Telling an Infertile Person You're Pregnant

Mel at Stirrup Queens posted about Carolyn Hax's column and the response to someone asking how to tell an infertile friend that they are (unexpectedly) pregnant. 

It got me thinking about how I've been told when in the grips of things. It's not so much an issue anymore because most of my friends are no longer having babies, and I'm farther from the rawness now, so it's rarely something that bothers me even a little.

But, it wasn't always that way. 

The Best Way Someone Told Me: 
My best friend called me to tell me that she was pregnant with her third child, at a time where I had just had my last miscarriage and was feeling particularly discouraged. She called me, said she had to tell me something and then she was going to hang up and I could call back when I was ready. I could tell she was really trying not to cry when she said "I'm pregnant, okaycallmewhenyou'reready" and then hung up. 

I so appreciated that it wasn't all tears. It felt terrible when people sharing their joyous news was presented in a funereal way. I also appreciated the time and space given so that I could shed my tears, and then come back and truly be able to celebrate with her. The advice given was to send a text or letter, but I think that honestly would have caught me off guard more than a phone call with an immediate out in this particular situation.

The Worst Way Someone Told Me: 
Another friend called me to tell me that she was pregnant with her second child. I congratulated her, and then asked when she was due. She was silent for a moment, and then snapped at me, "You don't have to pretend to be happy for me. I know how you really feel, your diary is online." 

I felt smacked in the face. First off, that was basically telling me that I was lying. Second, I was offended by the reducing of my blog to my "online diary." It was such a weird way to respond. I said, "It is actually possible to be happy for you AND sad for me," but the poisonous mushroom had already been eaten. 

I think I can look back on this moment and see that maybe she felt badly about her news and was caught off guard by my happy/celebratory response, and felt kind of guilty and so snapped at me. I wonder if she was all prepared for tears and sadness and her consoling me, and when that wasn't the reaction it left her feeling unsettled. The experience left me very unsettled, and it still makes me cringe a little when I think about it. 

Telling Someone You've Adopted:
One time that I really struggled with hearing baby news was when we had left the adoption process and were beginning our journey as childless not by choice. We were on our "honeymoon" in California, and a friend of mine texted me and let me know that she had, in a whirlwind situation, been chosen to parent and were about to announce on Facebook. In that case, I appreciated the text. It started simply and then said "Scroll down for more info when you're ready" so it didn't hit me all at once. I was invited to "hide" or "unfollow," but I felt that would be rude so I didn't. Unfortunately that was the wrong call. 

When I saw the social media post, which I could not stop myself from finding, it hit me really hard. Mostly because we'd just stepped off the adoption rollercoaster, and had done it without finishing out our home study period. So, this was a situation that could have been an opportunity for us (we were with the same agency). I reminded myself that it was between my friend and another couple, and the likelihood of us being the other couple left behind were pretty high given our track record, and I would not have been able to handle that heartbreak at this point in our journey. I was able to be happy for my friend, and be so glad that it worked out for her the way she'd hoped. Her post didn't bother me as much as other peoples' comments. And, of course, the framework of "worth the wait." I had to do a lot of reminding myself that for us, the wait was slowly destroying me, and it was okay and necessary that we step away. Still, it hurt. 

But, to get a text that was readable in stages? Brilliant. And, this friend continually sends me holiday cards and announcements involving her adorable son with specially decorated envelopes to look like caution tape that say "CAUTION and LOVE!" It's awesome.

So, I guess it depends on the situation. I would say the Carolyn Hax column has it right that to say "I wish it were you" or bring your own guilt into the situation feels terrible. To be told in a way that makes it seem like someone has died rather than something new and exciting feels terrible. To be told that you don't mean your well wishes is just awful. I appreciated a call with an immediate out, a text with space to breathe, and definitely forewarning for social media. All of those were very much appreciated by me. 

Everyone is different though -- what works/worked for me may not be the best for someone else. If you are really close friends or family, it probably isn't a terrible idea to have a hypothetical conversation -- "how would you want me to tell you my news?" -- ahead of time. 

