Last August I was fortunate enough to create a phenomenal memory.
My girl was there and my wonderful Mother was there and all these other wonderful Mothers and their little Petunias and Ashlee... and Flowers.
Creator, artist, Mother, photographer, space holder, Ashlee Dean Wells passed through Reno on her amazing photography tour collecting, promoting, and working with Mothers for her 4th Trimester Bodies Project. Dean describes the purpose of her project as follows:
The project exists because humans, particularly women, are judged too crudely on the way we look and are often told we don’t measure up. Because no real person can compete with the tools in Photoshop and glossy magazine covers. And because parenthood is sacred and should be celebrated.
So basically holy shit this is amazing, right?
How could I pass up an opportunity to participate in something so needed, so revolutionary, so powerful?? So community? So body positive? So necessary??
Ashlee herself is a fierce artist and delicious soul. Well spoken and sincere, she welcomed all participants of the day to sit in an circle and open up. Mothers of all walks were there, Mothers of all struggles, denominations, stories, and paths and they all had this wild thing called 'childbirth' in common.
For those who can afford, the photos and time and session did cost an absolutely reasonable amount money. I applied for and was awarded a scholarship to participate. This alone blew my mind. The fact that there were gifted/donated spots in her photography session set aside for struggling Mothers.... endeared me right away to this woman and her art.
Participants were allowed to bring along a fellow helper to help wrangle child as necessary so naturally I brought my Mom. Considering that without her love and support there would be no We, I thought it was fitting. Plus, she's my main Mama, my buddy, my rock--she's in this story as it's happened AND being written.
So of course.
And share we did, each person and partner was welcomed to tell the tale of how their Motherhood came to be and it was enlightening and powerful. Birthing trauma, infant loss, marital struggles, family issues--we all had our share of weight. We all have our share of disappointments and triumphs when it comes to upgrading into Motherhood and to be able to sit in a safe, loving, and open space and share and support was priceless.
We all were struggling to fit in this new role of Mother emotionally and physically.
And that's why we were there.
To document, to prove, to witness, to see.
To be photographed, to be remembered, to embrace and support.
To love ourselves, love our bodies, and love our kiddos.
I'm very grateful for the opportunity to be able to participate. The photos came out phenomenal.
Keep an eye out for Ashlee and check her tour dates to see if she's coming to a city near you. Congratulations to her and Flowers on their newest addition xo
Click around on her website and donate.
When you’re a working artist, maternity leave doesn’t exist. Help a Mama out.
Below are links to Ashlee's magic--have a look yourself:
Sorry for not posting the last few weeks, my sugar dumplings. I haven’t even been able to brush my teeth...which reminds me, I hafta cancel my dentist appointment. And hair appointment. And breastfeeding class...and baby shower.
I am only posting this for posterity. I haven’t told friends or some family members cuz...there’s no point and I don’t wanna be one of those “woe is me” martyr types. Doesn’t suit me. My smile is too nice for that.
Saturday morning, two weeks ago, my adorable Mom requested we do another driving dry run to my birth hospital so she could reabsorb the lay of the route and land. Considering she’s my getaway baby driver, this is not a request to ignore. If you know my Mom or have a Mom, you’ve witnessed the dangers, frustrations, and worry of Mom Driving. It can be a real challenge for all parties involved. Moms often utilize backwards routes, attempts to turn only to be somehow thwarted, routinely drive around the block so as to confirm and reconfirm destination certainty, and most Moms express the need for the passenger to not sigh, squirm, make a face, or comment on drivers' skill... which makes the entire event high risk.
So when Mom expresses a need to re-digest a vehicular situation of importance, we encourage a patient slow chew.
Furthermore, for the last three ish weeks I’ve had consistently awful rib pain. Front, middle back, throbbing. It’s kept me up at night, annoyed me in the day, and confused me... I’ve iced it, I’ve heated it, I’ve massaged it, and inquired the Googs and my Doc and other preggo ladies for wisdom. No avail.
I was told and figured it was just pregnancy irritation and par for the third trimester course.
Bummer, but manageable.
When Mom mentioned she wanted the dry run, I thought it’d be a good chance to get that checked out...ease my mind a little.
So off we went.
And there I stayed.
Four days later in the antepartum wing, hooked up, drugged, exhausted, stinky and trying to halt preterm labor.
After arriving safely via Mom driving, we waddled up to L&D and we’re met by fresh faced, lovely nurses who basically said they can’t tell me squat without getting officially checked in.
I was hooked up to baby heartbeat monitor and contraction monitor and, well, monitored.
For a long time.
A really long time.
I was seen by Nurse 1 who, after 6-7 hours of monitoring, noticed I was having contractions. Big ish ones, every 2-5 minutes...that I could NOT FEEL.
