Saturday 25 January 2020

Pregnant in Grad School

by Rachel Wagner

I got pregnant at the start of my final year of grad school. I didn’t know it at first. And even when I did, I only told like one person at work. But what didn’t show from my belly must have shown on my clothes. Must have shown on my bruised fists, my empty smiles, my back standing up performatively straight. I was wearing short skirts and sneakers not giving a fuck. Huge slits and thigh high socks. Ponytails. Creeping into class. Clamoring at my desk. Never standing while I taught. Slumped over in a chair, or crying alone in a shared office. Having text arguments between classes, or basically just whenever my baby’s dad took a sip.

Everyone started to know near the end of that fall semester. By December I was limiting my caffeine, even though I wanted to drink like three free cappuccinos at the department’s get together thing. Over winter break, I’d get my student evaluations. A row down of what my ex-students would have changed said: the professor. Whatever. So I said it on the first day to my new students: I’m pregnant but I’m not due until after classes end. Everyone looked at my stomach in a panic until the end of the sentence.

Finally started wearing clothes again. Skintight dresses with four-inch heels. I wore that outfit to a conference in May with my stomach all bubbled up, and I was fucking it up. I read from a condensed section of my thesis. It was the most developed thing in the room. Then I went home and coming from my room was a huge cloud of black&mild smoke. I happened to also uninvite my drunk ass man that day, so he went and got mad. I took off the shoes and got into a real fight with him then. Out in the hall my dress would end up on the floor with me still in it. Punching him raw. Fingerprints on my throat on my skin.

People watching from the stairs. I guess they were scared cuz no one ever quite got around to helping get him off me. I mean if it was me, bro would have got jumped that minute. All I got was a couple comments from some women the next day, talking about, you didn’t make a sound when you fell, you’re tough. I was standing there with someone’s life hovering over my lap like, huh. I moved out that weekend, belly and all. Then I missed graduation because I got sick from the AC at my new place the next day.

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Rachel Wagner is a writer from New Jersey, currently living in Newark. She has two books out—Abandonment Issues: Alive in New Jersey and Back Like I Never Left: Dating as a Single Mother. She's also a writing instructor at Seton Hall University. More of her work can be found at


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