This Morning I Was Late for Work

This morning I was late for work.

I’m sure we’ve all been there; you’ve slept through your alarm or it’s not gone off for some reason, there’s been an accident on the motorway or your bus didn’t stop despite you frantically trying to flag it down. People who say they’ve never, ever been late are either fibbing or should be made to fib so that the rest of us feel a tiny little bit better about ourselves and our  unintentional, occasional tardiness.

This morning, not only did both the Northern One and I both manage to sleep through my alarm but Squidge decided to have a lie-in this morning instead of waking at some unearthly hour to start shouting for his pre-breakfast milk. So when I did eventually wake up and blearily reached for my phone to check what time it was, it quickly became apparent that my shift was about to start and I was still in bed.

After a mad dash of showering, putting my make up on (there was no way I was leaving the house without it) and accidentally leaving my lunch in the fridge, I made it to work in record time AND I still managed to find a parking space, but only because it was early on Saturday. I ran up the corridor, threw my bag into the staff room and dashed into the intensive care nursery apologising profusely and hoping that I’d not made myself too unpopular with my colleagues who’d been covering for me for the last hour.

I truly hate being late; it has me feeling completely frazzled before the day has even started, I feel guilty for not being at work on time, I worry that it makes me look really unprofessional and I spend the day feeling as though I’ve forgotten to do something vitally important.

As far as today was concerned, my timing couldn’t have been an awful lot worse. After having 14 months off work due to pregnancy-related illness and maternity leave, five months back at work and then three months sick leave with depression and medication changes Occupational Health decided that it was in everyone’s best interests for me to have a ‘staged return’ this time around. After three weeks of being even more part-time than usual, this week was the first time I’d worked my full part-time hours since I was signed off sick by my eternally helpful and understanding GP.

The first shift this week went without a hitch, apart from me feeling so tired at one slow point in the afternoon that I briefly considered whether I’d fit in the incubator with a particularly snuggly looking baby. The second shift however, was on Saturday, now otherwise known as ‘late day’.

Crap.

After the morning rush settled down I was summoned into the Sister’s office with the panic-inducing words ‘Have you got five minutes?’ I followed her down the corridor with wobbly knees and shaking hands, knowing that I was in trouble and that in all honestly it was entirely justified. I was vaguely aware that I could hear the ringing sound you get when you stand up too quickly and you know that if you don’t sit down quickly your body is going to take matters into its own hands.

Her first (and entirely justified) point was that I hadn’t yet been to apologise to her for being late. I’d asked the Northern One to phone work (while I dashed about the house and tried not to mix up my deodorant and hairspray) so they did know where I was and what was happening. Once I actually got to work everyone (including the Sister) was busy and in my embarrassment I just wanted to start my day and catch up as quickly as possible. Of course this doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t go and apologise and I like to think that I’m old enough to not try and make excuses but I honestly thought it was better if I just got on with things.

Anyway.

Her second point was that my sleeping through my alarm and subsequently being late showed her that I wasn’t ready to be back at work.

Again, crap.

Apart from one day when I got my shifts mixed up (one of the perils of shift work) and didn’t realise I was supposed to be at work I have never been late. I may not always find it that easy to get up in the morning but one my alarm goes off for work I’m up (no pressing the snooze button) and out of the house within half an hour.  At the risk of sounding overly keen, I am the person stood in front of the handover board before anyone else, learning the names of the babies and mentally preparing myself for the day ahead. My interpretation of this one-off situation, therefore, was that I needed a more obnoxious-sounding alarm on my phone, not that I wasn’t fit to be in work.

I left the office feeling physically sick; not because I’d essentially been told off (although who enjoys that) but because the Sister had successfully tapped into almost every single one of my misgivings about returning to work, being a working mum and being a nurse full stop.

I am not the same nurse now that I was before I found out I was pregnant. Over the past two years I have been off work for a total of 17 months, over which time I have had a baby, fought an almost constant battle with my mental health and become a very different person. In terms of being a nurse I’ve generally become deskilled and out of practice; my knowledge is rusty and it feels like I’m learning some things all over again. During these same two years, colleagues who I considered myself equal to in terms of competency have become increasingly more skilled. several have been promoted and who I am now miles behind.

In the great scheme of things it may not feel like something I should be upset about; I have a beautiful son, a wonderful husband, a stable home and a job that I love but honestly it really does get to me. I truly do love my job; it’s a big part of how I am, how I perceive myself and how I measure my self worth. Before my combined sick/maternity leave I prided myself on being someone who could be trusted to properly care for the absolute sickest babies and I spent almost every shift in Intensive Care, looking after babies with complex needs but since I’ve returned to work that’s no longer the case.