Nurse 1 checked my junk and said, “yep, 1-2 dilated, 70% effaced...”
In comes Doctor 1 and shots and panic and meds and surprise and off I was wheeled to admitting and a labor room.
Nurse 2 checked my junk and said, “yep, 2-3 dilated, 80% effaced...”
Thank goodness my Mom was there...we just couldn’t believe it.
Doctor 1 checked my junk and said, “yep, 3 dialated, 80% effaced...”
So more shots and pills and waiting and wondering. Still no contraction pain...
Admitted officially to labor, paperwork signed, fears felt, NICU explained, potentials discussed, and Doctor 1 checked my junk again and said, “yep, 4 dialated, 80% effaced...”
I had more hands in my junk in 20 hours than I have had in months. Like, literally and literally.
After rib pain inquiry and a jolly jaunt in the car—preterm labor was the haps and I hadn’t even brought a water bottle.
Round the clock meds considering they wouldn’t let me take the ones I’d brought from home... antacids, Prozac, benedryl, antibiotics, steroids, procardia, to name a few. There is no real rest to be had in a hospital... and nurses come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities.
Eventually and on day four my dear OB came in, gently cervical checked me, reduced me to 3.2 dilation and 80%, and released me unto my own recognizance with the direction of modified bed rest.
It's been a whirlwind—hospital and home.
I couldn’t believe I couldn’t feel any contractions. Am I just so tough? Supermom? Naive?
Now, my mind feels everything first:
Every spasm and twinge, a panic.
Every gaseous thud, a worry.
Every pee, a search for blood or mucus or clot.
Every night, a dream of water breaking.
Endless worry about preemie care, Nugget’s health, my comfort, “the plan,” and the realization that even the tiny things you thought you could control...you can’t.
Birth plan, schmirth plan.
Let’s just have a healthy baby, healthy mama.
The gist of the goal seemed to be to keep Kiddo in the oven until at least the 36 week mark, which is this upcoming Tuesday. After that, birth away! I will be able to walk, attend, socialize, move, drive, shop, and visit. All my energy has gone into research and worry and power baking this Kiddo... I haven’t doodled or written a thing until now.
I decided to illustrate my birth plan.
Seems fitting, having Kiddo on Pride Rock after half a ward was up my cooter and giving me drugs.
Someday I'm going to date again and, right now, that thought is fucking repulsive.
I never thought I would have kids. As a matter of fact, I thought I was impregnable, unable, defunct. I thought the plumbing was off and I was in the clear. It's not that I don't like kids, I LOVE kids. All kids. Your kids, their kids, all the kids. Even the nasty little shit kids that throw rocks--love them too. I just figured it wasn't in the cards for me, my awesome artist life, my selfish existence, and something I would be rather unwilling to adapt to....
Until I found out I was pregnant.
He and I.
And I loved him so fully, so wholeheartedly, so sweet and blindly...
and my fate had gone behind my back and chosen this male human to be my partner for the rest of my life...
Who was I to argue with that?
I chose to keep Nugget, chose life, chose love, and chose to parent along side FOB. I settled into the vision of our future and it fit like a glove. Dual language home, two full extended families of love, life goals still persuadable together, and nobody pretending he or she knew the answers because all of the questions were not yet written. Building our foundation one solid pebble at a time.
I thought I'd never be want of love and companionship again... that I had someone all in, 200%, flaws and all...
I went to my 34 week appointment yesterday with my Mom. We were sitting in the OB's office and all these cute, terrified couples were wandering in and out of care, pregnant, holding hands and paperwork... and my Mom caught me giving a pair of knocked-up lovers the evil fucking glare. I wasn't even doing it on purpose. My eyes and brows just sort of came together and ambushed the rest of my face into judgement and hate.
"Ha. You just gave those people the meanest look, Mal."
"I hate their happiness..." I said quickly and without thought so I know I meant it.
"Ha ha ha oh, honey, they're not happy . Don't worry. No one in a relationship is."
And we laughed at the probable truth of that statement. It was comforting for a while and in those moments of relationship envy and hollowness, I can think about that statement and be mildly comforted. I think about that a lot lately, as spring approaches and I begin to actually leave my house.
Valentine's Day is coming.... and the 14th of the month was sort of our anniversary, mine and FOB's. This one we had made plans to go to a show and for some reason, in my romantic and blissed out imagination, I thought we'd get engaged. I don't know why. FOB never said he'd wanted to marry me... he was ''uncomfortable'' with that thought, too. I remember once we were talking about insurance right after finding out that I was pregnant with his child that he didn't want to marry me to give me insurance and that he "wanted to get married for the right reasons." Dick, right?
