Saturday, February 28, 2009


I spent two days last week at a professional training, becoming officially certified to lead a special, intensive song-and-story based program for infants and parents. Yesterday, the trainer talked about how this program was originally designed for parents who were at risk, who'd been referred by Child Protective Services, but that eventually it was decided that all new parents needed and could benefit from this kind of support.

At the lunch break, I was talking with a few other librarians, all childless and younger than me.

"When I have a baby and I'm on mat leave, I'm going to go to all the baby storytimes all over town!" one of them said.

"Yeah! Yeah! Me too! That'll be so great!" the others echoed.

"Yeah, I thought we'd go out and do lots of stuff too," I said. "But what happens is, first the baby needs a diaper change. Then you need to gather up all your stuff to go out, and that takes a while. Then she's hungry and you need to feed her. Then she falls asleep. Then you need to eat something and maybe go to the bathroom. Then she wakes up and her diaper needs changing again. And by then she's hungry again, and then it's dinner time, and then...time for bed!"

They stared at me as if I'd just recited a dirty poem in fluent ancient Greek. Because I am psychic, or maybe because I used to not have a child, I know what these extremely nice, smart, energetic young women were thinking: they were thinking that I was insane, or at the very least that as a baby-parent I had been criminally disorganized. They would not be like that, slaves to routine, housebound and scattered! They would sling those babies on their hips and get out into the world!

Well. Maybe they will. Truth is, eight years later, I can't exactly remember why I didn't, just that I, too, had thought I would be out and about all the time with the baby, but that when it came down to it, it all seemed incredibly, weepingly, Sysiphianically hard.

And I wasn't even (mostly) the at-home parent, except for the first three weeks and then Tuesday afternoons for a few months after that. (And Jewish holidays.) It was at least as hard for the Renaissance Woman, though if I remember right, she did a spectacular job of getting the two of them out of the house on a regular basis.

This training brought it all back for me, though in a hazy, faraway kind of way, like the memory of a fire alarm in the middle of the night. Which was what a lot of it was like, come to think of it: staggering around sleepily, aware that something urgently important was happening, but unable to wake up enough to grasp its exact significance.

I have to remind myself of this when MG is having one of her full-on earthshattering meltdowns (as has happened twice this evening): it's easier now. And God knows, I was one of those nodding fervently and knowingly at that training last week, when the trainer said that in her opinion all new parents are in need of extra support, and that in this culture having a baby increases a family's isolation profoundly, and that just getting to a library program can be incredibly difficult.

Yep. Yep. Yep. I may not remember it well, but I remember it, all right.


Blogger Mark Dominus said...

When Iris was less than one year old, there was a diner I wanted to go to in Bethlehem, PA.

One day, opportunity struck. It was mid-morning. I had nowhere else to be. I dressed Iris and put her in the car. I shut the door and started the ignition.

At that moment Iris pooped.

I turned off the ignition and took Iris back in the house. Sometime later, the diner closed permanently.

I never ate there.

7:37 AM  
Blogger elswhere said...

Jason: Yes. Exactly.

Even though we are 3,000 miles away, I have the distinct feeling that I too tried and failed to get to that diner. For about two years.

8:58 AM  
Blogger elswhere said...

I mean, Mark. Sorry. Some of that fog has never dissipated, I guess.

2:30 PM  
Blogger susan said...

I distinctly remember the day I changed CG's diaper on the trunk of the car in a parking lot, and thought, "I really can go out. I can change her diaper anywhere." But I tended to go out to walk--not on any schedule and not for any events--and there were plenty of days we managed not to get off the living room carpet.

I, too, thought I'd be a fixture at library storytimes. Except CG thought storytime was teh scary, and would wail and cry until I would retreat from the story area. These days she thinks the librarians are the bees' knees, but as an infant? She wanted nothing to do with them.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Songbird said...

I don't remember going anywhere. I needed seventeen pillows to nurse the baby. :-)

7:28 PM  
Anonymous rachel said...

Byron hated storytime SO MUCH. Too many people. Instant overstimulation. Same for Family Place and Toddler Gym, and all the places we might have gone.

I did take him outside a lot, just because I would have gone crazy otherwise. But yah, it was like Hannibal crossing the alps: you had to have all your elephants lined up before you could do a thing.

10:32 AM  
Anonymous cheesefairy said...

I remember thinking when I was pregnant with number 1: babies are so portable! I'm gonna have the best summer EVAR!

sweaty boobs, that's what I had.

I actually time our trips to the library to avoid storytime these days. Elder is somewhat interested as long as I sit next to him... but junior is loud, mobile and licks peoples' shoes, picks stickers out of the carpet and steals puzzle pieces. V. entertaining for the parents, but again, I end up with sweaty boobs.

(but of course it is a great resource and a gifted storyteller is a delight to behold..we have one at our Mizzle branch, she was born to do the job and is absolutely insane and spellbinding)

2:24 PM  
Blogger Pamelamama said...

I remember the fantasy too... Oh, I'll be the BEST mom, and have so much fun. Baby in the stroller, we'll walk down the street window shopping together, la la la. The reality hit so hard -- could barely manage to feed myself. It was a pretty crushing blow.

12:02 AM  
Blogger Arwen said...

I managed to start getting us out and to storytime etc., but only after the shock and awe of it all had worn off. Then I became the resolute "we must go out every day or teh world will end" mom. But for the first 4 or so months, just getting us both dressed before 3 in the afternoon was a huge success.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Nicole R. said...

I'm a children's librarian too, and my family has only gone to about five storytimes in my son's three years. He loves to hear books, but he always disliked crowds and organized activities in general. (He's getting better now that he's in preschool.)

But I'm a little sheepish to admit that after leading over a thousand storytimes myself, I really don't enjoy watching someone else do it. I can't step out of professional mode. At best I'm bored not being the one performing, and at worst I criticize the poor librarian for her lack of crowd control, poor choices in books, bad flow, etc.

It's been a few years since I last worked. Maybe we should try storytime again.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Kate R said...

Winter. Boots, snowpants, coats, hats, mittens, scarves, diaper bag

Amazing we ever made it out the door any season, but winter, wow.

5:53 PM  

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