So, we're in a short documentary...

October 22, 2015: When Vee was 4 weeks and 5 days old, we were featured in a short 7 minute documentary along with five other mamas and their babies. Today, it was posted to the internet. The NY Daily News reviewed it and Mashable quotes me and, um, I feel a little nervous. 

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In mid August, I received a Facebook message from a friend of a friend (my high school best friend's ex boyfriend who I've actually never met in real life). His friend, Ashley, was casting a commercial celebrating new motherhood and the producer later wrote that they were looking for “strong, opinionated new mothers.” Well, that’s me! I was a little hesitant to get involved (I don’t support big box stores and the whole culture of consumerism) and yet agreed to do this pretty quickly. Yes, I am a new parent and won’t turn down some extra cash! Also, can’t I be in a commercial/short film and represent the radical side of parenthood, from my experience? I got in touch and after one phone interview at 10:30pm, several written applications and waivers, two Skype interviews (with both me and D, separately) and a personal visit at 7am from the director, producer, director of photography and seven others, within a week we were selected to be filmed for the roundtable of moms and their babies and for a day of filming at our home with a focus on cloth diapering.

I was equally excited and nervous. Though so much was cut from the film (they had to condense 5 days of footage into 7 minutes including D washing fake baby poo from a diaper and serenading Vee with his guitar) I was sure we'd be labeled the “cloth diaper freaks,” a self imposed label. But we weren’t. I was surprised by what an incredible learning experience it was and how transformed I felt after the “roundtable” discussion in the faux living room. During this discussion, I was breastfeeding the whole time, uncovered, and questioned if I should cover or not since they intended for this film to go viral. But I didn’t because I shouldn’t have to. And, I thought, it's important to show people nursing uncovered because breastfeeding is a completely natural and ancient way of eating. It was, along with so much, all edited out. There was air conditioning but due to the little hum it made, the crew had to turn it off whenever we filmed which made it SO HOT and humid. Vee and I may have been wearing the least amount of clothing but we were sweating buckets on each other. Ah the world of film!

The director, Cynthia Wade, warmed us up with questions and discussion about how each of us had been judged by strangers, by family and friends as well as words of encouragement. During the roundtable and in between takes, I felt that I made a connection with all of the moms. We all became friendly and at the end of the close to three hours of filming, we were finally asked how we had judged each another. Oof! According to D, of course I was the first to volunteer. In fact, Cynthia had created a safe space for all of us to talk and be vulnerable. So when she asked how we judged one another, I was right there, ashamed but admitting that I had judged the mom who used the formula and I judged the mom who covered while she breastfed. We had all judged each other. In those moments of judging, I would have that thought and then immediately say to myself Well I don't know her story, I haven't lived her life, I can't judge her and I wouldn't want her to judge me. I mean, that's why we were all there! And while these conversations were contrived on some level in a studio intended to look like a home (and a lot of time spent in the editing room), there were also very genuine connections being made and experiences shared and a desire to build a sisterhood.

Admittedly, I didn’t watch the director’s previous short documentary style commercial for Dove called “Selfie” (and later made me cry!) until after I met her. I did, however, google her and wasn’t surprised to discover that she's a Smithie. Of course she is! During the roundtable and the day of filming in our home, I got to know her and her crew more. Turns out she filmed Savi & Billy’s wedding (of Rev. Billy)! Chatting with the film crew, I also discovered a savvy group of people who were familiar with the evils of Monsanto and the creative community of Bread & Puppet Theater. The director of photography had even made a short film about the vanishing honey bees. Everyone working on this project was doing just that - working to pay the bills. At lunchtime, instead of eating from one of those food trucks you always see with film crews, they asked where the cheapest food in the neighborhood was (which is Dil-e Punjab Deli, between 20th & 21st Sts on 9th Ave).

Later, Cynthia wrote me the kindest email, “Thank you, my Smith sister, for being a part of the film last week. Thank you for your willingness to share your personal journey, and thank you for being the ice breaker at our round table discussion -- your willingness to be open, honest and vulnerable on camera allowed the other women to do the same. Thank you for that.” Oof! What a validation of my early mama-hood! 

In the days leading up to the release of this film, up to today, I've been nervous. I was nervous about how my radical communities would feel about me being in this commercial. Today I'm questioning myself a lot, worried about how I've been depicted in the film, if my hair is “too weird” or if people think I'm endorsing a formula company. I worried that I’d be judged for a film/commercial about judging moms! I absolutely do not support formula companies and at the same time I also don’t judge the parents that use it. There are many reasons why parents make the decisions they do and all of them are hard! Any issue I have lies in the way our historical memory and culture dictates and influences us to make the decisions we do and its erasure of our collective experiences with pregnancy, babies and our relationship with our bodies. I say end our cultural misogyny that pits women, female bodied people and parents against one another. We need to have full comprehensive access, support and education about the power of our bodies, pregnancies, breastfeeding and beyond. But as I re-read Mashable’s quoting of me these fears melt away when I realize that I, along with Yalixa (and Leslie!), helped to bring the often silenced and shamed experience of miscarriage and pregnancy loss to the national and international discussion. 

