I work as a long haul Air Stewardess for Virgin Atlantic Airways, so as soon as I was pregnant I was grounded immediately and was given an office job. It was a wonderful place to work with sympathetic colleagues and no problem about time off to attend appointments or suddenly rushing to hospital because we had not felt the baby move.
Our son Micky was stillborn at thirty five weeks in July 2001. The response from work was amazing. So many cards, letter, bouquets and phone calls. It was a bit overwhelming at first but it helped to know that they regarded my son as important. The funeral was the same. Lots of people from work came, I don't remember who exactly but I was told it there were about twenty colleagues there.
Two weeks after the funeral Steve, my line manager called me at home. He was so nervous as he felt he was intruding. He stressed that grieving and coming to terms with Micky's death came before any thought of coming back to work and that I should do things at my own pace.
Steve continued to call every two weeks or so just to see how I was. I never felt pressured to return to work. I finally met up with him in early November. He offered to come to my home (over an hours drive), but I decided to go to the office. I had to get over the first hurdle of walking through those doors again. Last time I had been pregnant and so happy. The meeting was really to determine if I should go onto long-term disability payment (which I did not). This was handled with tact and gentleness. We sat in a private room for over two hours. I cried and cried. We talked about Micky, my fears about coming back to work, my health. Steve was crying with me and we hugged. I left his office feeling braver and calmer.
In December I saw a nurse/counsellor from the Occupational Health Department. Louise was wonderful. I told her I was ready to go back to work. She asked lots of questions about my sleep, diet, panic attacks etc. She felt I was not ready to come back so armed with lots of leaflets I went home again. I told Louise and Steve that I felt like I was burdening them and that I should pull myself together. They were horrified and said how strong they thought I was.
After two more weeks Louise and I agreed I was OK to start back at work, but not flying. I was to work three days a week - Louise explained that grief carries extreme tiredness and that if I did too much too early I would be back to square one.
She was absolutely right! I was grateful for my days off. I worked for Customer Relations in a small private office. Christmas was here and I was having mini breakdowns every five minutes. Nobody knew what had happed, except Natalie who I shared the office with (which is what I wanted), so there were no awkward moments.
I began my Return to Flying Course in February, with Steve checking up on me throughout to make sure I was coping. I told the group all about Micky and they were wonderful. Lots cried and some were just in shock. I certainly raised awareness! At the end of the course the girls bought Micky some white tulips to place on his grave.
I then returned to flying. I was offered a buddy roster and so I flew with someone I has chosen, who looked after me. I was also on a reduced number of flights per month to ease me in gently. They were concerned that being away from my husband and Micky's grave would be hard. They did not want me to feel torn between work and being at home.
I was extremely lucky - I'm sure Virgin is a role model to follow. They have taken the time to read up on infant death and its consequences. They understand that a happy, healthy staff equals the secure running of a great company.