self portrait in watercolor, January 2016
My face doesn’t look that different, even though my body is 6 months pregnant and looks (and FEELS) quite different. Sometimes my face looks really tired. Sometimes my skin is blotchy, or pale, or has tiny bumps on it, and my hair is weird because I’m in the process of growing it out (again). Some days I feel so beautiful, more beautiful than I’ve ever felt. Greg tells me often that I am a gorgeous pregnant woman. But some days I feel huge and nothing fits right and my boobs hurt and my back hurts…it’s a new body every day, constantly changing.
I want to talk to my mom about all this body stuff. We used to talk about these things a lot: relating about how clothes make us feel, society’s insistence on bras and underwear, the way our bodies change as we get older and why, how we can redefine beauty at every age and even during cancer. I want to know what clothes she wore during pregnancy, how she felt, was she frustrated, how did her body change? I want her to go bra shopping with me. I want her to help me find shoes that are comfortable but also cute on my slightly swollen pregnant feet.
Today I feel good because I’m wearing my cute new overalls and a bra that actually fits (more on the maternity bra shopping experience later), and my hair is just the right amount of messy.
I don’t want to talk about this out loud, not really. Or maybe I do, all the time. I don’t want to be rude or ungrateful to anyone, all the people in my life who are there for me, and are supporting me through this pregnancy. I accept all of that with love, and I’m so grateful. But none of them is my mom. It’s always going to be hard. Every new thing starts it over again. My baby shower will be lovely, but it will be sad too. There’s no way for it not to be sad. It’s okay for it to be sad, and that doesn’t mean it’s not also happy.
I read this book, Rosalie Lightening, a graphic memoir by Tom Hart, about losing his daughter. Talking about the process of creating the book, he said:
“I felt that, to get some sort of understanding, I’d have to put everything into book form. But, you know, you quickly realize that you never ‘understand’ what happened. Instead of understanding, or something as trite as ‘moving past it,’ the best you can do, I think, is integrate the facts of what happened into your life — stop trying to deny it…”
It’s this integration that I’m trying to do. That’s what I did with making the cancer comics, and with these pregnancy comics too– all of my work in a way is trying to integrate my mom’s death into my life. I’ll never “get over it” but it can become part of my life in a way that isn’t breaking me apart every minute. Instead of struggling against it I’m struggling with it, in it. Does that make sense? It’s still hard, it’s still sad, terrible, tragic. But it has to be part of beauty too, and life.
“The Quickening” sounds like a horror movie, but what it means is the time when a woman starts to feel the movements of the baby inside her. It really is the coolest thing. Smokey kicks me, or flips over, I’m not exactly sure what he’s doing, but it feels like he’s communicating with me. Telling me he’s there, saying hi. Or just working on his movements, practicing, learning about his limbs.
Everything makes me cry lately. Even dumb commercials. Also, I liked Star Wars VII!
Greg, you are such a great husband.
We went to Chile, my dad and I, to visit my sister, Phoebe. She lives in Futaleufu, in the Patagonia region which is way down south. I was nervous to travel so far while pregnant but Smokey did great and so did I.
I love seeing Phoebe’s life. She’s made such a beautiful one.
Of course we made art together. I sketched while Phoebe painted murals in her new house, we made a mosaic together in the kitchen.
Here’s Phoebe working on her mural, looking just like our mom.
There’s a kind of magic when we’re all together.
How much does place matter, where we live? What is home? I think about these questions a lot.
Phoebe in her greenhouse, and below is her garden on her land.
Some of my drawings from the trip:
And now it’s time to begin my new beginning. It’s 2016. I’m leaving my job in six weeks. My baby will be born in four months. A whole new life full of unknowns.
Today I took Baby Smokey on his first peaceful demonstration. It was a short, quiet gathering and walk down our town’s main street, with some speakers, some poetry, orange hats and bells. We were walking to bring attention, to say that we have had enough, that we are asking questions, that something needs to be done about this gun culture, this gun violence in our country. I participated for myself, my community, my world, and my baby. I don’t ever want him to be afraid to go to school, or to a movie theater, or anywhere.
I felt a bit of Mama with me, my first activist. She brought me to Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations, Latina heritage conferences, her ESL classrooms where I met kids and their families from all over the world. She taught me that education is a better weapon than any gun, that we should not fear what we don’t understand, but instead learn. I still have her “No Nukes” pin on a corduroy jacket.
Earlier this afternoon we went to a screening of The Iron Giant at the local movie theater where I work. It was my first time seeing the film, originally from 1999, and I was enraptured. The main themes seemed to be: “don’t fear what you don’t understand,” and “you don’t have to be a gun.” Such relevant themes in our current world. The giant metal robot who is the title character is sweet and curious, but has a defense mechanism which causes him to react violently when someone points a gun at him. He automatically turns into a deadly weapon, defending himself against his attackers, and perpetuating more violence. But the hero of the story, a young boy named Hogarth, tells him, “Killing is bad. You don’t have to be a gun. You are who you choose to be.” So the giant learns to overcome his automatic reaction, instead becoming a peaceful hero– showing everyone that even though he looks big and scary, he is a kind soul who does not want to cause harm.
All of this feels so in sync, threads of a bigger idea. On Friday we found out that our little growing human is a boy. I have a son. It’s a strange phrase to utter, “I have a son.” I only really know about being a girl. My dad said to me, “Whether you and your sister were boys or girls, we wouldn’t have raised you any differently.” There is so much to teach my son, and for him to teach me. He will be the coolest boy, the most awesome boy, our boy. And I can’t wait to meet him.