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:
Making time for me is hard.
Making time for you is hard.
Making time for anything other than boob and baby is hard.
I mean, as I sit here and type this... my magnificent nails are clickety clicking off the keys because they've had all this time to grow and not be nubbed down by blogging and keyboard. You have to rearrange your survival program every week. It's like you have to bake an entirely new pie and divvy up all the slices completely differently every time you need to do something.
Last week's pie was consumed by Nugget's vaccines and a make-up shower party sip and see thing--both of which took incredible mental and physical preparation. Every morning of the week I was up by five preparing one thing or another--one pie for organizing, one pie for cleaning, one pie for moving furniture, one pie for time with her Dad, one pie for shopping for supplies, one pie for research...
A lot of pies.
It's really easy to neglect the pie for me.
The one that brushes her teeth... once a day if she's blessed, every other day if she's lucky... and when the teeth sweaters start to rub together if she can. That sweet self-care pie that showers, shaves, makeups, eats, socializes, creates, and sleeps.
It's a mythical pie. Doesn't exist. Yet.
Still working on the recipe.
I think it involves asking for help and sharing--both of which I'm terrible at when it comes to most things, especially Nugget.
She has recently allowed me to sleep in longer increments because we've begun co-sleeping. I haven't given up on the crib by any means. I don't want her sleeping in my bed when she's older than a couple months (fingers crossed), but it sure beats sleeping sitting up... or in a chair.
Sidenote: I'm done shaming myself for co-sleeping. People act like parents who co-sleep want to murder their babies in the bed, like we don't understand the risks, like we're doing everything all wrong.
To that, I kindly say--fuck off.
Thanks but no thanks.
Not sorry, not sorry.
Worry about something else for the sake of humankind and leave us to rest, thankyouverymuch.
We sleep from about 10pm to 6am, waking up twice to feed and handle her night shits. I've begun dreaming again... which is nice and also awful.
I guess it's good because it means I'm getting deeper sleep, but it also means my subconscious has presented it's own pie.
I dream that he and I are still together, but usually down the dreamland narrative twist he abandons me, betrays me, ignores me--basically breaks my heart again. It repeats literally like a broken record and feels eerily similar to real life except for the sensation of knowing/expecting the outcome of sadness. If that makes sense? My dream self knew this pie was coming... and seems to want to say 'I told you so.' Almost every night and nap he makes an appearance, casually showing up and curving the content of whatever might be happening to dramatic feelings not to be ignored. This pie tastes like shit and leaves my eyes wet and mouth dry when I wake up.
I don't know how to stop it.
I guess it will stop itself in time.
I live and breathe for this baby. I sacrifice my comfort for her happiness. I do it all day, all night, all the time. Dream time and sleeping is the very last thing of my own and I.... I just.... wish it could really be all mine. I wish it would protect me. I wish my subconscious would cast him the fuck out and be somewhere I can dream about flying and sex again. Sans him. For good.
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.
It is beginning of the night shift and I’m, again, full of naive hope. It’s been five weeks of scavenging for sleep and the puzzle to achieve it changes every day. Nuggles is... particular:
She likes to sleep on her back then her belly then her side and always on me.
She does her best farting with a death grip bundle of my hair in her tiny renegade fist.
Her tiny egg-sized belly is the decider of all punctuality and timing.
She enjoys JeepJeep but dislikes wearing beanies.
She dislikes swaddling, but also dislikes scratching her face.
Baths and showers are soothing tools of comfort...until THEY ARE FUCKING NOT AND HOW DARE I!?!?
She prefers guitar over piano and female vocalists over male (unless it’s Hendrix or Gregory Alan Isakov).
Pacifiers suck. Nipples por vida.
Just to name a few things.
I'm at her disposal really and it's a steep curve of learning in order to function.
(as I sit here, attempt #15 to be productive, with my Boba wrap on and empty, breastfeeding on my boppy pillow, propped up at my desk awkwardly typing one handed over a little boob princess)
The good news is....last night... I GOT SOME SLEEP.
I'm not quite sure how much... or when... but prolly around five hours total. And. AND! I got it in my bed. In my beautiful, big, comfy bed. Nugget slept in the basket beside me and... it was heaven.
As a new first time Mom, you read and research and compare and re-read articles and books. You listen politely and often blindly to the advice of others and come to decisions through imaginative deductive future reasoning. I've read about car seat safety, safe sleep safety, breastfeeding safety, germ safety, bath safety, babywearing safety, food safety... all....safety.
And I can't help but wonder how many times these individuals and organizations have been sued to compel them to preemptively declare all this safety and for the world to get behind and push it down throats. Meanwhile it's the older generations of Mothers who tell us new Moms about how she used to do it.
"When you were a baby I would..."
"You used to be able to..."
"I dunno about all that, but I would...."
"If I were you I would..."
"Maybe you should..."
There's a lot of listening and reading woulds and shoulds as a new Mom.
