self-portrait in towel

self-portrait-in-towel

I’m changing every day. My body, my mind. I have muscles in my arms from holding Giles as he gets bigger and bigger. I weigh almost the same amount as I did six weeks postpartum, but I feel strong and good most of the time. My periods are heavy and painful (no one told me before that postpartum menstruation is its own monster), but I’m used to them now. My milk production is slowing down. I cry at the slightest provocation by commercials or songs or how every night at dinner Giles seems just a little more grown up.

We’ve started formula. Giles drank it up without hesitation. I cried during the first feeding, but also felt a little bit free. I can see the finish line of having my body back, of my breasts getting smaller, of no more nursing bras, of no more pumping…of letting go of breastfeeding. It’s a freedom, and it’s sad too. It’s our special connection, our thing that no one else is part of. But we’ll find other things.

My hair is longer. I am less tired than I was a few months ago (still tired, just not as overwhelmingly so). It’s amazing how it really does get “easier,” although “easier” is the wrong word. It gets “different,” just like with anything. It changes. I know Giles better, and he knows me better. He starts to become a functional person– sitting up, crawling, kneeling next to the box of toys and picking out what he wants, pulling up to standing. He says “Mama” and “Dada” and other increasingly complex talking sounds. He and my dad have their own language– staring and smiling and making funny sounds at each other.

My grief continues to get “different,” and not at all easier. Missing my mom is part of my day, part of everything I do. Giles’ eyes have taken on a quality that her eyes had. It strikes me sometimes. He will look at a photo of her hanging on the wall and smile with recognition. He stares at her paintings and pumps his arms with excitement. I cry and cry. Sometimes I feel lost. Sometimes I am okay.

 

 

 

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baby heart self portrait

baby heart self portrait

One day in December my OB called me. She had looked at the scans from our 18 week ultrasound and saw a calcification in the left ventricle of our baby’s heart. When she said those words I started tearing up and my heart thumped, I thought, This is it, another thing. My baby is sick– first Lee then my mom now my baby what am I gonna do fuck fuck fuck. She said everything was probably fine, but we needed to go see a specialist in Springfield and have another ultrasound. So we went to Springfield. We sat in the ultrasound room, which wasn’t really a separate room, just three walls and then the fourth wall was a curtain drawn across to block the hallway. The room was dim, the kind of dim like when you watch a movie in school and they turn off all the lights and it makes a kind of calm. It was quiet, the sounds of people walking by and talking beyond the curtain were muffled.

The ultrasound tech came in and we got to watch our sweet baby for a while as she took some pictures. “These heart structures are perfect,” she said, “and look at that beautiful spine!” This made me feel proud. I made that heart, I grew that spine, all of it inside my own body.

The specialist doctor came in and quickly told us how common these calcifications are. “It’s ten in the morning and I’ve seen two of these already,” he said. He told us the baby is fine. Most likely, the calcification means nothing. If we showed other markers, it could be a sign of Downs Syndrome, but there weren’t other markers. He said we could have further tests if we wanted, did it matter to us if the baby had Downs? Would it change anything? No. It wouldn’t change anything. We’d still go through with the pregnancy. So, no more tests. Our baby was fine. “Nothing you did caused this, or could have prevented this,” he said before leaving.

We felt relieved afterwards, and stopped in Northampton for burgers at Local Burger, where I had Greg take a photo of me which I drew this portrait from.  Our baby is okay, I thought. I was exhausted. I wanted to remember what I looked like on this day.

“I guess this is what it’s like to be parents. We’re going to be worried forever,” I said to Greg.

my body now, part 2

self portrait with bunself 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.

self-portrait with swoopy hair

self-portrait with swoopy hair In honor of Valentine’s day, this week I will be posting stuff that has to do with love. First, and most importantly: loving oneself. Thus, a self portrait.

One of my favorite Valentine’s Days was in 2004. It was the second semester of my Freshman year of college, my first year living in New York City, I was eighteen and I was single. I’ve more often been single than coupled on Valentine’s day, and I always enjoyed it. So, on February 14, 2004 I took myself to H&M and bought myself a big bling-y ring (still have it) and then took myself to the movies. It was great. I was in love with New York, in love with myself and the person I was becoming.

I can really remember the feeling of walking around that evening, in my red parka and jeans, the rhythm of Union Square, the joy I felt for my life and for being alone at that moment.

self-portrait in purple sunglasses

self-portrait in purple sunglassesThese are my mom’s purple sunglasses. She bought them last January at Buffalo Exchange in Denver. She didn’t get to wear them for very long because by mid-February she didn’t leave the house again.

I like wearing her things. Her boots, sweaters, jackets, pants. I like clothes that mean something, that are special, that have a story, and I was with her when she bought most of these things. She was my favorite shopping partner. She was my favorite person to get an opinion from about anything. If she were still alive she’d be giving me advice on what to pack for my trip to Chile to visit my sister.

I’ll be away until the end of January, and will bring back photos, drawings, comics and stories to tell. Stay safe and warm, guys.

 

self-portrait with Brooklyn mug

self-portrait with brooklyn mugWhen I lived in Brooklyn my favorite part at the end of each day was riding the D or N train over the Manhattan bridge. In the pink twilight or pitch black that ride was magical. I like walking to work now in my current life, that I live in a small place and I can walk almost everywhere. But sometimes I miss that train– the rumbling, the anonymity, coming out of the dark tunnel onto that bridge with the lights twinkling on the water and the sky fading over the buildings.

One time on the subway I was suddenly sad and started crying. I was in college then, and had just come from a particular class that penetrated an emotional wall I didn’t quite understand. I couldn’t hold it in– these big bawling sobs were just pouring out of me. I didn’t think anyone was paying attention because crazier things than a girl crying happen on the subway all the time. After a while, a woman sitting across the car got up and walked over to me. As we pulled into a station, she handed me a packet of tissues, smiled, and got off the train. I was so stunned my crying stopped. Inside the tissues was a note.

I saved that tissue packet and note for a long time. It was one of my most human experiences.