In an instant, my boss turned one of the harder moments of my life into a time I will forever look back on as a moment that shaped me. In a moment, the pain that I was feeling — physically and mentally — felt relieved. It felt like I could breathe again. I was still sad, but thankful … and hopeful … and grateful.
When I had my first job as a teenager, I thought a good boss was a person 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 advance toward my career goals.
Now, as a mom in my late thirties, life has taught me that a good boss is so much more than that.
Back in March, I had my first miscarriage after three healthy pregnancies. It was devastating to me. I took a sick day, laid in bed, visited my doctor, and grieved. I did it quietly, with only immediate family and some close friends aware of my situation. Those people got me through it. They checked in, visited, and even sent flowers.
I will forever be thankful for them and their support, but it still felt odd to just go back to normal life and carry on as if everything was fine. As if I wasn’t bleeding, as if I wasn’t hurting, as if seeing pregnancy announcements didn’t sting.
Time passed. Work continued. My husband and I decided we wanted to try again.
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 that this was it. A week later, I started bleeding again. Not enough time to really experience any major pregnancy symptoms, or start picking out names, but enough time to be hopeful, figure out my due date and start to wonder what joy this baby would bring to our family.
This miscarriage was different than the previous one. I felt more aware of what was happening, and also felt silly that I was so confident that this pregnancy would last.
Just like the previous miscarriage, the bleeding started on a Sunday. But, this time, on Monday there was no sick day, no laying in bed, no grieving. This time I set my alarm, wiped my tears, and got ready for work like normal.
I was going about my day when my boss took a quick look at me and asked the simple question, “Are you okay?”
I told her that I was good and went back to my task at hand, but she didn’t move. There was a pause before she doubled down. She said, “Well, I am telling you to take the rest of the day off. The only reason you should stay is if this is a distraction from whatever is going on in your mind.”
And in that moment, that exact moment, I could breathe again. I felt seen.
She didn’t know that I was actively miscarrying. She didn’t pry for more details. She looked at me, and she saw a person. She didn’t see a time card, or her direct report, or lack of productivity. Even though I felt like I was doing a good job of hiding my pain, she saw through that.
I stayed. Partly because I really did need the distraction this time, but also partly because my boss made me feel valued and appreciated and in turn I wanted to show her that her simple request meant something. It made me feel like more work was a safe space to process my feelings and start 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 truly lucky when you have a leader. Someone who puts you, the person, before you, the worker.
There are easy days and hard days. Days that I go about my business, and days where I feel waves of sadness and remember my two babies. Days where every single freaking woman walking down the street seems to be nine months pregnant, and days that I spring out of bed ready to conquer the day. That is the hardest part about pregnancy loss: no one can tell you how to feel, or how to cope, because it is yours. The solidarity that you feel with other women who have experienced loss is comforting, but can never be the same because it is every mother’s personal journey. I have had two miscarriages in the last seven months, and even I have had to grieve and process them differently.
That day at work taught me something valuable. I learned that true leadership not only inspires others, but it can also help people cope, move forward, and just get by.
That day I simply needed the distraction, but I also knew that I was free to go without judgment. In that moment, my boss gave me a sense of much-needed relief and I will forever be grateful for a leader who took the time to ask the simple question, “Are you okay?”