I had terrible cramps one day in eighth grade, so bad I couldn’t even stand up at recess. I couldn’t tell my teacher what was going on. She knew, of course, which I recognize in retrospect. She crouched down near me, tried to get me to tell her, and when I didn’t, she just said, “Ok, wait here.”
She went to the office and called my mother, who gave me permission to come home. My teacher stayed with me, spoke to me soothingly, until I was able to unfold myself from the desk and straighten up, gather my things, and walk home.
When I was teaching eighth grade, I supervised a sleepover once.
During the night, one girl lay down on the couch and was groaning in pain, asking everyone to leave that room, to be quiet. Her friends got really annoyed with her – this is a sleepover! So what if it’s 1am, we’re going to be up all night!
She was half in tears. I asked her what’s wrong, what hurts, if she wants the girl whose house we were in to get her some Tylenol.
“No, I can’t, I have to take a special medicine!”
Okay, now I was amused. Did she mean Midol?
No, she meant Excedrin. I suggested that the hostess might have some Excedrin in her medicine cabinet – should we ask her?
“No, I need to ask my mother before I take it!”
Well, it was 1am, there was no way I was letting her call her mother to ask if she could take Excedrin. I tried to convince her to take Tylenol, but no go.
She was crying, and holding her arms pressed over her abdomen.
Finally, I crouched down near her. “Look,” I said, “I know it hurts. We all know how bad this can hurt, right?”
Her crying suddenly stopped. Her breathing may have stopped. I went on.
“But it’s not dangerous. If you don’t want to take a painkiller, do some deep breathing, maybe get up and walk around when you feel up to it, and wait for the cramps to pass.”
Still silence from her.
“Because this is your only eighth-grade graduation class party, right? Don’t let this ruin it. Try, okay? Try as much as you can to push past this pain, this pain that all of us here understand, and enjoy tonight as much as you can.”
She nodded then, eyes still wide on me.
I left, to check up on the wild sounds coming from the next room and to make sure the door leading up from the basement was still closed so we didn’t wake the parents.
About an hour later, I saw her sitting with other girls on the sofa in the other room, smiling shakily but smiling nevertheless.