Not long after my son was conceived in May of 1992 I suspected I was pregnant. Sometimes you just know. I peed on a stick to check and when the pregnancy test confirmed I was probably pregnant I told one or two people at work. I waited until the school year was over before I had it confirmed by my ob-gyn. My husband and I talked about it and we agreed that I would take more time off than I did with our daughter. Raising two young children 18 months apart would probably be difficult. We also began talking about selling our house in Alexandria and moving closer to my husband’s job in Bethesda.
In the fall, when I returned to my teaching job and more people discovered that I was pregnant, I was summoned to the principal’s office where she told me she heard that I was pregnant and asked me what my plan was for after the baby was born. I smiled and told her I thought I would be taking a year or two off, expecting her next words to be congratulatory. Instead, she asked me why I didn’t tell her before the end of the school year in the spring. I explained that I was not 100% sure about the pregnancy until after school was over. She said that she knew that I told at least one person and told me that I was irresponsible for letting her place me with the 6th graders who would need more consistency* than 4th or 5th graders would. Then she asked me if the pregnancy was planned. Shocked, I told her that it was planned — very much so, but after the meeting I wished I told her that it was none of her business.
I taught up until winter break that year, then was placed on bedrest for 3 weeks because of early labor. The rest of my time at the school that year was filled with feelings of guilt. I don’t think she ever acknowledged my son’s birth, even after my extended maternity leave was up and because I was unsuccessful finding a teaching job elsewhere I pretty much begged for forgiveness so I could work there again.
When I did return to the school I discovered that one of the women I told about my suspected pregnancy in the spring had been reprimanded by the principal for not telling her.
Even now, nearly 25 years later, when I think about the principal’s words that autumn my gut clenches and instead of remembering my second pregnancy with pure joy, much of what I think about is what the principal said to me and the guilt she made me feel.
Some of you, maybe teachers or principals out there, may think the principal was right but it never occurred to me that my leaving mid-semester could do any harm. Perhaps, if you agree with her, you think it is good that eight years after that conversation, I decided teaching just wasn’t for me.
*I was a special education teacher. Our teaching practice involved a special education teacher supporting a mainstream teacher in a grade level for the year.