Earlier this month, I steeled myself for my return to work after giving birth to my second child. The transition back to the workforce after parental leave is challenging even in the best of circumstances. Due to the pandemic, I’ve experienced the worst.
On my first day back, I had patients lined up to see me in my virtual clinic. They recounted harrowing stories of infant loss, betrayal, and isolation. Faced with this onslaught of anguish, inflamed by Covid-19, I realized my time away while recovering from childbirth offered me a small breath of fresh air. My patients noted how happy they were for me and my growing family, while adding how much they struggled in my absence. Their emotional difficulties were not unexpected — I’m a psychiatrist, after all — but the guilt I felt made me wonder: How was I doing this work before? And how was I going to do it again?