*****and no, Mom, I'm not just picking on you*****
In the end, you have to do what works for you, not just the Kiddo. How do I keep my sanity being a single parent responsible for my five week old 24 hours a day... every day?
We cat nap--we attempt.... to cat nap. We attempt in chairs, on couches, in bed, in bassinets, in cribs, in swings. We try everywhere and everything. We try it in the morning, we try it at night--we try it at noon time, what a delight!
It usually boils down to me stuffing pillows and baby blankets along my sides in the recliner so as to lock me into position. I feed her on the boppy, slowly and delicately remove the gummy nipple at the end, and carefully place her on my chest... eventually we recline slightly... and maybe we get an hour or two nap.
As a matter of fact, it's time for another attempt.
Wish us luck!
There are so many little moments, it's hard to doodle just one.
They come flying through my line of sight like all the little light torpedoes in warp speed... the way that snow flurries past headlights onto a windshield on mountain storm night.
Trying to hold onto just one little moment long enough is a scramble.
I feel like that person in the tube of fast air trying to catch all the money and shove it in pockets before the wind ride lottery is over.
If I'm lucky, I can jot down ideas.
Pens are everywhere.
I very often have one half a hand free to do anything and my toes still aren't trained in script. I have to rely on my Mom memory which is running on two to three hours of sleep a night.
I love so much.
The way she looks at me and tries to understand.
The way she turns into a little boob zombie, crashing her open mouthed head into my clavicle over and over again when she wants to nurse.
The way she sleeps with her mouth open like her Mom.
The heat of her on my chest.
Today's precious is brought to you by laundry.
Nugget is between diaper sizes right now. Well, she's between like five brands and two sizes of diapers. Her hips are newborn while her thighs are size one and that makes for a fair amount of blowouts which makes for a fair amount of laundry.
And I love it.
I love it all.
The way her little clothes wrap into mine in the dryer. Her little socks trapped in the tumbling magnitude of my nursing bras. The way all the pink and white off sets the black stretch fabric of postpartum fashion. The way she doesn't give a shit when she shits herself.
I wish I had that kind of ease and confidence.
Newborn unfuckwithable confidence.
I love being a Mom.
Someday soon here... I'm gonna get to type with TWO hands.
Let’s remember it together:
The kind of morning where your sheets are drenched in hormonal sweat—the sweat that smells like a classroom full of first-graders and all their farts and sneezes and not so much the kind of sweat that smells like body odor or good sex.
The kind of morning where you wake up startled by the fact that you maybe slept and frantically sit up checking all the spots you might’ve put your baby to maybe sleep, too. The crib? No. The bassinet? No. Ah, the Moses basket.
The kind of morning where your teeth have grown more hair than your armpits and it’s starting to dreadlock into the texture of your smile.
The kind of morning where you have a crick in your neck, a crick in your shoulder, a crick in your elbow, and three fingers on your right hand are inexplicably numb.
The kind of morning where the first thing you think about is FOB/child support/old bills/new bills/spoiled milk/taxes and a bath.
Let’s sit through it together;
Today I took the kind of bath that lasted over fifteen minutes. The kind of bath third trimesters everywhere dream of.
The kind of bath where you’re no longer afraid of your razor and your ‘gina doesn’t tremble at its sight.
The kind of bath where six weeks of leg debris is shaved off, revealing the fresh flesh of a 25 year old on a 34 year old.
The kind of bath where your imagination can run wild so long as your flexibility can follow and you can reshape your ladyscaping into any shape or symbol you like because time and visibility are on your side.
The kind of bath where you fall in love with your new and improved lady bits again, marvel at their reconstruction, pat them on their little labial backs and reunite in friendship and forgiveness.
The kind of bath where you get to deep condition those pregnancy locks that haven’t fallen out yet before you tie it all in a giant knot on top of your head.
The kind of bath where after you get to use the yummy smelling lotions and even tweeze that one chin hair that’s decided to appear with new hormones.
The kind of bath that’s interrupted by the living room volume of Willie Nelson... and my Mom brain thinks the harmonica is my Nugget wailing in my absence.
We are near three weeks out from D-Day (Dorothy Day) and routines are being hoped for every day. We ebb and flow together, we aren’t stir crazy or lonely, and we’re bonded beyond belief.
When I self care, I’m takin care of us. Nugget is warm and fed and nourished and although that’s all my soul needs, is really... really nice to have smooth legs once again.
Nah, but for reals.
Her shit doesn't stink to me.
It's like roses and sunshine.
It's like perfection and success.
It's a symbol of my commitment to loving her every time she's at my breast.
It's a little gross when it touches my hand, or gets in my hair, or on my cheek.
It's always funny when she farts on my Mom, my brother, on me.
So far she looks best in blue.
Four hours is our longest sleeping streak.
She's the most perfect human I've ever laid eyes on.
Schnugglebuns McPerfectPoops, I love you more each day and week.
Mallory Kate is a blogger, artist, single mom and funny girl outta Nevada.
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