Exactly 12 weeks after I delivered my triplets, I received a phone call from HR. They were wondering when I was coming back to work. I remember my heart racing, the anxiety building, as I burst into tears. Just 12 weeks earlier, I delivered three children more than 17 weeks premature.
In that time, I held my firstborn child as she died in my arms.
I went into septic shock, doctors saved my life, and I spent several days in the ICU.
I spent 12+ hours of my day in the NICU, watching my one-pound babies fight for their life.
And I held my only son as he died in my arms after 55 days of life.
With one lone survivor still in the NICU, I was expected to either go back to work full time or not at all.
And that’s what is wrong with our society.
I’m just one of so many parents who are faced with the unimaginable—the loss of a child and the expectation to “bounce back” and move on in life in a matter of days or weeks.
But that’s not reality.
Whether it’s a miscarriage, still birth, or the loss of a child: it’s a loss of a life. Some companies give paid bereavement leave, others might get only a couple days before they are expected to brush their emotions under a rug and return to normal life.
But here’s the thing: when your child dies, you don’t just lose the memories you had, the kicks in the womb, the cries from a newborn. No. You lose so much more. You suddenly are left with the shattered dreams of what could have been. You only have an imagination of what they might be like as they grow up, and left with the constant reminder of milestones they will never reach in life.
After that phone call from HR, I went through never ending hoops in order to take time off. I went through endless doctor appointments, therapy visits, and a psychiatric evaluation, all to qualify for long term disability. And each time, I had to relive the horrific events of the previous months so that the insurance company could make sure that I was a “grieving mother”.
This picture was taken exactly eight years ago on the day I returned to work. It had been more than nine months since I had set foot into my office and I remember smiling as I held our miracle triplet. But there was still pain deep within in my eyes.
Something needs to change. Grief doesn’t go away in a matter of days, or even months and years. Parents need better support when it comes to child loss and bereavement coverage.
When I look back at this day, I see a beautiful child and her mother, a new chapter about to begin. The traumatic past will always be part of my life, but this pictures proves how strong bereaved parents truly are.