So at 24 I moved far away with my husband and baby daughter. I made friends through a play group, which is really out of character for me. I’m shy and introverted, but I answered an ad in the Pennysaver written by someone with a 9-month-old who wanted to form a playgroup. Erika was 13 months, and I called and asked if that was too old. It wasn’t, and I began a relationship with the women who would be my best friends during that time, and who would stand in for my family.
I went to AA meetings, at least once a week. I don’t remember precisely, but I may have taken the baby to every meeting I went to. I was very attached to that baby! I breast fed and co-slept, and I didn’t leave her with anyone except her father, and only briefly. He was in the program also (that’s how we met), and he had a year more sober time than me. He went to meetings also and even took the baby once or twice.
Erika was a good baby and toddler, but she was a baby. Before I moved, when I was pregnant and then had a newborn up to 13 months old, I always took her to meetings with me. Sometimes I sat her stroller in the circle of chairs at my women’s meeting. An AA friend, someone who helped me immeasurably during the first part of breast feeding, would often hold Erika for me if we were at meetings together. This friend had four children, the youngest about four years older than Erika. As Erika got to be an older baby, this friend would amuse her if she could.
I had many tricks for keeping her quiet at meetings. I had a special bag of toys that was only for meetings. I let her rummage my purse under supervision. I walked and rocked and did everything but breast feed. I was too shy. I got over that when my second was born.
Erika first pulled herself up to standing using a piece of furniture at my women’s meeting. Once in church, when she was older, she heard the Lord’s Prayer and told me, “Mommy, they’re saying our prayer!”
I am eternally grateful to all the people who put up with my child at AA meeetings. I always tried to be courteous and take her out if she fussed. My ex told me that at a men’s meeting, someone commented to him about bringing Erika. They couldn’t curse as usual with a little girl there. There’s a meeting in my area now that says in the meeting list “no kids.” I haven’t been to it. I won’t be going to it.
One place I lived when my son was young had a “bring your kids” meeting. It was in the day time, so the kids would have been less than school aged, and my son was actually the one kid there. It met in a church nursery with toys, and when it had to be moved the members schlepped toys from the nursery for my son.
It’s my opinion, but I think that AA meetings should welcome children. No one brings a baby or child because it’s a nice family activity. They bring them because they have to. Years later, when I had moved back home and my kids were older, someone at the same women’s meeting had a baby, and I loved to hold the baby for her so she could listen and have arms free. To me, the parent of a young child is one of the most important people in the world to have sober.
Sometimes I try to imagine for a minute what life would have been like for my kids if I had drank. Awful, awful, awful. I’m biased, of course, but in addition to my sobriety, I hope that the way I’ve been in the world, the way AA has taught me to be, has benefitted them as well.