I’ve mentioned in a previous post that my counsellor has encouraged me to quit my high stress job, which often requires me to work a tonne of hours without compensation. Before I dive too deeply into this post, I should mention that I live in one of the most economically prosperous cities in the world and I am in a pretty high demand profession and we are pretty frugal, so the financial consequences short term shouldn’t be too drastic. Presumably this means that the idea of quitting my job, likely isn’t the same decision facing someone living in another city where the unemployment rate is high.
My counsellor has been encouraging me to quit for at least a year now. Not only is my job high stress, but I am treated rather poorly by my current employer – to the extent that one of my close friends compares the psychology of my work situation to that of a verbal abuse victim, in that I always go back just to take more of the same BS.
With pregnancy number 3 and 4 I actually reduced my work hours to 4 days a week and with pregnancy number 4 I also refused to do any travel. My husband fully supported these changes, and they were very hard for me to make as I had to admit I couldn’t do everything. But they were done in an attempt to reduce the stress and help the baby survive (although according to the specialists there is little scientific evidence which says stress will cause a miscarriage, but it was important to us to do everything possible to give each of our babies a chance at living). I am currently on medical leave as we wait to make sure miscarriage number 4 is complete, and my counsellor desperately wants me to take some time to “recover” and not return to work.
One of the most important questions that she asked me last week was, why won’t you just quit? My knee jerk response was I feel guilty, but that’s just not it. This question has been burned into my brain, and I have literally had it dancing through my mind like an unhealthy obsession for the last 4 days. Is my struggle because:
- I’m scared of the unknown? Absolutely.
- I’ve never taken more than a vacation break in my entire life? Absolutely.
- I’ve never quit something in my life? Absolutely.
- I feel guilty about not ‘pulling my weight’ and contributing financially in my marriage? Absolutely.
- I have this idea of being a stay at home mom for a few years with young children, not a stay at home…dog walker or tv watcher? Absolutely.
- I like our current lifestyle, which requires two wages? Absolutely.
- My husband is worried about our finances if I quit? Absolutely.
- I’ve worked so hard to become the professional I am, that I’m afraid industry will look at me differently in the future? Absolutely.
- I’ll be admitting that I cannot do everything on my own? Absolutely.
Knowing that I despise my job and that medically both my psychologist and my family physician want me to take time away from work, it does seem like a good idea. This is actually the first time in my life I have blatantly ignored medical advice. So, at the end of the day, why haven’t I just quit? I think it’s a little bit of all of the above. But, one of the most important reason is that it will increase my husband’s stress level as he’s the one that worries about the $$. We’ve been through enough, he doesn’t need even more stress in his life. And probably more important still, I think it’s also my fear that by quitting I’m going to let him down. I feel responsible for the miscarriages (even though logically I know that by all medical and scientific analysis, it is not my fault, nor is it his – we are experiencing truly unexplained recurrent pregnancy loss and no cause can be found). But, this rational science doesn’t seem to matter to me because, as the women, I am responsible for carrying the baby and I have failed at this and my failure has resulted in the death of our child, not once but four times. I am afraid of letting him down even more then I already have.
But, can I really just say that my fears are based on his reaction? No, this wouldn’t be fair to him, nor would it be accurate. I am petrified of what this will do for my future career. If we don’t end up not being able to have kids after this is all said and done or even just in a few months when I’m bored, I will definitely want to go back to working. But, by leaving work for what I think many people will feel is a bad reason, how will I answer the question of why aren’t you working right now and will it make it harder to get another job when the time comes? And because everyone is going to ask the question about why I’m not working, I will have to admit this not only to my employer, but to my professional colleagues in industry and likely to our family and friends that we have chosen not to tell. And, what do I say in interviews about a gap in my resume – I had 4 miscarriages, cracked up and bit and couldn’t handle it? That just sucks to admit and kinda makes me sound pathetic! Which hits on the main reason why I’m so scared to take this step – I’m paralyzed by the fear that by not working, I am admitting that I cannot do it all and that I have failed or am failing. I can honestly say I have never failed at anything in my life up until we’ve experienced recurrent pregnancy loss (with the exception of one pop quiz in grade 5 that I got 20% on because I didn’t pay attention to the movie – and I’m not entirely convinced that a pop quiz in grade 5 counts as a life failure). Sure, I haven’t been good at everything I’ve ever tried (for example, I suck at many things including pottery, sewing, house cleaning, etc.), but I haven’t out right failed. By quitting my job, I’m failing on yet another level.
These fears are not easy to manage and will be difficult to overcome if I actually leave my job.
So, what will we choose to do about my job? I’ll talk about that in another post, once we figure it out.
When I first think about psychologist and psychology, the first thing to pop into my mind is Frasier and Niles Crane from the old sitcom Frasier (during our third miscarriage, we watched the entire series for the first time). I like to believe my psychologist is nothing like the quirky and pretentious Crane brothers.
But, on a more serious note, having a psychologist has been an incredibly important part of my journey. I initially asked my family doctor for a referral as I was not coping well enough with work stress – back before or at least around the time of the first miscarriage (I cannot remember exactly when). I have always been an over-achiever and a perfectionist, and I thought it was starting to catch up with me as I was working 60-70+ hours a week and feeling the angst that goes along with that lifestyle. So, I thought, talking to someone about learning techniques to deal with stress might be a good use of my time. Little did I know, my life was about to get a lot more stressful as we started down the path of repeat pregnancy loss.
I cannot even remember the conversation topic at our first meeting. All I remember was sitting down in her office and breaking into to tears. And when I say tears, I don’t mean 1 or 2 glistening tears rolling down my cheek. I mean, balling like a toddler who just had their lollipop stolen by their big brother. I should point out, that I don’t cry. Or at least I didn’t. Or maybe, the better way to say it is that I don’t cry in public and I don’t show strong personal emotions in 98% of circumstances (i.e. work, large social gatherings, etc.). I save the personal emotions for my husband and on the rare occasion with a few very close personal friends – for good or bad, he’s one of the few people who get to see that side of me.
So, why do I like having a psychologist? Or more specifically, why do I love having her as my psychologist (as opposed to someone else)? She has provided a safe place to talk about anything, a supportive response, a friendly hug (but she always asks first, which makes me laugh a little inside), and critical recommendations. Part of what makes her so great is that she has had a miscarriage, she has lost a child, and she also has a living child. This makes her perspective especially valuable. She gets it, or at least she gets most of it. Our stories are not the exact same, but there are enough similarities that I can take comfort in the fact that she is not just reading from a textbook, but she is also speaking from the heart.
We don’t always agree. There have been times when she provides recommendations that we don’t agree with. For example, she wanted us to tell our families and friends when we were going through miscarriage number 2. We were adamant that we couldn’t, that they wouldn’t be supportive enough. I think as she’s gotten to know us better, she’s has started to understand more about our families and now understands why we haven’t told everyone. In another circumstances, she has encouraged me to stop working full time for a high stress employer, to focus on my health and my recovery (both physical and emotional). She has been encouraging this for over a year now. She’s right on every level, but up until now I have refused (another topic for another post).
She has been a very important part of our journey, and I wish everyone could find someone as great as her when they are facing such a difficult situation.