Learning to Read

I’m learning to read again.

Not that I ever forgot how to translate letters into words into ideas.

But the past two years–two years almost exactly–I’ve been so consumed by the whole baby thing that I’ve hardly had the focus to read. Baby brain is real, friends. It’s, by far, hands down, my least favorite pregnancy symptom. And I had it much worse with Ely than I did with my own babies.

Before I started IVF meds, I had months when any moment of quiet was filled with a loud crowd of thoughts, mostly along the lines of–Am I out of my mind? Is this going to be okay? Is this the right choice? And then when the meds started, immediately, they came along with some serious brain fog and mood swings.

I had trouble concentrating, which is often a depression symptom for me–or is it a cause? A vicious cycle, anyway. I did manage to get some reading done, on all my travels and in all my nights of insomnia. I read a door-stopper double-biography of Antony and Cleopatra. It just took forever and I forgot half of what I read and had to go back.

And then after Ely was born, I had pumping brain, which is one of those things that I forgot about, or thought had to do with parenting a newborn, but actually has to do with lactating. I’m not sure what it is, but the hormones make it so hard to concentrate. Other friends have told me they experienced the same thing. Even though I was stuck in one spot for 3-4 hours per day, which could have been excellent reading time, I just couldn’t focus enough to read with pleasure and depth. I spent WAY too much time scrolling through Facebook because even a New Yorker article was too much for me to process. Bite-sized status updates were all I could possibly handle.

I also had some intense aphasia during those months; I couldn’t remember words for concepts that I wrote my master’s thesis about. I felt incredibly stupid.

But now, friends. Now.

I quit pumping at the beginning of August.

And I started reading.

I’m back to that kind of depth and book coma feeling that I remember from when I was Silas’ age and would just fall into a book and lose track of the world beyond the pages. It feels so good.

In 2018, according to my GoodReads profile, I’ve read 16 books (I don’t track ones that I read to my kids, in which case, hundreds) in 2018. Twelve of those are just in the past three months. Six of them are in August and the first couple days of September.

I’m reading nonfiction and getting a glimpse of the world through others’ eyes. Memoir, wonky policy books, history. I’m reading novels, for the first time in forever. I’ve reread several plays that have been on my mind to check in and ask whether I still love them as much as I did once (I do!).

I’m rediscovering a joy I had forgotten existed. Pure delight.


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