Time off brings joy and sorrow

In the past year, Kate Drof gave birth to a baby girl but also lost her father.



English teacher Kate Drof is on a yearlong maternity leave from Lakewood High School, after giving birth to her second child in July.

Before deciding to take a leave, she was juggling a baby in the womb, an energy-filled 3-year-old and a new AP course and regular English courses to teach. Then the pandemic came, and she faced the prospect of having to learn about Canvas and Teams as well as simultaneous teaching. So, although Drof initially planned to return to school in November, she changed her mind and instead took the year leave. Over the last six months, Drof has gone through some bittersweet moments with the loss of her father in October due to cancer and the joy of watching her baby girl grow.

“My life has been filled with so much joy and grief simultaneously. I truly believe that Lennon came into our lives at the perfect time. Losing a parent is the most difficult thing I have ever experienced, but she is such a bright light even on my darkest days. She brings my family so much happiness. She is truly our greatest gift,” Drof said.

Her daughter, Lennon Ophelia Pope, was born at Breath of Life Women’s Health & Birth Center in Largo on July 21, 2020, at 3:57 p.m. She weighed 8 lbs. 4.5 oz and was 20.5 inches long. Drof started having mild contractions on July 21. After a 16-hour labor, Lennon was born in a water birth.

“It was an exhilarating, empowering and beautiful experience from start to finish. I know I’m in the minority here, but I love pregnancy, labor and birth,” Drof said. “I think maybe I was a midwife in another life.”

In 2017, when her son, Milo, was born, Drof decided to have a water birth to reduce the pain of contractions and allow her body to relax more. This second time around Drof was much more easygoing about the birth, because she had learned from her firstborn to trust her instincts and gut when it comes to her children.

“I definitely think I’m a lot more mellow and easy-going as a mother this time around. I don’t panic or freak out as much about the baby stuff, because I know that all of that eventually gets easier or at least more manageable with time,” she said.

English teacher Elizabeth Halstead is one of Drof ’s best friends. Her 4-year-old daughter, Elsie, is two months younger than Milo. Halstead said she first saw Lennon when she was a week and a half old, when she brought food over to Drof.

“She’s super chunky so you can say that she’s got the perfect winter body, like her rolls are on point. Mrs. Drof has said that she is very strong and a spitfire and very determined, which I’m not surprised,” Halstead said.

Finding the perfect name for Lennon was hard, until one day of scrolling on the internet she came across a name that stood out to her.

“When she was born, we knew immediately that it was the perfect name for her. We’re also huge Beatles fans so her name is loosely inspired by John Lennon’s as well. My dad loved the Beatles so much, so it seems fitting now, especially,” Drof said.

Drof has been a stay-at-home mom since July and says she has been busier than she was as a teacher, but she still finds the spare time to do what she loves. She currently teaches English as a second language online to Chinese children who are 4-10 years old with a company called VIPKid. She has to get up at 4 a.m. to meet the time difference.

“It’s incredibly different than teaching high school English, because you have to be extremely animated and energetic, use props and puppets to hold their attention. It’s been a neat experience and it’s allowed me to help keep my family afloat financially while I’m out on extended maternity leave,” Drof said.

With everything going on in Drof ’s life, getting overwhelmed is easy. She said she misses her friends and colleagues and building bonds with students. Being tied to two children with a part-time job is stressful, and what brings her the most stress is worrying about her family and their health.

“Unfortunately, that happens a lot these days. I try to just stop and breathe. I tell myself that I can do hard things. Recently I started running again so if my husband’s home to watch the kids, I’ll go for a run to clear my head,” Drof said.

Senior Kai Wayman had Drof for English 2 his sophomore year and AP Language his junior year. He was part of one of Drof ’s classes that got to guess the gender of the baby and he was on team girl.

“I was happy when I heard she was having another baby – Milo No. 2. However, I’m not happy she left this whole year. I get why she left for the year due to stress, the baby, corona, but I miss her,” Wayman said.

He’s not the only one who misses Drof. Her absence also impacts her co-workers.

“It’s soul-crushing. … I miss her so much I honestly feel like there’s a little hole in my heart. I understand why she obviously is not here. Believe me I do not fault her for that, but for selfish reasons I miss her,” Halstead said.

Drof said she is planning to return to Lakewood next August for the 2021-2022 school year. She said she is very excited to come back to Lakewood and take up where she left off, and her colleagues are looking forward to seeing her safe return.

“She’s just dynamic so I think her enthusiasm and her energy, as well as her love for teaching and her creative brain, is like she’s a triple threat,” Halstead said