I can see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to school... my busy stressful season is coming to a close. It has been a rough, rough spring with all the Annual Reviews (IEP meetings with students and parents and administrators and fellow teachers to discuss this year and the plan for next year, super labor intensive) and then the teacher evaluation stuff (evaluation is tomorrow! Portfolio is in! I can almost breathe again!). This week in particular has been exhausting.
The teacher that I work with for my self-contained classes, who is the case manager for the kids I see for ELA, is pregnant. She is due in early June, and is very noticeably preggers. I am super happy for her in general, but also because she had a rough go of it with her first pregnancy (she had twins at 28 weeks and spent a long, long time in the NICU and was terrified that this pregnancy could also be tenuous). She has also been very supportive of all my situations over the past few years and is a super cheerleader for our adoption process.
Having a close working relationship with her has been great, and now it will be weird because she's going out on maternity leave at the end of this year and coming back at some point next year or maybe not until the following year, depending on a variety of factors. What's also weird is that I am also potentially going out on maternity leave at some point next year. Maybe, maybe not, it's all such a mystery.
She knows when her maternity is happening, but not how long it will be, and I know that I may be going out on maternity leave next year but don't have the slightest clue of when that might be.
This week we had our own IEP meetings, but we also had the meetings for the incoming students, who are in 7th grade this year and will be ours next year. Or rather, mine, since she had to tell people that she wouldn't be starting the year since she was having a baby. I had decided not to say anything about my adoption plans until next September, since we won't be home study certified until this summer, and it may be scary for parents to hear the possibility of both teachers in the program being out at the same time. (Our poor TA is really nervous about that!)
But, today, our school psychologist started to say, "And Jess may be out, too." I explained quietly that I wasn't sharing that with parents just yet since it's out in the future a bit still, but then felt bad that it seemed like I was saying DON'T TALK ABOUT MY ADOPTION PLANS! In actuality, I was incredibly touched. No one else has acknowledged my somewhat impending parenthood publicly like that. I sit there, next to my pregnant coworker, knowing that I may also have an infant next year sometime, but knowing also that it is unpredictable, and I don't at all LOOK like I'm expecting. I could keep it totally secret. But I don't want to...because while it may open me up for "what's happening NOW?" questions, I want people to know that I am joyfully expecting. I didn't want to tell parents yet because I'm not TRULY expecting until we are eligible for profiling, sometime this late summer we assume.
Later, after the meetings, I got kind of teary thinking on how the school psychologist didn't differentiate me from the pregnant teacher. Our situations are similar to her. I appreciated it so much I called her to thank her, and she kind of pshawed it away and said I shouldn't be thanking her for her genuine joy in anticipating my motherhood. Which made me cry all over again.
It's a tricky balance being in my portion of the adoption process, because we have committed to the process and are excited, but aren't eligible yet to adopt and so it can be confusing to people. They may think it's possible that we could be matched by September. That would be lovely, but I am realistic. I know it may not even be next school year. But I kind of feel like keeping it all close inside is stealing joy from myself and the others who have been there for us through our infertility journey. It's hiding the hope we feel. It's protecting us, to some degree, as I have to keep reiterating that we aren't yet waiting to be matched, we're still in paperwork mode, but I think if I am comfortable with talking about it and putting my adoption plans out there it will normalize things for everyone else. And maybe they will feel as comfortable with my state of expectancy as they are for those with bellies protruding outward, giving their secret away for them.
It reminds me of a discussion with my reading class a few weeks ago that led to me telling them that I was in the process of adopting a baby. I certainly didn't mean to spill those beans so early, but the conversation led itself in that direction. It was my husband's birthday, and my students wanted to know how old he was. I told them he was 41, and it started a conversation on how old I am. One student guessed dead on, using some impressive logic to deduce my 38-turning-39-shortly status. Of course, this started a waterfall of exclamations of how I'm the same age or older (!) than my students' parents. Which made me feel just fantastic. I think the student with the oldest parents had parents in their mid-forties.
"Yikes, let's move on to something else, because I don't even have kids yet and assuming I have them by the time I'm 40, my kids will be in their 8th grade classroom saying that Mom and Dad are 54/56!"
One of my students said, "Well, what are you waiting for?" Ah, middle schooler honesty.
I said matter-of-factly, "Sometimes it's not up to you."
Which then sparked some understanding from some kids and some confusion with others, and so I took a deep breath and said,
"WELL, I wasn't going to share this yet, but my husband and I are planning to adopt a baby."
Which felt SO GOOD to say out loud. I explained that the other teacher was having a baby, and she looked like she was having a baby. The difference was that I wouldn't ever look like her, but I was also expecting a baby -- I just don't know when. They really seemed to get that. They asked really great questions. It was a terrific educational opportunity to bust some myths about adoption, although I have to say that a lot of students were pretty well informed!
Except that same student from before said, "But don't you want a birth-baby?" (interesting term, birth-baby...)
I inhaled sharply and said (so proud I didn't get teary eyed or anything), "I'll put it plainly. I can't. That's why I was out so much in the first half of the year... I was working with doctors to try to have a baby, and I can't. BUT, we are so excited that we are still going to be parents, and that we will have a baby that will be so very special to us and so very wanted."
Believe it or not, this student still wanted more details on how exactly I can't (Sample questions that poured from his mouth in quick succession: "So, do they die or something? Can you not get pregnant, or something goes wrong like in Out of the Dust?" I guess I have to be happy that he was making a literature connection, but holy cannoli!).
Another student piped up before I had the chance and said, "Hey, this is personal. Let it alone." Which I appreciated very much and we went on with our business.
Overall, I was really happy to share that I was also having a baby, if in a completely different way than the other teacher in the program. The students were super excited for me. I thought the conversation went well, and one student actually talked to me in the hall about how her cousin had "the same problem as you" and went on to adopt two babies and she's very happy now. My goodness I love my job. My kids can be very challenging, but they have such good hearts.
It will be interesting to see how the rest of this year unfolds as we get closer to being home study certified. Our classes are in mid-May, and after those are done we will be able to schedule our home study visits and start our profile books. It's possible that we could be profile-ready by the end of the school year, but with scheduling and timeframes for the report I'd suspect it could be July or August. I really, really want to announce that I'm adopting at the faculty meeting in June, but I'd really like to be actually done with the homestudy (if not holding the report in my hot little hands) first. However, since that could happen over the summer, I kind of feel like I'd like to be like any of those other pregnant people who have announced in faculty meetings that they are expecting, and share that joy with all my colleagues, not just the ones who know through working with me. These past couple experiences with the parallels between me and my pregnant colleague have been good litmus tests for how that might go!
It feels so good to think to myself and know it's true, if not in the way I originally thought it would be: