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“Teachers who become pregnant will resign their position before the end of their first trimester”

Thursday, March 14, 2013

That was the reality of pregnancy past. This was actually in the contract I signed in 1968 in a large urban school district in Virginia.

Of course, the application also included a line where I was to indicate which “church” I attended. I don’t remember either requirement being included in my previous contract in New York so maybe it was a regional thing.

NellJones’ recent blog jogged some memories of being pregnant in those "good old days" which for me were 1969-1975. Like Nell I remember the dreaded weigh-in. We were supposed to limit ourselves to a weight gain of 18-20 lbs with 25 being the absolute maximum.

DH was in the army when I was pregnant the first time. Weigh-ins were done in the outer office area along with the resulting approval or strong disapproval of the nurse. The doctor’s opinion would be voiced later. As Nell said “if you gained more than 20 pounds they screamed at you. I gained nearly 40 pounds with my first and you'd have thought I was trying to kill my baby.”

There was a lot of advice that would shock us today. I wondered if perhaps I was remembering incorrectly.

Digging through some old books, I found my 1970 version of “Expectant Motherhood”

Yes, I remembered correctly.
P 73: “Your appearance, then will be everlastingly better if you adhere to the rule of keeping weight gain between twenty and twenty-five pounds.”
P 85 “…obstetricians are emphasizing more and more the importance of weight control – some insisting on a gain of as little as eighteen pounds – the necessity of considering this problem in some detail is apparent.”

OK, I must admit it was easier to shed my 25 lb weight gain than the 50 lbs or more that are common today so in retrospect that advice wasn’t so bad.

However, check out this expert advice.
“…most physicians recommend that smoking should be eliminated in pregnancy or at least curtailed to TEN cigarettes or less a day.” P 84

I recently saw an episode of the old TV series “My Three Sons” where Katie had triplets. A majority of the dialogue took place in the waiting room where the fathers were all adorably nervous and SMOKING! That was the custom of the day. In fact, mothers and visitors were smoking in the rooms too, even with the babies present.

Then there was this diet advice.
“Tea and coffee may be drunk as usual providing the former is not found constipating and the latter is not sleep disturbing.

“Small amounts of ALCOHOL let us say a cocktail now and then or a glass of wine, are harmless, but may prove a nuisance in aggravating frequency of urination.”

When DH got his orders to Vietnam during my 5th month, I remember being advised to drink beer to calm me down.

Now returning to that teaching contract:
I was able to teach through my 6th month because of 3 important things.
1) The “tent” dresses of the era could hide quite a lot.
2) They didn’t have a math teacher to replace me with
3) As my principal said, “if I’m notified in writing, I have to enforce the contract, but it’s no business of mine how much weight a teacher gains.

He was either very progressive or a very pragmatic man.

And here I am at the end of the school year - one week into my 7th month. I didn’t need to hide under my tent dress anymore.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Goodness, this is an excellent blog! Thank you so much for sharing.
    2501 days ago
    emoticon Oh I remember those days, but it was '59 for me. And no one could work and wear maternaity clothes. We had to quit immediately upon becoming pregnant as the children could not see a teacher as pregnant.

    friends had contracts that they could not drink in their teaching area. A business owner had to drive his wife 50 to go to a restaurant with a bar.
    2503 days ago
    WOW! You look really great.
    Times have changed in many ways...some for the good and in other ways for the bad.
    2503 days ago
    Wow! I'm a teacher with a newborn right now. This was a really interesting read! I worked up until a month before my due date, and I'm still on maternity leave right now. I can't imagine having to leave my job earlier than I did. It's a huge stressor just dealing with maternity leave (since it is not paid leave - I am having huge cuts in my paychecks) and dealing with the medical bills and upcoming daycare costs! What did people do back then? I guess it was assumed women with children shouldn't work anyway! I wish I could stay home but it isn't feasible for me.
    2503 days ago
    You looked glamorous! I bet you were a very popular math teacher!

    I love the comments here from younger women who are finding this stuff out for the first time. They are astounded. We, who lived through it, tend to forget til you remind us.

    -I smoked during my pregnancy (in 1975).
    -People were smoking in the hospital and there were ashtrays on the bedside tables.

