Why a Geography of Motherhood?

Originally I wrote this in 2010, as I was considering starting my Honours degree on the topic. Being older, wiser and having more children, I could share so many more stories now, but I wanted to share this again because a) it makes me laugh; and b) I am thinking about going into research again. Not being in the baby stage, the challenges are different, but they haven’t gone away.

My oldest child was born during exam week. I went into labour just days after I handed my last assignment in. Being naive, I thought I would be able to do an external unit the semester after that. (Will the mothers please stop sniggering at me?)

Yes, naive, but stubborn so I went ahead. Although I didn’t have to go in to classes, eventually I had to make a trip into the library to collect a book. I loaded the bag with nappies and wipes and a change of clothes and all the other paraphernalia babies need. I looked up the exact location of the book, so all I had to do was walk in, get the book and go.

Now this little one didn’t really like the car, but he wasn’t too bad on the 4o minute trip there. We parked the car – miles away of course – and walked across campus to the library, my little bundle in his sling. (I’m naive, but not stupid. My uni was full of stairs.) Big bag over my shoulder into the library and up, I think five flights of stairs, to the section I needed.

I love university libraries. Not the closed reference section with its sleep deprived students and desperation, but the quiet shelves where the book smell can accumulate and the pages yellow gracefully in silence.

And that’s where we were when the little bundle decided he needed a feed RIGHT NOW! And he screamed. Being new to breastfeeding, and feeling a little shy, I didn’t know where to go, but I knew the screaming was more disturbing than anything else, and I wasn’t going to carry my screaming, kicking bundle down that many flights of stairs and go looking for the baby room. I jumped into an empty individual study room, shut the door, sat down and fed him. This was still early days so it involved a lot more than just popping him on but eventually the screaming stopped! He happily slurped away, noisy feeder that he was.

Then I heard a page turning. Looking around, I realised all study rooms were connected through an opening in the top of the wall, and I could clearly hear every turn of the page and shift in the seat – which meant that they could hear my little slurping boy, too. I’m pretty sure I blushed. Goodness only knows what they thought was going on.

But the little one saved the best for last, because that was when he decided to poo. I mean REALLY poo. Loudly, and in an exploding fashion. All over him. All over me. All down the leg of the chair, and yep, on the floor too.

That was when I realised universities were not set up for mothers.

Oh, and that wipes are really not much good for explosive poo.


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