How to put a serious damper on someone’s morning

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?”

Oh, shit.

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!




5 thoughts on “How to put a serious damper on someone’s morning

  1. Rebecca says:

    Oh, Diana–this is such a moving post because of your compassion for other people, and their reactions to your sadness. If you can be so generous at such of tough time, then yes, I have no doubt it will be fine, and better than fine.

  2. emerge says:

    bang: nice way to live up to your name.

    di: yes, you made them sad, but they weren’t sad AT you. probably more of a go-hug-your-own-kid-so-tight kind of sad. caring kind of sad. it sucks for you to have to tell people in such a bad-moment way, and for them too, but in the end, that sadness means that their hearts are added to the circle of hearts around yours.

    p.s. i suggest that the coffee and laptops be a bit further apart.

  3. Suze Corte says:

    So sorry you had to go through that, but people do want to know. I’ve been involved with schools for so many years, and know that there is a definite caring community in most of them–kind of like a spiritual connection that’s all about kids and learning and growing. I know those parents were very glad you told them, even though they were so sad to hear the news. I’ll bet it will be heartbreakingly healing for you to be around those kindergarteners–such a fun and endearing age. Hope you have a great school year and let the kids help make your heart sing again, just with the everyday wondrous gifts they bring.

  4. Krista says:

    Oh Di. 🙁 I’m glad I’m friends with the kind of person (i.e. YOU) who worries about other people’s reactions to your heartbreak. XO

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