My Reading Group Adventures

This past summer, we started visiting the local library on a regular basis. Our toddler’s reading selection seemed to be growing thin and the steady two-or-three-books-a-night made the circulation tight. With the additional expenses of homeownership, we were on a mission to find ways to save money and take advantage of the resources in our new community.

As couple of weeks ago, during our last “refuel” of children’s and adult literature, I noticed a flyer for the library’s “Reading Group.” This month, they were reading¬†Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, which was on my growing list of books to read this year. Eager to join a group that would discuss the books we were going to read, I grabbed a copy from the circulation desk with the plans to read it before the next meeting and check out this group of readers in this community.

The Reading Group

At 4:25, I showed up at the library, armed with my read Patchett novel and ready to discuss the complexities of story ownership that was a central theme within the book. When I walked into the room, which usually held art and photography exhibitions, there was a circle of chairs and a couple of the members already catching up with the events of their lives.

As the room began to fill, I began to wonder if I was in the right space. I was easily the youngest person within the room by at least one generation. As I listened patiently to the other members critique elements of the book and provide their own insight, I considered getting up and excusing myself. I could give myself the excuse of “at least I tried.” I could justify it by telling myself had put in a good effort and could return comfortably to my introverted life.

However, when the reading group promptly wrapped up at 5:30, I lingered for a few minutes in my chair as I tried to not look too eager to leave. At this time, a couple of the group members began to talk with me, about both the book and about the history of the reading group. They encouraged me to come back next month as they were eager to attract younger members.

Building Community

One of the many critiques of our generation is the lack of traditional community involvement. For me, the reading group–I believe it is intentionally not called a “book club”–provides an opportunity for social entrance into our new community. It also provides me with an outlet to engage outside of my work and family lives.Since completing my master’s, I’ve been looking for something to “work on” while I’m at home, in addition to the traditional mother-homeowner responsibilities.¬† Finally, the reading group encourages me to do something that I have neglected over the last decade–to read for the joy of reading.¬†

When moving to a new city or town, finding outlets like a reading group can help you connect with new people within the community. Even if your move is only one city over–like ours–each community has its own characters and story. Learning the story of your new community can help you find role within it.

People walking on a street

 

 

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Lessons My Daughter has Taught Me: Part 1

It is a pretty standard understanding that motherhood changes lives. I didn’t realize how much until I met my daughter.

The end of my pregnancy was less than ideal. I had decided to leave my job the summer before I expected to give birth and the decision was weighing heavy on my mind. We had wiggled through a number of very expensive hospital bills and I was worried about the unexpected costs of the labor and delivery, in addition to making all other ends meet. It didn’t matter that I completed several drafts of our budget to make sure that we would have enough to cover expenses.

Despite my best efforts to stay healthy throughout my pregnancy, I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia at week 33 and was put on modified bed rest. In my best intentions, I had saved the last month of my pregnancy to get ready for Baby. The modified bed rest compounded my feelings of being unprepared because I could not “nest” as I had intended with washing baby clothes, aggressively cleaning my home, or completing any of the food-preparation projects I had collected on Pinterest. Instead, I spent most of my time watching episodes of Sex in the City and reading about the effects of pre-eclampsia on me and my baby.

Because pre-eclampsia can become very serious, doctors often want to induce a monitored labor. Two failed induction attempts later and I decided a c-section was my only option. This was far from my unofficial birth plan–labor at home, avoid pain medication, have a healthy baby and take pain medication after. Instead, I was hooked up to an IV and monitors to make sure my baby was okay.

To be honest, I felt betrayed by my body. Not only did I develop this condition, but my body would not go into labor. Throughout my hospital stays, I felt like I had failed when I could not tell the nurses that I was indeed feeling the contractions that they saw on the monitor. I wondered what was wrong with my body.

The decision to have go through with a c-section came from the mental anguish of hearing babies being born throughout the hospital unit. I just wanted to hold my little girl. Fifteen minutes after entering the unit’s operating room, my little girl was laying on my chest and looking at my face.

I look back at my hospital stay and I am thankful for the four days I spent in postpartum. Under the care of the nursing staff, I bonded so deeply with my daughter. We were our own world. I had never felt love like the tender fondness I felt for my baby girl.

On the last day, I began to feel the tugging of my anxiety return. At the hospital, if anything went wrong or if I had a question, the nurse was only a buzz away. My mind raced to make sure I asked every question. I collected phone numbers to call if I had concerns before her first appointment two days later.

As we walked towards the exit, I felt dizzy. By leaving the hospital, it was as if it was all becoming real. I was walking into my role as mother, protector of this little baby. I felt the responsibility crushing me.

Getting into the backseat of the car, I looked at this little being, wrapped up in a blanket to protect her against the drop in temperature. In almost a moment of understanding, she looked at me with her big blue eyes and wrapped her little hand around my finger, as if to say “It’s okay, Mom. We can do this.”

In that moment, my four-day-old daughter reminded me that I am not alone.