In pregnancy I had my donut days- days where I felt sad and didn’t feel up to facing the world. But I would eat a donut and pull it together. I needed a name for those days so that when Chris asked how my day was, I could sum it up in two words- Donut Day. Those days are long behind me. In the hospital we use a pain scale to evaluate how much pain someone is in. “On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being no pain, 10 being your hand in a blender, what number would you give your pain?” Sometimes patients would be sitting comfortably, texting and rate their pain as 7 or 8, but not be even grimace. Those patients had never experienced a 10/10 pain, so they thought what they were experience was bad. We are not supposed to judge other people’s perception of pain, but I have been with many women in labor, women with kidney stones and I have seen what 10/10 pain looks like. I can now say I’ve been there myself. And knowing what 10/10 looks and feels like, someone with 7/10 pain shouldn’t be texting. I wish there was a scale of sadness, because I thought I knew what sadness was when I was pregnant. And I probably knew it more than some people. I thought Donut Days were 7/10, but now that I’ve reached new levels of sadness I can say they were more like 3-4/10. I was that person texting while I thought I was really sad. Now I’m in the real throws of sadness.
So I need a new term because now the good days are Donut Days. The best I can come up with is Gray. It’s sort of like the blues, but deeper and sadder. I can feel it creeping up- it starts low in my belly and slowly rises until my head is swimming in it. When it starts I can tell Chris “I’m feeling gray” and he knows. There’s nothing he or anyone can do, but I feel like I need someone to know, maybe so I don’t feel so alone. Because on the outside I may not be crying, I could look like I’m having a simple Donut Day, but really on the inside I’m gray. I don’t enjoy it- I’d rather feel more donut-y, which is more of a blank feeling.
Today started out gray. I didn’t get out of bed until 11 and that was only because I had a date planned. I had dinner with my cousin and a friend last night and laughed a bit more than I have for a while. In the car ride home I told Chris, “At dinner, I forgot.” I forgot what was going on in my life and in my head, which was good. It was a nice distraction. But then when I remember again, it’s a big crash. The fall is harder because I fell from a momentary high. So maybe this morning was still part of my crash from last night. Or perhaps it was because I decided to make some phone calls today, phone calls I was not looking forward to. I called the tailor. I called the dentist to reschedule an appointment (last time I was there they knew I was pregnant). And I called work.
Thinking about work has caused me a lot of anxiety. It’s often on my mind because returning to work would be progress. It would be a distraction. I’m not enjoying being home and so a weird part of me looks forward to returning to work, but then I think about what it will be like and I start to dread it. I’ll basically be trading one discomfort for another. Being at home, feeling useless and caught up in my own thoughts is not fun. But being at work, facing pregnant patients, facing pregnant coworkers and fielding questions about my baby from patients is not fun either. I have to pick my poison. Work has been especially on my mind because the summer schedule is out- and my name is all over it. It makes perfect sense that it is, my future at work has been uncertain, so they just went with what they knew from before. I’ve been told that I can take the time I need, but seeing my name on a may schedule felt like some sort of pressure. I know that was not the intention, but that was my reaction. I wanted to call work to at least start the conversation and really see what was expected of me. I’m especially dreading call- 24 hours is a long time. I used to say, I can do anything for 24 hours! We used to do 48 hours of weekend call and that was killer, so when we switched to shorter 24 hour shifts, it felt so manageable. Now it feels like forever. If can’t go 12 hours now without crying, how will I ever manage 24? And nights are the worst- so I’ll be sleep deprived, fighting the worst of my emotions. And when I don’t get enough sleep now, I have a much worse day. And lastly, being on call means doing rounds- seeing patients in the hospital who had their babies the day before. This might just do me in. Seeing patients with their newborns, tired but glowing, having the experience I wanted so badly. It feels like salt in the wound. And there is an expectation to coo over their baby. I can not imagine doing that. These things all swam around in my mind when I saw my name on the summer schedule. So I needed to make the call to address it and see my options.
I was nervous about calling- what if they said my schedule was not negotiable? Summer is our busiest time and I think we are in line for our busiest summer yet. What if they don’t understand how hard it will be for me to return? I know I have to go slow, ease into it, if I don’t want to burn out- but is that possible? I take so much comfort when people are surprised that I am even returning to work. It sends the message that they understand how hard it will be in my field. And part of me never wants to return. But I can’t stay at home, I have nothing else to do and deep down I do really like my work. I want the expectation to be that I wouldn’t come back for a long time, so that when I do come back I’m exceeding expectations. Versus if the expectation is I’m back at 10 weeks, and I am not, then I’ve disappointed people.
The good news is, work does seem very accommodating. I laid out a tentative plan which seem doable- administrative work at first, ease into seeing patients, delay call for another month. And I am optimistic that if I have trouble, my job will work with me. I just hope that when they see me back, they don’t that I’m back to normal. I wont be. I don’t think I’ll ever be.