I’m in the midst of what my husband and I are now calling a “hysterical pregnancy.” Not that it isn’t a real pregnancy; we call it that because I’m at the point where people laugh hysterically when they see me. If you’ve never experienced the miracle of childbirth yourself, I’ll give you the basics; pregnancy is beautiful and mysterious and life-giving and all that crap. It’s also awkward, embarrassing, painful, and hilariously inconvenient. And many of those inconveniences are multiplied exponentially when you spend all day in a classroom full of kids. For instance:
1. The physical demands.
Admittedly, I’ve never been a dockworker. I’m sure that’s harder. I haven’t worked in a factory, either. Definitely harder; I haven’t lost all sense of perspective. But teaching requires you to be on your feet all day, five days a week. Sometimes you don’t get to sit down to eat lunch. And it’s not just the standing. Sometimes you have to climb on a table because a kid threw his classmate’s shoe on top of your bookcases. Sometimes you need to roll a one-million-pound computer cart down the hall, and you’re not allowed to make a kid do it for you. Sometimes you have to arm wrestle a sixth grader to prove your dominance. It’s better if you don’t even ask your obstetrician about these activities; he or she will not approve.
2. Bodily functions.
You know how, as a teacher, you’ve trained your bladder to make no demands of you between the hours of 8:00 and 4:00? Well, now it’s being pummeled by tiny flailing limbs, and it will rise up in protest. During your worst class. When you have no parapro. My school—which is mercifully very small—has one unisex, single-occupancy teacher bathroom for the entire staff. If someone is in there when I come speed-waddling down the hall, woe unto all of us.
3. Sub plans.
I’ll have this baby at the beginning of our winter break, good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise. That means that I’ll have two weeks off already (although I’ll have to burn personal days during the break so my short-term disability will kick in) and then four weeks at the beginning of second semester. I know this will work out somehow; I just have no idea how. I feel guilty as hell for leaving my kid after only six weeks, but the other half of my brain is screaming, “Four weeks? You’re going to miss FOUR WEEKS of school?” Having a new baby basically means going from 96 children to 97, and I’m worried about the ones I’ve already got.
4. Helpful suggestions from teenagers.
You know the part in Gone With the Wind where Melly is in labor and things aren’t going well and Prissy suggests she put a knife under the bed to cut the pain? Well, it’s kinda like that. Middle schoolers are full of helpful parenting suggestions, from what to name the baby (No, Anthony, I won’t name it after you. First of all, you make me crazy, and secondly, it’s a girl.) to how to ensure soccer dominance from infancy. Because, priorities.
5. The distraction factor.
I’m still teaching like a normal person, despite being basically a cartoon manatee at this point. I’m trying to keep my kids focused and engaged. But I can’t help the fact that, over the course of the day, we watch my ankles swell like balloons blown up by sloths. I start homeroom looking like a normal person from the waist down. By the end of study hall, I’m the mayor of Cankletown. When I sit down to read out loud to my kids, the baby starts partying. Half the kids are reading To Kill a Mockingbird; the others are watching the extremely disturbing seismic activity that they can see from all the way at the back of the room.
6. Managing food and water intake.
The constant peeing really is a problem, partly because I fill my giant water bottle up multiple times a day. One day a few weeks ago I got really busy and, by lunchtime, had only gone through 2/3 of a bottle of water. Then I fainted at a picnic table behind the school and may or may not have flashed several children, since I was wearing a skirt. Now I drink a lot of water. As for food, my kids are getting used to hearing grammar taught around a mouthful of cherry tomatoes or almonds. Or Swiss Cake Rolls. Sorry, guys.
7. Lack of alcohol.
You know, on faculty meeting days you just need a glass of wine when you get home. Too bad. Not happening.
8. The knowing looks.
Middle schoolers know where babies come from. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been married for ten years, or that I already have a child whom most of my students have met. I’m basically a walking billboard proclaiming that, at some point in the not-so-distant past, I had sex. And now they all know. Shudder.
I’ve got eight more weeks until I’m due, and I figure there are some things that will be advantageous. The entire month of December, if I sense that my students are distracted, I’m going to let out bloodcurdling, going-into-labor screams to refocus their attention. That’ll be fun. I get to eat all the Costco castoffs they put in our workroom with no real sense of guilt, so there’s a lot more cheese danish in my life now.
Teaching right up to my due date isn’t ideal, and I’m definitely moderately concerned that I will end up giving birth in my classroom. I could live with that, except that carpet is gross and there’s a mild lizard infestation that always gets worse in the winter. It wouldn’t be ideal. Until then, I’ll be teaching and grading and yelling and planning and acting as a living advertisement against teen pregnancy for my students. But I’m still not naming her Anthony.