Category Archives: Rant

Pregnancy Shaming

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.

Where’s the coffee? Where’s the pie?

In 1990, back when I still read newspapers. Back before kids, I read an article about a new television series in the April 30 Washington Post. I trusted Tom Shales, the journalist who wrote the article because he’d never led me wrong when it came to entertainment. Maybe it was because he was born in Elgin, maybe we just had/have the same tastes in television.

I probably would have watched it anyway because it was the brainchild of mastermind David Lynch — a director whose works Dean and I liked. We’d seen a presentation of some of his very early works at a local (now long-gone) art theater, and we saw pretty much anything he’d done that far (except Dune).

Dean and I loved the first season of Twin Peaks. Our next door neighbors also loved it and we’d often watch episodes together, drinking damn fine, and hot, coffee and eating pie. We even had a Twin Peaks dress up party for the final episode. My friend Totty came as the Log Lady. I don’t remember who I dressed up as. Too bad that was before smartphones with cameras because we would have definitely taken photos.

Back then, I don’t think I knew anyone else who liked Twin Peaks. Certainly no one at school. There was no Internet on which to discuss each episode with strangers. (at least not in our house). We just liked it, talked about it among ourselves and when we did run into someone who’d seen the series we’d talk with them about it.

We bought the DVD set when it came out and Clare got into the show, so much that she took it to school, then Olympia (not far from the filming location) and shared it with friends.

On one trip to Olympia, we visited North Bend, Washington where parts of Twin Peaks was filmed and ate pie and drank coffee at the Double R and posed for photos in front of the Great Northern Hotel and it’s nearby iconic waterfall.

Needless to say, we (or rather I) followed with interest the rumors about the revival Twin Peaks series. Totty heard about the series and suggested we get together to watch the first episode. We were not able to watch it the night it aired, so we planned on watching two episodes the week after. Totty brought an apple pie she’d baked and I made some coffee. We settled down to watch the revival of what had been our favorite television series 25 years ago — and possibly still was our favorite.

Well… the owls are not what they seem. If someone had been secretly filming us our expressions would have gone from happy expectation to confusion to bewilderment to disappointment to sadness. As the credits rolled for the second episode, Totty remarked that it sure was not what she was expecting and said, “Where was the coffee? Where was the pie?”

Damn right — where were the coffee and pie? Where was the charm?

Dean and I watched episode 3 a couple nights ago and, after some strangely Eraserheadesque scenes, it got better. I am not giving up on the series, I am just going to go into the rest of the episodes with much less expectation.

Are you kidding me?

I called my daughter tonight for an informal chit-chat and she informed me that while she’s working in the Pacific Northwest this summer/fall she will have no cell phone and very little Internet access. Also that there will be one pay phone she can use but will need a phone card. This pay phone does not take incoming calls.  Oh, and plus she may be staying in the area after her work gig just to hang out.

So basically, for all intents and purposes, she will be cut off from me for four months except for the U.S. Postal Mail. Does that even work anymore?

That call ended over two hours ago. What have I been doing in the meantime?

You guessed it.

Crying.

This feels worse than dropping her off at college. I thought that after four years apart we’d get to spend some time together before she went on her way to being a grownup.

During my bout of self-pity (which it was because I am not worried about Clare in the least — she is going to have a blast) I recalled that in December of 1978 I flew to England to student teach for about 4 months. Did I think about those I was leaving behind? Nope. Did I worry that my Mom couldn’t contact me easily? Not a chance.

I am so proud of Clare for what she’s doing this summer/fall — flying across the country to work  in an area she loves (or thinks she loves) with no one she’s ever met before. But I am also so sad that this is the end of our extended periods of time together. Unless she moves back home (which I doubt she will) at some point, we won’t have leisurely weeks to just hang out — to go to the mall or to the tea shop or out to lunch. We won’t be able to sit and watch movies together at night for nights on end.

When someone starts a family she doesn’t think about the letting go. She thinks about the baby and toddler and child for whom she will care for years to come. She rarely thinks about the time her child says “Bye Mom, thanks for all the love.” Tonight when I was crying I thought I wanted to run out and shout at the first pregnant woman I saw and tell her that her  child would leave her someday. But of course I wouldn’t do that. And of course she’d think I was a crazy woman.

I know that there are mothers that say goodbye to their children forever and I know I am being silly and shortsighted about Clare’s 4-month stint in no-cell-or-internet-land. I am allowed to feel sad and wish I could Grey Garden it up as Dean so eloquently put it tonight when he heard me boo-hooing.

On this side of it, 4 months seems like forever. And who knows what is on the other side of that 4 months.