Once babies start moving... and biting and screeching, I think that's when they become toddlers. I've been kind of dormant on here because I'm chasing this fucking adorable rugrat around. As she is running around more she's tuckering out more and naps more... which means Mom gets to paint.
Here's a little sneak peak of what I'm working on.
They're not finished.
I'm fortunate to be part of a group showing this July at The Morris Burner Hostel. Alongside many other talented artists I will be painting my version? rendition? feeling baby centering around the theme of Medusa. I had forgotten about the show completely until a month ago when Jackie Dilworth reminded me of it--thank goodness.
Thank goodness for this show.
Just.... thank thank thank goodness.
Because of this show I am painting through some emotional baggage I've left bottled up for way too long.
Our stories, Medusa and mine, much like this painting, entwine.
You see, Medusa wasn't born vile. She was normal. Just a mortal Gorgon chillin. She was capable of death, capable of pain, and susceptible to life. She was a beautiful maiden. Medusa used to be a babe. She was so beautiful that Poseidon desired her... desired her so much that he raped her in the temple of Athena. Athena, pissed that her temple had been desecrated, cursed Medusa into being a hideous, snake hair'd monster who turned men to stone with her gaze. Athena cursed her and the world hunted her down for it.
I had no idea of Medusa's lineage, her narrative, or her rape.
I, too, have been assaulted in the temple of a goddess.
I, too, have been punished for this assault by banishment and emotional scarlet letterhood.
I, too, have paid a great price and have been contorted by the weight of action and repercussion.
I, too, have an assaulter who roams free as the sea.
I, too, have worn this face, this hair, this weight.
I, too, have looked into the mirror of myself and seen it's hideousness as well as it's mortality.
So I'm painting it. Well, I'm attempting to... Medusa and I are one in this freeing moment of self-realization. Caravaggio's Medusa has always been my favorite--androgynous, reactionary, revolted, and emptying. Her mouth agape, jaw locked in sound and rage and darkness. Caravaggio captured the exact moment where Medusa catches her own reflection, catches her own gaze, catches her own death.
Through the creation of this painting, I'm allowing this incident to die.
Through the three eyes of us, we see and recognize, we give in and succumb, and we will be reborn.
So.... folks, I haven't been doodling. I haven't been lollygagging, futzing, or forgetting.
I've been digging and digging and digging.
I've been dreaming and letting go and rebuilding.
I've been making something beautiful out of the present from the past.
I've been recreating myself every time I lift a paint brush.
I'll post a finished image when I'm through.
It's hard not to feel dissolved.
The identity of funny girl, artist chick watered down to a clear liquid and brought back to a boil to first time mom and all that carries. Struggling to thicken, wondering if I ever will again.
It's hard not to feel trapped.
Home for seasons on end-- depression to bed rest to baby to baby to winter to now. Identity in a cave, mortality around the corner, and life right in front of you... delicate... with ten little fingers and ten little toes.
It's hard not to feel invisible.
Spending all this time looking down and lifting up the tiny human mirror that I've created leaves little time to worry about eyebrow hairs, fashion, attraction, health, and I end up looking like a neglected juniper bush, akimbo in the shocking sun and wind.
It's hard not to feel unattractive.
Two plus years without riding a bicycle, without hiking, without swimming, without movement and sweat and consistency and muscle and aches. Pale skin with new textures, new colors, bruises and veins. Avoiding your reflection cuz you rather like the way the little one sees you over the way you see yourself. Plus, looking down at your body just means more looking down at your body.
It's hard not to be jealous.
Jealous of the love that can be given so freely to her and the effort that has to go into loving me, who created her. Jealous that she's gotten all the best of me and I'll never really know what that feels like. Jealous that other Moms get love while giving love and aren't diminishing their wells. Jealous that these feels don't exist for other people.
And you stop and think about how foolish you were to think that the Upgrade to Motherhood was a linear thing and silly to think it had a beginning, middle, and end. I know full well that time is relative. Time doesn't end and Upgrades don't end when you have a one year old. It doesn't end when I turn 36.
