Monday, July 11, 2011

Pregnancy, Nursing and Teaching: How Did I Do It?

I was 23 years old when I found myself suddenly pregnant. When did I find out? Why the first day of school, my first year teaching. I remember my neighbor teacher walking into my classroom the second day of school and doing a dance singing "Yay! It's the second day of school!" I just looked at her and said I'm pregnant and laid my head on my desk. She paused a beat, then continued her dance, now singing "Yay! You're pregnant!" Since teaching is still considered a very female-heavy profession (despite my building being a nearly fifty-fifty split of males and females), pregnancy and teaching practically go hand in hand. Being a working mother in the twenty first century is nothing new. However, being a teaching mother has it's own series of issues.

Morning sickness was interesting as a teacher. I couldn't just run out of my classroom whenever I wanted. I had to call for a teacher on their planning period and wait for them to get there before hauling my butt to the bathroom. I was blessed with a short phase of morning sickness that ended as I entered the second trimester. However, this problem was quickly replaced by Braxton Hicks around thirteen weeks. When I addressed this with my doctor, she told me I needed to stay off my feet. I just laughed at the idea of sitting while teaching.

I was cursed with Gestational Diabetes. I had a fairly manageable case, but it was a nuisance nonetheless. The problem was that before my doctor's office would give me a prescription for a meter or testing strips, they wanted me to go to a Diabetes class. I had to go twice. When I asked about their options for working mothers, they told me they had a class from nine to noon or a class from one to four. Which did I want to sign up for? Neither. Teachers don't get half days and I had to save up all of my sub days to try to get paid at least a little during my maternity leave. The nurse asked me why I was willing to endanger my child's life for work. I just wanted my meter and my strips. Thankfully, when I met with my doctor, she had enough compassion to realize that that schedule didn't work for all women.

Gestional Diabetes had it's own issues in the classroom. I had to test my blood sugar during class. In some cases, if my sugar was too low, I had to eat a snack in front of them. When I told my kids, the biggest issue was that they wanted to watch me test my blood sugar and then they wanted me to test their blood sugar. I did not test the blood sugar of any children. I explained to them that I'd have to use a different needle for each person and that testing strips are expensive, but they were still fascinated by the procedure. Then they wanted to eat my Diabetic snacks.

The end of pregnancy also offered the fun of the frequent need to use the restroom. Despite being nine months pregnant, I just had to suck  it up most of the time. I used the bathroom during my planning and during lunch, but beyond that, I just had to wait for the end of the school day. Even in between classes wasn't enough time as I couldn't move fast enough down the crowded hallway to make it to the bathroom and back before the next class started.

I was lucky enough to give birth over Spring Break, nearly a month before my due date. Despite arriving a bit early, my son was fine. This also afforded me an extra week of pay that I wasn't intending to get during my maternity leave. You can take up to two years of maternity leave in my district, but you have to have the sub days to pay for the time off. As a first year teacher, I had ten sick days and three personal days to use. Out of the six weeks I took off, I was paid for eighteen days, the five additional days coming from Spring Break. I didn't qualify for FMLA yet, as I hadn't been working for my district for a solid year yet, so I had to pay COBRA for my medical insurance, which cost me more than the birth of my son after insurance covered the majority of our hospital stay.

When I returned to work, I was bound and determined to nurse my son still. I made it over a year nursing my son, but it wasn't easy. Pumping as a teacher is difficult. I had first period planning, so I would pump during that. My lunch was at ten in the morning, so I pumped through my lunch as well. I then went from ten until the time I could pick up my son around three in the afternoon completely, uncomfortably engorged. I ended up with mastitis three times, but I kept up pumping until my son was a year old.

As a teacher, my sick days are not reserved for me. Unless I'm horribly contagious, I normally go to school when I feel under the weather. No, my sick days are for days when my son can't go to daycare. Daycare is it's own fun issue. I lucked into a daycare facility that caters to a large number of teachers, who the manager wishes to keep. We're allowed not to pay during winter break, spring break and summer break, which is a luxury compared to what most teachers have to pay. Most teachers have to pay over the summer to keep their assigned spot at their child's daycare.

Despite all of the intricacies that make parenting and teaching difficult in conjunction, one of the reasons I picked teaching was because it can be easier to parent and teach. This is actually more for the later years, when my son will also be in school. We'll be off at the same time and have the same general schedule. For the first few years of your child's life, though, teaching can be quite a difficult job to keep while being a parent.

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