Thank you to Cynthia, Willa and Ashley - I hope you have a vacation soon and are getting the rest that you need and deserve! Sending so much love to the warrior mamas and their babies featured in this: Liz, Jennifer, Yalixa, Shyrelle and Leslie. It was a pleasure getting to know each of you. You are my heros! 

xo

My Guide to Personal Self Care and Inner Revolution

Nursing Baby Vee 

Nursing Baby Vee 

1:43am Sun Sept 13th 2015 - Let me get right to it - I haven’t been taking care of myself. I find myself rushing more and more and the aches in my back are returning. I still get in my daily shower but it’s been almost a week since I’ve had a Spa Shower and took my sweet, precious time. I find myself Stress Cleaning + Tidying rather than drawing, painting, writing or darning. If I’m going to be up at 3am after a night feeding, I’d rather make art than clean, though cleaning (i.e. putting things away and sweeping) is extremely satisfying for some part of my brain. I see now how easy it is to not take care of myself. Self care is already challenging and even more so when you have a small mammal creature dressed in human baby clothes to care for - but why? Because they are both work. Work can be fun, work can be a lot of things but it is still work. In the midst of one of my late night/early morning Tidying Sessions, I started this: My Guide to My Personal Self Care and Inner Revolution:

Morning exercises to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing!" 

Morning exercises to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing!" 

1. In order to maintain my sanity, do my self care and put the work into unconditionally loving myself every single day, I must take my Daily Shower. This is about being immersed in hot water. I get on my hands and knees and become that laboring animal again.

2. When I get out, I use the large orange towel with suns on it, gifted to me by DK. This is the one I labored on in the tub channeling the whales, cats, orangutans and rats and birthing people throughout time, remembering that they're always with me, and reminded each time that they are my only religion.

3. When I wake up and before I go to bed, I do my 3 minute floor exercise (lying on my body pillow with my arms bent and raised at my sides) to strengthen my chest cavity whilst singing along to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and petting the cat-baby. I quickly learned that raising a baby is all about creative multitasking. At night, however, I prefer to listen to whale sounds.

Gratitude Postcard for Aijung, Watercolor on cardboard, 4" x 5.5"

Gratitude Postcard for Aijung, Watercolor on cardboard, 4" x 5.5"

4. Put D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does it Feel)” on repeat and write, write, WRITE. Best to write after I’ve been healed by a Spa Shower so the words can flow out though it doesn’t always work that way. My friend, B, coined my style as “Soul Writing” which sounds more complimentary than how I think of it - Mind Vomit.

5. When Vee nurses, paint.

6. When Vee nurses, write.

7. Before dinner, when Vee nurses, COLOR in a coloring book. No thought required.

8. Remember to pee, poop, listen to my body, do not put off having to go to the bathroom when I'm at home especially when I'm feeding Vee or he needs me.

9. Fluids, liquids - drink them!! Especially coconut water and eating watermelon - electrolytes are real and are important!! But don’t ask me what they actually are.

10. Food and eating are important!!

11. No electronics while eating meals together with D.

12. NO (more) STRESS CLEANING. I don't do that shit any more because there are other ways to dismantle my anxiety and give myself the feeling that I have control in my life. I ask myself all the time now Is this a need or a want? Wants, though also important, can wait and only you can do you!

13. Feeding my friendships and relationships through social media, texting, phone calls, emails, postcards, letters, handmade gifts and HANGING OUT IN PERSON.

My local swimming pool.

My local swimming pool.

14. SWIMMING. Lakes are ideal and so is the ocean. I will, however, accept a pool. As of Wednesday, I'm astronautical again. The weightlessness of swimming in water reminds me of space, outer space. A pregnant space traveler not entirely certain of the future. There's excitement and fear. The Fear of the Unknown is powerful but now I know what it can mean to labor and birth. It’s not pleasant though it’s not supposed to be. It's a rite of passage for me, for many women and human beings and creatures of this earth, and out of the fire we step a warrior mother, a parenting warrior survivor.

15. NATURE. We’re going to sit in it today.  

16. Express gratitude through personally written, empathetic responses to people's messages to me, painting Gratitude Postcards (and mailing them) and small paintings on cardboard.

17. Breathing, deep breathing. If pregnancy is a marathon, what is life? Pace yourself! And breathe.

Goddess shrine and Little Lentil's memory box. 

Goddess shrine and Little Lentil's memory box. 

