Looking back at the year that I was back at work between maternity leaves - I hate to admit that I was not as productive as I could have been. Beyond juggling a child and work - I was also juggling a considerable psychological burden - as much as I may have wanted to focus on work, I found myself distracted. I was distracted by what had happened. I was distracted by my subsequent pregnancy and what was going to happen. I also found myself trying to deal with a degree of cognitive dissonance between what I do, and what I had experienced. I was able to get what needed to be done, done and managed to accommodate the travel back and forth to Vancouver to access care - but there was a considerable hidden cost to my birth trauma. My productivity was damaged.
The loss of productivity as a result of birth trauma is a cost that is largely hidden and difficult to quantify. Some women forego the paid labour force entirely as the demands that result from the birth trauma are too great to accommodate paid work. Other women, like myself, manage to accommodate their birth traumas and their careers, but are less productive than they would be otherwise. In both cases, there are no statistics that even attempt to get at the presence of this phenomenon or the degree of impact it has. Perhaps some of the differences that persist between men and women in the paid labour force can be attributed to the impact birth trauma has on women. After all if your coping but not thriving, you will not be promoted.
Still I must consider myself lucky. The work I do could accommodate the psychological burden I was carrying. I had four-walls and a door. I did not need to interact with the public or others on a daily basis. I could do what I needed to do (usually write a blog post on what I was thinking) to allow myself to focus enough on the work at hand. I could work longer days to accommodate days off for travel. I had an understanding supervisor. Indeed, I was lucky - and under different circumstances - arguably under most other circumstances, it probably would have been likely that my career could have been collateral damage to what had happened.
I am thankful that my son's birth went well - and I am hopeful that by the time I return to work from this maternity leave, I will not be carrying the same psychological burden and that my ability to work to capacity will be restored. Still, I can't help but wonder - in the absence of what happened, would I have been a better economist and mother?