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Silver Linings: Here Comes the Sun

Catherine Johnson

The first question I am often asked these days when catching up with someone is, “What was it like having a baby in the midst of the pandemic?!” And my honest answer is, “It was perfect.”

We’ve all faced an unprecedented sense of uncertainty since entering the pandemic. Preparing to be a first-time mother at the peak of a global health crisis only added a layer of complexity on top of the uncertainty, exhaustion and heartbreak the world was already facing. It didn’t feel right to get excited for what was to come, not to mention the apprehension of leaving my career behind for three months.

As we entered the pandemic, I was working harder and longer hours than I had in years. Not only did our clients suddenly need our help in ways we couldn’t have anticipated, but pivoting from the in-person to virtual world introduced a new level of round-the-clock service. To me, this provided a much-needed sense of normalcy as I prepared for my daughter’s arrival. Sitting in front of my computer and working became a welcome respite from the unknown(s).

Having been at Lehman Brothers during the Great Financial Crisis and its aftermath, the coronavirus pandemic is not my first crisis. While the two aren’t fundamentally comparable, the shared parallels between the feelings of loss and uncertainty magnified the importance of having a professional community that is transparent, trustworthy and most importantly, allows you to be your authentic self. At Prosek, as soon as we transitioned to our respective remote workplaces, the strength of our culture was never more tangible. We were all in it together.

The Friday before my daughter arrived, I felt extreme guilt leaving my teammates who were working equally as hard, many with the pressures of school-aged children at home and/or the responsibility of an elderly relative. During March and April, many of us created unbreakable bonds as we were forced to blur the lines of our personal and professional lives.  

This juxtaposition of giving birth in the pandemic had little to do with the hospital – in fact, the hospital was a source of hope and beauty in humankind – but about entering a new phase of life amid so much pain and suffering. In the maternity ward, everything felt peaceful as the nurses, doctors and other frontline workers were performing what some might call God’s work – PPE and all. Every time a COVID patient was discharged, “Here Comes the Sun,” would play throughout the hospital. Ironically, it is a song that will always remain close to my heart, reminding me of the day my daughter was born and that hope truly does spring eternal.

Charlotte’s arrival changed everything. It was a sense of overwhelming joy I couldn’t deny no matter the world’s circumstance. In its own way, it was perfect.

As soon as I was home, I was welcomed by flowers from the team at Prosek for my first Mother’s Day, as well as countless notes and emails from the colleagues that I had left behind, who despite everything they were going through, opened themselves up to share in my joy. They consistently checked in, but also gave me the space to be a first-time mother and it is something I will forever be grateful for. My maternity leave was a special – though tiresome and sometimes overwhelming – three months.

When it was time to return to work, I was met with the same nerves that I felt when I left. The guilt of what felt like abandoning my colleagues during such a critical time was a real feeling. Still, I was fully embraced (albeit virtually) by my colleagues and that feeling of sitting in front of my computer provided that same sense of escape, but this time, from the trials of new motherhood. Being able to pop downstairs to see my beautiful little girl is no doubt a silver lining, but that is obvious. And well, Charlotte, she isn’t a silver lining. She is everything.

To me, the last nine months have underscored the importance of finding our community at work – those that can share in your joy, even in the toughest of times. Finding empathy in places you least expect it can make all the difference, and I am so thankful for the people I have found at Prosek, who have shared in my pandemic journey. I can only hope that I can offer the same sense of trust, support and empathy that this community has so kindly given me: thank you. To finding a bit more joy for everyone in 2021! 

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