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 gone...dead...to 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.