A couple weeks after I got out of the hospital, I started hearing this question a lot, “Is it going to be hard to go back to work with all those kids?”
I am a preschool teacher, but I work in a small childcare with a couple of babies and toddlers in the other room. It’s a fair question. Would it be hard to go be around these kids when I couldn’t keep my own? I was nervous about going back to work, but not for the reasons that everyone thought I’d be. I didn’t want to return to real life. It made it a reality. It meant that my life really did have to move on, even though I felt like it had come crashing down. I was afraid of their questions. Kids ask a lot of questions. I was never afraid that these kids would make me hurt worse, though.
“The soul is healed by being with children.” -Fyodor Dostoyevsky
When I first started my current job, I had found out that I was pregnant just 3 days before my start date. My boss was one of the first people to know; and then the kids knew next. From the very first day that they met me, they knew I had a baby in my belly. They saw ultrasound pictures, they watched my stomach grow, they hugged and touched him. Most importantly, they prayed for him. Every day at lunch, the kids would pray, “Thank You for Ms. Janelle’s baby Lincoln in her tummy.” They were waiting for him. They expected him.
When I came back to work, they already knew that he was in Heaven; the question I was getting was, “but why?” This being my first time having to teach other people’s children about death, I answered carefully and honestly: “Some questions don’t have an answer.” I adjusted to answering their questions pretty quickly. I had been back for a couple of days before they prayed for him again. I was pouring their milks when I heard, “Father in Heaven, thank you for Ms. Janelle’s baby Lincoln in Heaven.” I instantly started crying, the ache in my chest brought to the forefront of everything. The first time they said that prayer, it hurt; but I love that they pray for him. I’m so thankful for my baby in Heaven.
Kids have an intuition about other people’s emotions. Since returning to work, I have seen them love me harder and snuggle me closer; they know that I need extra love for my wounded heart. This group of kids have a connection with Lincoln that a lot of people didn’t get to experience. They were friends with him before he ever arrived. Before I left on bedrest, I would rock our 13month old to sleep. Every afternoon, I’d rock him and sing “5 Little Ducks.” While singing that song each afternoon, Lincoln would kick at this baby in my arms. It has become one of my favorite memories. A few weeks after I got back, I sat on the porch swing next to that now 15month old, and I sang “5 Little Ducks.” I thought he was falling asleep, but he climbed up on my lap, picked up Lincoln’s locket, and he kissed it. He then held it up to my lips so I could kiss it. Happy tears rolled down my cheeks. He wasn’t even talking yet, but he showed me that he loves Lincoln.
I’ve realized how healing it has been to be back with these kids. Adults are so careful around me. They aren’t sure what to say. Kids say whatever they’re thinking and it’s comforting to know that, now and then, they’re thinking of Lincoln.