I have worked for our local grocery chain, Publix, since I was 17 years old. Last May would have been my 17 year anniversary, but I left for 22 months when Ayden was born. I have been back for 4 years now.
One of the nice things is working for Publix is kinda like Cheers…”where everybody knows your name”.
Also…everyone knows your business.
Which can be good or bad depending on who you are and what your business is.
One of the hard things I dealt with after losing Aaron was that I didn’t want to go into any Publix stores. I barely wanted to go into public for fear of being seen by someone I know.
I can’t really explain why. I felt embarrassed. Why embarrassed? I don’t really know, I can’t explain it. Like all of the hype of the pregnancy and everyone knowing me, my husband, my sister, and everyone in between….and then nothing.
At first I wondered if someone would think “What’s wrong with her? Why didn’t her baby live?” It might not make sense to you, but it does to me.
I didn’t want to run into someone that hadn’t heard the news yet and have them ask “Where’s the baby??” And then I would have to tell them, I would have to utter the words that my baby didn’t survive. “The baby didn’t make it…” And in addition to the reality-kick-in-the-gut, I would feel bad that they had to find out that way. I knew that they would wish they had heard before they asked and they would feel like a jerk for not knowing. But I know that they wouldn’t have asked if they had known…it’s just too much to explain.
And then the thought of going back to work or even into the Publix I work at…nope. Not happening. If I could just move away where no one knew me and I could start a new life…I totally would have done that. Talk about having to face your fears!!!
In the few days following Aaron’s birth, whenever I would think about stepping foot in MY Publix, I felt like running away instead. If I could just stay in my home and correspond with everyone via text (not even phone calls, nope…uncomfortable) that would have been the perfect situation.
When Berkley and I would talk about how I should go into my store soon (when I’m ready) to see the folks there (to ease back in instead of just waiting until I had to go back to work), I would shake my head and start crying. I couldn’t face them. They were all so excited for us and anxiously awaiting our little “girl” to arrive. How embarrassing to then see these coworkers AND customers and have to tell them that not only was the baby not a girl, but they baby doesn’t exist….physically.
Anyone that has been pregnant before (especially working in the public) knows how many times you’re asked the age-old pregnancy questions…
When are you due?
What around having?
Is this your first?
Everyone asks, all the time.
Now having to answer “how’s the baby?” I don’t know how to handle this with the millions of customers that I could see in a shift. (Ok millions is an exaggeration but it’s what it will feel like my first time back to work I think)
It’s overwhelming to think about. And in those first days post partum…uncontrollably overwhelming.
I was fortunate enough to still have my parents here, staying with us, for a few days after. They were amazing and would go to the grocery store without me because I just coudln’t face going in. I even sent my mother in for a head of cabbage into a store I didn’t work at and probably knew the least amount of workers in. Because I just couldn’t take the chance that someone that I know would see me.
The week after Aaron’s birth, we were also prepping for a Cat 5 Hurricane (Irma) that was potentially heading our direction. Berk had gotten the gas tanks filled, shuttered up most of the windows, and helped us make a list of food/items to have in the house before he went back to work. My parents, thankfully, did that shop for us too. Then Friday morning (Storm was due here Saturday night/Sunday sometime), my mom and I needed to make one last trip to Publix. I didn’t want to make her do it all by herself so I went in too. This isn’t MY Publix and is typically the one I go to when I don’t want to be seen (no makeup, want to get in and out quick) on a normal basis. But this day, I spent the whole time, paranoid, looking over my shoulder so I could avoid being seen by anyone I knew, lest I LOSE IT!!! I did end up in the bathroom once, in a slight panic attack. But if I could have just gone to the car and hid, I would have. Yes I avoided people, yes, I ducked down aisles I didn’t need to go down, yes, I sent my mother to a specific section so I didn’t have to be seen by so-and-so. Yes, I know those people would just want to hug me, or try and pretend like life was normal as to not upset me. But just knowing they know…was embarrassing and upsetting.
