14th May 2004 at 01:00
I've got to the stage where I don't care about trivial things like arms and legs. I just want it out of me, and into the arms of its father

I am trying to make peace with my unborn child before I give birth. The doctor says that if I carry on hating my pregnancy so much I may have bonding issues. I don't think that will happen somehow. After the hell of running a department while carrying a baby that delights in energetic games, and working 14-hour days, the routine of looking after a newborn will be a restful break. Sleep deprivation sounds like a walk in the park compared with my body's repeated attempts to chuck up my internal organs.

But I am taking the doctor's advice and trying to talk reassuringly to my foetus, who obviously has issues. "Perhaps it's got special needs," said a colleague as I was showing her a blurred scan photo.

Blurred because the little bugger wouldn't stay still long enough to give a good picture, so it took three radiologists pressing down on various parts of my abdomen to count whether it had the requisite number of limbs. I experienced my first surge of maternal humiliation, and I haven't even had a school parents' evening yet. I've got to the stage where I don't care about trivial things like arms and legs. I just want it out of me, and into the arms of its father. "Apply for a statement now," said my local authority SEN inspector. "You might just get it by the time it reaches secondary school." I have a feeling that may be a helpful precaution.

But we're communicating, my baby and I. I'm giving it some background on educational terminology. In fact I'm considering patenting my brilliant new method for getting babies to sleep: reading them extracts from DfES circulars. It does the trick with me. "Things are difficult," I tell my soon-to-be first-born after a particularly energetic session of inflicting internal injuries on mummy by kicking her repeatedly for five hours. "But at least we're not like the school across the road which is having an Ofsted inspection." The baby goes ominously still.

The next day, the head calls us into the staffroom after school. She's had a phone call. It's not just the school across the road; we're having an inspection in eight weeks. I go on maternity leave in 10 weeks. Absolutely bloody typical. I don't want to say anything, but I feel sure that my unborn baby has caused this. So much for bonding.

It's a sick joke. Just when I had begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel of the longest nine months the world has ever seen - envisaging my last weeks at school passing in a haze of spring sunshine, internet shopping and baby showers in free periods - I find myself settling down to read the Ofsted guide to inspecting secondary schools and trying to fight the rising tide of panic that tells me that for the past six months I haven't been Miss Perfect Head of Department. I've been Miss Perfect Head Down the Loo, but I'm not sure that's going to cut much ice when the men in black descend. Sorry, I haven't been able to develop inclusion across the school because I've been too busy chucking up to think about differentiation. What about my special needs, I silently ask whichever god protects teachers; the one who has clearly taken nine months off where I'm concerned.

"Whatever doesn't kill us, makes us stronger," intones the doctor, when I tell her that I am never speaking to my unborn child after this latest betrayal. "Try to see your child as a glorious emblem of post-Ofsted life."

She doesn't understand anything. Is there life after Ofsted when you're a pregnant head of department whose brains treacherously deserted her at the moment of conception? What could the baby be conjuring up next?

Gemma Warren is head of inclusion at a London secondary school. Email:

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