There was this one time, when I was eight months pregnant, that my water broke in a classroom full of 25 high school juniors on the second day of school.
Now that I’m pregnant with my third baby, and COVID-19 is rampant throughout the country, I find myself laughing at the fact that it was ever something that scared me. But it did – big time.
My first baby was due on April 8, and arrived in a blizzard on April 7. For multiple weeks leading up to the main event, I’d lug a teal tote bag to work with a full size beach blanket and change of clothes—just in case my water broke and I went into labor in school. At home, I’d similarly packed a hospital bag weeks in advance with everything recommended in my Lamaze class: scented lotion, a deck of cards to pass the time, multiple outfits for baby and me, a homemade sock tennis ball roller massage, photos of happy times.
For my first baby, I was going to the bathroom, when to my surprise felt like I was peeing even though I was pretty sure I was done peeing. I hollered at my husband “my water just broke!” To which he replied, “Are you sure you’re not just peeing?”
So, the second time around with my son, I was now a wise and experienced baby deliverer, and I was pretty certain my water would break. Still, I was also certain baby boy would arrive on or right before his due date, and so I didn’t bother with bringing my beach blanket to school.
On the first day of school every year, the entire staff wears matching t-shirts so scared freshmen can identify us and ask for help. 2019’s design: a map of the world.
I started the year as a human globe.
Teachers would ask when I was due and visibly be shocked that I had three weeks to go. Switzerland’s mountains were poppin’ to life across my belly.
A few days prior to the start of school, I expressed my water-breaking concerns to my OB. “I’m pretty worried that my water will break again in a room full of immature teenagers, and I will return from maternity leave and never be able to look them in the face again.”
He gave me some science-y explanations on how each pregnancy is different, and it’s actually very rare, despite the movies, that a woman’s water breaking is the first sign of labor.
He then said, “Teenagers might surprise you. People really have a way of coming together in important moments. I think they will act maturely and be excited to have been a part of your experience.”
I love my OBGYN. He is great, but he sort of reminds me of Mr. Rogers. So, I basically thought to myself, you’ve clearly not been around a group of hormonal high schoolers lately and dismissed his reassurances.
So, on August 22, three weeks before my due date, I had just gotten students settled and begun to take attendance when I leaned over, grabbed hold of my desk and gasped, “I think my water just broke.”
The students stared at me wide-eyed.
“I’m going to go to the bathroom. Don’t burn the building down.”
I then scurried down the hall, flagging another teacher to keep an eye on my kids.
Funny thing, when I got to the bathroom, I was like, This is strange. I thought my water broke, but I think I just peed myself. How am I going to explain this to my class?
So, I went back and said, “False alarm. Pregnancy is weird.”
Two girls exchanged eyes then said, “Oh good. We were worried. We were just about to come check on you, but we weren’t sure we would be allowed in staff bathrooms.”
Then, I felt another gush.
Luckily for me, it was picture day.
“All right, you are going to go get your pictures taken now. Head to the lobby. You will have a sub when you get back. I’ll see you in three months.”
And with that, I walked down to the office, announced I was in labor and drove my sopping wet self home (despite many protests), wishing I had a beach blanket. I then flurried around my house to pack my hospital bag.
Murphy’s law never fails. Had I brought an enormous bag with beach towels, I probably would have saved myself from a public dam burst. If I’d packed my hospital bag, my son would not have been early.
But then, I wouldn’t have known that my doctor was right. My students were calm. They didn’t freak. I’m not even sure all of them knew what water breaking meant. Yes, my pants were wet, but luckily, I was wearing black, and it wasn’t visible. No water puddles were on the floor like in the movies.
When I returned from maternity leave, they were excited to be a part of my story. The one kid who had asked to go talk to his guidance counselor at the start of class was totally bummed he’d missed it.
Human beings, even teenagers, will never stop surprising you.
So, if you have the good fortune, like me, to not have to wonder if you are in labor or experiencing a strong case of Braxton Hicks, don’t worry about your water breaking in public. It will be a fun story to tell for all eternity and a shared memory, even if with strangers whom you never meet again, that will connect you forever.
Also, we always romanticize ourselves as the star of the movie –but when your water breaks in public, you actually are the star. It’s not just in your head. So that’s cool too. Still, this time, I’ll be packing both my emergency water breaking bag and my hospital bag well in advance.