i have a lot of feelings

feelings

Ever since being pregnant, and birthing a baby, and being a mom, there’s a lot of extra hormones raging around inside my body. I cry a lot. I’ve always cried– like at the movies or on the NYC Subway. But now I cry more, and from the faintest hint of any commercial involving babies (the first time Giles successfully put Cheerios in his mouth I cried retroactively at every Cheerios commercial I’ve ever seen). When we first brought Giles home I cried every evening at 5:00 sharp. For two months.

Sometimes I am crying about more than what it appears I am crying about.

Luckily, Greg often seems to understand exactly what it is I’m really upset about. Sometimes he doesn’t know, so he asks. Sometimes he puts a bowl of cereal in front of me because he knows I am actually just hungry.

bananas

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The top photo is me as a baby, and the bottom one is Giles.

“It’s crazy how much you still look exactly the same,” my sister wrote on Gchat when I sent her this picture combo.

The older Giles gets, the more I see myself in him. Of course, yes, he looks so much like Greg. But those eyes. He has my eyes. And my hair. And are those my ears? I can see pieces of both Greg and I, and other family members, but there is also something that is just Giles. He is already himself and that’s incredibly special to watch.

I was talking to my sister yesterday, and saying how excited I am for her to see Giles’ daily life when she visits next: waking up, eating with him, doing bedtime. And she said, “It’s really good you are a mom.” It’s true. I get a lot of joy out of these small daily things. Because really they are not small. This tiny human is growing and changing and learning every single minute. Our little family of three is the most important thing in my life, the best thing. Creating it brings me deep joy. I’m reminded constantly of my family when I was little– growing up with “four wheels on the car” as we called it. Playing games together, cooking, eating, hiking, camping, dancing in the living room. As I read to Giles favorite books from my childhood, I can hear my mom’s voice and cadence reading the same words.

There are moments when I don’t love it. Or, I still love it, but I am exhausted or sad or lonely or the hours are dragging by and I haven’t had a minute to myself or its’ too cold to leave the house and I’m going crazy. There are moments when I miss my perky D cup breasts (they seem so small and so long ago!), and my strong flat stomach, and my pretty dresses that hang in the closet but I can’t wear and may never wear again. There are moments when I am heavy with the weight of responsibility for this lovely young life, hoping I am doing all the right things. There are moments when my own small self feels lost or neglected or gone completely.

Being a mom is hard. If you know a mom, especially a new one, please be really nice to her.

Parenting articles are always popping up on my Facebook news feed. “15 Scary Things Evert New Parent Does That Will Destroy Their Baby” or “10 Foods You Should Have Never Eaten In Your Life Or Your Breastmilk Will Be Forever Tainted.” I used to read them, thinking there was information there that I had a responsibility to learn. Maybe there are things I am doing that I don’t know are bad! But I don’t read them anymore. They are terrible. And dumb. And stupid. They make me feel guilty and worried and I’m already worried/guilty/tired/stressed ALL THE TIME. It’s enough.

I’m enough. Keep repeating that. I’m enough. 

 

getting the call

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I expected to test positive, but the news still felt emotional. Knowing for sure that my mom had the gene mutation, wishing we could have found out sooner, not knowing if it would have made any difference. The idea that I may have passed this on to Giles. My future babies.

Now I can get early screenings and do all the things I need to do. If I ever get cancer it will be diagnosed as early as possible, and that’s what saves lives (not any kind of “cure”). But I will always be waiting. I’ll get tested and tested and hopefully I will always be fine. But. But. But.

Next come the appointments. A High Risk Breast Clinic and the Dana Farber Li Fraumeni Clinic. Attempting breast self-exams while full of milk and tender. Mammograms. Breast MRIs. Other screenings. I’ve filled out my family history so many times already, can’t they just send it to each other? Faxing, scanning, calling. Holding a baby and talking on the phone: his gurgles and “ba ba ba” sounds in one ear, the nurses and receptionists in the other.

I’ll probably be fine. I am fine.

LFS mutant ninja turtles.

 

 

genes

tp53

I’ll be posting more comics about this soon, but just to explain briefly what this is: TP53 is a gene that helps fight cancer. Having this particular mutation that runs in my family (which is also called Li Fraumeni Syndrome) means it’s easier to get cancer. It doesn’t mean I definitely will get it, it just means I have a higher chance than the average person.

