Congratulations Lizzie and Alexander and your beautiful new baby. You made an awesome family. Great work. I love you guys. Giving birth is punk AF and we look gorgeous AF while we do it.
Being a mom is so complex. I am so in love, and deep parts of myself that have been waiting are coming to the surface and blooming. Being a mom is something I’ve always wanted.
But there are moments, sometimes whole days, when I feel completely overwhelmed and like my whole existence is dedicated to this tiny human and there’s none left over for me.
Sometimes I cry a lot.
Sometimes Giles smiles and my whole being melts.
Sometimes I want to ask for help and I don’t know how. Or I want so badly to figure it out for myself, do it my own way, that I just don’t want anyone’s help.
I try to take a few minutes each day to do something that makes me feel like myself. And I try to let other people help me. It’s good for Giles and me to have breaks from each other, for him to be with other people and for me to be by myself. I’ve always needed alone time and being a mom doesn’t make that go away.
I’m still navigating this. How to be a mom and be a wife and be me and be an artist and do all the things. We’ll figure it out. As a family. I think I’m doing pretty okay so far.
This photo is from August 1, 2013, the first night Greg and I spent in our apartment on Hoxsey Street. Today we are officially moved out, and moved into our first house.
That apartment was the first place we lived together. It’s where we lived when we got engaged. It’s where we spent our wedding weekend with several guests staying over in every nook and cranny– one of the best weekends of my life. It’s where we grew our family by adding two kittens, and also where we learned our family would be growing even more with the addition of a human baby. The first home Giles ever had. The first place I lived in that my mom never saw.
I never thought I’d buy a house. From my first night in New York City at age eighteen I knew I’d be an apartment gal for life, always renting, always ready to be on the move, not having to fix things like plumbing, calling the electric company when the pilot light went out.
Greg convinced me a house was the right move, and I started to understand why it might be nice. Rent money just disappears, this is an investment. More space for cats and babies. A yard. Painting the walls any crazy color I want. Putting more of ourselves into our space.
Now all our stuff is here, in our house. The walls are painted. Greg is hard at work on remodeling projects. The neighborhood is full of kids and quiet and crickets and an ice cream truck that comes around.
My mom’s paintings are hung. I hope she’s here, in the brightly colored walls and skeletons and songs and food we will eventually cook once the kitchen is done.
In both of these photos I am wearing the same pair of choo-choo overalls, that once belonged to my mom, now cutoff into shorts.
My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams.
~ Mr. Plumbean (The Big Orange Splot)
Trying to love the body that made my baby and pushed him out. In some moments succeeding. In others feeling strange and not myself, so so far away from myself. Last summer I finally found a bathing suit I really liked and this summer it doesn’t fit. I also found the best jeans last year (a constant struggle for one with long, wide hips) and now they are useless to me. oh how i finally felt in those jeans. I am cutting up and trying to fix clothes so they will fit this body now. I am cutting in fits of hormones and making mistakes.
My body grew a human being and push him out and I love him more than anything on this whole planet.
My body is everything right now. It is food for the baby, comfort for the baby, a body to lie on, a body to be held by. My body is a kind of machine. A marvel of nature. Resilient. Healing. Consumed by hormones. did i mention hormones?
But where am I in this body? What is my relationship to it now that I cannot do things like crunches or leg lifts or anything involving lower abdominals? not that i was like huge into leg lifts but like, i could do them, you know? Now that I cannot fit into my clothes. Now that my once proud belly is a totally different belly that I don’t know how I feel about showing off to the world. I want to. I want to, I want to wear my crop tops and be a shining light for all the postpartum women’s bodies that are squishy and zebra-lined with stretch marks and breasts that are not the same breasts we once had breasts we can barely hold up the weight of in un-sexy nursing bras! seriously though can someone design better nursing bras, better nursing and postpartum clothes, better so many things.
My body does not feel like mine. Sometimes it feels more mine than ever after doing such a strong and crazy hard and scary and beautiful thing as giving birth. That was MY pain. MY story. MY blood and shit and pee and sweat and muscles and pushing. But also this body belongs to the new human being that I am responsible for keeping alive. My body is two bodies. The one that is me feels like a shadow.
I know getting a mammogram doesn’t really mean I will get diagnosed with cancer. I know this. Getting mammograms regularly and doing self exams is how they would diagnose breast cancer early enough that my survival chances would be much better. And maybe I will never get cancer, that’s also a possibility.
I think I will always be waiting for that shoe to drop, in the back of my mind. Grasping on the edge of fear every time my breasts are squished between two glass plates, worrying that this mammogram might be The Mammogram. Every time I prod my breasts with my fingers in a circular pattern, dreading the possibility of A Lump.
I know that I am not guaranteed to get breast cancer.
I’m really scared that I will. That my body will betray me. That my son will sit with me at chemo, shave my head for me, make me radiation mix tapes, hear me vomit in the middle of the night and lie awake with the terrible knowledge that his mama might die. That he’ll have to live un-mothered too young.
I want to live to be really, really old, with Greg at my side reminding me where my glasses are, getting to watch our children grow up. I want to live at the beach. I want to LIVE. Live, live live. Grow to a ripe old age. Mother my children, love my husband, document and process my experiences through art, watch all the movies, eat all the popcorn, dance with my sister, howl at the moon, love it all.
Women friends are very important to me. These portraits are mostly of local ladies who’ve come into my life in the past 5.5 years, with the exception of “Phoebe” who is my sister and has always been my best friend. Each of these women is beautiful and does important work for their community. Each of them is an artist (with food, animals, the land, plants, homemade beauty products, pottery, sewing, books, printing, photography, movies, drawing, painting, dancing, love, life). Each of them has touched my heart. Each of them inspires me. Each of them sat in front of me and let me look at them and translate what I saw onto paper.
(click on each image to see it larger.)
I’ll hopefully be exhibiting these somewhere at some point in the fall or winter.
This is the first drawing I made after giving birth:
I drew it from a photo taken of my sister cuddling with Giles on the couch. It feel so good to start doing art while being a mom since for the first few weeks I just focused on mom-ing. It’s a beautiful thing to fully be a mom, at home with Giles, completely in the moment with him. But it’s also important for me to find a way to do both art and parenting. I want to find my own way of doing this, of doing both things and letting them inform each other.
Several years ago a person I worked with said to me, seeming to read my mind, “When a woman artist has a child, it deepens her art.” At the time I was 23 or 24, already knowing I wanted this life. That statement feels even more true now that I am here.
My first portrait of Giles:
Giles is right next to me as I post this, cozy in his Rock N Play, sucking on his pacifier, watching me.