What I wish I had said

Not long ago, although before I had my baby, we had a substitute at our school who I wish I could have put in her place.

I work in a school that is nearly all women.  We have had nearly every female medical problem you can name.  At one point we had 4 women of childbearing years wishing to be pregnant.  Three had about a dozen miscarriages and 3 babies between them.  And 1 (um…me) couldn’t do the thing you have to do in order to get pregnant.  It had been a very traumatic few years for my three friends and a stressful time for me as well.  Our coworkers knew some of what was going on, although not a lot of details about my condition.  People were very sensitive to what was going on.

One day we had a substitute who had never been to our school before.  She didn’t know anyone at the school.  She was eating lunch at the same time as 2 of the women who had had multiple (3-5 each) miscarriages in the past couple years.  Both yearned to have children and had serious complications several times.  She looks at the younger of the two, sitting next to her, and says, “Do you have any kids?”  And when the answer was negative the substitute starts lecturing her about how she shouldn’t wait to have kids and how great they are.  Both of my friends just sat there not knowing what to say but getting more and more upset by the minute.  I wish I had been there, because I would have said,

I am so happy for you that you have had such a perfect healthy life.  You must be so blessed.  Although you have clearly missed a few lessons in manners over the years.

Do you know what it is like to be unable to be intimate with your husband?  Have you heard of vulvodynia?  Have you ever had stabbing excruciating pain when touched in your most sensitive of area?  I have been on several antidepressants – each with their own really fun side effects, been through physical therapy and biofeedback – $3000 out of my own pocket, shots in my “down there”, therapy, breakdowns, and extreme pain.    And yet after 6 years of marriage (and 8 years since diagnosis) I am still struggling every day.

What a blessing it must have been for you to get, and stay, pregnant so easily.  Do you know that up to 40% of conceptions end in miscarriage?  However, after one miscarriage your chances of having another are only 25%.  On the other hand, 1% of women have what they call recurrent miscarriages which is 3 or more in a row.  Do you know how many women in this room have suffered miscarriages?  No, you don’t, because you just shot your mouth off without considering that you don’t know anyone here.  1% in the world is actually 10% here at our school.  So the next time you decide to lecture someone about their life choices maybe you should consider not everything in life is a choice.

The upside is two of us have each had a boy, one had 2 girls, and one adopted a preschooler from Haiti.  And as far as I know, that sub never came back.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was 8, if you had asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have told you I wanted to be a teacher.  I don’t think I ever thought I would be anything else.  I mean, sometimes I thought about owning a store, or a cafe.  I might have dreamed of being a dancer or an actor.  But for sure the only thing I ever really wanted to be was a teacher.

In October of my senior year of college several of my friends and I went on a trip.  I was sitting at dinner with one of the girls I didn’t know as well and was asking her questions.  I asked what she was going to do after college.  She had no idea.  She chose her major because it was something that she was pretty good at.  Until then it had never occurred to me that anyone was going to graduate from college without knowing what they wanted to do.  I thought that’s what college was, the gateway to what you were going to be when you grew up.  Looking back most of my friends are not working in fields related to their majors, but then, that would have never occurred to me.

When I was a kid if you asked me what my favorite things were I would have said reading and playing on my computer.  This may not be so strange now (the computer part), but I grew up in the 1980s.  I’ve had a computer since I was 2 or 3.  I don’t remember not having a computer.  My memory of my first computer is that it was a CBM, but the screen on that one looks too big.  I also had a Commodore 64 and a Tandy.  I had all sorts of learning games, including the original Math Blaster and something called a Koala Pad.  All the images on my first computer were green on black and created by ASCII text.

Here I am now.  34 years old and wrapping up my 11th year of teaching.  11 years of running a computer lab in an elementary school and 10 years teaching reading, too.  A job that didn’t even exist in my elementary school days, hopefully leading kids to jobs that don’t even exist now.