August 2003

Katie Pannarale Fries

bookslut with baby

Reading with Baby

Over the years, I've developed the ability to read almost anywhere. I've never had trouble reading in the car, at age six I mastered the art of reading my books under my desk, and my least favorite phrase growing up was, "Not at the dinner table." I've read books under the covers with a flashlight, while on a pool float, and on the elliptical machine at the gym. I now realize all this was mere preparation for my biggest challenge: reading with a baby.

It did not take long for me to attempt this new feat. You see, I had hoped my copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (it was coming from England) would arrive before the baby. I had planned to use it as a diversion during labor (I read The Eyre Affair instead), but the book arrived two days after Matthew. Upon my return home from the hospital, I also had a New Yorker and a Runner's World waiting for me and suddenly not enough hours in the day to read all three.

I learned two things my first two days at home. One: the best way to read a book while holding a baby is to sit on the loveseat with my back against one arm and the baby resting on my chest or, with my knees up, propped up on my legs. Two: magazines are easier, as they can be placed flat on the couch next to me. I can turn the pages with one hand while using the other to feed, burp, or hold the baby. I have been lucky that Matthew sleeps through my attempts to read.

Of course, reading with a baby means being more attentive to his needs than my own. I have always taken pride in the fact that most of my books, after being read, still look as though they've never been opened. I fear that, too, is about to change. I can't remember how many times I've slammed a book shut, sometimes without marking my place, and thrown it to the floor when Matthew gave the tiniest indication that he needed to eat, be changed, whatever. Apparently there is one thing that can get between me and my books.

So, after two weeks with a baby, what's the score? It only took me a week to finish Harry Potter, I got through the Runner's World, and I've made it through the "Talk of the Town" section of two New Yorkers. Not bad, considering how limited my reading time actually is these days and that my free time is also spent catching up on sleep and cleaning the house in preparation for my family's upcoming visit.

My friend Michelle told me she was envious that I get to be home with my baby for the whole summer, although she acknowledged it's not like I'm sitting by the pool reading all day. True, I'm not lounging by the pool, book in one hand and baby in the other, devouring a book a day, but I'm reading enough. Enough to keep my sanity and, hopefully, enough to be setting a good example for Matthew.