Fatherhood, Libraryland, and Other Incomplete Thoughts

I managed to make it through the whole month of March without noting that it was the six year anniversary of this blog. Well, without publically noting, like I am doing right now. It’s a bit of a wild ride down memory lane to look at those blog posts in hindsight; the different styles of blogging that I was trying, the speed and sheer volume of blog posts I posted at the time, and the development of many professional and personal issues in those short years.

When I started writing here, I had only been a employed librarian for eighteen months, married to my first wife, and living in my grandmother’s house after she had passed. Now, I am the head of reference in my hometown (where I am also a resident), married to my second wife, and awaiting the arrival of our first child. The intervening years have seen awards, accolades, missteps, and recoveries, personally accepted as natural ups and downs within the rhythm of life.

In taking personal inventory, it’s undeniable that library, librarians, and library issues have been downgraded as a priority in my life. It’s not that they aren’t important, but they no longer take precedence over other aspects of my life. I can’t tell if this is simply a product of different life priorities, the change in the online librarian world, the history and experience of the past few years, or a combination of everything. I’m blinded by the bias of being in the center of my own personal world, making all measurements as they relate to myself. So I can just try to speak as plainly as possible and muddle through all of the things going through my head.

Fatherhood, so far, has been exciting. Yes, an astute observer may note that I am not the one carrying the child, a biology impossibility that was determined a long time ago by evolution. But, for me, the sentimental emotions I have been experiencing towards this tiny unborn person are ones that I haven’t had in a very long time. I feel hopeful without the looming specter of depression, excited without antagonizing my anxiety, and just (for lack of a better expression) a more complete person. I don’t lay awake at night anymore, pondering my mortality in the company of philosophical demons prodding me with insecurity. It’s a peace of mind that I have not had in a very long time.

I wouldn’t say that I don’t have concerns and fears, but I feel like I have some perspective on them. It’s hard to torment oneself with questions like “what kind of man will he become?” when the most immediate developmental benchmark will be when he is able to hold up his own head. I can worry about the former, but the latter is the more pressing concern. I can’t let myself get drawn into questions that are much further down the path when (a) the present requires more of my immediate attention and (b) there is an entire lifelong journey towards that overarching question, one that will not be answered within my lifetime.

Right now, I can say that my fatherhood is limited to hunter/gatherer mode with a side of personal maid. I get things, whether it is the phone charger from upstairs or a bag of a particular kind of chips from the local convenience store no matter what time of day. As The Wife heads into the last eight weeks, I’ve taken over most of the chores that require physical activity: vacuuming, shopping, washing dishes, etc. Since I can’t physically contribute to the growth process of our child, this is how I help out. I’ve been told this is an exception to other people’s experiences with their partner, which makes me both confused and sad to this kind of antiquated behavior. I’m sharing this not so much as a pat on my own back, but as a statement to be shown by others to get their partners more active via example and/or shaming.

Seriously, get your shit together.

In my librarylife, I’m just trying to get things completed, parked, or set on auto-pilot in preparation for Baby Woodworth. I have a couple of projects going on with NJLA that I’d like to get squared away before May; I’d like to get at least one author working on an article for the Journal of Creative Library Practice; and I have some projects at the library that will need to hit their benchmarks before the first of May. It’s fair to say that there is a lot of my plate as it is, which leaves blogging on the furthest back burner. (For the mildly curious, I’m only able to write this because I am off today and I got the time between chores.)

From my perspective, there doesn’t really seem to be same level of interest in any form of public intellectual kinds of blogs, articles, or columns anymore. It has become very niche, addressing one area of librarianship very well (such as the Storytime Underground and various book blogs). This is not a bad thing but represents the beauty of internet diversity which connects people to their specific needs. It’s only a bad thing for me, a person who likes to address broader issues that span across the professional realm. Based on my changing priorities, even that bad part happens to be convenient.

Perhaps, as my cynical heart tells me, there is a boredom factor to what appears to be the inherent cycle of libraryland topics. The value of the degree, the condition of the job market, the apparent inability to act on basic principles and fundamental values, and other issues operate on a biblio-celestial calendar. They zoom into sight, remarked upon at length, then slingshot their way back into the depths of rhetoric space, doomed to their eventual return trajectory. Even antagonists like Kleinman follow a Mobius strip of stale accusations, attempting to build mountains out of molehills anthills in a vain attempt for an iota of legitimacy. I just can’t keeping repeating the same discussions, arguments, and interactions without feeling like I’m in a constant state of moving old bones to new graves even before the grass has grown on the current one. It’s worse than insanity, it’s a Sisyphean hell of our own making and choosing. I’d like to think I’m making a difference in moving those conversations along, but it feels more like a reinforcement of the status quo.

