First day of school, first miscarriage

By Caitlin Cherry

Two pads? Three? Or tampons? Tuck them in next to the laminated name tags.

Maybe I should pack leggings in case I bleed through. But then I need to bring a shirt. My first day of school dress is already pressed—a balance between parent-pleasing and student-approachable. Crisp and collared. Long enough that the kids can’t see up during circle time on the carpet. But the dress won’t hold up to the spontaneous bleeding of my impending miscarriage.

Tonight, I hate my job. I’m dreading the first day of school pictures. The hugs from returning little ones. Parents asking, “how was your summer?” The unprofessionalism of the real response: it was painful. This year, instead of making a “welcome to 2nd grade” banner, I’m silently crying for the fourth day in a row, knocked down by the unexpected beginning and ending. 

Hearing “nonviable” is heartbreaking. Having to ignore that in front of students…32 faces smiling at me, hugging me, holding my hand. And all I can think is: “you’re not mine; I’m further from mine than I’ve ever been.” Every year the “I love you!” letters are hung proudly. This year, they taunt me because that they are from not my child

Anticipatory grief is a tricky beast. What happens if I can’t hold back crying in the middle of math class? How do I explain that each one of these seven-year-old’s hugs hurts deeply.

I’ve spent my career loving other people’s children. Cheering at their soccer games. Writing cards for their eighth birthdays. Putting bandaids on their exposed skin. And I’ve loved it. But now, each invite into my students’ lives is a reminder of what I don’t have. Because of the child that will not be. That child stopped in the ninth week after four torturous weeks of “could be promising” and “just one more test” and “I know it’s hard to wait but it’s for the best.” 

We hadn’t exactly planned the positive pregnancy test, but I adjusted to the news immediately. At 33, after a decade of teaching everyone else’s kid, what I wanted was to start teaching my own. I can do this. I can teach my child.

I gave R a box of little shoes to let him know we were expecting, Googled a cute phrase and threw in the test. R hung the card on the fridge.

Then, on the night before the first day of school, I noticed it was gone. 

So what’s it like waiting for my miscarriage the first week of school as a second grade teacher? Like 32, 99, 800 reminders of what I don’t have. Reminders I smile at. Reminders I hug and then cry alone in my classroom after the last bell. Because they are someone else’s children. They are not mine. 

Caitlin Cherry is a second grade teacher in Laguna Niguel, CA. She tries to remember this is “life before kids” and enjoys reading, fine dining, and sleeping in. 

Art by QuaintBaby.

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