I’m learning a new library. I’ve spent enough time in university libraries to be able to find my way around, but it’s the fine details that I need to get a handle on. Fine details this time around include finding the lift so I can get the pram around and working out where the accessible toilets are so Sparrow doesn’t have to sit in the corridor (or on a toilet floor) while I wee. I am overly anxious about the noise he makes. Squeals or sleep moans or cries or grizzles. Other students speak loudly, their phones ring, check out kiosks beep but somehow, in my overly worried head, this is allowed noise. A baby in the library seems wrong. I have to work on behaving as if I (we) belong.
Two weeks ago Sparrow and I went to some training. Endnote A. And then last week Endnote B. I contacted the trainer before I registered and checked. Yes, she said. Fine. When we got there, in a quiet aside, “You will take him out if he gets upset won’t you? Just better for everyone that way”. I agreed, and the training proceeded.
Sparrow rolled around on a blanket and tried to eat the nappy bag straps. I learnt how to create an Endnote library. He grabbed his feet and grinned. I imported references from Google Scholar. He breastfed. I typed one handed and learnt how to switch between APA6 and Harvard. And again this feeling, that it is possible to do this thing (and also a rush of geeky excitement – hooray for Endnote, and for never having to format a bibliography by hand again). There is a baby and his Mama in the library, and we are finding our way.
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I can count on one hand the times I’ve had a child free moment (and by moment, I mean moment) since Sparrow was born. About two weeks ago I was pushing him along Sydney road, and he was crying, and it was spitting and cold and someone walking in front of me lit a cigarette and I got a lungful of chemical and he was crying and I needed a break. Right then. There was nothing to do but keep walking. So we did. Keep walking. And then it passed. Last week it happened again. Walking again, and crying again, and this tearing love in my chest that pins me down and makes me want to run at exactly the same time.
Monkey was fourteen months old before he started childcare. Guilt leached through my pores for weeks, but then there was this lift. A lightness on Tuesdays and Fridays, the anticipation of child free-ness. Sparrow will be eight months old on Monday, and today was his first (half) day in the Joey’s room. He had a donkey and a wrap that smelled like home in his backpack. I handed him over with my brave face and left and closed the door and cried, and felt like I had failed him.
At home. Alone. The Temper Trap. Tea. My laptop. A yellow formica kitchen table. Three phone calls. No wriggling baby on my lap. No Monkey saying “but I’m talking Mama”. Aching breasts. The library homepage. Breast pump. Catalogue search terms: feminist theory body. Eight pages of Butler and Irigaray and Kristeva and Grosz. My left hand pumps, pulling milk out and down, hot and white into the bottle, while my right scrolls and clicks. In twenty uninterrupted minutes I have one hundred and sixty mils of milk and fifty one items on my list. I call the library and discover I can borrow fifty items at a time. There are tiny dots of milk on my laptop screen. I leave them there, and put a library visit into my calendar, and wonder how to carry fifty books, and get my keys and the empty pram, and walk through the park to pick up my baby.