This is the continuation of ‘The Thirteen Days of Arthur,’ a series of writings by Melissa Mouzin-Bennett, mom to Arthur Hancock…
As you may or may not know, I work for the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program as a nutritionist. My job is to take basic heights, weights, check iron, assess a nutritional need, and counsel my families about making better food choices. I also give them checks to redeem at the grocery store for nutritious foods to help them out. My clientele consists of pregnant and postpartum women and kids from newborn to age five. I’m sure you can see the challenge of me returning to work after maternity leave.
I am so grateful that I’ve developed a close relationship with many of my clients. To be effective at my job, I have to care deeply about the families I see, if I didn’t form this sort of bond with them, they probably wouldn’t be as motivated to make positive changes in their lives. Not only am I involved in their lives and helping them set some goals, but I also share my life with them. Nothing builds rapport more than to let people know that you once stood in their shoes, and many of my clients probably know way more about my family than I should really be comfortable with semi-strangers knowing. I worked right up until the time I was scheduled to be induced. I felt like my pregnancy helped me form a bond with my prenatal clients, we would chat about our cravings, the weird little pains and twinges, the morning sickness, and hopes for our babies’ futures. One thing that I learned very early on in my career is that like attracts like, so my pre-natals really enjoyed their time with me at the clinic. The difficult part came when I had to return to work. I see my clients every 3 months, so most of the ones who came in on my first few weeks back had last seen me when I was just starting to get my baby bump. In one way, I feel very lucky to work with a woman named Mary. She made appointments for me and screened my clients before they ever made it to my desk. She was also a close friend and took on the task to tell everyone the news of Arthur’s passing before they got to me. That made things so much easier for both the client and myself, the client got to choose whether to mention Arthur or not and I felt like I didn’t have to repeat the same story over and over. Talking to the adults about why I was pregnant last time they saw me, yet have no baby at home to show for it was the least of my worries upon returning to work. I found myself, three weeks after holding my infant son for the last time, weighing, measuring, holding, and touching other people’s newborn babies and forcing myself to act like I was OK with it. I was genuinely happy to see the little products of the mommies who I sat with just three months earlier discussing who had the oddest craving, but those encounters would also trigger extreme grief. In some cases, I would have to close my office door and weep over the way my empty arms ached for my son. A couple of months later, I’m pretty sure I took my grieving to a level of creepiness that, looking back, I’m pretty ashamed of. I was tired of physically craving the feeling of holding an infant, so I held every baby I could. Even if the parents didn’t seem to want me to, I would find myself just reaching into the mother’s arms to “help” her get her baby ready for it’s appointment. Each time I would hold someone else’s baby, with or without the parents’ permission, it would then trigger another crying spell. As months passed after we lost Arthur, I would be triggered by babies that would have been his age. The nine month olds in August, and those turning one when he would have were the big ones, at that point I had identified these children as potential triggers and would ask coworkers to see them. Roy and I have noticed that baby clothes in stores also seem to be triggers, but sometimes we like to look at them just to feel comforted. I feel that the hardest aspect of my grieving process to deal with constructively are these triggers.
The triggers don’t hit me as often now and I usually can identify a potential trigger before it happens. I was just bragging at work the other day about how newborns don’t seem to trigger my grief at all anymore. Not three days later, I saw a newborn boy with Arthur’s hair color and was within a couple of ounces of his birth weight. He was all bundled up in clothes that were similar in style to those we would have picked for Arthur, and of course this time of the year, the weather always makes me miss him too. I was absolutely blindsided by this baby triggering “that feeling” in me, but I handled it without a tear this time. Instead, after the family left, I looked up at the picture of Arthur on my deskside cabinet and said, “hi, Arthur, I’m thinking of you too.”