I forgot my book in the other room earlier this morning.  Not a problem for a normal person, but a huge problem for a new mom.

Now that I have a newborn, my world has diminished substantially from as recently as a month ago.  My world, in its entirety, consists of three rooms in my house.  As such, I have come to realize the importance of having things at arm’s length (yes, one arm, because the other is holding the baby).  Not just things such as burp cloths, tissues, a glass of juice (I do think it is possible, like  Tantalus, to die of thirst within sight of refreshment), but other things like this laptop I’m writing on, or, for those brief moments when the baby is finally asleep and I can’t move from my position, a book.

There are mothers who wouldn’t even think of trying to read with a newborn.  I have friends who parked it in front of the TV all day, an equally valid choice.  Alas, I do not have that luxury because the room with the TV — the finished basement — is not one of the three allotted rooms in which I now exist, lacking, as it does, a bathroom.  I prefer reading anyway. In fact, reading has several characteristics which lend itself to new motherhood.  For instance, it’s both quiet and portable, two things TV is not.

Still, making it work, like much of life after baby, is challenging.  I’ve learned several strategies over the past few weeks which make reading an easy way to pass the time between bottle washing, feeding, diaper changing, and baby rocking (lather, rinse, repeat):

1)  Choose light reading material.  I mean this in both senses of the word.   After a long night of (at best) interrupted or (at worst) no sleep, something taxing to the brain is not a good choice.  Now is not the time to catch up on Ulysses.   Additionally, you’ll need to hold the book in one hand and, inevitably, be able to drop it at a moment’s notice should a volcano of spit-up (or worse) come your way.  Avoid needless accidents by choosing a slim, preferably paperback, volume.

2) Unless you are more organized than me (which is possible, though unlikely given my OCD tendencies) you will forget your book in the other room, as I did this morning.  To solve this problem, have a different book in every room (you won’t need that many since you will likely live in no more than three rooms).  Make them vastly different from one another, to avoid any confusion in your already foggy brain.

3) Read books in which you don’t have any emotional investment.  You will inevitably drop the bookmark and not be easily able to retrieve it (this is a particular one for post c-section moms, for whom bending over at all, let alone with an infant, is difficult if not impossible).  Dog-earing pages or just remembering which splotch of formula or spit-up marks the page are much more effective ways to remember where you left off.  Bending the spine and putting the book word-side down on the table also suffices.  Either way, your books will never be pristine again.

4) You’re a new mom, a minefield of potential emotional explosion. Avoid any storyline where: a) anyone dies  b) children are in danger c) puppies or kittens are in danger d) anyone proclaims their undying, unrequited, or forbidden love or e) basically anything bad happens

And finally,

5) If you were a fast reader pre-baby, don’t underestimate the amount of reading material you will need.  I ran through my new book pile in less than two weeks and had to replenish (good luck getting to a store or library!).  You will be home all day — something you likely haven’t done before in your adult life.  That’s a lot of hours to fill, even taking into account all the bottle washing and diaper changing.  Babies, even fussy ones, sleep A LOT.

The two books above are a couple examples of interesting, engaging, and not-too-challenging stories for new mom reading.  But I’m too damned tired after writing this blog to review them, so you’ll just have to take my word on it.

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