I do a lot of thinking at my school desk. For those of you who know me, or are teachers yourselves, when the school day ends, you kind of sit there blankly for a few minutes in a stare trying to reflect from the highs and lows of the day. Your desk is your Zen space; the place where everything wrong can be righted, only sometimes certain wrongs cannot be righted.
I am a high school English teacher. Approximately 100 students come through my classroom on a daily basis every year. It was about my fifth year of teaching when Steffan and I started this journey of doctors’ appointments, infertility tests, peeing in cups, internal sonograms (oh-so-horrible), and just bad news after bad news. (Mind you, most of these tests and such were an hour and a half away from our home.) It was at that time that I began to notice my students in a new light; pregnant ones or ones who talked about being fathers. Even as I write this, tears start to well up in my eyes. I love each and every one of my students…even the pain in the tookus ones, because they are all special and unique and make me laugh at some point in time. I feel, and felt, a sense of guilt because I was angry with them; they could do something at such a young age that I will never be able to experience. As the year passed, I would watch their bellies get a little bigger, and a little bigger. Some would even take maternity leave from school, for which I would have to send work home. I would be lucky if I got any of it back. I would be even luckier if I got them back. I would always imagine what the feelings they were having were like: What did it feel like to carry? To have a small kick in my belly in the middle of introductory prepositional phrases. Was it wonderful? Would I completely lose my train of thought and start teaching a2 + b2 = c2? I have no idea. All I know is, sometimes it took a lot of hard work to not stare, because I was jealous, jealous of the 15-16 year old and her accomplishments. But I was also terrified for her, justified or not, watching a child carrying a child is a scary sight. They have so many choices ahead of them and 90 percent of the time, I never know what they are planning to do: get rid of it, give it to family, adopt the child out, or keep it and try to make the best of the situation. In my mind I’m screaming: “GIVE THE BABY TO ME AND MY HUSBAND! WE’D BE GREAT PARENTS!” But of course to say that aloud lends to the impression that you’re nuts…and let’s face it, after a day with 100 kids, sometimes you are. So I kept my mouth shut unless they would come to me and then I would just listen, quietly, without judgment.
In my mind I fight this double-edged sword. I would always think about what my husband and I could give a child, and it’s not just about the material items in life; although when you compare the lives of two working 30-somethings against teen moms, the material items have a tendency to tip the scale in one direction. We are a couple who are filled with love, devotion toward one another, three fur-siblings, extended family and friends who want nothing more than to help us shower a baby with affection and love. The other side of that sword is not knowing if they can do exactly what I just said we could do. Perhaps they can and I have no idea. Perhaps they can do it better than me. I have no clue. As I’ve often heard students in the hall say, “you don’t know my life,” well in this case I definitely don’t.
Classes inevitably always ask my age, if I’m married, and of course, if I have kids. I tell them the truth; they deserve it. When they hear we can’t have kids and my husband and are going to adopt, it never ceases to amaze me their reactions: nothing but pure empathy. This year, one “boy” – it’s hard to use that term as he towered over me by like a foot and a half – asked if we had a preference on gender, race, etc. I told him no, as long as the baby had 10 fingers and 10 toes, we’d be happy; heck at this point nine fingers and nine toes would make us happy! Beggars can’t be choosy. I get the “awes” from them. They tell me what a great mom I would be and they tell me I can adopt them (some which I would), and for a moment I feel better.
When they’re gone for the day, my sadness returns sometimes. I sit down at my desk and look through my stack of grading, planning and unfinished “to-dos” and I think that while I might not have a baby yet… I definitely have kids and I still have a lot of work to do for them; even if it isn’t dinner or a bath.