If you really want to take the wind out of an innocent person’s sails first thing in the morning, tell them about your stillborn baby. That does the trick.
Yesterday was the first day of school, and I was lucky enough to have an easy and anonymous day in the kindergarten wing, where none of the kids know me – and only about half of them were there anyway. The rest of the time, I holed up in my office or the staffroom, deliberately not encountering my previous students or their parents. The classroom teachers for my Core French students kindly agreed to tell them the basics of why I am back so much sooner than expected, and I was hoping the word would spread fast enough that I would get away with never answering that question: “Hey, Madame, what are you doing here?”
Yesterday, I did. Today, not so lucky. I had morning yard duty before the bell, when parents who walk their kids to school are milling around and chatting. Normally, it’s nice. This time, I was out there only a couple of minutes before one mom saw me and exclaimed delightedly, “You had your baby! What did you have?”
It was thoughtful of her to remember and ask – again, it’s one of those things that, on a daily basis, makes our tight-knit school community a great place to be. Just not at moments like this.
I had a fleeting moment where I imagined just telling her I had a boy, averting my eyes, and moving on… but of course that would never work. You can imagine the look on her face when I had to say, “I had a boy… but he was stillborn.” Of course she must have felt awful for asking, even though it wasn’t her fault, and I felt awful for crushing her ingenuous question, even though it wasn’t my fault either.
A few minutes later, it was two moms together. One said, “You are without your bump! What did you have?” This time I said, “I had a boy…” and unfortunately for both of us, she said, “Oh! Two boys, that’s great!” before I got to the stillborn part. Nope, not two boys. Two shocked, saddened mothers of boys instead. At least I know that they are caring parents: when they say they are so sorry, I know they mean it.
On the bright side, that’s been the only really hard part. Other than that, it’s actually been good to be at school the last two days. Good to feel the fresh September energy in the building, good to see the talented and dedicated teachers who are my colleagues (although I miss the ones who changed schools this year), good to get acquainted with kindergarten the easy way (starting with just senior kindergartners in small groups, before the juniors are phased in), good to see how very welcoming our community is to new students (we have some particularly special high-needs Ks this year, and I know they’ll get wonderful care). I’m also very grateful for compassion and understanding, not just from my fellow teachers, but from the school board, who made it possible for me to have a reduced (80%) assignment, and from my principal, who has set up a schedule that is as low-stress as possible.
It’s going to be fine. 🙂
Tomorrow: my first dose of JKs!