Back To School

After Lentil died in June 2015 I had planned to go back to work at the end of the year, however by October I knew that I was pregnant with Pip. I had been incredibly nervous about going back to work, I was still a mess emotionally and I was scared of the questions that I may be asked; by colleagues, parents and of course the children. I'm a primary school teacher and one of the many things that I usually love about the children I teach is their compete lack of filter. They are so innocent and naïve, a thought comes into the head of a four year old and it's out of their mouth before they've even realised they're saying anything.
Falling pregnant again so quickly my emotions and hormones really were all over the place, I don't know how my husband coped with my mixture of happiness and fear, joy and grief, hope and loss. It was such a strange time. I went for my back to school meeting with the headteacher at my school, I told her that I was pregnant again, we both cried. I decided that I would take my full year's maternity leave so that I could concentrate on my pregnancy with Pip, one maternity leave ended and a new maternity leave began and suddenly I'd been off for two years! June 2017 saw me finally returning to work.
I went back to meet with my headteacher again, to discuss what I'd like to do. I'd really struggled to work out exactly what I wanted. Did I want to go back at all? Would I be missing out on time with J? Could I bear to leave her? Who would I leave her with? Eventually we decided that if I could go back to work one day a week it would be good for me, a chance to regain a little of myself and also a bit of a break physically. I can't deny that I struggle physically now, my arms are not made for weightlifting and J is now quite a weight! A day of not having to carry her around would do my arms and my back some good. We also decided that a daddy daughter day would be good for Paul and J.
I went into that meeting hoping that my request could be accommodated, I was happy to do anything, teach any age but I really only wanted to work one day a week. I was so relieved when she said yes! I was also massively relieved when I knew that my day wouldn't coincide with J's first birthday or Lentil's second birthday.
So the 8th of June arrived and I got myself up and dressed, Paul drove me to work, J slept in the back. Paul knew I'd be nervous so drove me in for the first few weeks. I still find driving on my own quite hard. It gives me too much time to think. I often find tears rolling down my cheeks when I'm driving alone.
We arrived at work, I said goodbye to Paul and J and in I went.
I was so nervous, two years is a long time, everyone knew what had happened. What if someone said something that upset me? What if someone didn't say something and that upset me? I don't even know what's likely to set me off so how can others be expected to navigate their way through my minefield of emotions?
I had to keep telling myself to stop over thinking, to calm down, just concentrate on the here and now, one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. I managed to keep it together, to get to my classroom for the day. I realised I shouldn't be on my own so went off to the staffroom. It was nice to see people I hadn't seen for a while, good to reconnect but I couldn't help feeling an overwhelming sadness. To my great surprise it had nothing to do with J, she was happy and safe with Paul, I knew they'd be having a brilliant time. The thing making me so sad was that the last time I had worked here, in this building, my little boy was with me, his tiny heart had still been beating. When I left my heart was full of joy and happiness and hope and my womb was full of my baby boy and now here I was without him and with a massive hole in my heart.
Everywhere I went I was reminded of conversations I'd had, bumping into someone on the stairs when I was coming back from my first scan and welling up as I explained that my baby had thumbs! Chatting in the hall at dinner time about whether I thought Lentil was a girl or a boy. Turning down a doughnut in the staffroom and explaining that I only seemed to want savoury food and someone telling me that I must be having a boy then. I feel like just about every area of the school holds some kind of memory to do with Lentil.
I was just about keeping it together when someone asked how I was doing and so I immediately burst into tears. I was quickly ushered to the staffroom, handed a glass of water and was given lots of hugs. I was reassured that it's normal to be upset, that I must miss J, that it's always hard to leave them to start with. I couldn't tell anyone that I wasn't crying about J, leaving her healthy and happy with her dad is fine. It's my other child I'm crying about because leaving him, cold and alone is the hardest thing I've ever had to do, because being here in this building takes me back to a time of such hope and happiness, before he was gone and before I knew what it meant to be in true emotional pain.
The first few weeks back at school were hard. I've spent the vast majority of the last two years at home on my own or with J. My confidence had plummeted. Standing up in front of a class of 30 children absolutely terrified me, particularly as they were much older than the children I was used to teaching but at least as these weren't classrooms I was used to teaching in there weren't memories attached to them. I still found myself left reeling a couple of times though. At one point I was downloading some files on one of the computers at lunchtime. I opened the downloads file only to find scan images of Lentil. I had emailed the pictures to myself and downloaded them at school so that I could show my class during show and tell. There they were, still on the computer system, pictures of my beautiful boy when he was alive, before we even knew he was a boy. It just left me feeling so winded and glad that I had stumbled across them at lunchtime and not when there were children around.
Another day I found myself presented with teaching an RE lesson looking at birth and death, an open discussion with year 5 children. All the scenarios that could possibly come up went through my head. What if the children asked me about Lentil? What if one of the children said something that unintentionally upset me? What if they were all scared to speak because of the massive elephant in the room? During the PE Session that I was teaching beforehand I could feel the panic beginning to rise. I had to calm myself, ground myself in the room, what can I hear? What can I see? What can I smell? Bring myself back to the here and now and sort the RE lesson out later. In the end I confided in another teacher and we swapped some things around so I taught her class art while she covered the RE with mine.
Sometimes I think I'll be OK with something and then I find that I'm just not ready. I don't always realise how much something might upset me and despite being the kind of person that plans for all scenarios there are always triggers that I miss until they hit me. Like teaching two boys who have the same colouring as Lentil and wondering what he would have looked like. Like seeing boys laughing and joking and wishing that I could look forward to my boy being that age.
I know that there will always be things that I'm not expecting that will just knock me for six but I am glad to be back at work, to feel like my brain still works, to feel like I'm a useful member of society, to be bringing money into our home. I miss J while I'm at work but I know that's completely normal and the smiles that I get as soon as I walk through the door make it all worthwhile.

3 thoughts on “Back To School

  1. Children don’t have filters, and that makes them unpredictable. But what you’ve forgotten is that children have an inner kindness that always shows itself when you need it most. There have been times when I’ve cried whilst reading a story, and although I’ve felt a complete numpty there’s always a child that says a comment that lifts the situation. Don’t underestimate your class, they’ll always surprise you xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely haven’t forgotten and the bond you can have with a whole class of children is wonderful. It’s a bit different when you’re just teaching a class once a fortnight as you don’t build up the same relationship but still there’s no doubt, children are amazing xx

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