A Surprising Connection

I was on the phone with a parent before break, the student seemed "off" and sad and I just wanted to check in and make sure he was okay. The mom shared that house sister had COVID, and it delayed their break trip, plus they were all testing every morning. The mom said he was like, "How do I know I'm okay?" And she said, "one line. On this one you want one line," and then said she joked with her husband, "unlike all the other times!" 

I said how the home tests remind me so much of pregnancy tests. And then... 

She shared that they had gone through fertility treatments to have their (older) daughter, and it was awful, and they were told that they wouldn't have another and then a few years later my student made a surprise appearance. 

But you know what? She didn't say "miracle." She didn't say "and it was all worth it to have the children we were meant to have." And when I shared that nothing worked for me, she did not say anything obtuse about adoption (I might have mentioned that didn't work either) or what I didn't do. She said I make a difference in kids' lives, and I shared how much it used to bother me when people were like "your students are your children" because my dream was never to have 10+ thirteen-fourteen year olds at once with learning and behavioral difficulties, but it is a place to put my energy. 

I said, "mothering is a verb, and I do it differently and then go home to my cats and my wonderful husband."

It was a moment that left me feeling connected and understood. Our experiences were different, but with a thread of commonality. 

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! 

The Upside of Teaching

I was talking with someone recently, and she asked me, "it seems like the last couple years everything about teaching has been you still enjoy it? Is it still bringing you joy? 

Oooof. That stuck with me. Because I realize, as exhausting as things have been (especially since the pandemic hit), I could totally stand to share some positives. Because even in the crap slurry that has been the past few years, there are soooo many good things. 

Before I get into those, I do want to mention that I am not alone in feeling the exhaustion of life as a teacher right now. There are countless articles that help me to see that I am not crazy, I am not a negative nellie, that this is a pervasive issue that is countrywide and causing a significant issue with teacher retention and teacher shortages (which further make things difficult for those of us who stay). And, it's been an issue for a while: see this post from The Cult of Pedagogy in 2019. Irony...I bought that book Fewer Things, Better  but haven't had time to read it yet. I feel like when I have time to read, I need it to be an escape.

This is the cover of my neaToday magazine from the National Education Association: 

One woman says: 

And then, there's this: 

Yikes, that all sounds so dire. 

I can say that I fall in the "No effect" category. I have no plans to leave teaching, or to retire earlier than planned. I really do love it. But there's definitely problems in the way the United States views and uses teachers. 

So what are my positive things? The stuff that fills my bucket? Let me give you a taste of some things that have happened just in the past month or two: 

  • When a parent thanks me for understanding and advocating for their child.
  • When a student turns to another student, new to Resource Room, and says, "I didn't love Resource at first either, but this year I have had my best grades ever and I really think it's because of Resource -- it helps me so much!" (I might have teared up a bit)
  • I have amazing colleagues who are also my friends, who teach me things, who are there when I need to walk into their room, close the door, and cry, who know what it's like to love your job even when you're feeling totally underwater and frustrated with the systemic aspects of it. 
  • When a student lights up in the hallway and yells, "Hi Mrs. T!" 
  • When I run into students in public and they ACTUALLY WANT TO TALK WITH ME and tell me they miss me, even when they were the classroom. 
  • When I run into a parent in the grocery store and then find out I'm invited to a summer graduation party for a student I had in 8th grade, four years ago
  • When I have a student with many behavioral challenges who can truly be infuriating but then will stay after school with me to get work done and then asks, "Are you going on the D.C. trip?" and when I say, "Oh, unfortunately not this year," looks STRICKEN and DISAPPOINTED and so I know there is a connection there underneath all the prickles and eyerolling! Huzzah! (but also I cannot acknowledge this one bit because it will kill the moment) 
  • When parents say in meetings that their child is successful because of the combo of pushing and support that I provide
  • When I feel like I'm all negative nellie and then another teacher tells me that I'm "a ray of sunshine, you always seem so happy and positive" and it reminds me that I'm not a black hole of negativity after all
  • When a student finds my room to be their "safe space" and stops in throughout the day
  • When other teachers say thank you for all the work I do as lead special ed teacher and one even speaks up in front of our new principal who starts July 1 and says "I just want to thank Jess, because she does so much for our department and she really goes to bat for us." 
  • When students start using silly phrases that I use to be ridiculous, like calling Google Classroom "googly classroom" or a computer a "compooter" and they correct me when I say it the regular way...
  • When a student "gets it" and you can see that lightbulb light up as they realize they understand something that was hard before
There's so, so much. Maybe even more than is on this list. It's what makes the exhaustion and the feeling wrung out worth it. 

