Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Teaching While Pregnant: A Lesson Learned

The last five months can basically be summed up by this picture of my sweet puppy dog.

Note: that brother is human.
Well... that escalated quickly.

Yup, it turns out that the mister and I are expecting our first (non-fur) baby. He'll be here in November! My husband loves calling him our little turkey.

Do you find this as awkward/cruel/hilarious as I do or am I just judgy and sleep-deprived?
We found out about the end of life as we know it this big adventure into the wonders of parenthood during Spring Break. I was about six weeks along and feeling crazy horribly ill and like I couldn't possibly sleep enough.

So, like so many other teacher ladies of the past and as so many will do in the future, the show went on and I continued my teaching career while sucking on Jolly Ranchers and mints like my life depended on it and throwing up into my classroom trashcan during lunch.

Oh, and I didn't tell a soul what was happening. I was very nervous during the early part of my pregnancy because of some family history. I couldn't bear the thought of dealing with a loss along with my students and colleagues. (I'm very pleased to report that we hit the 20 week mark last Friday, our second trimester anatomy scan went just great, and it appears that our little turkey is baking nicely.)

I did a lot of digging around the internet trying to find resources for pregnant teachers and *surprise surprise* there are very few. I just wanted someone who's been there during a time when I wasn't telling anyone about the atrocities happening to my body. (I didn't even tell my own mother until I was 11 weeks pregnant.) So, for those of you who are "in the family way" (or plan to be someday), allow me to share with you some tips for dealing with your first trimester while you're also dealing with the fourth quarter (or any quarter, really) of the school year.

Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor or anything remotely close to that. This is my first pregnancy and these are just the things that worked for me and my specific hot mess. Results may vary.

Tip #1: Figure out a way to stay hydrated.
My school's tap water tastes like shit. It made me gag before I was pregnant, so needless to say that sewagey tepid tap water would trigger a round of the pukes faster than chewing tobacco and the Trabant.

The only things that would make me sicker than the taste of that water were tuna fish and being dehydrated. My crazy body was like, "Woah, I'm low on fluids! We should probably do something about that. Let's try puking!" Seriously, you'll feel like crap if you are dehydrated. I ended up bringing my own water from home in a giant insulated cup and it had to be ICE COLD. That was the only way to keep it down. It was a pain, but it worked.

Tip #2: Don't eat "lunch"; eat snacks all day long.
This can be really tricky for a teacher. All the preggers books suggest that you graze all day like a herd out to pasture, but the reactions by your school administrators to eating in front of your students can range from a stern frown to a total "Hulk Smash" moment. Do your best to eat throughout the day, all day. When I sat down for a meal, it kind of went like this:

Not good. So, between passing periods, I snacked on a handful of trail mix, a couple of crackers, pretty much anything I could nibble on quickly that would stay in my system long enough to keep the nausea at bay for the next 45 minutes.

Tip #3: Rest whenever humanly possible.
Close your eyes during your prep period for a few minutes. Teach from a chair that allows you to roll around the room so you don't have to walk as much. Simplify wherever you can in your lessons without reducing quality. This is a good time to practice saying "no" to all of those extra hours you spend in the building. If you feel at your very best in the morning, try to make it in just a bit early and do all prep work when you feel well. If afternoons work better for you, try to squeeze everything in during that time. Trust me on this: you are going to be flat exhausted at the end of a school day. I still kept up theatre practices, but I had to shorten them substantially and I had to cancel some of the extra ones. My husband's memories of my first trimester basically consist of "she went to work, she came home, she slept." When I wasn't teaching, I was crashed out on the couch. If you are anything like me, you will feel as guilty as a hooker in church when you have to cut back on your obligations and do a lot more sleeping. I just had to keep reminding myself that I was making a human. It's hard work making a human!

Tip #4: Get help!
Find helpers however you can. I'm so fortunate to work in a building where students can sign up to be TAs (teacher's assistants). I'm even more fortunate to always have really awesome kids sign up to be my TAs. Those kids busted their butts last spring for me, and I was SO grateful to have them! I had them do all kinds of things that I just frankly didn't have the energy or the will to do. Assign any of your tedious or simple tasks to any helpers you have and repay them in cookies and funny stories about your life (that aren't TMI).

Tip #5: Spill the beans as soon as you are ready!
I finally felt comfortable telling my news when I hit the twelve week mark and life got a whole hell of a lot easier once I told! I told my principal first, then my teacher buddies in the building, then my drama club kids (who I see more than my own family and who were greatly affected by my pregnancy... they actually were terribly worried something was wrong with me!) and then I let the rest of the school find out organically. Once I told everyone what was up, life got better. My students are seriously amazing, guys. They were wonderful! They jumped up to help me any chance they got, they were better behaved because they were terrified of my crazy-ass pregnancy mood swings, and some of them were absolutely fascinated by the whole thing. My coworkers are pretty wonderful people anyway, but they were very patient with my pregnancy brain (I SWEAR TO GOD THAT IT IS A REAL THING AND IT IS STILL HAPPENING!!!). So share that awesome news, pregnant teacher-ladies, because school communities are wonderfully supportive!


Teacher-mommies and teacher-daddies, anybody have any other tips about dealing with first trimester fun and teaching?