September, the time of year when leaves crinkle beneath our feet, when the evening air becomes cool and frost teases the grass in the night. Autumn brings about weekends spent baking, cinnamon and nutmeg on the air, apple peels by the pile.
With September, comes school, a new crop of Kindergarteners, yet unable to tie shoes, to open milk cartons, to make it through the day without an obligatory band aid. With September comes the breakdown of yearly hours. Today I received my hours list, a sheet dedicated to which hours will be worked aside from regular school hours; Professional Development, special events, Christmas concerts, track meet.
I hate track meet. Even as a child I hated track meet. I, though skilled in bookwork, art, English, was atrocious at all things athletic. As an employee at a school, track meet means I am assigned to a group of rowdy kids from older grades who’s names I don’t know. I am in charge of managing them for the day, delegating when they may have their lunch breaks, and, in general, trying to keep them from being maniacs. It causes me anxiety. It’s ridiculous, but it’s one unknown day when I wander about without confidence while trying to lead a group. I don’t do well with the unknown.
I hate track meet.
Last year, I worked track meet. I asked to be assigned to a group with a helper, so I wouldn’t be on my own, because, pregnant as I was, I was likely to be taking many a pee break. The school powers that be saw an opportunity and linked me up with ‘The Coworker’, we could both carry the weight of the other at times, based on our similar ‘afflictions’ as it were.
Throughout the day we chatted. We discussed. We related. We compared. Heartburn? Check. Indigestion? Check. Nausea? Check, though all of my symptoms had lessened of late. She took frequent bathroom breaks. I took only a few. She needed to stop and sit, aching back moaning at her. I felt pretty good. Have you felt any movements yet? She hadn’t yet, she thought maybe, but it turned out to just be gas. I hadn’t either. Must be too early.
I never would. My baby had already died. Within a week, I would know this for certain.
Yes, another post about being jealous of The Coworker. It’s ugly and unbecoming to dwell upon this past, to focus and to covet on what another has, but I see the words ‘track meet’ on my hours list, and I am transported back to the moment, under the late May sun as our group tackled the high jump, when she and I visited comfortably, bonding over a kinship of pregnancy, I blissfully unaware that my hopes and happiness were no longer progressing. I had no idea at this time that my plans were mere days from being dashed. I was ignorant. And cocky. And wrong. I relive that moment……I revisit that snapshot over and over.
“Have you felt any movements yet?”
“Not yet, I thought maybe I did the other day, but I don’t think so. It must be too early.”
I didn’t. And I wouldn’t. And my baby was dead. And my baby would be gone within the week.
I hate track meet.
Now I watch her still, with leering eyes over a book in the lunch room. She looks ready to burst, she is short in stature, so her belly looks massive. She seems like she could pop any day. Yes, we talk, but I do not ask her how she feels. I cannot bring myself to ask her about her pregnancy. I cannot bring myself to hear an account of where I am not. She and I should be equal. We should be similarly shaped, now, both ready to greet our first children in this world. We once were equally pregnant. Now, I look at her like some fun house mirror image of something I used to be, could’ve been. And so much later, it’s nearly impossible now to fathom how I ought to be full and round like her, how I ought to be tired, awaiting my leave. How I ought to be feeling movement, the kicks and nudges of my baby. It feels like looking in a mirror and being startled by a stranger staring back. A part of me still clings to the image of the pregnant woman, a part of my heart refuses to let go.
I’ve been invited to her baby shower this Sunday. I’ve painted a small painting for a nursery, a green and yellow elephant, giggling with balloons. I will leave it with another staff member to pass on to her. I cannot bring myself to watch her happily unwrap gifts for her baby. I know that I am not strong enough for that. Sure I’ve grown stronger, I’ve faced many fears and anxieties, I’ve changed a great deal as a person. But even still, even now, that will feel like a kick to the guts, a torture that I am not willing to submit to.
This jealousy, it’s an unbecoming thing. I am not proud.