I was prepared for the worst- truly, I was. I was prepared to receive frantic texts and phone calls, from both Mark and the nanny. I was prepared to hear that Charlotte was late for school and Mark was late for work and that Penelope cried all day and didn’t nap. But you know what? None of those things happened.
My first day back at work went about as well as possible. Mark seemed to easily cope with the morning rush. I don’t think Charlotte even noticed that I was at work. Penelope was happy and playful with the nanny all day, though she did burst into tears as soon as she saw me, as if she felt like she needed to make me feel bad for leaving her all day. I didn’t feel like I was going to collapse with exhaustion the moment I got home- I was able to get lunches packed for the next day and dinner on the table and things tidied up before that happened.
And as far as work went: I felt like I had been away forever and yet nothing had changed. Well, actually, one thing had changed- me. I am a different person than I was before I went on maternity leave. I am a different nurse. Before I had Penelope, I would have said that caring for babies with feeding issues and NG tubes was one of my weaker areas- now, it is the strongest. I have a different perspective on things. I am more patient and understanding of parents who have a lot of questions and concerns about the care we are providing for their child. I know what it is like to be in their position, and I know that most of them are just trying to figure out what is best for their little one. That’s not to say I wasn’t patient and understanding before, I am just better able to truly understand where these parents are coming from.
I think about the health care providers who didn’t listen to my concerns about my baby and who dismissed my worries as those of an overtired, anxious mother, and I remember how awful it made me feel. I felt isolated, overwhelmed, and helpless. And then I think about the doctors and nurses who did listen to me and who treated me with kindness, empathy, and respect, and I remember how that helped an awful situation feel less terrible. I felt comforted, empowered, and confident that my child was being given the best care. And that is the kind of nurse I vow to be. I want the parents of my patients to feel that they are being listened to, and to believe that their child is receiving the best and most appropriate care.
I am hoping that things will continue to go smoothly, but I am also remaining prepared to face bumps in the road, both at home and at work. It does feel good, though, that my return to work has so far gone well. I think my biggest challenge will be to not compare Penelope to every baby I see at the hospital. It’s just not helpful for anyone, and I need to set that aside. Today, I am enjoying spending time with her, and looking forward working again later this week.