Valentine's Day has always been a joke for me. Something to point and laugh at, shelter myself from, and wryly mock as it passes. In the past I've made cupcakes of hate to dole out at the bar, little baked black cupcakes with angry words like ''herpes'' and ''I hate you'' delicately designed on banners of fondant with roses on top. It wasn't until this past year of love, pregnancy, and hormones that I actually wanted something to happen on it, that I actually envisioned a romantic event... that I actually set myself up for incredible sadness upon it's empty arrival and passing.
Christ, this post is ''WOE IS ME.''
Anyway, someday... I'm going to have to date again. Just like the rise and fall of the sun and moon, dick has a tendency to call and I've always been it's number one fan. This truth seems like a joke right now, but I know myself.
Someday... there will be date.
It's going to have to be someone I don't meet in a bar. A sober fellow cuz I can only handle dating one person inside one person at a time.
I cannot meet him online--that's the most bullshit of all bullshit you could probably feed someone before actually setting foot in a room together.
I cannot meet on some other new age social media app--your instagram love of me is not real.
We'll have to meet during daylight hours because as of right now it's an Olympic event preparing for any kind of anything past 5pm.
Unless he's my postman, we'll probably have to meet outside my house and beyond my doorstep... which I've left a handful of times in the last few months.
I will not meet him in a bar,
I will not sleep with him by motorcar,
I will not love him fast and quick,
I will not love again this dick.
I just want to complain for a minute.
Most of the rumors are true.
Third trimester is filled with all the same yuck of the first, but with added shittiness for flavor.
You lose your lungs, you lose your vagina.
You can't tend to your feet so those turn into hideous, dead skin bird claws.
Your Nugget grows and pushes your ribs out and heat and ice soothe none.
It's exhausting just to masturbate so... yeah, no.
You pee on your hands every time you're asked for a urine sample, which is now weekly.
Your face swells and the glow you had turns into sweat. And more sweat.
Your gums NEVER STOP BLEEDING.
Sleep. Ha. That's a fucking joke.
You can't even bring yourself to leave the house to pickup more antidepressants.
Your joints weaken and every little thing is amplified into a world of discomfort and awkward.
Nothing stays clean after you clean it so you just keep cleaning things again and again.
You fret over every movement the Nugget makes.
You fret over every movement the Nugget doesn't make.
You're tired of belly touches and unsolicited advice.
Heartburn. All of the heartburn. Torches. wildfires, burning everywhere all the time.
You have no income and haven't had any for a long time which is ridiculous.
You've had no contact with FOB and haven't seen the man IN TWO MONTHS who so convincingly dumped you to be friends to be there every step of the way by your side through this pregnancy (BAHAHAH! hilarious, right?)
Your back hurts from building the high road, being uncomfortable, and sleeping akimbo.
Your arms hurt from holding you back from every run away thought you want to have, but shouldn't.
Your heart hurts cuz it still hasn't forgotten anything.
Your mind races after every weird dream you have, admiring all the things still undone.
And seven weeks left.
Until you become a Mom.
Whatever that is.
Aside from a big, dark unknown blank spot.
**this is a doodle from 400 days ago... when I firmly believed I'd never procreate--ha...heh...uh... ha**
I wouldn't say I've been reluctant...
Nor would I say I've been anti....
Let's just say I've been contently selfish with the course of my existence for all/many of my years. I've led a life full of choice and freedom.
I've worked the jobs I've wanted to in locations I've chosen at times that have suited me.
I've dated whom I've liked and wanted regardless of habit, reputation, influence, or outcome.
I've baked casual, day long meals and desserts from the whim of fleeting taste.
I've laundered at my convenience, showered at my choice, and napped at leisure.
I've hopped in my car, tossed my city in the rear view mirror, and fled town for nights of camping and booze.
It began to dawn on me last night as I climbed into bed at 9pm, but didn't really hit me in the face until I took a long, hot shower at 9am.... in just a few short months, all of my ''when I want to's'' are going to morph into ''when I can's'' and this life of mine that has always revolved around MEEEE is soon to revolve around a Nugget.
There's a'change a'comin'.
I ask myself if I'm ready for it. How can I prepare? How can I learn about the balance needed to continue to honor myself and my needs (while not feeling like a guilty, shitty, selfish mother) and put my Kiddo first?
**This is the part in Sex in the City where the camera pans away from Carrie's column of writing self talk questions and the action resumes, unfolds, happens, peaks and perhaps resolves with a life lesson in tow. Aaaaaaaand... GO!**
I don't have an answer. I'm still preggo with 9 weeks and one day (allegedly) to go--I'm living in a land of conjecture, fear, and hope. It's a constant mash up of all three pieces of crazy possibility pie.
