I have high hopes for my baby, despite the books telling me that I've done everything wrong

28th May 2004 at 01:00
All my life, I've done things the right way. I don't take risks. It wasn't until I was in the sixth form that I realised giving your homework in late was an option. And I was shocked when I realised that some people didn't give it in at all. To this day, I only cross the road when the green man lights up.

Maybe it's not surprising that I ended up in teaching; I've always done well in highly regulated institutions, and in the holidays secretly feel at sea if there's not a bell to regulate my day. So before I was pregnant, I was pretty sure of how it was going to be. I'd up my intake of fruit and vegetables, and do gentle exercises in the gym in those trendy maternity Lycra things you see celebs wearing.

In short, like everything else in my life, I was going to do it by the book. And boy, do I have a lot of books. For something that women have been performing successfully for thousands of years, there are a hell of a lot of books telling you how to get it right. I knew that there was a wrong way - alcohol, overly high heels, close proximity to noxious substances and cats - and my way, the right way. But something's gone awry, I've taken a wrong turning. The thought of fruit and veg has me rushing for the sick bowl, and the only exercise I've been able to do has been to crawl from the sofa to the biscuit tin, sometimes via the fridge for a chocolate milk if I've had a burst of energy. And don't even ask about cravings. It's almost as if my unborn child has had access to the list of pregnancy bad substances, and I've been craving them with such ferocity it's made my life a misery. Never have brie and salmon sashimi seemed so attractive - preferably together.

The big no-no for pregnancy, according to the books, is stress. At the first sign, leave work, get into bed, make sure your feet are above your head (or something like that), and don't come out for at least three months. Unfortunately, working in an inner-city comprehensive means it's difficult to avoid stress. Leading a department through an Ofsted inspection is hardly guaranteed to give you peaceful nights. ("Why don't you take the week off?" asked my husband innocently. Yeah, right. I'd love to have had that conversation with the head: "I'm thinking of staying at home the week of OfstedI").

Finishing your first year of a masters degree, with two lectures a week and exams and essays, doesn't allow you a lot of time for transcendental meditation. According to the books, my stress-ridden baby is probably going to be underweight, culturally impoverished and suffering from ADHD, and that's before I've given birth.

But despite all the predictions of raising a soon-to-be adolescent criminal, it's been strangely liberating to have almost nine months of throwing away the rule book. I'm approaching my 30s, so it's time I learnt to live off my instincts; surely there comes a time when you've got to use your life experience for something. One of my fellow Sencos in my LEA regularly does things her way, despite what the official forms tell her, and her department is innovative and inspirational. Not a hyperactive, adolescent criminal in sight. I have high hopes for my baby, despite the books telling me that I've done everything wrong. It's probably a good thing that it's already used to a life of chaos, desperate form-filling, exam rubric and DfES guidebooks. There's probably an Ofsted-induced hormone that I've been secreting for months. A brilliant preparation for a potential career in education.

Gemma Warren is head of inclusion at a London secondary school. Email: gemmablaker@hotmail.com

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