I am so thankful for break. I need this so much, because it helps me restock my patience and my energy. It helps me stop and breathe and make lists like this that give me perspective. I do have work I have to do this week, but I actually managed to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING school-related from Friday through today, and it was GLORIOUS. I did see an email come in, but I IGNORED it. Even though it felt weird, it was a good reminder that I do not have to be accessible 100% of the time. I can take time for myself. I can make myself whole again and have a strong end to the school year. I really do think that the pandemic has taken normal teacher fatigue and exponentially magnified the impact. 

So thank you, person who questioned if teaching still brings me joy -- you have given me a tremendous gift in this reflection on the positive moments that sustain me as a teacher. 

I Do Exist (sort of)

Well, look at that -- it's April. 

This is probably the hardest year I've had in a long time. I have been just submerged in school and related stuff. Like, I make it to the end of the week, and then suffer a migraine for most of the weekend, just in time to start again. 

I feel spent. I feel like a husk. I feel like I am giving and giving and leaving nothing for myself. 

Some of it is my own doing -- I signed up for the SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) New Leader's Week of my own volition. I am just starting Week 8 of 10, which is crazy. It's a lot of work online, and then a 2 hour Zoom call on Sundays. Well, Sundays except Easter and Mother's Day. 

It is amazing work. It is exhausting work. It's work that I thoroughly enjoy, although due to my depleted state this past week it was particularly difficult. Well, it was difficult for a few reasons: 

1) The week was on "Doing Gender," a deeper dive into gender roles, binary/nonbinary, gender messages throughout our lives, and then intersectionality with how our identities can be racialized. (So, um, real light stuff.) 

2) It brought up all kinds of things for me for my experience with puberty, with my childbearing years being anything but, with not achieving the role so important to our society (bonus: I got to talk about pronatalism! Woop woop!). About my body in general. About surviving an abusive marriage. About self-worth. About celebrating who I am today, but also going down a winding whirlpool of sadness about all I endured to get here. There may have been some crying involved. 

3) NOT TO MENTION I realized that last week was the five year anniversary of my culminating mental health crisis. Of the emergency room visit where Prednisone mimicked a heart attack and then I basically lost my ability to wear my mask of "I'm okay, everything's okay" and had to be driven home and then I couldn't get anxiety meds and lived in a horrific state of fight-or-flight response for 4 straight days. Amazing how the body remembers these things before my mind does. I felt weepy, and especially exhausted, and had increased anxiety (oh hello, flutters) all week. Still feeling a little of that. 

So, um, I am wading through the serious muck, determined to get to Friday and the first full day of break. Good gracious it is so sorely needed. I hit a breaking point in the past couple days and was like, "What's going to happen is going to happen during school hours. I am going to take care of myself at home right now." Hard to do when I'm in the midst of IEP meetings, but I did it. I have a challenging (but not tooooo challenging) puzzle going, I'm reading a twisty book. That's another way I know I'm overwhelmed...I have been wayyyy slowed down in my reading. I have not been giving myself the care I give others. So I am slowing down a bit. And trying not to feel guilty about it.

I've missed this space. I am slowly catching up on reading and commenting. I've missed you! I hope that this spring is kind to you. The world is in a very dark and twisty place right now, and that also adds to the feeing of being underwater...but at the very least something I can do is give myself kindness. And spread it around as much as possible. 

Want to read some #Microblog Mondays that might not be a rambling stream of consciousness backed up from weeks and weeks of time away from blogging? Go here and enjoy!