Friday, August 30, 2013

So it begins: Week 1

It occurred to me today that I track the semester like I track my pregnancy.

"Week 1... here's what happens, y'all."

I'm fourteen weeks along in my first pregnancy.

I'm one week along in my fifteenth semester teaching at the postsecondary level.

I'm not sure yet why I'm writing this blog.

Perhaps I'm interested in the intersection of academia and motherhood, even though it's been explored before.

What it will mean to me remains a mystery, and I plan to chronicle it here.

For starters, I teach English. All sorts of English. I've taught first-year writing, persuasive writing, technical writing, and interdisciplinary writing, and variations on all of them. I'm not a tenure-track professor, at least not yet. I hope to be, someday, when the right position comes along and it's the right time for me. To be honest, I'm as delighted just to teach as Alaskan salmonberry plants are to greet the summer.

For more starters, I've never been so sick for so long in my entire life. Full-blown, gut-churning, vomit-inducing, food-averting, morning-to-night nausea started just a couple days after I hit the six-week mark.

For six weeks, I suffered through it with nothing but supplements, convinced pharmaceuticals would poison my baby (and maybe they do). But then I realized I wouldn't be teaching online forever. That was just my summer assignment.

I'd have to go back on campus, and soon. Really, I had to be thinking about planning my fall courses. Right then.


Cue the pills.

They help. A lot. And I feel my best first thing in the morning if all I eat for breakfast is Gatorade. All my classes are finished before late afternoon.

Before the pills, I honestly had no idea how I was going to get up to teach. I was lying on my couch for 12 to 16 hours a day, showering every other day (if I was feeling ambitious, and well enough), and subsisting on whatever randomness we had in our cupboards. (The fridge was out of the question: have you ever smelled a refrigerator while you were pregnant? It's like the rotting flesh of a hundred dead skunks. I exaggerate. But the effect was the same: sent me running for the toilet.)

Oh, did I mention this little demon fetus won't tolerate dairy? There goes my milk-drinking, yogurt-slurping, cheese-snarfing habit.

I don't mean to sound piteous or whiny. This has just been... different than any other semester.

Back to Week 1.

Week 1 went great as far as the teaching goes. I'm wearing Sea-Bands on my wrists (further nausea prevention: they're stretchy wristbands with a hard nub that presses on a nerve bundle corresponding to acupressure/acupuncture relief of nausea), and I catch my students following my hands and wrists more often than usual. I think they wonder why on earth I'm wearing wristbands.

I got ahead of myself. I told all my students I'm pregnant.

I really didn't now how this was going to go, and I needed a safety net in place in case I randomly dashed across the room for a garbage can.

Or worse, just tossed it all right there at the front of the room.

I used to worry about farting while teaching.

Now I have to worry about spewing Gatorade in front of 22 budding professionals.

Not part of the job description. What was I thinking?

Well, A) I wasn't thinking I would get this sick or that it would start to jut into the semester. But really...

B) Honestly, I was thinking it's about time I became a mother. I've always wanted to be one. I put it off for almost a decade, which is almost a decade longer than I wanted to wait. My professional life was just going so well. My personal life, too, but there was more I wanted, and I've always known what that was.

The timing was never going to improve, so with about four weeks of discussion with Husband, and eight years of research on pregnancy and birth (and a bit on parenting) behind me, I quit the pill. And got pregnant.

And I couldn't be happier!

Or more worried about vomiting in front of undergraduates.

Ha! That's new.

Week 1 went well. I'm definitely more forgetful than usual: "pregnancy brain" is not an excuse, it is a legitimate and bizarre befuddling of the mind.

I don't mean to sound arrogant here, but whatever: I'm just glad I had a pretty good brain before so I can function at all in front of all these smart young adults. A student challenged a quiz question today and I was proud to have handled it by subjecting it to review rather than bursting into tears. After the review, he had a legitimate case, and I e-mailed the class about it.

As far as the intersection of pregnancy and academia goes, so far, I haven't had to address too much, at least not yet. A staff assistant inquired if everything was all right when I said I couldn't lift anything, so I disclosed my condition to her, and she responded kindly and was fine treating that information with discretion until I have a chance to talk to some of the faculty members I report to, like our associate head, who I should probably inform because I'm due to give birth, oh, mid-spring-semester.

I told all my students I was pregnant. But other than that, the only thing I've had to deal with is lots of funny looks from students (not mine, the ones I encounter traveling across campus) trying to decide if this small but noticeable pooch in my midsection is just me getting fat or if I'm actually pregnant. I'm a little self-conscious, but that's okay with me.

So long as I don't then spontaneously vomit in front of them.

Pregnant professor out.