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:
I just spent a few hours at the Nevada Museum of Art.
I drive or pedal by their front of the building design sign and giggle read. I always want to post a picture of it to DDOI.
I end up on the doorstep of the museum when I need somewhere to be and when I am uncomfortable inside my own skin. I look at the art and get so angry that it's so talented, so well put together, so beautiful that I end up leaving inspired to do. I read the blurbs and make notes of my own, take pictures of things that move me in an effort to remember the impact. I dance and wiggle in front of each installation and presentation.
Today Ani DiFranco accompanied me because I need(ed) her and she's always there for me. I put her in my ears and let her words tell me it's okay to cry, to be angry, to dance, to feel, and to fight. Together we spent much time on the third and fourth floor. We spent a lot of time with the Annie Brigman exhibit and the put together exhibit Laid Bare in the Landscape by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. The strength of art, the creative drive, the moodiness of landscape and humanity and the inter-respectful reflection of one onto the other, the dichotomy of being human and woman, the freedom of nature, the wildness of the land, the voice of the nude figure, the power of isolation, the need for portrait, the manipulation of materials, the understatement of femininity--all these things and so so so much more were on display.
It made me cry.
Yes, Mallory goes to museums and cries.
I've cried three times in the last 24 hours.
-in the jeep outside the courthouse
-at the computer being gifted
-face to face with creative expression bearing witness
My crying comes from being a glass that's too full. Like, it's not a conscious choice, it just happens in reaction to too much liquid in my skin. Like, I've been holding too many saturating emotions and thoughts inside my flesh and form that my body glass starts to drown and it all has to come spilling outside my body... and sweating... sweating just isn't enough.
All the feelings I've swallowed and the spit I've withstood are all compounding into the biggest glass of ''hafta cry soon'' and I kind of just hope I'm sober and aware enough to catch all the feelings as they come pouring out in violent, wet purge.
It's like barfing a river or water rainbow and I only become slightly familiar with it as it all flees and exits my body.
And after it's over. After I'm emptied and the wet turns to mist turns to air and dry and I'm left only pruned and dried on the inside. There's room for something now. There's space for the rest of me to breathe and for a moment I feel relief. Like, my spine can expand and the weight of everything eases up slightly so I can throw my shoulders back, I can touch my toes, I can reach into the air and exhale. There's room for something now.
In my time in personal therapy, in my time in the classroom with kids, in my time as a grief counselor, and in my time as a aunt, friend, and stranger, I've learned how to ''hold space'' for people.
I've "held space " for children and family, for strangers and people... people I don't respect or like.
No one teaches you how to ''hold space'' for yourself. How to bring your entire presence to yourself. How to walk along with yourself without judgment, while sharing my journey to an unknown destination. I've never been completely willing to end up wherever I needed to go.
And here I have this LO. This tiny bodied, massive energy of light that I ushered unto this plane through the portal of my body and... she needs a strong me. She needs a Mom with two working wings, with security... and she needs tangible. She needs and deserves.
All this crying and all this not painting. I feel like I've shrunk and I'm just a speck of what I used to be. I have no idea how I'm supposed to do this.
How am I supposed to do this?
I feel like everyone else is living life like it has written directions on paper and to me that feels like... some sort of game I wasn't constructed to be able to play. I can't see the pickup stix under all the stix. This game of Twister is in color and I'm color blind. I'd rather use the plastic as a cape anyway. Red light, green light and I have my earbuds in. Red Rover and no one wants to hold my hand.
100 days left of pregnancy which means Nugget and I have survived 180 days inside the same roof without killing each other. We're off to a good start, but I wouldn't say the road hasn't been paved without difficulty.
The last 5-10 years of my unmedicated womanhood (I stopped taking the pill in my late twenties and it was the best thing I've ever done for my own mental health and body), I'd been blessed with a light period--barely there crampy-ness, little to no PMS, and the slightest bloating. If I was acting the twat around my menstrual cycle I would call myself out on it and not let it rain down and ruin me. The men I dated actually thanked me. It was something I learned to not brag about at an early age because the looks alone from women I would mention it to could kill. I knew pregnancy and it's hormonal effect on the body was gonna be tough... but nothing prepared me for the dark, crippling hole of depression, violent pendulum-esque mood swings, and multiple day panic attacks I would endure.
Panic attacks would induce an out of body and mind experience that I still couldn't describe accurately if I tried. They would start with an intrusive thought and snowball from there. FOB would go out for an evening of friends and I'd be home pacing, sobbing, screaming, counting, circling, panting, panicking.
I couldn't control my thoughts, my heart rate, my words, anything. Everything came barreling out of me angry and forceful.
I could not physically exhaust myself in any way to make the feelings stop.
I didn't play (and haven't played) guitar in months.
I couldn't focus to paint.
I wrote insane rants in my journal.
I cut off all my friends.
I didn't leave the house.
Nothing brought me joy.
Thoughts of doom and dread were all consuming.
I looked to my FOB, desperately clung to him, for any source of happiness because mine was completely... and utterly gone.
I reached out. Many times. I was often met with dead ends and misunderstanding. FOB froze... and eventually broke up with me (we'll get to this later) in my manic state, leaving me even more in the ground... except now I was shitting water from stress and sobbing uncontrollably most hours of the day from the simplest of triggers.
I kept reaching.
My insurance made it impossible to find a GOOD therapist (lord, that's another blog all together... ) I could afford in my new, unemployed, single, poor pregnant state so I joined three weekly pregnancy circles. One, hosted by a dear friend and donated out of charity... another hosted by a local motherhood business and group technically meant for mothers suffering from postpartum depression, and another freebie at the same business on Saturdays.
I moved back in with my mother.
And, through persistence, my doctor finally prescribed an anti-depressant which... as much as I've pill shamed myself, I am glad to be taking.
It's been about ten days on the meds and... I'm nauseous, dizzy, my jaw is tense, and still struggling to focus... but the intrusive thoughts have weakened and lessened and I actually have some hope for my life. It could be psychosomatic this early in the game, but I don't care. Hope is hope.
I've got 100 days left with this Kiddo inside me and I finally feel pregnant. I think I might even be happy about it? I jokingly refer to the Kiddo as Lemonade cuz... man oh man I'm trying to make it.
FOB and I are still broken up and, as much as that haunts me... and all my dreams... I'm healthier for it.
I didn't give up asking for help. I asked reddit, I asked facebook, I asked my insurance, I asked my friends, I asked family, I asked my Doc and finally, through cumulative effort, I'm on the road to somewhere better than where I was.
Here are a list of links that helped me:
The Nurturing Nest Reno--Circles and Support
Ashley Hanna Morgan--LCSW
Sacred Pregnancy--Sheila LeDrew
Mallory Kate is a blogger, artist, single mom and funny girl outta Nevada.
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