    -When I started teaching in 1967, I had to sign a "loyalty oath," a leftover from the anti-Communist witch hunts of the fifties.
    2503 days ago
    Great read! When my mom was pregnant with me in 1965, she smoked and once I was born, if she had trouble producing milk to breast-feed me, the doc told her to have a beer! How times have changed!

    Beautiful picture of you!
    2503 days ago
    Beautiful teacher's excuse now that I know the rules for teachers back in those days .... I was in grade school, and she said she had gotten married and was leaving the class, and she came by and showed all her engagement ring !! We were all so excited !! Brought back a memory.
    2503 days ago
    Wow, that is some crazy stuff! LOL when I get pregnant, I'll try to keep the smoking down to 10 cigarettes a day. And if I start going nicotine-crazy, guess I'll pop open a can of beer to calm myself down. :) (Goodness, it's amazing/scary how medicine progresses!)

    2503 days ago
    Wow, you've really hit a nerve! I've enjoyed reading the comments as much as I enjoyed the blog! I'm a little behind most of the reminiscences, but I do recall what a scandal it was when girls got pregnant in high school. It was a HUGE deal for them to finish school, and a girl my class walked the stage just days before delivering. Then, four years later, when I entered the Air Force, the military was just phasing out automatic pregnancy discharges. Women could petition to leave, but discharge was not guaranteed before the end of one's enlistment or commitment. After that, pregnancy was not considered a permanent disability.
    2503 days ago
    I recently turned down an upper management position and switched to part time work to be with my kids more and help my husband with farming. I didn't want the position because I didn't agree ethically with the company and I wanted to be more present in my daughters' lives; however, it was extreme HARD for me to turn it down because I felt as though I was slapping every woman in the face who had lived through things like this post and the incidents in the previous post. They risked everything to get equality for me. It took another older and wiser woman telling me that part of women's rights is having the opportunity to CHOOSE. It's not about taking every chance that shows up. I guess long story short, I appreciate posts like yours because I am living on the shoulders of impressive women (and men) who have given me more opportunities than I will ever know. I hope to pay them back for everything they have sacrificed by sharing their stories with my children and helping to pave the way for others to succeed.

    Thanks for this post!
    2503 days ago
    I had no idea about the expectations of pregnant women back then. Times have definitely changed for the better in this regard (and the "no smoking" in hospitals now).
    2503 days ago
    Oh, my: you're bringing it all back!! In my mother's time (mid 1940s), a woman had to resign as soon as she got married, even before she got pregnant! I was a college teacher from about 1975 to 1987 . . . and things didn't change much in that era either. We had a college queen contest and my feminist response was not at all welcomed: I just about got fired!!
    2503 days ago
    The hair, the dress....are those daisies down the front? Funny, you don't look PG, just "round".
    2504 days ago
    You looked really cute and amazingly different from some of the ladies I've taught with. Did the beer work? My Marine died there March 1, 1968.
    2504 days ago
    I had my son in 1962, so for sure lots has changed, and yes I remember the 20 pound limit, I had no trouble there, I think I almost gained nothing, but yes, I guess no one really knew the dangers of tobacco and alcohol, I did not do either one, but my DH was a smoker back then, I have 2 younger brothers and only knew I was going to have a brother was shen Mom went to the hospital, times have definitely changed
    2504 days ago
  • DR1939
    I can remember when any high school girl became pregnant, married or not, she had to leave school permanently. She could not return after the baby was born. It was a big thing when alternative schools were established for pregnant girls and young mothers. I worked at a college switchboard (evening shift) when I was pregnant with my first child and could work until I went into labor and could return whenever I wanted. With my second I worked as a secretary in a University department and the head secretary could make the rules. Another woman was about 3 months ahead of me and she spent most of her days on the couch in the women's restroom. As a result I was told that the new rule was that I had to quit at six months. I wasn't surprised as this was the norm. Things have changed a lot since them, most of them for the better.
    2504 days ago
    Wow thanks for sharing the memories! love the photo of you as a young teacher.
    2504 days ago
    I cannot believe how much has changed!
    2504 days ago
  • DONNA5281
    It is amazing how things change and how the Drs. have different "Rules"

    I was lucky as I never smoked in my life and I'm not a drinker.