It doesn't end.
It's hard not to be lonely.
Guess I'm supposed to be the leader of this little family--the head of household. A Mom is shielding, strong, full of answers, and lugs a purse full of snacks. I really want to take care of someone who doesn't need me, but who wants me. I feel way too fucking cool to being doing this alone and it's hard not to let that mentality? thought? hope? strength? crumble when each day it's brightness fades... kind of like a gemstone that dulls from over wear or a piece of glass that curves over time from the grinding of the tide on the beach.
Short rant. Large topic.
It's ridiculous. It's exhausting. It's everywhere.
We (collective as a society 'we' including me cuz I'm guilty of it, too) can't just let people... people in public.
I have a date today and I'm sitting here stressing over how I'll look, my hair and makeup, what I will wear and all I really wanna wear is something fucking comfortable cuz life is hard, motherhood is hard. Hard.
Yes, it happens to be running shoes.
Yes, it happens to be black running tights.
Yes, a hoodie.
Yes, no makeup.
Yes, my hair is in an emotional bun on top of my head.
Yes, coffee is my friend.
It is a stereotype because it's true. These things in combination are fantastic.
It's a joke because it's funny to those who don't live it... or who's shoes are too tight. Or who's hair didn't do the thing they wanted it to. Or who didn't wear their Big Girl Panties to the life party.
Why do we do that to people? Why do we expect them to be special in public? Well dressed? Fit? Beautified? Why isn't every fucking day of the week Casual Friday? Why can't we be casual? Why can't we shift the focus to all that stupid shit that's so unimportant like well-restedness, happiness, ease of movement, and joy?
The first thing I do when I find myself obligated-ly (I made that word up) baby free... is take 4 ibuprofen. It's good for the swelling and back aches that come along with lugging around a 19.5lb, 30 inch long Nugget of Love around. The Doc prescribed 800mg motrin for postpartum recovery and in my adrenaline haze of ''holy shit baby here'' sleep deprivation rush, I never filled it.
It'd be nice to have, is all.
One pill to rule them all.
I recommend a light self-medication of the same--whether it be weed or anti-inflammatory meds, it helps in the release of bodily tension everywhere. Marijuana is especially helpful in the shifting of mental gears for some. For me? It just makes me anxietal as FUCK.
The next thing I like to do is start laundry.
In the name of multitask, wash them sheets, girl. Those baby-weaning night sweats are upon us and they ain't pretty. They're chilly and hot at the same time with cold, clammy toes and bad hair. Don't forget to collect baby socks from every corner of the house and be sure to look under couch and chair. Oh, and bib collection. The really gnarly ones that have blueberry and yogurt all mashed into the fabric. And things that may or may not have touched poop are also very important to wash. Poop likes to hide. Poop has poop spores that float and attach... be thorough.
After the laundry is sorted and domination of the machines is expressed, order is claimed.... run the bath.
Run it hot.
Think of all those showers you've taken in the last week with your Nugget. She gets the warm water droplets dribbled on her, not you. She gets the toys and the giggles. You... you just kind of crouch into a ball in the cold, half wet back of the shower awkwardly hovering like a security guard making sure things are safe and stay safe and safe.
Add bubbles to that bath. The ones you bought for you nephew but you secretly love.
Yeah, those ones.
Not those intense bath bomb things that have glitter and odor and feel like overkill. The only chemical reaction I want to have happen in the tub is cognitive calm brain trance release.
Mr. Bubble baby bubbles, actually.
Grab that book you've been ''reading'' for over a year. The one that has nothing to do with parenting, self help, communication, child psychology, language and linguistics, things you can't afford, or cartoons. You know the one. Grab this book and open the blinds to let that winter sunshine in.
Once you're in, don't forget to look down and see beauty.
Remember how amazing the female body is and how our vaginas and lady organs are like re-built engines. Remember to thank your colon for finding it's parking spot again. Remember to thank your body for creating life. Massage your scars in every direction. Still. Always. Put your ears under the water and remember when we had two heartbeats, two separate pulses and one set of lungs.
