This topic is a tough one for me and I’m sure many of the millions of others who also suffer from infertility. I wanted to discuss how to handle infertility and miscarriage while teaching because, according to the Centers for Disease Control, over 6% of women experience some form of infertility and many of those may be teachers. One big note for anyone who is experiencing infertility is that you are not alone and it is not your fault. Personally, I still struggle greatly with the self blame game. To give you some background, I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) about five years ago and knew that I would never become pregnant the good old-fashioned fun way. While going through the process of testing and then three rounds of IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), I was still going about my life including teaching.
During my first failed IVF attempt, one of my ninth grade students became pregnant and tried to hide it from many of her peers and myself. I watched this young, scared student go through the stages of pregnancy and it hurt. A lot. It should be me – the one with their life together, a car, a home, and the financial stability to take care of a child. This young student would go on to give the baby up for adoption. I didn’t loathe or hate this student, as a matter of fact, I felt a strong connection to this student. She was scared and questioning her pregnancy while I was scared and questioning my infertility. The following semester, I went through the second round of IVF and became pregnant. My first time seeing those two lines on a pregnancy test. At nine weeks, there was no heartbeat and I was told that I could either miscarry naturally which meant at any moment it could happen or I could elect to have a DNC. Heartbroken and feeling out of control, I decided on a DNC – the last thing I wanted was to start miscarrying naturally in the middle of class. I remember telling my husband over and over again that I was sorry I couldn’t give him a baby because I was a failure. My DNC was scheduled for a Friday because I wanted to take the weekend to get myself together to return to school.
I’m not here to just share my story but to share some of the ways that I was able to try and manage my infertility and miscarriage while teaching. If you would like to read more about my story, check out this post on my other blog.
First, get yourself a school support system. I recommend having an administrator that you trust included in this support system. It’s amazing how many of the women that I knew for years went through many of the same experiences. One of the assistant principals was in the middle of an IUI process after years of trying when she became pregnant – she was the one that I turned to when I needed to leave a few minutes early or when I received the phone call about my DNC appointment (I needed a someone to cover my class while I sobbed in the bathroom). She understood, she was a part of my school support system, she was a confidant when I needed to share what was happening from the good to the bad.
Second, if your treatments or appointments are going to change or interfere with your school schedule, try to work with your school. For instance, I needed 10 extra minutes in the morning to be able to go to my doctor (45 minutes if I drove like the devil was on my heels) for testing and then make it back for first period. I turned to my assistant principal and laid out a plan of action which included me giving up my planning period once a week to make up for the time difference. Also, try to schedule appointments with your doctor as far in advance as possible to get the early appointment slots (those seem to be the most popular).
Third, give yourself some grace. You are human and allowed to cry, allowed to ask for coverage so you can go to the bathroom for a cryfest, allowed to feel a sense of envy when you have a pregnant teenager in your class, allowed to feel angry about your sore butt that is being stabbed day after day, irritated by the weight gain from wacky medications.
Fourth, if you are experiencing a miscarriage (or know that you are going to miscarry) and need to make that awful decision about the process, think about how you want to go through this process and heal. If you are a private person, consider how a natural miscarriage may happen when you are teaching – the extra pressure of waiting for it to happen may impact you even further. You may want to have some extra clothes, panties, and maxi pads on hand for this process. This is by no means a fun topic to address but one that needs to be said.
Fifth, if you need time for shots or medications, let your administrative support system know in advance. You don’t want to deal with an awkward conversation about why you have a stash of needles in your closet. One member of my support system was in charge of giving me butt shots on conference nights when I knew I wouldn’t be home. She was really good at it too!
Despite this being such a difficult topic, I hope that I have provided some help. Please feel free to reach out to me through email or the blog if you want to chat. And please, if you have any other tips that may help, feel free to share in the comments below.