But, then again, maybe I’m wrong.

In closing, I can say that after six years, I may have the least amount of certainty where this blog is going. I do want to write about fatherhood as it develops for me. I’m coming up on one year in my position and I have many reflections about becoming a supervisor. So there is content ahead, but who knows when it will appear. In the meantime, I thank everyone for their support, comments, and their readership.

I’ll see you around.

Fatherhood (So Far, So Good)

Last week, we had the anatomy scan for The Wife’s pregnancy. For those unfamiliar with what this entails, it is an assessment that is done about halfway through a pregnancy in which they take a look at the development of the internal organs, measure the limbs, and examine the baby from top to bottom. It’s a milestone in the pregnancy, one that is both exciting and stressful since you see how things are progressing while on edge that a problem (however remote a chance) might appear.

Unlike previous ultrasounds where the sonogram images of The Baby were pretty obvious within moments, this one took some time to figure out what gray blob was what. The previously laid out figure was now scrunched up, legs and arms drawn up into the perfectly literal example of the fetal position. Add in the jerky movement of these body parts and the picture took awhile for a layman like myself to discern what exactly is on the screen.

Eventually, all of the requisite baby parts were observed, recorded, and examined, despite the best effort of our unborn son who can magically sense the position of the ultrasound apparatus in order to avoid it. Seriously, this unborn child has made ultrasound technicians chase him around The WIfe’s belly despite his limited movements options. Even when “cornered”, to use the term loosely, he has drawn up his hands over his face like a boxer covering up. He is just like his mother already: stubborn and not interested in getting his picture taken.

But in that brief moment when the technician got his facial profile on the screen, I could feel my heart leap in my throat. For all the things I couldn’t make out on the computer screen, this was one I recognized immediately. My mind soared at the sight of this little grainy face on the screen. It was an emotional moment, the impossible one to describe, but brought clarity to some of the experiences I have been told by other fathers. I now knew what they meant.

I’m certainly not the first to say or think this, but fatherhood in utero still remains a state of mind. Aside from these sonogram images, it can feel like a pretty remote experience at times. I can observe The Wife and how things change for her as the baby develops. I can talk to her about how she is feeling and what sensations she can feel going on now that we are solidly into the second trimester. But it’s still a very much mental, a contrast of knowing what is going on but not being able to see it which traditionally doesn’t always jibe well for my brain.

To the outside world, the only thing I can do when it comes to the baby is talk about him. As an expectant father, it’s hard not to sound like a North Korean press release when talking about the baby. (“Baby Woodworth, under the superior guidance of The Wife supported by The Father, continues along the fabled path of his remarkable genetic destiny!”) Furthermore, there really isn’t much to go on either. I found myself proudly relating how much fetal weight estimate to coworkers (in addition to the aforementioned ultrasound story). There is going to be a healthy dose of irony for being excited that my kid has a bladder which I will shortly become very familiar with in the next three years (give or take). I’m excited for everything going on at the moment, but it’s hard to make anything resembling a conversation for a stage of human development that is basically eating, sleeping, and kicking the crap out of The Wife’s immediate internal organs. And yet, I look at the sonogram prints and smile like a goofy idiot. I just can’t help it.

For my part, I’ve done my best to support The Wife through a very tiring first trimester and a getting better second. Perhaps I am going back to my days of living with my grandmother when I went into caretaker mode. Even before the pregnancy, we both did the housework; I’d like to think we are a modern couple that way. With her energy levels low, for now whatever housework that needs to be done, I do it. I love her and I want to do these things for her so that she has time to rest and relax.

I’m writing that last part here not because I want to toot my own horn (ok, maybe a little ego in there), but that I’m was shocked to find that I was in a minority of husbands who do this for their wives. I felt naive when this was related to me; I would have thought that because you love your partner that you would want to do these kinds of things for them. But the old gender roles still hang on, perhaps diminished in the last fifty years but nowhere near destroyed. I feel stupid writing out a truth that one gender knows pretty damn well, but if this post can be shown to the husbands to the world to shame motivate them into action, then I hope it helps.

It’s hard to think that we have arrived at the halfway mark for the pregnancy, but the time continues shrink towards the due date. We are now faced with, well, everything left to do. Pediatricians to interview, nursery to ready, birthing classes to take, and what can only feel like a million little details to handle between now and mid-May. I really don’t know what to expect; it is both exciting and terrifying all at once. Furthermore, the idea that Baby Woodworth may read this as a remembrance of his dear old dad pushes the surreal factor through the roof. I don’t have much to say to that except a few heartfelt things:

I hope I did well. I love you. And fatherhood is the best thing in my life right now, even though it remains abstract waiting on reality. So far, so good.