    I was 32 when I had my first daughter, my PCP was our Dr. He delivered my daughter. I loved being pregnant! I worked up until a month before I was due. I did have a scare though, I fell down a flight of stairs and hurt my arm and my butt was black and blue for weeks. I was in labor for 17 hours and I didn't have any meds.
    I had complications after I delivered, so my Dr. had to call in an OB GYN DR.
    I was 35 the second time and I was on bed rest for 2 mths, which was awful when you have a child that isn't 2 yet.
    They induced me , I almost lost her, she was a preemie. Ended up having problems again.
    I really wanted to have 4 children but it wouldn't be advisable.

    So sorry for talking so much!

    Have a wonderful Day!
    2504 days ago
    Wow, thanks for the flashback. Crazy times.
    2504 days ago
    As much as many things have changed, some have not and some are conflicting, especially among new mommies in their "mommy wars".

    I'd hate to think anyone would ask me which church I attend now. I think I would not get many offers.
    2504 days ago
  • DRB13_1
    your blogs make me think
    As an OB-GYN, I have lots of opinioins that don't need to be voiced emoticon
    The BEST thing a person can do for his/her health is quit smoking
    Too bad obstetrics became a purview of males - if women held all the positions, care and delivery would change...
    2504 days ago
    I like the "remember whens" The theory back then was that the placenta protected the baby from whatever the mother ate or drank (or smoked) so you could have whatever you wanted. I, too, remember when teachers had to quit before they "showed". And any student who got pregnant had to leave the school. One girl in my high school got pregnant in 11th grade, and her father actually went to court, and the ruling allowed her to stay throughout the pregnancy. She gave her baby up for adoption, the standard practice of the day, but graduated on time. I remember my grandmother telling me that back in her mother's day, women had to stay at home during the entire time she showed a pregnancy. Only poor or lower class women allowed themselves to be seen pregnant in public. Grandma was a farm girl, so had to continue her farm work up until she had the baby, but she didn't go to church or to town. I doubt she ever thought about weight gain, but then there were no doctors involved in having babies.
    2504 days ago
    OMG, I had dresses like that! However, I didn't have my kids until 1985-88, so things had changed a lot. Smoking and alcohol were no-no's by then, so I effectively quit smoking (for a while) in 1985, and by the time I was nursing, I was dying for a beer to aid the process! I think the weight gain guideline had risen to 35 lbs, too. I worked until a week past my DD's due date and was given a hard time for taking my full 3 months leave!
    2504 days ago
    I often wonder at the changes in medical advice. My mother smoked a pack a day during the time she was pregnant with me, and with my brother seven years later. She drank every evening with my father. Both parents smoked about a pack a day at home until each died (neither from lung or heart problems). So I somehow escaped the fetal alcohol syndrome that threatens every young woman who had alcohol in her social life pre-pregnancy, and I also somehow missed the asthma and frequent colds that plague kids exposed to second hand smoke. Smoking today is constantly frowned upon, and smoking in the room with a baby is simply socially unacceptable to many.

    Things change. And will change. And all of the advice will likely be well meaning and supported by the best evidence available. And still, things will change.
    2504 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/14/2013 9:44:32 AM
  • CARI2012
    My first pregnancy was in 2011, so this is absolutely crazy to me! Thanks for sharing! I wonder what we will think in 20-30 MORE years??!?!?
    2504 days ago
    I did not know that about teaching in the past. Now people work up through the pregnancy and take 12 weeks off. What a change. At least they did not make you hole up in your room during your periods, like some cultures do.

    also..I believe in the past, that schools would not allow students to be pregant. Now they do.

    Love your picture!
    2504 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/14/2013 9:04:30 AM
    First, you look wonderful in the picture and the tent dress would have only exposed the pregnancy more...
    The medical advice was very interesting and explains a great deal.
    Thank you for sharing.
    2504 days ago
    Wow! An eye opener, for sure! Thanks for sharing.
    2504 days ago
  • SFREY217
    It's nice to know that " the good old days" were not always so good. I have worked in and around the medical field for the last 30 years and am often astounded by all the things that have changed and the things we use to think were ok to do back then.
    2504 days ago
  • no profile photo RIDLEYRIDER
    Wow! We've come a long way, haven't we?
    2504 days ago
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