An announcement arrived via my work email – an announcement that I wasn’t expecting and that hit me for six when I saw it.
So what was the announcement you ask? What was it that hit me so much and why?
One of the Partners I work with is 16 weeks pregnant.
In itself the announcement that she is pregnant wasn’t what hit me the most. It was the rest of the email that got to me in which she talked about working “right up to the due date” in July and then “coming back to work as soon as possible after the birth” and the blasé attitude around it.
I know that every woman has a choice about whether they stay at home or don’t stay at home to look after their baby. Some don’t have a choice, they simply HAVE to go back to work as soon as possible. And don’t get me wrong, even when I was in the early stages of my pregnancy with Frankie I was very much like her. I was going to have just a few months off after Frankie was born, by which time my Mum would have retired and be able to help 2-3 days a week so I could at least do something part-time for a while.
But when Frankie was diagnosed with his cleft lip and palate EVERYTHING changed for me. All the talk of the severity of it, of operations and how much care he would need led me to making a decision that I would be a full-time Mum. I would down EVERYTHING I was doing work and career wise to prepare for his arrival, I left behind a literary festival that I set up, I wound down a business and I let my work know I wouldn’t be taking maternity leave, but would instead be leaving in January 2014 ready for Frankie’s arrival.
Then on November 25th 2013 my whole world fell apart when I found out that Frankie’s heart had stopped beating. Although it was the least of my worries as I was still working and hadn’t left my boss put me straight on to maternity leave, and I didn’t know that I was still entitled to maternity leave despite the fact he would be born sleeping. At least I had that, but I had still given up everything to have Frankie, but instead I had….nothing.
So when I hear things like this I want to shake them and scream and shout at them and say NO – don’t do it. Try to spend those first few years with your baby if you can. I’m not saying do nothing and I know that many women don’t have a choice they have to go back to work and put their babies in a nursery, but those formative years are SO important and you can’t get them back once they are gone.
Losing Frankie has made me look at this in a completely different way and if I ever am lucky enough to actually be a Mum I would do my utmost to be there for those first few years. Once they are old enough to go to pre-school around the age of 3 and then school that’s completely different, they have their own personalities and need to start to learn how to make their way in the world with their parent’s guidance.
But this is life. Everyone does what is right for them.
So I’ve dusted myself off, picked myself up, breathed and rebooted again. I am happy for my work colleague, I truly am, despite everything I’ve said here.
But I also know that things can change in the blink of an eye and it makes you rethink everything that you thought before.