I made this comic before having the test myself, so I didn’t know if I would have it or not. Rather than leave you in suspense until I finally have time to post the next few comics, I will just tell you now that I do have the gene mutation. This means my mom had it too, but they weren’t testing for it in 2011 when she had her genetic testing. I have lots of feelings, and will get into that more later. For now, I just wanted to get the ball rolling and start posting these new comics, and maybe write a little bit too about my experiences with all the testing, etc.

 

2016

This is the year my baby was born.

Everything is connected to that: I quit my job, became a full-time artist. Let go of a lot of things. Learned to make do with very little sleep, accepted that I will probably never get all the things done that I want to get done. I pushed my body to the furthest physical extreme possible and I am okay. I learned about pain. I fell in deeper love with my husband, learned more about intimacy and partnership. Bought a house. Made that house a home. Made new friends. Friendships I already had became closer and deeper. My body changed. My mind changed. Everything changed.

I am 31-years-old.

I’m anxious about where things are going politically in our country, and doing my best to make revolution in my own small ways. I’m recognizing that these problems have been here a long time, and we are all responsible for making them better. I am a feminist now more than ever.

I am trying to be better. But also kinder to myself and knowing that where I am, who I am, is enough, is good, is wonderful in fact.

I am trying to say “sorry” less.

I am cooking more.

If something scares me I am doing it anyway.

I am ignoring parenting books/articles.

I am grieving.

I am reminding myself how to live with uncertainty, how to be open, how to let the light in.

 

birth story comic part 2

(Read the first four pages here.)

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birth-story-6

Something that really surprised me about labor: I had an epidural but STILL felt SO MUCH PAIN. The drugs gave me a five hour break which was totally pain free, but then all the pain came back. Once I hit 8cm dilated I felt EVERYTHING. I didn’t understand those women who say, “Oh, I don’t want the epidural because I want to really feel the experience of giving birth.” Here I was, epidural-ed up, and FEELING the experience way more than I wanted to. Turns out, epidurals are different for everyone. Some people are pain free throughout labor, others feel more pain with the epidural, and for some it doesn’t work at all.

I was also surprised at how hard it was to push correctly. I sort of felt how I needed to push, I felt like I had to poop really badly, but I didn’t seem to be pushing the baby out (although I did poop quite a lot). It took SO LONG to move him down that birth canal. I had no idea pushing could take so long. After an hour I was no closer to holding my baby.

I really thought I couldn’t do it. I wondered how I could have gotten myself into this situation– something I clearly couldn’t handle and wasn’t doing right.

Looking back almost seven months later, I can no longer feel the pain in my body when I think about giving birth. Our bodies don’t remember pain fully, as a survival instinct, but in the weeks and first months afterwards I couldn’t think about the experience without shivering. Some physical memory remained underneath my skin, in my muscles. At my six week postpartum check up I had to lay back with my feet in the stirrups so the midwife could examine me. As soon as my body assumed this position I started crying. Greg immediately came to my side, held my hand. The midwife asked if she was hurting me, and I say no, it was an emotional reaction.

To be continued.

songs

Even in utero my baby loved music. When I played ukulele or guitar, the instrument pressed against my belly, he’d kick and roll. At a Bruce Springsteen concert he went nuts during Because The Night.

Yesterday I was playing around on the ukulele while Giles jumped in his bouncer. His face lit up watching my fingers on the strings and the sounds they produced. Using three simple chords I started making up lyrics, singing to that smiling face. Somehow I wrote a song. And then another one.

They are simple, and recorded on Garage Band during nap time (you might be able to hear faint crying in the background):

In many ways my creative energy has been channeling itself into being a mom. Making each day special and fun and productive with little Giles, watching him develop and trying to help him learn things. Surviving (and even thriving?) on way too little sleep. I’ve even been learning to cook new dishes, doing house projects, organizing and reorganizing closets and shelves until finally someday (I hope) the towels/blankets/sheets/napkins/etc. will fit just right and even look cool or whatever. My Life is my Art, and this has always been true but is true in a new way now that I’m a mom.

Once a week I have art time for a few hours while Greg’s mom takes Giles. This is a gift, to have this time. And while a lot of my art is about being a mom, I haven’t found a way to make art with Giles. When he’s older we will do projects together, and I look forward to that. But then I wrote those songs yesterday. I made something, some art, with my baby, and it’s also something for him. He brought it out of me. I had never written a song before, but it’s something I’d been wanting to do ever since I taught myself to play guitar almost six years ago. Giles opened the door.

Having a baby deepens my art in ways I don’t even know about yet.