Monday, January 3, 2011

Taking Steps Back to Reality...

This week I am going back to work. I used to just call it school, like I was the student, not the teacher, because my job is fun. I am an art teacher...I get to share my passion. Unfortunately, after all that has happened, passion is not on the list of emotions I feel right now. Therefore, going back to school feels like going to work. And it is going to take some work to get me there on Thursday, emotional work.

My pregnancy and the fact that I was having twins was very public information. I teach art at a public elementary school (grades K-2) which means I see every student, all 500+ of them. My principal announced it to the staff at a staff meeting and then to the parent community at Back-to-School night. I also live in the community where I teach, on the same street. I had so much excitement surrounding my pregnancy and my twin sons. It was great having that much attention. Now that my sons are gone, not so much. I actually have a great deal of anxiety about going back.

Originally the plan was for me to go back today. But a week or two ago I realized that the one month mark since William & Ethan's births and deaths falls smack in the middle of this week. This is going to be a tough week just going back and not starting my maternity leave like I am supposed to, compound that with that huge milestone, I am going to be a disaster. That is not how I want to restart my school year. So instead I am going back Thursday to ease my self in with a short week. I also have an appointment today with a district social worker to discuss how to answer questions that are sure to pop up from my students and their parents.

Questions are going to happen and I have a hard enough keeping my composure with adults I speak with...I HAVE to have some measure of control over my emotions when talking to my students. And how do I even begin to explain that my babies are 5-8 year olds? What is appropriate since these are someone else's child(ren)? This is why I am talking to the social worker today. I can't even consider going back with out a plan of action or at least some canned responses I can practice.

I don't think I am actually ready to teach again but staying home alone is not great for me emotionally either. I kind of wish I had a desk job again, where I could hide and just do my job and leave. Teaching is a human contact occupation and there is no easing back in to it. No half days, no breaks when I need them.

I do love my job which makes this dread/anxiety so hard to deal with...I do miss my students, I miss teaching art...but I feel shattered, different. I am completely unsure of myself and how I will react to situations and I am scared of what that means for my students. Will I be able to give them the best possible experience if I am not whole?

When I began my teaching a few years ago (I was an office manager/bookkeeper prior to teaching) I was given the advice "fake it until you make it." I knew art, I had all sorts of pedagogical theory but very little real-world experience. And children, no matter how small, can sense when you have no confidence in what you are doing. So you fake it until you have the confidence. Most of the time it works...but this time I am not so sure.

I can't put going back off for ever. I need to start adapting to my new reality. Thankfully I have resources to help get me back. The support of the baby-loss community, professionals available through work and of course my friends and family are invaluable. I know I will survive, but I will be emotional and certainly not unchanged. Hopefully not to the detriment of those around me.


  1. I just came over from LFCA and I am so sorry to hear about your boys. I know all too well what you are going through. I lost my son at 36 weeks in August of 2010.

    Your loss is still so new, I admire you for returning to week so soon. I still cry when I bump into people who haven't seen me and don't know my son died and I have to tell them. Crying in public is something I'm really good at these days : ).

    I'm a former elementary school teacher myself. As far as what to say to the children, I think just keep it simple. It's not like you are telling them for the first time. I'm sure they already know and their parents have already had a chance to talk to them about it. Also, if you cry then you cry. Give yourself a break, you just lost your children a month ago,,, you've earned the right to cry!!

    Hang in there, and I'm going to start following your blog to keep up with how you're doing. I'm only a few months ahead of you on this road so I'm no expert yet, but I sure know how you are feeling.

  2. Just popping by from LFCA. I am so sorry that you are going through this and that your boys are no longer hear. Going back to work with children must be tough, I am not sure how best to approach it myself. Have you researched at all how to share news with young children? It's so hard to share this kind of news. Thinking of you and wishing you strength.

  3. When Nicholas and Sophia were born and died, I was volunteering as a CCD teacher for 4th graders, in addition to being a full time librarian in a nearby community. My class knew I was pregnant and expecting twins, as did many of the parents at my library. When they were born and died, the children had so many questions. Because my CCD class was religious in nature, I was able to tell them that the babies were born, but that they were living with Jesus now. At 10, they understood to a degree but were still confused. Many of them asked why. That was the hardest. I was still grieving so heavily when I talked to them (another teacher took over but they asked me to come back and talk to the kids, as they were worried when I was suddenly gone). I explained that the babies had been born sooner than they could to live on the outside and that they had died and gone to heaven. The library was a different matter, since I wasnt really at liberty to discuss my religious beliefs. I explained that the babies had been born and had been very little and had died. To the very young kids, I let their parents talk to them. But it was hard. Every day was a struggle, and I was miserable. I ended up not going back to teach CCD and, although I stayed a librarian through my pregnancy with and loss of Alexander and until my pregnancy with Bobby & Maya went to bedrest, my days were numbered the day I set foot back there. It was emotionally a bad decision for me to put myself back in that position of having to deal with pregnancy and young kids on a daily basis. I'm glad I did it in some ways but I still wonder how much healthier, emotionally, I would have been had we just cut our losses and I'd become a housewife. But, of course, hindsight is 20/20.

  4. Jessica,

    I am so sorry for your loss. I also lost my twin boys - they were born in September at 26 weeks due to PROM, Quinn passed away 7 hours later, Trace was with us for 5 days.

    They were IVF babies too, we had wanted them so very much.

    I didn't find too many other BLM of twins when I was looking - so I specifically wanted to reach out to you and hope that you aren't feeling alone right now.

    I will say that I think going back to work helped me be distracted and gave me something to focus on (I help other people go to Europe for IVF treatments). So, I am hopeful that you will find some comfort in getting back to your work routine also.

    Be gentle with yourself as you encounter the first milestone marks - sometimes they sneak up on me and I find myself overwhelmed.

    I believe that although it gets a little easier over time, my life will never be the same - but I am hoping to find a new normal.

    Just know that you are not alone. Take care of yourself and hang in there.