Back to work, mostly

So yes, back to work for about 6 weeks now. As much as I wanted to go back, as much as I missed thinking and seeing people outside my immediate family (size 3 humans 1 dog), it was weird, and good, and bad all at once.

First, the good: I am in such a good mood when I am teaching! I’m really good at this; perhaps it comes from no longer over-thinking everything, because I’m prepping very little. Perhaps it comes from the several-year build-up to this goal, of “covering” less material and going deeper, getting the students to think more thoroughly and use the information. Perhaps because I’m just not pregnant or hijacking my hormones for the first time in three and a half years. (I added it up; with all three pregnancies, I was pregnant for 65 weeks before giving birth. Awesome.) I’m pretty sure my students didn’t do so well on yesterday’s exam. And my approach this year? “It was a hard exam! I’ve scaled your scores! You did great on these things, and you should be proud of yourselves.” Because, hey, why not? It was a hard exam. For them, anyway.

I love that I finally have the emotional and physical energy to tackle some projects that I’ve been thinking about and doing tiny bits of work on for the last few years. I’m writing again, and it’s going well. Because I’m good at it, and because I am no longer worrying that I or the baby will die, or that I will never have a live, healthy baby. I am starting to remember why I wanted to do this job in the first place, and how good I am at it. My grief and fear have been so big for so long that I was wondering if I just was, you know, not good at my job.

But going back, being in that building, was hard. My office, which I love, has no windows. That never bothered me; I have lots of plants (although they’re at home now, until I’m back full-time next fall). Now it feels timeless and small and kind of dead, without the constant change of light throughout the day that I got used to at home.

And going to the bathroom? It’s easier now, but for the first two weeks, just walking into the faculty women’s room gave me a fright. I checked for blood, even though there was no possible way I could be miscarrying or going into labor, since I. Am. Not. Pregnant. I felt the same startle reflex as I had while I was pregnant. Crikey, will I never get a fucking break?! That fear/anxiety/startle response has slowed down now, although last night before I left I allowed myself to check that what I’d felt was *not* bleeding. I knew it wasn’t; there was no way it could be. But my poor, exhausted body said, “It might be! Check anyway!” So I did, and I felt better. Not stupid for checking.

On top of that, I  have what seems to be hormonal-nursing-induced anxiety. Sometimes it takes the form of irrational catastrophising fear of the baby dying in some random way, or the car being stolen while he is in the back. Those fears I can calm easily, because I trust my thoughts that say, “it’s really unlikely that will happen.” But then comes the work anxiety, and wondering if I will be able to get tenure, being angry in advance of anything actually happening, thinking, “if you knew what I had been through, you would be praising me to the heavens for how much I have been able to do, not scolding me for doing too little.” I imagine myself asking the provost, “imagine that either your kid dies, or you and your kid both die. Those are your choices. That is what I have to live with for the rest of my life.” I imagine explaining “your body has 12 units of blood. I lost 9. So no, I am not exaggerating when I say that I almost died as a complication of pregnancy.”

I was on the elliptical today, and anger and anxiety and sadness poured through me. It was good. I need to do that more; it will help. So I will. I am just so tired of being controlled by these emotions that it’s time to take them back a bit. Yoga class is helping. I’m remembering to breathe when I feel anxious. Sometimes I’ll practice mindfulness while the baby is nursing. It all helps. I probably should blog more, too…!

I guess it’s just complicated now. I didn’t expect that having this baby makes losing that one so much more vivid and painful. I didn’t expect to be shoved backwards in time to relive my pregnancy.

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