I’ve just lost my daughter but I have to go back to work.
I’ve just spent the last few weeks bonding with my son but I have to go back to work.
It’s been just over a year since I started to return to work after losing Poppy. It’s also been 6 weeks since I returned to work after my paternity leave for Reuben. Two very different returns to work but I’ve made them both in the last year.
Returning To Work After Losing Your Baby
You have to do it sadly. At some point you will have to do it. Now I count myself very very lucky. I work for an amazing employer; Wesco Aircraft. The day after Poppy died I’d not even thought about work. How could I? My daughter had just died and I was an emotional wreck. I’ve since heard of dads saying they had to go back the next day – how awful!
My boss text me the morning after Poppy’s death. He simply said: ‘Don’t even worry about work. Your paternity leave has been cancelled and you’re on compassionate leave for as long as you need.’
I was taken aback. An act of amazing kindness after such a gut punch from the world. A wave of relief came over me. Even though I’d not thought about it, I was now aware that I wouldn’t have to go back to work immediately.
I could grieve. I could be with my wife, the mother of our baby girl . Our daughter who has been ripped away from us. I wasn’t going to have to leave my wife in our darkest moment. I could be with her and comfort her while she comforted me.
For weeks work never crossed my mind, apart from the odd text. Then I started to search the internet for other dads that had to return to work. I couldn’t really find much, hence why I feel I need to share my journey back to work.
I did find one post online that struck me. For the life of me, I can’t find it to share now. But what this dad did is something I followed and something I advise any father going back to work after losing a child to do:
Write an email to your colleagues.
Wow I thought, it had never crossed my mind to do that. This father explained that you can reveal you’re coming back to work and try to help your colleagues know how you feel and what you want to achieve by going back.
So I did. I wrote an email. I expressed my thanks for their kind words and messages. I explained I would be returning to work on a phased return. I couldn’t just go back full-time. How could I? I couldn’t focus on work for 8 hours. It’s was a struggle to focus on anything.
Most importantly I then explained that I want people to mention Poppy. She existed. She was here for 3 days. She’s still my daughter. I’m heartbroken she isn’t here but I feel happy talking about her. Yes I’m going to cry but please don’t take that as a reason not to mention her name.
It set out my intentions and I really feel that it helped when I got back to work. People knew that I wanted Poppy to be talked about. Why wouldn’t I? She is and always will be my baby girl. Mentioning her name wouldn’t remind me she had died but reminded me that she mattered.
6 weeks after Poppy died I took the drive into work. It was only going to be a few hours. God how can I do this?
It was the first time I’d been in the car by myself since driving into Leeds at 2am to be with my baby girl at the Leeds General Infirmary. I was driving the same roads I’d come home on when Emily was in labour.
I cried the second I pulled into the car park. I was dreading the walk in. Were people going to stare at me? Would I hear whispers of “that’s the guy who’s baby died”?
I sneaked in the back and quietly sat at my desk. I’d made it in. My team were amazing and then slowly over the next few days people came and saw me. Some just to say it was nice to see me back, others placed a comforting hand on the shoulder while passing on the stairs, and others asked all about Poppy and wanted to look at photos.
She’d made an impact on them and they’d never met her. I simply thought and still feel that my little girl in amazing.
Being back was hard. My brain wasn’t wired for this. All it was focused on was getting through the day without breaking down in tears. I still think it’s doing that now. No matter how many days go by, I still want to cry a million tears for Poppy.
Slowly I got back into the swing of things. It’s like you have to re-train your brain to do the work thing. I count myself very lucky I had no real pressure on me. I’ve spoken to other dads and they have had to be back days after losing their baby. Not just be back but be working like nothing had happened. You just can’t do that.
I’m so pleased the government are poised to bring in new laws to give parents an extra 2 weeks off. That still might not be enough but it will help people that weren’t as lucky as me.
I can’t thank everyone at Wesco enough for how they looked after Emily and me.
Returning To Work After Paternity & Having A Rainbow Baby
A year later I actually got to experience returning to work after paternity leave. Emily and I have actually got to take Reuben home. He’s here with us now, growing up. I never thought we’d have this. It’s still hard to imagine the future but that’s for another post.
I managed to save up my holiday so I got 6 weeks off after Roo was born. 6 weeks! 6 weeks of bonding and wow it was amazing. If you can have more than the 2 weeks off, TAKE IT. It’s totally worth it.
But I didn’t want to go back to work. I didn’t want to go back in and leave my son. I wanted to spend every second with him.
Now I’m sure every father feels the same. For me the time with Reuben felt even more special after going through the loss of Poppy. I didn’t want to miss out on anything. Yes anything, even the dirtiest of nappy changes. Would I have felt this bad about returning to work if Poppy was with us? I don’t know, I’d like to think I would.
As a rainbow dad I worry more about Reuben and want to enjoy him as much as possible. You worry that every little cough could be something so serious. Once you’ve been through baby loss you are so much more aware of what can go wrong.
Is this an added factor to not wanting to go back to work? It didn’t help I know that. But I had to go back. The kid needs milk, nappies and a million other things you won’t have thought of yet.
The first day back was strange. I didn’t have a little person with me. How was he going to be? Would Emily be ok? All these thoughts, but I had to do it. You have to go back.
Emily sends me pictures and we have the odd FaceTime. You have to FaceTime your baby, it’s the cutest thing ever. You can just see him thinking; ‘Dad you’re in a box and it’s so cool!’ You have to just throw yourself into work. You’re going to miss them. I miss Roo every second.
The greatest part of the working day is getting home to see my son, wife and dog. This makes the going to work ok, that amazing feeling of seeing them when you get home. Now I get Daddy Time! I get to have bonding with my son. All the worries and fears you have of leaving them, go away.
I’ve found it hard being away from Reuben. That and having to leave at 7am! I sit and wonder what I’m missing out on. I feel sad thinking about missing out on all his firsts. I’ve learnt though, in the first 12 weeks of Roo’s life that I might miss his first ever smile but I get to see his first smile to me. I get to see him look at me and see his face light up. I get home and he does this now and it makes it all worth it. I forgot what’s important. As my father-in-law said to me, ‘it’s the quality of time you spend with your baby, not the quantity’. Now I try and enjoy every second with Roo, not that I wasn’t enjoying it before, but now the worries are firmly placed in the back of my mind. It’s a struggle going back to work when you want to be home with your wife and newborn. Do I find it hard because it’s normal for any dad to feel this, or is it because Reuben’s our rainbow baby?
I’ve found ways to squeeze in good bonding time: I do all the night feeds. Why you ask? Well, I like doing it. I also need less sleep than Emily and I have to go to work. I want as much time with my son as possible.
If he’s up in time for our dog Holly’s morning walk, then he comes along in the papoose and god that is some of the best moments so far with him. Out in nature just chilling together – Love it!
The truth is you have to go back to work unless you’re in a very fortunate position. You just have to be open with your partner about making sure you get the time you need with your baby.
All I know is that my daughter Poppy sent Emily and me the best little brother for her. I’ll enjoy every second with him. Those 7-8 hours at work are only a small number. The rest of my time is focused on being the best daddy to both my babies.
Returning to work after a stilllbirth, neo-natel death or any loss of a child can be very difficult. There is help out there so don’t go through it alone:
Check out Millennial Dad’s views on going back to work too: