Ask a Storytime Ninja: Pregnant and Storytiming

Here’s the latest Ask a Ninja question. As always, please comment if you have anything to add.

Question:

I’d love more information about being pregnant and doing storytime including adaptations, odd situations and more.

Answers:

Jennie (@kidsilkhaze) says: The nice thing about pregnancy, is the physical limitations come on gradually, so you can learn what you can and can’t do with enough time to plan around it. My big modification was just bending my knees and raising my arms instead of actually jumping. Towards the end, I made sure everything was in easy reach, because getting in and out of my chair could be a production.

The other nice thing is that many of the adults in a storytime have recently been pregnant themselves, or deal with pregnant people, so they’re very understanding. (Relatedly, they’re also the most polite. My storytime moms were the LAST people to ask me if I was expecting. Even though I was 7.5 months along and looked like I had a beach ball under my shirt. They never patted my belly or asked horrible questions.)

Anonymous says:
Before I get into my advice, congratulations! I hope you have a happy, healthy pregnancy. OK, here we go!

1) Do what you think you can handle. People will understand, most of them being moms themselves. I had to change our opening routine entirely as for years it had been very high-energy with lots of movement and I had to change it to something much more slow-paced. It was an adjustment for the kids, but a needed one. And even after I had the baby and came back to work after maternity leave, I appreciated the slower pace since I was still exhausted from sleep deprivation. If you are having a bad time with morning sickness (I once threw up moments before opening the doors for storytime!), ask your doctor about prescription or other remedies. Remember that it gets harder to breath as you get further along so you will have to be conscious of that when reading. I also had some vision difficulties while pregnant so I had to wear my glasses more

2) Prepare a scaled-back SRP. Again, you do what you have to do. My due date with my daughter was June 12th and our SRP was scheduled to start June 9th of that year. I was also the only children’s librarian. Luckily with pregnancy, you know you will need some kind of leave, so you can plan further ahead. My paraprofessional staff really stepped up and ran a decent SRP for me. We didn’t shatter any registration records or anything but there was a SRP. It was a smaller town than yours, so most people knew I would be off and there weren’t a lot of questions. But even in a big town, your regulars will know that you are on maternity leave. Remember your due date is just an educated guess! Most first time babies arrive within the week after the due date, but plenty come earlier too. You also may wind up on bed rest, so my advice is to plan far ahead and make sure multiple people know how everything is supposed to go. You may wish to scale back on programming plans for the rest of your pregnancy as well.

3) It’s best to decide now how much information you want to give out and practice making polite responses to questions that are intrusive. While pregnant, I was asked everything from were you planning children? were you on birth control? what preschool are you planning to send her to? Is your husband disappointed that the baby is not a boy? Are you planning to breast feed? After I was back from maternity leave the questions were still there: Have you given up on breastfeeding yet? etc.

4) I advise everyone to not make a firm decision about being a stay at home mom at first. You just don’t know how you’ll feel about it for sure. I know several moms who quit their jobs and then discovered that being a stay at home mom wasn’t the lifestyle for them. It can be grueling being home all day with a baby and can be an isolating choice. On the other hand, I know lots of happy SAHMs too. You can always resign later if that’s your choice. Being a full-time working mom is the right choice for me and my family, even though it’s not always easy.

Learn about Ask a Storytime Ninja and ways to participate here.

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About Kendra

Children's Librarian in the Northwest. Lover of toddlers, twitter, and TV (T's, too, apparently!).

Posted on January 14, 2014, in Ask a Storytime Ninja and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I had a really hard time doing storytime while pregnant, esp. with my first baby. I had “morning” sickness the whole time with both of them. I would take snacks into storytime and eat in between stories, during recorded songs, etc. because it was one of the only things that made me feel like I wasn’t about to puke. My boss taught me the fake jumping technique that someone else mentioned: standing on your tiptoes and swinging your arms instead of actually jumping. I tend to have very active storytimes, and I moved towards more sedate songs, rhymes, etc. I developed a major joint/back problem that made a wide range of motions painful. I just kept telling myself that to be able to do storytimes after having a baby, I needed to keep doing them while pregnant. But I won’t lie. I’m much happier to do them not pregnant. 🙂 And the other folks are right. Storytime parents are a very kind audience…and sometimes they will even give you their old baby stuff. I’ve gotten maternity clothes, floor tiles, a stroller, etc. So that was nice.

  2. In addition to the suggestions above, I’d add just a couple of items. I was worried about having morning sickness during storytime, so I made sure to have plenty of water and crackers on hand, as well as make a clear path to the door. I made an aisle out of masking tape down the middle of the room. Since the families didn’t know about my condition yet, I just told them it was for safety reasons. I’ve kept the aisle, even though I’m out of that stage, because it’s much safer for me to walk through the room without worrying about tripping on anyone.

    If you’re like me and like to sing (loudly) during storytime, keep in mind that your breath control might be a little off during the first and third trimesters. Make sure you find more places to take in more air and/or sing slower songs. Warming up properly is key here, too.

    At one point I realized that there would be no more sitting on the floor for me. It was hard, since I liked being down on their level. I also have found that I can’t do the more difficult songs like “Head and Shoulders” (it is not possible for me to touch my feet anymore!).

    The caregivers are going to want to know what’s going to happen when you’re on maternity leave, how long you’ll be out, if you’re planning to return to work, etc. Be prepared for a lot of those questions! If you know that you’ll have a replacement coming in, reassure the caregivers that your replacement is excellent and they’ll be in good hands.

    Some caregivers will tell the children what’s going on, some won’t. I’ve had many a strange look from preschoolers who can’t comprehend that there’s a baby in there, so be prepared for skepticism. I plan on giving a baby themed storytime to help ease the children into my absence, too.

    And lastly, plan ahead for the situations you can control. I am not the type to do this, but I knew that it would be unfair to my replacement if I went into labor early and had nothing ready. So, for the first time in my life, I actually have six weeks of storytimes planned out and all ready to go, just in case.

    Good luck! I hope your pregnancy goes smoothly!

  3. Seconding some things others have said:

    -I moved from sitting on the floor to sitting on a chair when I got bigger.
    -Harder to catch your breath when singing.
    -During first trimester (or if you’re sick throughout) make sure to snack throughout the morning before storytime so you’re not going in on an empty stomach (and more likely to feel sicker).
    -In general, as a pregnant person working in a public setting, lots of people are going to feel as though they can ask you personal questions, and lots of other parents will over-share: birth stories, pregnancy experiences, tons and tons of unsolicited advice. I just tried to take it all with a grain of salt. I shared what I was comfortable sharing, and when my daughter was born, put pictures up on the children’s desk, per the request of many patrons.

  4. I’m not the original person who asked this question, but I wanted to say this is great advice everyone and this is the type of stuff that you don’t think about until you need and then it’s really hard to find, so a great thing for Storytime Underground to talk about. Have the Chiefs thought about adding a picture to their ninja posts so people can pin them and save for later use?

  5. Great advice! I have been through two pregnancies while doing story times within the last five years. Two more things to add. First, make sure to check with your doctor or midwife about the amount of lifting he/she wants you to do. We had pretty heavy tables during my pregnancies and my doctor didn’t want me setting them up or taking them down. I dealt with this by 1) limiting the number of tables and chairs I set out–just 3 chairs for adults who need them, a table at the front and a table with pamphlets and nametags, everyone else was on carpet squares on the floor with me. And 2) Getting help! Your co-workers will be understanding and will help if you ask. I had a page that I paid in nametags for his help with tables each week.
    Second, be wary of testing out interesting solutions to your transition wardrobe needs on story time days. I remember one story time where I was wearing a belly band over unbuttoned pants that could have turned into an embarassing situation had I not been wearing a long t-shirt and managed to turn around and adjust multiple times.
    I did baby and toddler story times and found the moms and caregivers to be very friendly and supportive and like others have said, more polite than most other strangers (or patrons).
    And congratulations to the original poster!

  6. At a previous library job, I found out I was pregnant a week after I was hired to be a part time children’s department assistant. When I went to the doctor, I found out my due date was the FIRST DAY OF SUMMER READING. My supervisor was a bit, shall we say, upset? I took my full maternity leave, much to the dismay of my supervisor…and summer reading was as enjoyable for everyone as it always had been. The moral of the story: Summer reading, storytime, and the universe, will go on while you’re on leave. Take time off and don’t be anxious because events won’t go horribly awry when you’re cuddling with your sweet baby.

  7. This is SO TIMELY, so thank you all for your awesome responses. I’m new to this blog, but so far it’s been such a fabulous source of support and information. I’ve been working as a part-time (30 hrs) Children’s Librarian for two years now, and my due date for my first baby is June 11th–only a few days before SRP begins! I felt pretty bad about it at first, but life is what it is!

    Additionally, my storytime is with babies birth-12 mos., so I’m curious to see the response from the moms. So far nobody has noticed (or if they have, they haven’t said anything). But free stuff wouldn’t bee too bad! 😉

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