Returning to Work After My Late Miscarriage
Zainab’s manager and colleagues were supportive when she returned to work after her late loss, but she still found it very difficult to be back at work. Had the loss happened a week later, she would have had paid maternity leave.
I healed physically without complications for which I am thankful but I was not prepared for the prolonged emotional hardship that would surpass six weeks of sick leave.
I still remember having to give birth to my daughter and immediately being faced with the dreaded reality of the limited time off and having to return to work. It still haunts me. The doctor had initially come back with a paper signing me off work for two weeks. I was in shock and terrified. I had to physically give birth and would now be living in the aftermath of the loss of our daughter, have to bury her, and I would have to get myself emotionally together in two weeks? Thankfully, a midwife had told us earlier that the maximum I could be signed off for was six weeks and so we requested that it be amended.
It still was not much but it was something. On the other hand, my husband was being asked to return back to work within days and the worst part of it all is that he works with children. The next few weeks would be a rushed blur of not really feeling anything. I cried myself to sleep most nights and was hurt that my husband could not mourn with me. I would ask him how work was and he complained that he was, as is expected, withdrawn. He would later request time off from his GP and was given two weeks off work.
I healed physically without complications for which I am thankful, but I was not prepared for the prolonged emotional hardship that would surpass six weeks of sick leave. During my time off I had told my manager to let my team know of my loss and they were supportive. I felt relieved that people would be aware of what I had gone through but also prepared myself for various responses. On the day I returned to work, I started an hour later, and had a meeting with my manager. She acknowledged my loss and asked about my specific needs. I was also told that there were pregnant women in the differing branches, so I would have to face this daily. I appreciated that it was taken into consideration.
Being back at work has been difficult. I had an unrealistic expectation that I would be okay but the truth is I came back to work due to financial pressures. I was told that if I had my daughter a week later that I would have been entitled to paid maternity leave, which is exactly what I needed. I needed paid time off to worry about one less thing and to focus on my healing. I have spent moments at work shedding tears in the bathroom, pushing my emotional limit to smile through baby showers and birth announcements, having the stress of the work place tire me out and just not wanting to be there.
In hindsight, I would ask my employer if I could work flexibly from home initially or to return to work on a part-time basis and to focus on myself and my husband. I think it is so important to ensure that mentally you work through all your feelings, and insecurities. They will not go away with distractions. Allow yourself time to mourn. Allow yourself time to rediscover who you are because you were preparing to be a mother with a living child. You were both preparing to be parents and the loss of that does lead to a sense of living in limbo. If you are already back at work, do not feel guilty to request more time off. Take time.
By Zainab Jalloh
You can read Zainab’s full story about her pregnancy and her daughter’s birth here.