In an instant, my boss turned one of the most difficult times of my life into a moment that I will forever see as a moment that shaped me. In an instant, the pain I was feeling – physically and mentally – felt relieved. I felt like I could breathe again. I was still sad, but grateful… and hopeful… and grateful.
When I got my first job as a teenager, I thought a good boss was someone who would help me find someone to cover my missed shifts.
When I had a job in my twenties, a good boss was someone who would help me move forward towards my career goals.
Now, as a mom in her late 30s, life has taught me that a good boss is more than that.
In March, I had my first miscarriage after three healthy pregnancies. It was devastating for me. I took a sick day, went to bed, visited my doctor, and grieved. I did it quietly, with only my immediate family and a few close friends aware of my situation. These people got me through this. They checked in, visited and even sent flowers.
I will always be grateful for them and their support, but it still seemed strange to me to come back to a normal life and carry on like everything was fine. Like I’m not bleeding, like I’m not in pain, like seeing the pregnancy announcements doesn’t sting.
Time was passing. The work continued. My husband and I decided to try again.
I was hoping.
On National Rainbow Baby Day, I saw the faint double line of a positive pregnancy test and felt like it was the universe telling me it was that. A week later, I started to bleed again. Not enough time to really feel any major pregnancy symptoms, or start picking names, but enough time to hope, figure out my due date, and start wondering what joy this baby would bring to our family.
This miscarriage was different from the previous one. I felt more aware of what was going on and I also felt stupid for being so confident that this pregnancy would last.
Much like the previous miscarriage, the bleeding started on a Sunday. But this time, Monday, there was no sick day, no lying down in bed, no mourning. This time, I set my alarm clock, wiped away my tears, and got ready for work as usual.
I was going through my day when my boss gave me a quick glance and asked the simple question, “Are you okay?” “
I told her I was good and went back to my task, but she didn’t budge. There was a pause before she doubled up. She said, “Well, I’m telling you take the rest of the day. The alone The reason you should stay is if it distracts you from everything that’s going on in your mind.
And at that precise moment, at this precise moment, I could breathe again. I felt seen.
She didn’t know I was having a miscarriage. She did not ask for more details. She looked at me and she saw a person. She didn’t see a scorecard, or its direct report, or the lack of productivity. Even though I felt I was doing a good job of hiding my pain, she saw through it.
I stayed. Partly because I really needed a distraction this time, but also partly because my boss made me feel valued and appreciated and in turn I wanted to show him that his simple request meant something. It made me feel like more work was a safe space to process my feelings and begin to heal.
That day I learned that anyone can have a good boss. Someone who is fair, gives you raises and approves your PTO. But you are really lucky when you have a leader. Someone who puts you, the person, before you, the worker.
There are easy days and there are difficult days. Days when I go about my business, and days when I feel waves of sadness and remember my two babies. Days when every creepy woman walking down the street seems like nine months pregnant, and days when I get out of bed ready to conquer the day. This is the hardest part of pregnancy loss – no one can tell you how to feel or how to deal with it, because it’s up to you. The solidarity you feel with other women who have experienced loss is heartwarming, but can never be the same as it is the personal journey of every mother. I had two miscarriages in the past seven months, and even I had to grieve and treat them differently.
This working day has taught me something precious. I have learned that true leadership not only inspires others, but can also help people cope, move forward, and get out of it.
That day I just needed a distraction, but I also knew I was free to go without judgment. At that point my boss gave me a much needed sense of relief and I will always be grateful to a leader who took the time to ask the simple question, “Are you okay?” “