21 April, 2010

The Shape of A Mother - my belly and me

This may not be of interest to all, but to those of us who bear the signs of our amazing feat of bringing another human being into the world, this is for you... note site has some nudity and is not "day job" friendly.
I once saw an amazing art exhibit where women allowed portrait photographers to do post-mastectomy portraits. It was so deeply touching, heartbreaking and filled me with admiration at the self-acceptance and strength these women had developed. I know a few women who've had tattoos done to embellish surgery scars. I've seen heads purposely shaved and decorated with henna, that once would have been hidden under itchy wigs and hats. And here in this web site, women are beginning to get over shame about their postpartum bodies and celebrate the gift of motherhood physically as well as emotionally. I've often wondered whether I was the only one who wanted to be proud of my post-baby stretched out self, and now it appears I'm not the only one who feels there's hope that someday we'll appreciate the beauty of what we have borne.

Since I've had periods of obesity and lifelong binge-or-starve cycles, been through a couple of pregnancies, have a short torso that got stretched unbelievably big, and carry about 50 extra pounds, I have very mixed feelings about my own body. Even at my tiniest, with 4-day-a-week workouts, no sugar, and a very physical job as a waitress, I had a 28" waist and small hips. So I've never had that desirable hourglass figure I've longed for. Pregnancy really changed me both physically and emotionally. I carried our first baby (Bryce) almost to term, then he died in utero at 8 months gestation, and was stillborn a few days later. His death shattered me, and the emptiness of my sagging tummy was a cruel reminder of everything we'd lost for a very long time. My second baby, the lovely and precious Evelyn, stretched me out even more (I'm 5'3", she was almost 10 lbs at birth). I was so proud of my lovely pregnant tummy and after she was safely born, I was so glad to have her with me I really didn't mind the residual evidence of my fecundity. On the other hand, I have to say that my least favorite preschool book was "The Saggy, Baggy Elephant". My belly is still quite big - I am clinically obese and wear size 40 waist pants (plus I don't have much of a butt - I'm barrel shaped). She's now 11 years old, and I haven't been able to pull my waist back together (had some muscle separation, too). In spite of myself, I feel so much shame about its deflated and wobbly postpartum state. But sometimes I look at this tummy and these thighs and KNOW how grateful I am that they were able to carry us safely through. Back cleavage... I can't summon up gratitude for that. And I'm really scared that if I lose weight, my breasts will deflate and hang as flat as pancakes. I nurse almost 4 years, and although they seem pretty firm now, I don't know how they'll react to a loss of volume.

20 years ago few people were painting pregnant tummies; they were hidden. I'm still not sure about flaunting them in public on city streets, but I think showing them off in controlled circumstances is wonderful (and I realize that some may not agree with me - I'm not trying to pick a fight with them, it's just how I feel and I may not be as conservative as some).

I wonder if the day will come when a post-partum mom asks me to paint the soft skin of the belly that carried her baby. If I'm asked, I know that technically it won't be easy, but it will be a wonderful experience.

The Door is Open

I took this phrase from two sources:
the U2 song "Gloria", and my favorite Rumi poem:

"The Breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you
Don't go back to sleep
you must ask for what you really want
Don't go back to sleep
People are going back and forth
Across the doorway where the two worlds touch
The door is round, and open
Don't go back to sleep"

I have spent a fair amount of my life wide awake and dreaming, other times sleeping where my dreams were so vivid I wanted to go back and figure out how to make them real. How do I bring dreams into the waking world - dreams of creativity, of joy, of peace, of fun? How to take the shadow of my psyche and use it to heal myself and others instead of hurt?

I have eclectic taste - possibly insane taste - ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. I like silly humor more than I like sarcasm. I have a lifelong interest in why the heck the world is the way it is... cause and effect? G/d/s? Quarks? Who knows. Even if I thought I knew, that would be faith. The intersection between faith and knowledge - a dangerous and blurry place.

As the Firesign Theater states ".... a force that can only be used for good... or evillllll..." but I don't remember what they were talking about, was it a time machine?

I'm blessed with brilliant and creative friends; you'll find links to their blogs, art and ideas here. I'll add my own art and interests as time permits. Daring to put ourselves out there is one of the greatest challenges many artists face. Creating is easy, sometimes it happens all by itself. Communicating... hard.