How will I able to function in public again? I can’t get out of everything outside my home for the rest of my life!!! And it wasn’t even at Publix. I needed to pick up something from Walgreens. Walking into Walgreens, I was looking around making sure I wasn’t going to be seen by someone I know. And then the day we went to go visit with my Aunt and Grandma. I wanted a sweet tea and we were passing McDonalds. The drive through line was long so I decided to go inside. WALKING INTO MCDONALDS I WAS LOOKING AROUND TO MAKE SURE I DIDN’T SEE ANYONE I KNEW!!! Do you know how annoying that is? I wanted to run away!!!
And I still hadn’t been in to MY Publix…
Berkley told me he’ll go with me as many times as I need him to, but I need to go. For them…for me. He had already been back to work and was able to share his experiences with me. Help me know what to expect. To reassure me that it’s going to be ok. To help answer my questions or feelings of paranoia when I discussed my fears.
One day, we made a plan, and went in after dropping Ayden off at school. I felt like I was having one of those dreams where you’re trying to run but cant. Trying to scream but can’t. I was trying to turn around, but couldn’t. I know I needed to do this…but I DID NOT WANT TO!
I saw my manager, but she was helping someone else “whew…”. We had to pick up a couple of items, so I rushed Berk and told him just to go down an aisle, any aisle…just get me away. I felt myself losing control of my emotions and I just wanted to walk down an empty aisle to gather myself. I don’t cry in front of people. But I knew it would most likely happen, which did NOT help. Of course the aisle we walked down had one of the other ladies that works in the Grocery department. UGH…wrong aisle. But it was too late to turn around. How do I act? What do I say? Do I act like nothing happened? (I know she knew and was heartbroken for us) I DON’T KNOW HOW TO BE!!! So I jokingly messed with her bacause that’s what we do and because I know she’d be more upset if I just walked by without saying hi. (Especially since it had been over 2 weeks since Aaron’s birth). She turned around and hugged me….and I cried. I kept my sunglasses on while we talked. She didn’t act any different. We talked about the hurricane and such, and then we went on our way.
I saw a couple more people as we picked up our few items and I rushed as fast as I could to get us paid and out of the store. I knew I needed to talk to my manager about work related things, so I went to check out with her. It wasn’t bad. And then we left. WHEW!!! That was over and I never have to do that again! WRONG!!! I work there! But it was over a week that I went back in. And I only went back in because Berk was going with and encouraging me. (When I needed to grocery shop, I would go to the other store and hope for the best…I was seen, plenty of times, but it wasn’t horrible…just something about going into my own store. I can’t really explain the feeling). The 2nd time into my store wasn’t as bad. Except for my first experience with someone that hadn’t heard the news…”I guess I can say congratulations now” HOW do I respond to this? “Sorta” is what I said. :/ “Where’s the baby?” I don’t want her to feel bad when I tell her what happened. But I can’t “just go along with it” like in other uncomfortable situations in life. So I had to tell her and I felt terrible for making her feel terrible. Ugh… We finished the shop, but I still didn’t feel like I couldn’t go in by myself and still did my shopping at the other store.
Finally, ONE whole month after Aaron’s birth, I felt ok enough to meet up with some of the girls from my work. One, in particular, had been asking often to see me and I just wasn’t ready to be seen. I asked her if she wanted to meet for coffee and see if anyone else wanted to come too. Then on that day (32 days after Aaron’s birth), I felt ok enough to go grocery shopping by myself in my own store. No security blanket of Berkley or Ayden. And I didn’t back down. I sort of wanted to as I was walking up the parking lot. But I forced myself in. For the very first time, I actually felt like myself and not like it was written all over my face that my baby had died. I felt like a different person…tainted, embarrassed, sad, depressed, disappointed, and more. The overwhelming paranoid feelings of not wanting to be seen were minimal and I could function. I could say hi to people. It wasn’t completely “back to normal”. But there is no going “back” to normal. A sort of normal… a new normal.
I still really don’t know how to be in front of people. Am I allowed to be happy and laugh? Am I expected to be a certain way? I don’t know. But I am taking it day by day to find my new normal without losing “me”…..