It happened – the day finally came when I could put off the return to work no longer – after 15 months I was returning to the grindstone.
Work was a continual spectre over my maternity leave – the guilt about returning while Elphie was so young; the length of time she’d be in daycare; how much she’d miss me; how much I would miss her. My decision to extend my maternity leave was largely powered by this guilt and the overwhelming concern that someone else would see her first steps (ironically I missed them anyway – Fred saw them in our kitchen while I was busy cooking). Now she was walking and although still breastfeeding, was becoming very independent and survived a few “Keeping In Touch” training days with grandmama so seemed like she would cope – the question was whether I would!
Easy peasy, my first day back at work is a Wednesday so under my new contract that is my day off – so I nailed my work life balance by not working.
The plan was to feed Elphie before I left, ensuring I left her slumbering with Fred whilst I tiptoed out.
Day One did not entirely go to plan. She woke up as usual at around 7.15am, I fed her and she appeared to go back to sleep. I tiptoed to the bathroom, only to leave it to be faced with a bleary eyed toddler sleep walking towards me. Tried to settle her again. Nope – not happening.
Take her down to Grandmama (our temporary childcare solution while we continued the search for Mary Poppins). Grandmama tries to persuade her to sleep with her – nope. Grandmama and Elphie go off to start breakfast, I pick up my things and start to head down the stairs. A pitter patter behind me heralds Elphie brandishing The Tiger that Came to Tea, expecting me to read it. Close to tears (what kind of person leaves their baby to read The Tiger that Came to Tea by herself?!), I get Grandmama to run interference while I escape.
I cry all the way to the tube.
On the tube, I manage to distract myself with The Metro (oh how I have missed its bitesized news) and get into work on time with a coffee purchased en route – I am quite proud of myself.
Just as I enter, I pass Jackie, who I worked for years ago and has been catapulting up the organisation since – she greets me warmly and says, “I haven’t seen you in ages! Where have you been?”. I reply, “Maternity leave” and burst into tears.
Poor woman, not what she was expecting to deal with first thing. She calmed me down and distracted me with an incomprehensible organisation chart which showed that our matrix organisation had decided to go 4D.
The rest of the day was spent warning people I was liable to burst into tears at any moment, but I didn’t and was surprisingly fine.
I returned home on time to find a happy baby desperate for Mummy milk but otherwise unfazed by my absence.
Days Three & Four
Success! I leave the house with her asleep, do not cry in the office and return again to a happy baby.
Less successful. Coming out of my 4pm meeting, I note some missed calls and an email telling me some random woman has been phoning my company trying to get hold of me. I ring said number and talk to Ezra, the leader of a local playgroup about how Elphie has ingested some yew berries (their seeds are poisonous – who knew (other than grandmama)?) and been sent to A&E by the local pharmacist.
In turned out that the work number my Mum had was wrong, my personal phone’s battery was dead and luckily Ezra just kept trying all and every phone number for my company until she found someone who knew who I was (but wouldn’t put her through), oh and my work phone mailbox was full as I hadn’t cleared out all the PPI claim calls from my maternity leave yet. And of course Fred had decided to make a last minute trip to France and so was at South End Airport (his new airport of choice for reasons best known to himself), so he was no use either!
Ezra gave me the number for the paediatric A&E, so I called just a bit freaked out!
The doctor said she was fine – that if she had chewed the berries and hence eaten the seeds then she should be vomiting, so as she wasn’t they suspected she had swallowed them whole and they would pass straight through (like so many blueberries before them). They wanted to keep her in for a few more hours for observation, but they weren’t concerned.
Grandmama, however, was in a bit of a state having convinced herself on the taxi ride over that she had poisoned her only grandchild.
So I headed home to collect the car and then onwards to the hospital.
Turned out Elphie was happily causing havoc believing that she was at a new and exciting playgroup. Grandmama had had to move her to the paediatrics waiting room as she had started “sorting” the drawers in her cubicle.
So we had a dinner of sandwiches and random food I had brought from home (including blueberries of course) and watched swathes of children enter and exit, all who seemed to have jabbed various objects into their orifices (obviously the night for it).
An eventful end to my first week at work!
Thankfully, it’s been a little less exciting since…