Writing is cathartic. That’s why I do it. I’ve kept every single diary I’ve ever had, starting with the one my parents bought me when I was eight years old.
“Property of Alisha Howard, HER EYES ONLY” it read. Sometimes, when I want a good laugh, I will pull out one of the diaries and read them. I was so young! It’s mind boggling.
Writing is a way for me to get things off of my mind. A lot of times, I’ll write out events that are bugging me and as soon as I hit ‘publish’ or ‘save’, a weight is lifted off of my shoulders.
Let me tell you what’s on my mind.
I’m dealing with a bulging disc in the L5, S2 region of my spine. I’m 7 weeks out from my due date, and the pain has gotten consistently worse. It’s called sciatica and it’s when the sciatic nerve is compressed. The nerve starts in your lower back and travels down your legs. Because I’m pregnant, the spine doctor and I decided not to go the ole steroid injection route. I would do physical therapy for six weeks and he kindly informed me that even therapy might not help….it would get a helluva lot worse before it got any better with giving birth.
For those of you who have never experienced sciatica, imagine a searing hot butter knife slicing through your butt muscles every time you aggravate those muscles….and they’re always aggravated. Then imagine that specific pain along with weakness and shooting pain in your leg (that is constantly threatening to go out at any moment, but you better not fall!). Imagine all of THAT pain being coupled with not being able to stand up or sit down if things get really pissed off…once you pick a position, you better love it because you’re not going anywhere for awhile.
And all of that is aggravated by sitting upright in a chair for eight hours a day.
That is what I am currently going through. It is what I went through before I went on bed rest at 17 weeks pregnant, when I was working 12 hour days, 6-7 days a week, operating on little sleep and my one daily allowed small cup of coffee in the name of a project that meant a lot to our department.
It came back with a vengeance at week 29 and it looks like it’s here to stay. Because I’m a “good employee”, always taking on extra tasks, coming to early morning critical meetings just to be there in case my boss needs me, eagerly running errands for the office, etc. I didn’t hesitate to modify my hours. Our office usually starts waking up at 10 a.m. So, I started coming in at 10:30 a.m. instead of my scheduled 9:30 a.m. and leaving at 6:30 p.m. But that still wasn’t enough. The pain was definitely back. So I would have to call in sick or ask my boss if I could leave at 5:30. He never said anything, but my spider senses told me that he wasn’t thrilled.
Last Friday, after I left work at 6:00 p.m., I was in so much pain that I vomited when I got home. “I can’t do this,” I sobbed to Husband. “I need to figure something out.”
That ‘something’ was asking my boss if I could work a modified schedule of 10-3 p.m. and then work from home for the rest of the day. I figured he wouldn’t mind…we’re out of our busy season, it’s only for 6-7 weeks and I’m always available via cell (even on the weekends). Yesterday, I asked him and he told me no. He said he needed me physically present and he would much prefer me to just start my maternity leave early rather than have me here half days. He said that first it’ll be 10-3, and then he imagined I’d start wanting to leave at 1, then not coming in at all! And that would be very inconvenient for him.
I smiled, nodded politely and told him I would check with HR to see where they were in the process of finding my mat leave replacement. I would also inquire about medical leave. HR informed me that medical leave would only equal 55% of my pay. I thanked her for the information and told her that I couldn’t afford to only bring in half of my pay as it was currently our only income.
The HR lady is a mother and a friend. She scolded me, saying that I needed to do what was best for my health and everything else would work out. “Have faith!!” she said over and over again.
I nodded and smiled and thanked her for her time. But I know there’s no way we can survive on half of my pay. I told her I would just have to work through the pain until my scheduled leave date, December 19 (2 days before my due date and only because my due date falls on a Sunday). She urged me to contact my benefits department (who still hasn’t contacted me back) and see if they could figure something out.
“Hell, we’ll take up a charity for you if you need it!” she half joked. I swallowed a lump in my throat and chuckled with her.
After I got home, I cried. Hard. It was a rough night for both me and Husband. I couldn’t sleep past 1 a.m. despite taking a sleeping pill AND Tylenol. He tried to soothe me through glassy, sleep filled eyes, but I wasn’t having it. It was a bad night. Plain and simple.
This morning, I’m pretty numb. I told myself that this was my decision. Having a child was what I wanted and this was the penalty. I would work through the pain, making sure I was back on my regular hours of 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and I would plaster a smile on my face for the next 7 weeks. I would also work really hard to make sure I didn’t fall at work.
I think it’s sufficient to say that I’m officially dealing with Prenatal Depression. Being in this type of pain for this long has worn on me. I’m throwing in the towel to defeat. When I see my doctor in a few weeks, I’ll let her know about it. But, like most writers (and a lot of women) I’ve dealt with depression before…it’s nothing new. Generally, the best thing I can do is go into survival mode until something changes. Keep a list of what I need to do to get through each day. Do it. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Survive.
And fortunately, everyone wants to know how I’m doing. Every day. It’s code for “How’s the baby?”, they don’t really care about you. But it’s good practice for lying. You smile, and say “I’m good!” or “I’m ok, how are you?” and then you fulfill their need to be nosy by regaling them with a story of how hard the baby is kicking or saying yes, you are thrilled for the baby for the millionth time (even if you aren’t anymore) or laughing politely as they make fun of how you now waddle. It’s good for growing thick skin. It’s good for not resenting your male boss who will probably stay true to form and give you grief once the baby comes and he’s inconvenienced by things like you having to take off from work when they’re sick.
So that’s that. That’s my Friday. Oh! And happy Halloween.