People

25th June 2004 at 01:00
I have finally left school. I was aiming for a confident stride into the next stage of my life, but in the end it was kind of an undignified waddle, laden down with tissues, bunches of flowers and various DfES guidebooks that I've told myself I will definitely read over the next few months. It was like any other Friday, with the usual trip to Tesco on the way home, yet it was all amazingly unfamiliar, too. So now, I'm sat at home, waiting for my hormones to kick in, hoping someone from my department might phone for advice on an area of special educational needs that only I have the insight and wisdom to answer.

I've done all the things I'm supposed to, assembled the cot and the baby changing unit, picked a co-ordinating nursery set from the Babies R Us catalogue, and I'm half way through the Contented Little Baby Book. My baby keeps on elbowing me in the kidneys whenever I highlight something about the importance of establishing a routine - I hope that isn't an ominous sign. Tomorrow's big trip is to buy a nursing bra in the dead hours between the end of Des and Mel and the start of Richard and Judy, and I might even try to put a nappy on my teddy bear, just by way of practice. This whole maternity leave experience reminds me uncannily of my student days, except I now have a mortgage.

Everyone who phones does so with the thinly disguised intention of finding out if I've gone into labour. From what little I've managed to piece together about labour, I have a feeling that when it finally does happen, most of north west London will know about it. The general advice is to enjoy doing nothing while I have the chance.

I'm secretly a bit sceptical about how difficult this whole baby thing can be. You are talking to a woman who can single-handedly get 30 16-year-olds to be quiet for the register after they haven't seen each other for six weeks, or after such national tragedies as Boyzone splitting up. So I've decided to use the bit of my brain that's still working to make plans.

Plans are important, so I'm told. It's a funny situation: people tell me to relax and take each day as it comes, and in the next breath, bombard me with questions on how I intend to spend the next five years. Plan number one is finally to defrost the freezer. Plan number two is to go through my tights and throw out all the ones with holes. Plan number three is to write a billion-selling children's blockbuster and have a reception at the Royal Albert Hall where everyone gives me a standing ovation. That one's taking a bit longer to come to fruition because the only ideas I seem to have centre around boy wizards or polar bears fighting epic battles.

So in the breaks between making plans, I have a bit of time to think about the next transition in my life. You've seen me change from student, to teacher, to proud owner of a responsibility point, to proud runner of a department. I've changed from singleton, to girlfriend, to fiancee, to wife and now soon-to-be-mother. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. I need to think of a way of combining all of the above into a life that works for me and all the other people in it. I suppose I need to go back to advice I received when I was a student teacher and expected every lesson to be like a scene from Dead Poets Society. Make sure you're well prepared, leave some time to enjoy yourself, and even if you don't know the answer, make bloody sure you act as if you do. If you can convince others, you stand a pretty good chance of convincing yourself.

Gemma Warren is now on maternity leave from her post as head of inclusion at a London secondary school. Email: gemmablaker@hotmail.com

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