On several occasions, when my mental health has been at its lowest ebb I have honestly felt as though depression has taken almost everything from me. It’s also been all too easy to associate, and therefore blame being pregnant for the dramatic downward spiral that my mental health took. I love Squidge so very, very much and I would not change him for the world but equally I’m very aware that my life now can’t be the same as it was before; be it work life, social life or home life. I know this and yet it is still difficult to accept how much things have changed (and will continue to change), especially when it comes my career.

It took me most of the day, but by the end of my shift I decided that I wasn’t going to go home and announce to the Northern One that I was a useless nurse and that I was giving up work to be a stay-at-home mum. While I could have picked a far better day to be late for the first time in three years, it didn’t mean that my career is over. Being the mum of a small child has taught me many things but one of the most important (apart from never leaving the house without baby wipes and an emergency biscuit) is the ability to not blow minor events out of proportion, or ‘catastrophising.’ This is something that I’m still far too good at but I’m working on it, along with plenty of other things,

I know I’m no longer one of the most competent nurses on the unit, in fact I’m probably somewhere below average but I also know that it doesn’t have to stay that way. I may never feel as though I’ve ‘caught up’ with some colleagues but all the knowledge and skills I had before are still there, I just need to give them time to come back. I also need to remember that I have done something hugely valuable with my time away from work; I’ve managed to grow, safely deliver and begin to raise a gorgeous, clever, cheeky little boy.

Also, clearly I need to change the alarm on my phone to something far louder and more obnoxious, but that’s already been taken care of.

Louise is a full time mum and a part time neonatal nurse who has battled depression for many years but particularly during her pregnancy. She lives with her husband (the Northern One) their little boy (Squidge) and their three guinea pigs who live in the kitchen.

Louise blogs at 23weeksocks (http://23weeksocks.com) about lots of different (and seemingly unconnected) topics that she’s passionate about, including mental health, antenatal depression, neonatal care and baby loss.

In 2015 she was shortlisted in the ‘Fresh Voice’ category for the BIB (Brilliance in Blogging) Awards and the ‘Bereavement Worker’ category for the Butterfly Awards. She was also one of the keynote speakers at BritMums Live reading’Twinkle Twinkle’ which was her account of caring for a premature baby on the day that he died.

8 thoughts on “This Morning I Was Late for Work

  1. Leigh Kendall says:

    We certainly all have been there, lovely. Life happens, being late doesn’t make you a bad person. You’re a far better nurse than you give yourself credit for, of that I have little doubt. Well done on not catastrophising the event – we all know how much you care about your job and understand why you’re upset about it – but it’s just one little blip. You’re doing wonderfully, keep going xxx

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    • blopmamma2014 says:

      Thank you Leigh 🙂 I’m getting much better at not blowing things out of all proportion but it’s still nice to have other people tell me that I’m doing well. It is just one little blip and all I have to do is keep reminding myself of that.

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  2. Harriet says:

    I can only agree with Leigh…you are doing wonderfully. No doubt the sister meant well but one message shines through this post : you are definitely ready to be back at work. How do I know? By looking at your response to the situation. It is a calm and rational response, acknowledging your (totally understandable) emotional reaction but going beyond that and saying, “I’ll keep going because actually you’re mistaken, thank you very much,”. This is a real sign of recovery, strength and wisdom. Well done! xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • blopmamma2014 says:

      Thank you Harriet 🙂 I’m not very good at telling myself that I’m actually doing well but I am getting better and believing people when they tell me that I’ve something good.
      Quite often I do have emotional reactions to relatively unimportant things but again, I’m getting better at managing this too.

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  3. diaryofapremmymum says:

    I suspect that the experience of having a baby and the mental health issues that came with it may well have enhamced your understanding of what some of us neonatal parents go through. Your colleagues won’t learn that on nicu, no matter how many shifts they do.

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    • blopmamma2014 says:

      Thank you for reading and for your lovely comment. I do sometimes worry that parents who read this blog might think that, due to my mental health issues, I’m not fit to be looking after their tiny, fragile children. It’s so wonderful to hear someone say that they actually think this big part of me makes me a better nurse.

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  4. mylittledreamworld1 says:

    Good on you. I am a social worker, and when I returned to work after a year off I really struggled at first – I never really told anyone at work how hard I found it. I didn’t know things if have known automatically before maternity, I couldn’t remember how to do simple things and I just didn’t feel ‘right’. I’ve been back just over a year now though and feel much happier – you do get back into it, I guess I’m just saying that it does take time and go gentle on yourself. I am sure you are a great nurse and as Leigh has said, a blip doesn’t mean you are useless xxx

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    • blopmamma2014 says:

      It does take time and I’m trying really hard to remind myself that I will get back into things. I just find it difficult to remember the nurse that I used to be without beating myself up for having ‘fallen behind’. I’m so pleased that going back to work has worked out for you. Thanks for reading.

      Like

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