If fifteen years of Burning Man has taught me anything, it's that self-care is important and nobody else is gonna do it for you. Your ass is gonna dehydrate and bake if you don't drink water and put on sunscreen--and your ass will be miserable. And made fun of.
A few years ago I had the pleasure of nannying my youngest nephew. When I began he was a fresh little three month old bundle of little boy love and I got to watch my brother become a Dad instantly and over time. I think the three of us were on a walk and though I can't recall the root cause of the topic, we sort of splashed over into the realm of self-care as a parent.... although, in a very brotherly way.
He told me in his infinite brotherly honest wisdom,
"Look Mal, if I'm holding Wyatt (the bebe) and he's fast asleep and it's taken hours to get him there... but I, Dad, have to take the meanest shit of my entire life... I'm not gonna sit there and hold it for him. I do him no favors holding my shit in, all I do is hurt myself and therefore not be the best Dad I can be. So I'll wake him up, jostle the little fellow, trample to the toilet, and take that massive shit for myself. Gotta put me first. Poops and all."
I hope when my time comes... and I've got Nugget nestled deep in my arms of sleep... I find the courage to take the shit I need, the shower I should, the ten minutes I have, and the offered help of those around me. It's been a pattern of mine to gift over lengths of my personality to the lucky fellow I'm dating and put myself second out of sacrifice and overly generous love. This relationship I've got cooking in my belly is like nothing I've ever been privileged to before....
I hope I can shit.
For me and for Nugget.
People are striving for prolonged happiness. We're hoping for joy and hilarity and peace. We relish strength and wisdom and progress. Who can blame us? When it's good, it's good and feeling good feels great!
We live to linger in those positive moments and we exhaust ourselves chasing them... holding onto them... remembering them... recreating them.
But that's just the half of us. Literally. The positive.
Why do we treat the negative like crap? Why do we pretend it doesn't exist? Why is it so hard to honor sadness and sorrow? Why are we so uncomfortable being uncomfortable?
Is it in how we were raised? Is it a societal thing? A cultural thing?
That's a shit ton of questions with no answers. No rule of thumb. No general basis.
I guess all I can do is reflect on my own emotional vocabulary and accountability. Somewhere in between 12 years of Catholic school, being a woman, a sister, a sibling, puberty, and sort of a millennial, being emotional became a weakness. I have apologized for crying most of my life. Actually, I've fought back more tears than I've shed for sheer protest against crying for whatever reason. I grew up only crying in my sleep from dreams that were sad or shocking with no control over the waterworks or my subconscious.
(It's all fun and dream tears until you're in the bed next to someone you may or may not have had sex with and you start sobbing in your sleep only to freak your bedmate the fuck out--true story)
Do any of ya'll have a 'cry movie?'
Yeah, a cry movie.
Like, one you watch periodically to induce crying because it's an unnatural thing to do without prompt?
Well, I did/do.
I don't know how many times over the course of my existence I purposefully set aside 36-48 hours to watch What Dream May Come (yes, that one with Robin Williams that's kinda like Dante's Inferno and he crossed through hell and ethereal realms because he loves his Annie so goddamn much and I want someone to love me that goddamn much). I spend that movie violently holding back tears and eventually sobbing so hard that my eyes swell up like irritated bee stings and I have to chill them with iced spoons for hours later. Hence the 36-48 hours of solo time.
Highly. Highly recommend that movie for cry movie. Oh, or An Affair to Remember.
Another good one.
All the same...
I think it all boils down to how the ''I can do it myself'' "I need no help" "I'm fine and unaffected" mentality has overshadowed my ability to ask for help when needed and I guess I thought that's how good character was formed. Sadness became a form of weakness, emotional vulnerability became something to avoid, and strong skin was priced much higher than thin.
Man Oh MAN, this pregnancy... This forced growth--emotional and physical--has taught me that being emotional is not weakness. I've cried so hard this pregnancy, I discovered new sounds I could make wailing into a pillow... or my steering wheel. I learned my eyes don't have to swell if I just don't block the damn exit and let the tears out. I have grown from navigating the pain of being dumped and fallen out of love with... I have learned that I don't break... I have grown in wisdom and humor. I am more well-rounded. I am more stable. I have learned more coping skills, sharpened my tools of processing, and reacquired my big girl panties. I can cry gracefully. I can also cry like a snot wielding mad woman. I can be angry and so filled with rage that my hands turn to pale, white, bloodless fists.
Allowing myself to feel that... giving myself permission to be negative, to be blue, to be red, to be whatever "negative" emotion I am feeling has, in turn, brought me right back around to actually being happy. Letting those feelings fly for however long they need to has not let me down. Expressing emotion is a strength, not a weakness.
Hello, 2018, you saucy, well-rounded, wild thing, you.
Mallory Kate is a blogger, artist, single mom and funny girl outta Nevada.