Author Archives

Jill Christman is the author of two memoirs and essays in magazines such as Brevity, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, River Teeth, TriQuarterly, True Story, and O, The Oprah Magazine. She teaches creative nonfiction writing at Ball State University where she is a senior editor at River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative ( and executive producer of Indelible ( Visit her at and @jill_christman.

Borrowed Babies

Archival photographs courtesy of the New York State College of Home Economics records, #23-2-749. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library, Ithaca, NY.

Jill Christman | Iron Horse Literary Review | Spring 2013 | 41 minutes (8,219 words)


Cooking, the science of foods, budget-making, house beautifying, dressmaking and a knowledge of textiles, all of these subjects have been considered essential to the teaching of home economics but the art of babies has until this late date been left to theory, and Providence. Now, however, schools of home economics are adding a new branch of study to their curriculum—practical mothercraft. —“Apprenticing for Motherhood,” Today’s Housewife (July 1924)


Just weeks after the level-two ultrasound, almost five months pregnant, I booked a ticket to Syracuse, New York, where I was to pick up a rental at the airport and drive up to Ithaca. I had a grant to do research in the human ecology archives of the Cornell library, and I was scheduled to be there for three weeks. Alone. Ithaca is lovely in the summer, I told myself, and archives are like treasure hunts for nerdy people.

I should have been giddy with anticipation, but I was not. I was miserable and terrified and lonely. I didn’t want to go. Now, I recognize this as one of the most unstable times of my life, hormonally speaking, and with all of the chemical changes happening inside my body, I couldn’t cope with change on the outside. I wanted to hunker down. I wanted a box of Wheat Thins, some lemonade with fizzy water, my couch, my dogs, my husband Mark, and another episode of The Baby Story. 

Read more…