After the bath, pluck those fucking chin hairs.
No one is going to tell you about them, so do your face homework.
Put on your big girl panties.
Don't forget your lashes/lipstick/whateverthefuckmakesyoufeelputtogetherandsexy
Change over the laundry.
Make a list of all the adulting you have to do:
And attack the day.
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:
It’s been seven weeks since I crossed over to Mother and I’ve felt every minute of it—even the ones I might’ve had an eye closed. For months and months I studied books and articles, I dreamt and imagined the future, I conjectured and dialogued in every direction I could—I researched the fuck outta pregnancy and birth. Finally, fifty days ago, biology pulled the trigger and made me a flesh and blood, “this is not a drill” Mother responsible for another life. Responsible 24/7, all shifts, all the time.
It has been seven weeks of being inside my house in an effort to protect Dotty from germs and the flu and figure out what the hell im doing. New Mom hyper vigilance has kicked into gear and tells me this is the right thing to do. In these confined times I’ve been given the chance to learn my little girl’s insides and out. Literally. I pick at her skin like a monkey. I clip her tiny nails. I decipher her cries, I soothe her, I entertain her. I pump, I breastfeed, I massage, I Haakaa, and I leak. I’ve developed a single titty system of sustenance—one for nursing, one for pumping....and leftover nursing. I guess piercing your nipples three times before 20 years old makes em a bit of a crapshoot for breastfeeding. We bathe, we dance, and I sing so she’ll crap her pants. We go from nuance to panic in a few hours and even consider the possibility she’s already cutting teeth. (A trip to the Ped snuffed our that worrisome thought) I stare at her at all times. I take one billion photos of her and then as I’m staring at her, flip through the photos of her so I can stare at them too. I marvel in her alertness and wonder. I marvel in everything... We go from being worried she’s sharting in every diaper to not sharting at all.
Here is an actual internal (that was probably half external) dialogue I’ve had multiple times over multiple things the last fifty days—this one happens to be shart related:
”This diaper is too clean. It’s been two hours. Why isn’t there more in this diaper? Why isn’t my baby sharting anymore??? How’s her sphincter control?? Is she ok? Constipated? How’s the color of her poop? Hows the color of her poop been the last four poops? How’s the texture? The odor? What’s the quality of her bowel movements? Does she seem relieved? Is there more? Do I change her or wait? Did she empty both boobs? Is she too full to shit more? Is that even possible? I’ll google it.”
This has been my life for seven weeks...now, imagine this...this...lovingly strung out Mom re entering society for a few hours, expected to converse and socialize.
Like Wednesday Addams.
Like a soul sucked Podling.
Like I haven’t slept more than four hours in any twenty four period.
Like I’m drunk on baby and meth’d out on Motherhood.
I have nothing to say that’s remotely relatable to the non-Mom population right now.
I can’t even relate to my best friend. The only thing on my mind is the stinging of my nipples, the load of laundry still in the washer, and the fifty five things I need to do while I have both my hands free. I don’t drink, I don’t go out, haven’t seen any movies, certainly haven’t met anyone—I’m a blank face of unamusing. Sure, I can listen, but I have nothing to add to the conversation...unless my social audience wants to hear about milk ducts and baby bouncers.
How do I articulate the changes?
That I went from being literally unable to hold my pee to only holding my pee cuz I’m in baby jail.
That the pooping alone days are over.
That a half glass of wine is not worth the sweat.
That I sleep sitting up.
That my feet are even more neglected than they were nine months pregnant.
That I’ve forgotten deodorant for at least a week.
That I love being alone with my child.
That I think about having more children.
That I don’t miss life before.
That I’m happy and complete in her company.
That how I look is secondary to her comfort.
That the weight I’ve gained only matters when I’m gearing up to leave my house.
I went to a play today and the notion of having to talk to people shrouded over every syllable I barfed out actually talking to people.
I’m even more awkward now and the Prozac isn’t hiding it anymore.
Mallory Kate is a blogger, artist, single mom and funny girl outta Nevada.
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