18. Cuddling baby, cuddling D and cuddling our cat-baby - sometimes all at the same time!  

19. FORGIVE MYSELF. Forgive myself every day, all throughout the day. Your mind is powerful. Repeat, “Forgiveness is coming to me easily and effortlessly.” (Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain) Eventually, it will. I can also say Compassion is coming to me easily and effortlessly and I do.    

20. RELEASE GUILT through Daily Showers, writing, drawing, painting, ceramics, exercising - whatever feels healing is Releasing Guilt.

Our cat-baby knows how to sleep! 

Our cat-baby knows how to sleep! 

21. Go to SLEEP at 9:30 or 10:30pm with the baby and then...

22. Get up at 6 or 6:30am!  

Sex and masturbation, while vital to happy and contented living, is not on this list. I’m ok and not ok with that. I’m not doing the vast majority of the things on this list though I’m trying. I’m also quite happy with not being pregnant so if Vee acts as some kind of natural birth control I’M OK WITH THAT.

One last thing! I’m in love with this paragraph from Natural Health after Birth: The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness by Aviva Jill Romm: “This chapter is for your pleasure. Your pleasure and peace are the root, rock, and center of what you bring to your family. When you feel rested and replenished, you glow from the core of your being, and this glow spreads warmth and comfort to those around you. When you feel nourished, you are better able to nourish those around you. When your cup is empty, you have little to share; when your cup is full, it runs over to fill those around you. Why nurture yourself? Jennifer Louden puts it well in her guide to women’s nurturing, The Woman's Comfort Book: ‘Because self-nurturing is survival. Women take care of others every day. But how often do we turn our wonderful nurturing ability toward ourselves?...When we nurture others from a place of fullness, we feel renewed instead of taken advantage of. And they feel renewed, too, instead of guilty. We have something precious to give others when we have been comforting and caring for ourselves and building up self-love.’ And as Rabbi Hillel once said, ‘You have a solemn obligation to take care of yourself because you never know when the world will need you.’“ (P.213) 

And now…on to my day/night of Unconditional Self Love and Celebration!

(Editor's note: The writing, editing and posting of this took over a week because PARENTHOOD.) 

Everybody Poops: Shit + Blood + Mucus

4.17.2014 Thurs. 7:19 AM

Like some kind of unseen clockwork, I awake at 7:12 AM, without hesitation, still sick, my body working to get into equilibrium again.

In my dreams, there was music, different kinds.

The bathroom at  s'Nice  which will be seriously missed (and the only bathroom related photo most appropriate for this posting). 

The bathroom at s'Nice which will be seriously missed (and the only bathroom related photo most appropriate for this posting). 

I know this body is a good body because it expels waste. It knows when something no longer belongs. I cough and this big green mucus mass comes out and I spit it out (the sink is nearby). I feel sneezing coming on + I sneeze twice. More green mucus, a lot of it, comes pouring out of my nose. For me, I need to see what comes out of my body whether it's shit or blood or sickness mucus (+ even vomit though that actually really repulses me because I loathe being nauseous...on a side note, although I did not experience “morning sickness” [a lot of people do not], during pregnancy + miscarriage, I experienced pretty much every bodily function there is, including two horrible horrible vomit expulsions as well as the most major one, the miscarriage aka the complete miscarriage aka the natural abortion). I need to see where my body is at and the type of waste I produce communicates. Right now it feels like Diarrhea. I knew it. Last night - no veggies except for a pickle + that instant mac/cheese, completely processed + barely food, but I was so sick + couldn’t cook so I didn’t. I know it was just something to fool my mind + body into thinking it’s eating (and though the mind can be deceived, the body cannot). And also I’m sick. But what do those words really mean? It has such a negative connotation. My body was out of equilibrium. But it is this imbalance which helped make the art + writing happen. Things aren’t all “bad” or all “good” because there is no such thing. They are all states of being. I write this as if it’s so easy to be me in this body-ejecting-waste, but it is not. Sleep + rest. Sleep + Rest? These I have always resisted, even as a child. Am I not a child now? The anxiety lies in the dreams, so many dreams and remembering almost all of them contributes to a disturbing and exhausting waking life. But these/those dreams come from me. Am I frightened of myself?

The unknowns are everywhere including the universe of the body, the mind, the subconscious (your “spirit”?).

But still I need to rest to be “better”. And still my body continues to expel shit + mucus though all the available passageways.

We are living, breathing flowers, pores + openings all over, meant to take in + take out. We are designed this way. Evolution is beautiful thing.

(It’s 7:43am + still there is more shit pouring from me! Welcome to my life! My daily morning routine.).

p.s. Everybody Poops, by Taro Gomi, is possibly one of the best books ever created, definitely in my top 10 favorites.