lost a child, please ask about them. Please talk about them. Don’t be afraid to upset us. We are already broken. You couldn’t possibly upset us any more. The most thing we want in this world is for our children to be acknowledge. That we get the opportunities to speak about them. And even if you cant find the words, actions speak louder. We will appreciate it. And we know our babies would too.
Over the days it started to die down. There were fewer visitors at my desk. The flowers and deliveries stopped and the work started coming in. I got back into the swing of things. The hardest part for me was making calls to clients or other contacts. Before I had left for mat leave I had made sure I emailed everyone outside of work informing them that I was heading off to have my first baby and to see you all next year. Listening to them say ” Oh you are back! What did you have? You’re back early! How old is he now” and having to explain what had happened and then deal with their silence, awkward and uncomfortable responses was hard. It was hard trying not to cry on the phone or in front of everyone. It was hard explaining about Mason on the phone in front of everyone as the office was an open plan space. But I knew that these situations wouldn’t be forever. This too shall pass.
And then it did die down. I would find myself staring at Mason’s photos on my desk. It hit me that I shouldn’t be back at work. I shouldn’t be here. I should be with Mason. I should be holding a baby boy. I should be back next year. I should be going to the company’s children’s Christmas party with Mason. Showing my son off proudly to the rest of the employees. But no. I was at my desk. Working away. Watching the world go by when mine had stopped all those weeks ago. It was such a surreal feeling to be sitting at my desk and watch people running around the office, going by their day. I felt like I was sitting at my desk and the neon sign above my head which said “MASSIVE THING HAS HAPPENED TO THIS ONE. THIS WOMAN’S BABY DIED” had switched off.
I was sitting at my desk and this massive thing has happened to me yet nothing stops. Nothing has stopped for me. Everyone else is getting on with their lives. I felt like it was too soon. That everyone needed to still pause for a bit. It wasn’t their fault. It was such a surreal feeling. I felt like too much had happened to me and I was already back at work like nothing had happened. I guess this was my new normal. I kept telling myself that its better to be here than be at home, a broken mess, sitting in a corner in the dark. I was surrounded by people who loved me and Mason. Who wanted me there with them and who would look out for me. I sometimes questioned “was it too early to return to work?”. I wonder if everyone else at work thought the same thing. Thought that maybe I didn’t care that Mason had gone. Life does go on. So does the bills. I had to take care of Saunders, our family home and lastly myself.
I couldn’t believe I had survived my first week back at work.
This was my new life.
But Mase was holding my hand every step of the way.
(Ring containing Mason’s ashes)