Teaching While Pregnant: Nine Months of Intensive PD
Every now and then I feel a violent shaking in my stomach. My baby turns over from one side to the other or stretches wide after an afternoon nap. When this happens I'm caught off guard; I catch my breath; I instinctively reach for my stomach and rub. Never mind that I'm in the middle of a read aloud or in a parent conference. For those few seconds, the world must wait. It's all about Baby Boy Rhames (B.B.R.).
This is the best part about being pregnant—feeling that little alien moving inside my stomach and wanting so much to see his face, yet knowing that every day on the inside promotes a healthier baby on the outside.
My students, though middle-school aged, are fascinated. They want to touch my belly in hopes of catching a fleeting little kick. It's weird having a group of girls crowding around me, laying hands on my belly, oohing and ahhing. I don't know if that's considered inappropriate, but they are so excited for me that it's hard to say no.
As a former science teacher I can appreciate the girls' sense of wonder about the formation of a new life. But I don't want these young girls to get too excited about pregnancy; after all, when I was in 8th grade one of my classmates actually birthed a baby of her own.
The boys are definitely not allowed to touch my stomach. In fact, outside of a handshake or a pat on the back, I try not to touch them at all—and I explicitly ask them to refrain from touching me.
Now, teaching with a stomach that's 20 inches rounder takes a great deal of work. I'm often smacking kids on their backs with my belly as I maneuver between their seats. My belly erases text on the lower half of my whiteboard if I'm not careful when writing on the upper half. And sometimes when I'm passing through a crowded hallway, it becomes the battle of the belly and the overstuffed backpacks. The belly always wins. And if a kid turns and say, "Hey, Ms. Rhames, why'd you push me?" I point to my stomach and say, "This is not a belly, it's a baby!"
The bump gets its respect. I've prayed many nights for this bump, and cried many a-tears over bumps that ceased to grow. I know its worth, and it's priceless.
Any teacher out there who's carrying a bump now or has done so before, I commend you. It's not a role for the faint of heart. Coping with the light-headedness, the fatigue, the nausea, and the weight gain, swollen ankles, pelvic pressure, mood swings, frequent trips to the bathroom—or all of the above—means you are amazing, even if none of your colleagues recognize it.
We're still standing up and teaching. Still disciplining. Still grading. Still counseling. Still sitting uncomfortably through long, boring meetings. Still climbing flights of stairs. Still caring deeply for others, knowing that our up-to-12 weeks of maternity leave is unpaid. We continue to teach, despite reaching for our bellies to sooth the kick, the punch, or the what-the-heck-is-going-on-in-there acrobatic flip that suddenly takes our breath away.
Teaching while pregnant is in itself nine months of nonstop professional development. When things are not right at my school and I am stressing out, the baby inside causes me to take a seat, take some deep breaths, or even throw up. He's my internal red flag that I'm losing perspective, control. His movements have a way of centering me, making me more reflective: What is most important here? What is truly worth the trouble and what is not? What is the path of least resistance that will still allow me to be effective at my job?
How fitting is it that my 100th blog post is about what my little guy—B.B.R.,30 weeks unborn—is teaching me? When I started blogging two years ago, I never thought I'd make it this far, let alone be up for "Education Commentator/Blogger of the Year" from the Bammy Awards this Saturday and preparing to give birth!
My little man is reminding me of lessons that I had forgotten along the way. All he wants is for his mom—his number one teacher—is to do well at work while remembering that the value of her life extends far beyond the school's walls. And when he kicks, I listen.
*text updated on 9/19/13