'Don't make people think pregnant women can't cope,' said a colleague . As I lifted my head out of the toilet, I fought the urge to flick the remains of my breakfast at her
I wouldn't say I'm not happy about being pregnant. I am excited, and grateful, and lucky, and all of that stuff. But - how to put this politely - I'm not exactly blooming. Or how to put it honestly: I'm absolutely hating every minute of it.
If there weren't enough things in life to make you feel like rubbish, the myth of a glowing nine months bathed in anticipatory hormones and a neat little bump is definitely one of the most damaging. My morning sickness is not morning, it is all day, and that means staff briefing, break, halfway through lessons, meetings, parents' evenings and trips down to the coffee shop. My bump is not neat, it is sprawling - and, dare I say it, hairy. I actually have a hairy bump, ladies and gentlemen; queue up to see the freak show.
My mood is bad and my appetite is good, so I spend most of my time crying, stuffing my face, and then throwing it all back up again. My predominantly female staffroom is sympathetic, although the humour factor of my reaching for the rubbish bin, gagging, at vital moments of staff Inset on the key stage 3 strategy is wearing thin. People take it a bit personally when everything they say is greeted with the unappealing sound of me retching in the background.
If we have a visit from an LEA bigwig, I think I might be asked to stay in my classroom. One of my colleagues has leant me her maternity clothes, although, humiliatingly, they are already too small, and another has offered me her Tens machine for labour, although I've no clue what that is and have a horrible feeling that I don't want to find out. Teaching is difficult enough under normal circumstances. Teaching through a nightmare pregnancy when you're still in that phase of thinking that the school is going to collapse if you take one day off sick is testing the limits of human endurance. I love the books that tell you to avoid stress. I'm not quite sure how you do that when you're trying to control your gagging reflex and a Year 9 French cover at the same time.
So what do pregnant teachers do? I know some of them sail through it looking like cover girls from Pregnancy and Birth magazine. But for those mere mortals who don't happen to have the genetic make-up of Kate Moss, how do you keep up with your professional demands and still maintain a semblance of sanity? "Don't make people think that pregnant women can't cope," said a colleague brusquely. As I lifted my head out of the toilet before I ran off to take my register, I fought the urge to flick the remains of my breakfast at her.
The doctor told me that sensual massage might help, but the only one I could find lasted an hour and a half, and if I had it, I wasn't sure when I was going to get my marking done. And can you even qualify to be sensual when your tummy has grown a beard?
So I'm counting the weeks until my maternity leave and inwardly cursing anyone who says to me that the sickness will wear off after the first 12 weeks. "Fine," I snarl, "but I'm on week 25."
I did get a bit of sympathy the other day when one of my teaching assistants made me an unexpected cup of tea. "I can see you're still feeling terrible," she told me. I actually thought I was beginning to feel better.
Gemma Warren is head of inclusion at a London secondary school. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org