Today was my first day back to school. It was both harder and easier than I expected.
The most difficult part of my day was the act of getting ready and walking to school. I had a completely meltdown in the shower and I stood for about five minutes with my hand on the door knob before I could step outside to walk to school. I am so glad I went in yesterday afternoon to just sit and my room before today. It made walking back in to the building slightly easier.
All I could think all day long is, "I am not supposed to be here."
It is not because my day went poorly or that I didn't feel tremendous love from the teachers I saw today (because they were fabulous...I work in an amazing place) but because this was not the plan. This week was to be the beginning of my maternity leave. I should have been at home with my feet up or putting together the nursery which was never set up. Instead I was fighting of panic attacks, tears and trying to keep a good show up for my students.
What made my day easier, for the most part was the students. Being the only art teacher in a K-2nd grade school is a bit like being a celebrity...all the kids love you and are excited to see you. This is especially true when you have been gone for a month. I am grateful that an email message went out to parents informing them of my situation and teachers were told to keep students updated about my return and that they should only ask questions about what is happening in art class (not about my babies or why I was out). This meant no awkward questions and few surprises.
My first class today is a very small group of 1st & 2nd grade students with special needs. There are nine students who are so much fun to work with. When they came in to my room their faces lit up and one of the boys who tends not to express himself well immediately came over to me and asked "May I please give you a hug? I missed you." My heart melted and I said "Of course!" This little guy gave me the best hug...which of course every single one of them wanted a hug also and I couldn't resist. It was awesome to start my day that way.
Overall, with the frequent check-ins done by the teacher across the hall and the school nurse (both of whom are so kind and caring) and the joy on my students faces when they saw me helped balance out the sadness and anxiety of going back.
It still sucks and I hate that this is not where I am supposed to be. But I survived and will try again tomorrow. One day at a time, one step at a time back into what used to be normal.